National Science Foundation FAQ

NSF Resources

Where can I find NSF funding opportunities?

The NSF lists its funding opportunities by deadline here. You can perform a keyword search here.

Consider subscribing to NSF updates and announcements to receive customized information about various funding opportunities.

Where can I find tools and resources to develop my NSF proposal?

Proposal Preparation Guidance

When filling out the cover sheet, what is the correct information for the Awardee Organization and Primary Place of Performance?

For Georgia Tech:

Awardee Organization
Georgia Tech Research Corporation
Office of Sponsored Programs
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0420

Primary Place of Performance
Georgia Institute of Technology
225 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia, 30332-0002

For Georgia Tech Research Institute:

Awardee Organization
Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation
Office of Sponsored Programs
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0420

Primary Place of Performance
Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation
925 Dalney Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0420

It is important that this information is correct on your Cover Sheet. If you grant SRO access but your contracting officer cannot see your proposal, check this section first. Incorrect information here often prevents OSP from seeing proposals in Fastlane.

What are the salary policies for senior personnel listed on my proposal?

Senior personnel are generally co-PIs (and faculty associates) who are responsible for the scientific and/or technical direction of the project. If your proposal has more than one senior personnel, the first one listed will have the primary responsibility for the project and submission of reports. Two policies govern senior personnel on NSF awards.

  • As a general policy, NSF limits salary compensation for senior project personnel to no more than 2 months of their regular salary in any one year. This limit includes salary compensation from all NSF-funded grants.
  • During the life of the award, it is the PI's responsibility to obtain sponsor prior approval for absences (generally 3 months or more) or significant reductions (25 percent or more) of the PIs and/or other senior personnel.
I'm a research scientist and do not have an academic appointment. Can I budget for more than two months' salary?

Yes, provided NSF approves the budget in advance. The two-month limit is not a hard cap or ceiling. Institutions should propose salary for Senior Project Personnel in a manner that is suitable for the project. The NSF policy states: "any compensation for such personnel in excess of two months must be disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and must be specifically approved by NSF in the award notice." Additionally, the two-month limit does not apply to the following individuals:

  • Post doctoral professionals
  • "Soft-funded" employees (research faculty, research scientists, and similar individuals who are normally supported through sponsored-funding and whose positions are not supported by permanent operating budget dollars)
  • Research scientists and other personnel who are not budgeted as senior personnel
What is the Minimum Effort Policy?

At least one Senior Personnel must devote at least 1 percent effort each budget period over the term of the award.

How do I calculate the 1 percent minimum effort based on my salary/appointment?

Calculating 1 percent minimum effort by salary: Suppose Dr. Burdell has an annual salary of $85,000. His minimum effort would be:

$85,000 * 0.01 = $850 (this is equivalent to 0.12 calendar months for a 12-month appointment, 0.09 calendar months for a 9-month appointment)

Calculating 1 percent minimum effort by effort: Suppose Dr. Burdell has an annual salary of $85,000. His monthly salary would be:

$85,000 / 12 = $7,083.33, of which 1 percent would be $70.83. Multiplied over the 12-month budget period, the amount would be $850.

What are exceptions to the Minimum Effort Policy?

Certain NSF proposals do not require PI or senior personnel effort. These include proposals for Equipment, Conferences, and International Travel. Additionally, proposals for REU and RET proposals/supplements do not require PI/senior personnel effort. In any case, whether or not effort is requested should be based on what is appropriate to sufficiently complete the scope as proposed.

Can I include cost-sharing on my NSF proposal?

Inclusion of voluntary committed cost-sharing is prohibited, and Line M on the proposal budget will not be available. Mandatory cost-sharing will only be required for NSF programs when explicitly authorized by the NSF Director, the National Science Board, or legislation. For more information, see this list of NSF programs that require cost-sharing.

In those rare instances, cost-sharing requirements will be clearly identified in the solicitation and must be included on Line M of the proposed budget. For purposes of budget preparation, the cumulative cost-sharing amount must be entered on Line M of the first year's budget. Should an award be made, the organization's cost-sharing commitment (as specified on the first year's approved budget) must be met prior to award expiration.

Such cost-sharing will be an eligibility, rather than a review criterion. Proposers are advised not to exceed the mandatory cost sharing level or amount specified in the solicitation.

What if I don't want to charge my 1 percent to the project?

In the case that you do not wish to charge the minimum effort to the project, this effort is provided by way of internal cost-sharing that is not reported to the NSF.

How do I determine whether I should budget an individual as a consultant/vendor or as a sub award?

Here is a decision matrix to help clarify the distinction between a subcontract and a vendor agreement. If the answer is "yes" to any of the following questions, a subaward may be appropriate. Georgia Tech will incur overhead on the first $25,000, and the entity will have to be registered in Fastlane and entered as a sub with a separate detailed budget, justification, and letter of commitment:

  • Does the entity's statement of work represent an intellectually significant portion of the programmatic decision making?
  • Could the entity's work result in intellectual property?
  • Does the entity have responsibility for programmatic decision making?
  • Will the entity require animal and/or human subject approvals for its portion of the work?

If the answer to any of the following questions is "yes," the entity fits the description of a vendor and a subaward is not the best solution:

  • Does the entity commonly provide these goods and/or services as part of its normal business operations?
  • Does the entity provide similar goods and/or services to other purchasers?
  • Does the entity compete with comparable entities to provide the same goods and/or services?
  • Are the goods and services being provided by the entity secondary to the central purpose of the project?
  • Is the entity's work carried out according to the Prime's specifications using standard operating procedures?

If a vendor relationship is required, remember that indirect costs (Facilities & Administrative) will need to be charged on the entire amount of the transaction.

The services of each consultant must be justified within the context of the proposal. You must provide information regarding each consultant's expertise, organizational affiliation, and contribution to the project. In addition, each consultant (paid and unpaid) must provide a signed statement that confirms availability, time commitment, role in the project, and the agreed consulting rate.

What is the Responsible Conduct of Research Policy and when does it apply?

All postdoctoral researchers as well as undergraduate and graduate students supported by NSF to conduct research must receive appropriate training and oversight in the ethical and responsible conduct of research (RCR). This requirement also applies to subrecipients. Therefore, any proposal that supports postdoctoral researchers or students at any level must include the third page of the routing form that certifies the PI's acknowledgement of and agreement to uphold the RCR policy. Information on GT’s RCR Policy information can be found at rcr.gatech.edu

For more information on the RCR policy, see this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

What if my proposal involves human subject research?

Make sure that both the Fastlane cover sheet and the Georgia Tech routing form have the appropriate box checked for Human Subject Research. Institutional Review Board (IRB) review and protocol approval will have to be in place before an award can be issued or funds released. Complete the IRB application here.

What if my proposal involves the use of vertebrate animals?

Make sure that both the Fastlane cover sheet and the Georgia Tech routing form have the appropriate box checked for Vertebrate Animals. Remember, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) review and protocol approval will have to be in place before an award can be issued or funds released.

What if my proposal involves the use of recombinant DNA?

Make sure that the Georgia Tech routing form has the appropriate box checked for Recombinant DNA. Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) review and protocol approval will have to be in place before an award can be issued or funds released. Complete the IBC application here.

What if my proposal involves the use of biological or physical agents?

Make sure that the Georgia Tech routing form has the appropriate box(es) checked for biological and/or physical agents. Your contracting officer will forward the routing sheet and your proposal to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), and your lab may need to be inspected. Keep in mind that both principal investigators AND co-principal investigators must be approved by EHS to use the designated agents. Your contracting officer will not be able to release any NSF funds until the EHS approval is in place.

What if my proposal involves the export of information and/or materials to another country?

Make sure that the Georgia Tech routing form has the appropriate box checked off for Export Controls Review. The Georgia Tech Office of Legal Affairs will determine and obtain the necessary license(s) before any transfer of information and/or materials can take place. However, this review does not take place until an award has been made. If you receive an award that requires an export control review, please complete and return the appropriate form(s) and return them with your statement of work as soon as possible. Understand that the funds cannot be released until the approval is in place.

What are allowable costs for my NSF budget?

Expenditures under NSF cost reimbursement grants are governed by the federal cost principles and must conform with NSF policies, grant special provisions, and grantee internal policies. While grantees are encouraged to seek advice regarding the treatment of costs from the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer identified in the award notice, it is the grantee organization that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all costs charged to NSF awards meet the requirements of the cost principles contained in 2 CFR § 200, Subpart E, grant terms and conditions, and any other specific requirements of both the award notice and the applicable program solicitation. In addition, grantee organizations should ensure that their own internal policies and procedures and other requirements are met for all charges to NSF awards. Otherwise such costs may be disallowed during audit resolution or by specific determination of an NSF Grants and Agreement Officer.

In the event a grantee anticipates charging an item of direct cost that might subsequently be disputed, an authorized official of the grantee organization should discuss the matter with the cognizant NSF Grants and Agreements Officer and document the conditions or factors surrounding the item in order to avoid possible subsequent disallowance. If the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer determines that such costs are appropriate considering the special requirements of a particular NSF sponsored activity, this should be documented through an advance agreement or understanding. Advance agreements regarding the treatment of such costs may be incorporated by specific language in the award notice, or by other written correspondence.

Proposal Review and Submission

Do I need to route pre-proposals or letters of intent through OSP?

Pre-proposals and letters of intent do NOT need to be routed through OSP. However, submission still takes place via NSF's Fastlane online web service and must be submitted by a Georgia Tech contracting officer. In the event that your pre-proposal is invited for a full proposal submission, please inform your contracting officer as soon as possible.

How do I submit a proposal to the NSF?

FastLane is the NSF online web service through which it communicates with researchers, reviewers, research administrators, and their organizations. All NSF proposals at Georgia Tech are submitted through Fastlane. We do NOT use Grants.gov or Cayuse for NSF proposals.

How do I get access (NSF ID and password) to Fastlane?

Contact us at training@osp.gatech.edu and request an NSF ID and password. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • First Name:
  • Last Name:
  • GT Email:
  • Phone:
  • Highest Degree Earned:
  • Year Completed:

Once your account has been established, you will receive an NSF ID Number and a temporary password. You will need to log in and establish a permanent password. Your password should include 1 uppercase letter, 1 lowercase letter, and 1 number to ensure access to both Fastlane and Research.gov.

I have an NSF account/ID already but I cannot remember my password. What should I do?

Contact us at training@osp.gatech.edu .

How do I prepare an electronic proposal submission in Fastlane?
  1. Review the NSF Grant Proposal Guide for specific instructions for each section of the proposal. Contact your contracting officer with any questions.
  2. Review the proposal solicitation for any requirements that differ from or extend the GPG requirements. Unless stated otherwise, the proposal should strictly adhere to the Grant Proposal Guide.
  3. Start working on your Fastlane proposal as early as possible! Inform your contracting officer of your intent to submit by providing the solicitation number and its corresponding deadline.
  4. Prepare the cover sheet first. Fill in as much information as possible, and pay particular attention to the program selection, program announcement, and principal investigator. If this information is entered incorrectly, the proposal will be routed to the wrong division within NSF and you will lose valuable time to track and re-route it. Contact your contracting officer if you need help. If you are not submitting a proposal to a specific program, enter 14-1 for the program selection.
  5. Save your proposal as a template prior to submission. Use this template for any later revision to ensure consistency with the project.
  6. Review the Georgia Tech Reference Sheet to create your proposal files and assure compliance with the Grant Proposal Guide.
  7. Upload your proposal files:
    • Project Summary
    • Project Description
    • References
    • Biosketches (for all senior personnel)
    • Budget and Budget Justification
    • Current and Pending Support Forms (for all senior personnel)
    • Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources
    • Mentoring Plan for Postdocs (where applicable)
    • Data Management Plan
    • Supplementary Documents (where applicable)
    • Single-Copy Documents (where applicable)
    1. Enter your budget, and upload your justification.
    2. From the "Prepare Proposal" screen, run the "Check" to determine whether there are any errors that will prevent submission. Be sure to address any errors. If there are no errors, you can "Allow SRO Access." Allow at least 2 business days before the deadline in order to receive a thorough review by your contracting officer. OSP cannot guarantee a proper review if access is granted any later than this.
What happens when I allow SRO access?

Your proposal will not be submitted without your permission. Providing SRO access grants your contracting officer and OSP permission to view your proposal. There are three levels of access:

  • View – this level of access is sufficient to allow the contracting officer to review your proposal to check for completeness and compliance. If you grant this access, it is important that you return to provide Submit access when you are ready to submit the proposal.
  • Edit – this level of access not only allows your contracting officer to review your proposal, but also to make any necessary administrative changes. Your contracting officer will not make any changes to your proposal without your permission. Again, if you grant this access, it will be important that you return to provide Submit access when you are ready to submit the proposal.
  • Submit – this level of access allows your contracting officer to review your proposal, make any necessary administrative changes, and submit it. This level of access will also send notification to the OSP and is the only form of access in Fastlane that generates a notification for proposals.
When should I allow SRO access?

Proposals that are to be submitted electronically must be ready to be released to a sponsor 24 hours before a submission deadline. Because proposals must be ready for OSP review two days before then, SRO Access for "View" and "Edit" should be granted at least three days before the deadline. SRO Access for "Submit" should be granted at least 24 hours before the deadline. To the best of the contracting officer's ability, proposals will be reviewed and submitted in the order they are received. Additionally, proposals will be reviewed and notes will be provided according to the following timeline:

Review access of full proposal granted:

  • More than two days before deadline will receive thorough review with thorough notes.
  • One to two days before deadline will receive thorough review with limited notes (sections that are non-compliant with the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) will be noted, but the specificity of the non-compliance will not be provided).
  • Same day of deadline (before 3PM) will receive limited review. OSP will confirm that the proposal contains all the required sections (but will not review actual content of those sections), Cover Sheet, Budget, and Justification.
  • Same day of deadline (after 3 PM) will be submitted without review and documented as such.

Remember it is the PI's responsibility to prepare the proposal in accordance with the GPG requirements so that the proposal will not be rejected by NSF without review.

What documents do I need in Fastlane for review?

Here is the list of documents that should be uploaded in Fastlane before requesting OSP Review:

  • Cover Sheet: Be sure to include the NSF Solicitation number and verify any other solicitation-specific requirements. Check for accuracy against the routing form.
  • Project Summary: Ensure that the summary meets the one-page and character limitations and includes three distinct sections for Overview, Intellectual Merit, and Broader Impacts.
  • Project Description: Check for 15-page limit (or limit per solicitation guidelines), and that the description includes a separate Broader Impacts section, complete results from prior NSF support section, and does not contain URLs.
  • References: Include the full list of author names (no et al's).
  • Biosketches: Verify their accuracy and that they are formatted in accordance with the GPG (including the two-page limit).
  • Budget: Check mathematical accuracy for fringe, overhead, and tuition calculations. Verify minimum effort, and confirm that no individuals are over the two-month budget period.
  • Budget Justification: check for accuracy against the budget, and observe the three-page limit.
  • Current and Pending Support Form: Verify that the current proposal is included in "Pending" and that the information matches that on the proposal/routing form (title, dates, budget amount, committed effort).
  • Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources: Check that this does not include quantifiable financial information.
  • Mentoring Plan for Postdocs: This form should be included for all project proposals that include postdoctoral researchers.
  • Data Management Plan: This should not exceed two pages.

How should I submit a collaborative proposal when Georgia Tech is the lead?

You will need to link the two proposals. Each university participating in the submission should provide you with their Temporary Proposal Number and their PIN. Within your proposal, you will select "Link Collaborative Proposals" and provide this information. As the lead university, you will be required to prepare and submit all the supporting documents (see question above). Be sure to check the solicitation for specific document requirements.

How should I submit a collaborative proposal when another university is the lead?

You will need to provide the lead university with your Temporary Proposal Number and the PIN. From your "Proposal Actions" page, you should highlight the proposal and select "PIN". As the non-lead university, you will only be required to prepare and submit the Cover Sheet, Biosketches, Budget/Justification, Current and Pending Support Forms, and Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources.

How will I know that my proposal has been successfully submitted?

You should receive a notification from Fastlane after your contracting officer submits your proposal. You may also receive confirmation from your contracting officer. Additionally, you can also choose "View Submitted" from the "Proposal Preparation" screen. If a proposal number is not reflected in the FastLane System, contact the FastLane Help Desk at (800) 673-6188 or (703) 292-8142 or by e-mail at fastlane@nsf.gov.

Can I make changes to my proposal after I submit it?

You may update a submitted proposal using the following initial steps: (Note: You may change any part of the proposal as long as it is received by NSF before the deadline. After that, changes will be very restricted.)

  1. Login to FastLane
  2. Click "Proposal Functions"
  3. Click "Proposal File Update"
  4. Highlight the proposal you want to update from the Submitted Proposals list
  5. Click "Continue"
  6. Click "Create Update"
  7. Click "View/Edit Update"
How long should I wait to hear back about my proposal?

You should allow up to six months for NSF review and processing. In addition, be aware that the NSF Division of Grants and Agreements generally makes awards to academic institutions within 30 days after the program division/office makes its recommendation. Grants made to organizations that have not received an NSF award within the preceding five years, or involving special situations (such as coordination with another Federal agency or a private funding source), cooperative agreements, and other unusual arrangements may require additional review and processing time.

Proposals that are time-sensitive (e.g., conference, group travel, and research involving ephemeral phenomena) will be accepted for review only if, in the opinion of the cognizant Program Officer, they are received in sufficient time to permit appropriate NSF review and processing to support an award in advance of the activity to be supported. Every effort is made to reach a decision and inform proposers promptly. Until an award is made, NSF is not responsible for any costs incurred by proposing organizations.