National Science Foundation (nsf.gov)
The National Science Foundation has seven (7) directorates that will accept proposals for grant funding:
Directorate for Biological Sciences
Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering
Directorate for Education and Human Resources
Directorate for Engineering
Directorate for Geosciences
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
For a list of the directorates and program information, including phone numbers, go to http://nsf.gov/staff/orglist.jsp
Generally, proposals are submitted in response to a program announcement, however in some cases a particular program will accept unsolicited proposals. NSF program officers, and staff in general, are extremely helpful and want you to succeed. The NSF strongly encourages you to contact your program officer prior to proposal submission – either solicited or unsolicited – to ensure that in fact your ideas fit the program, and to get other feedback which can be of benefit.
An NSF proposal is submitted through FastLane. The NSF Grant Proposal Guide can be found at
This guide is extremely detailed and designed to help you gain an award. It includes pre-submission information, proposal preparation instructions, and information about proposal processing and review.
NSF proposals receive both an administrative review for compliance with proposal guidelines (and to ensure your proposal does not duplicate another proposal already funded), and a merit review.
The merit review criteria includes
the intellectual merit of the proposed activity
- creativity and originality
- potential to advancing knowledge and understanding within and across fields
- conceptualization and organization
- qualifications of investigators
- access to resources
the broader impacts of the proposed activity
- discovery while promoting teaching, training and learning
- participation of underrepresented groups
- enhancement of infrastructure for research and education
- dissemination of results to enhance scientific and technological understanding
- benefits to society
These are the general NSF statements regarding intellectual merit and broader impact. Check your specific program to see if it has some examples of criteria specific to that program.
After the merit review, which can be in a formal panel review or by email, or both, the Program Director analyzes the reviews and makes an award or declination recommendation to the Division Director, who makes the final decision.
NSF suggests that you use the budget justification as a good way to help describe and develop your story of what you want to do.
While cost-sharing may not be mandatory in your proposal, it is looked upon favorably if you are submitting a proposal for a project which will benefit S F State as an institution. Please note, however, that even if cost-sharing is not required, if it is part of the proposal package in any form, post-award the cost-sharing must be quantifiable and certifiable.
All cost sharing must be approved by the Dean at least three weeks before the deadline for submitting the grant proposal.
NSF also suggests that even if you have never been funded by them, indeed, particularly if you have submitted and not been funded, that you apply to be a reviewer. Being a member of a review panel will give you much insight into the merit review process and how the NSF thinks and what is looked for in proposals.