The National Science Foundation is one of the largest external funders of research at NIU. If you are new to applying to NSF, start your journey with our NSF Tipsheet guidance that was compiled by NIU’s Research Development Specialists.
Samples of common NSF documents
- Biographical sketch
- Budget justification
- Current and Pending form1239 (Updated 2015)
- NSF Data Management Plan Template and Instructions (2015)
NSF Automated Proposal Compliance Checks in Fastlane
As part of NSF’s efforts to modernize proposal submission and increase competitive fairness in the proposal process, the Foundation continues to implement automated proposal compliance checks in FastLane.
Effective September 26, 2016, FastLane will now check to ensure that the combined text of the Project Summary text boxes (or uploaded PDF if the Project Summary contains special characters) does not exceed one page prior to submission, rather than the current check of 4,600 characters. See the Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter II.C.2.b, for further information.
The compliance check will trigger an error message in the following circumstances:
- Project Summary text exceeds the one-page limit
- Project Summary text is entered and the user also uploads a “Project Summary with Special Characters” supplementary document
The Fastlane system prevents submission of proposals when compliance checks result in error messages. The compliance issue resulting in the error message must be resolved in order for Fastlane to allow submission.
Proposal File Update (PFU) Implications
Proposers should be aware that if a proposal was received by NSF prior to September 26, 2016, containing a Project Summary that complies with the previous 4,600-character limit but exceeds the one-page limit, a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these compliance checks. The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal, regardless of which section was updated during the PFU.
The new set of automated compliance checks will trigger error messages for each of the following rules:
- Biographical Sketch(es) and Current and Pending Support files are required for each Senior Personnel associated with a proposal; and
- Biographical Sketch(es) can only be uploaded as a file, must not exceed two pages and can no longer be entered as text.
Note About Proposal File Update (PFU): Proposers should be aware should that if a proposal was received prior to July 25 and contained only one Biographical Sketch and/or Current & Pending Support file (rather than individual files for each senior personnel), a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these new compliance checks. The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal regardless of which section was updated during the PFU.
Please note that the new set of compliance checks are in addition to the compliance checks that currently exist in FastLane. View a complete list of FastLane auto-compliance checks, including these checks. The list specifies which checks are run depending on funding opportunity type (GPG, Program Description, Program Announcement, or Program Solicitation) and type of proposal (Research, RAPID, EAGER, Ideas Lab, Conference, Equipment, International Travel, Facility/Center, or Fellowship). It also specifies whether the check triggers a “warning” or “error” message for non-compliant proposals.
The National Institutes of Health provides considerable external support for research at NIU, particularly through the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA).
SPA Guidance for NIH Proposals
- SPA NIH tipsheet
- NIH Policy on Application Compliance
- NIH and the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Program
- Michelle M. Timmerman, Ph.D. Director, AREA Program NIU Guide Policy Officer
- SPA NIH Multi Year Progress Report tipsheet (PDF)
- Working with the eRA Commons (PDF) - This document provides step-by-step instructions for some of the more common tasks in the Commons. If you are not already registered in the Commons, or if you have forgotten your login ID, contact your RDS.
- Sample NIH-formatted biographical sketch (PDF)
- A blank form with the recommended header can be downloaded from the NIH website.
NIH Quick Links
Here are some important links for investigators considering submitting a proposal to NIH:
- NIH podcasts on grant issues (These appear on an occasional basis, approximately 1-2 per month; it is possible to subscribe via iTunes.)
- Selected NIH Policy Notices - This page also includes a link to the NIH Guide archive of all policy notices.
- Application instructions for the standard SF424, the SBIR/STTR SF424, and the individual fellowship SF424. These are the standard NIH proposal guidelines; unless specific provisions are made in the FOA under which you are applying, these are the rules you must follow in putting together your proposal. Most people will need the Application Guide, which is the first item listed in the table on the linked page.
- Format for an NIH biographical sketch (MS Word). (A sample biographical sketch can be found here.)
- Standard due dates for competing applications. This table lists the cycle deadline dates for the most common NIH application types. Most NIH programs accept proposals in three cycles. Something to keep in mind when considering submitting a proposal to NIH is the "earliest project start date" guidance at the bottom of this table. For Cycle I proposals (January-March submissions), the earliest project date will be in December of the same year. For Cycle II proposals (May-July submissions), the earliest start date will be April of the year following submission. And for Cycle III proposals (September-November submissions), the earliest start date will be July of the year following submission.
- NIH Funding success rates - Statistics on NIH proposal funding.
- Proposal writing tips (geared toward the R01 solicitation, but valid for all mechanisms; be sure to check against the guidelines for the competition you're applying to, as those guidelines will trump more general terms)
- NIH Program Areas, Institutes and Centers (ICs)
- NIH Funded Research Projects – Abstracts available
- Search for NIH Funding Opportunities
- NIH Standard Deadlines
Developing a Proposal
- Getting Started
- Finding a Call for Proposals
- Developing Collaborations
- Components of a Proposal
- Agency Guidance
- Submitting a Proposal
- What Happens After My Proposal is Submitted?
- Grant Proposal Library
Here are some important links for investigators considering submitting a proposal to NSF.
- Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) - NSF’s GPG contains the basic guidelines for all NSF proposals. Unless directed otherwise by a specific program solicitation or an NSF program officer, these are the rules and regulations that you must abide by in order for your proposal to be considered.
- Upcoming NSF due dates - a list of all current NSF program competitions, ordered by the competition due date.
- NSF Funding trends- statistics on NSF proposal funding.
- NSF Fastlane Help - to use NSF’s Fastlane proposal submission system.
- NSF Program Areas
- Crosscutting and NSF-wide
- Directorate for Biological Sciences
- Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering
- Office of Cyberinfrastructure
- Directorate for Education and Human Resources
- Directorate for Engineering
- Environmental Research and Education
- Directorate for Geosciences
- Office of Integrative Activities
- Office of International Science and Engineering
- Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
- Office of Polar Programs
- Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
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