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Division of Earth Sciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd. Room 785
Arlington, VA 22230

To the Earth Science Community,

As many of you know, NSF is working toward full implementation of the "Paperless Proposal and Award System" no later than October 2000. This is described in NSF Notice # 123. Previously, the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) had not required PIs to submit proposals via FastLane for the usual twice-yearly proposal submission deadlines or the special program announcements. As a result, only about half of our PIs have tried the challenge on their own, except for NSF-wide competitions mandating FastLane submission (e.g. CAREER).

All proposals submitted to NSF are required to be submitted via FastLane, as of October 1, 2000. We have a mandate to transition over to full electronic submission, so we must work together to be sure that this happens in a smooth and trouble-free manner. Therefore, we would like for you to familiarize yourself with this new system. You can find FastLane at

The new system will provide many advantages. FastLane will provide a great savings of time, expense and natural resources. For the PI, repetitive data such as the coversheet, biographical information and even the body of the proposal where it is being edited for a resubmission, will be stored on the FastLane submission for future use. For the program officer, statistical data can be captured and calculated, and eventually reviews will be more rapidly returned to the PI.

There are also a few disadvantages. The system does not print color, so if your proposal contains scientifically necessary color, please submit your proposal via FastLane but also send in the normal number of hard copies for use by reviewers, WITH THE PROPOSAL NUMBER ASSIGNED TO YOU BY THE FASTLANE SYSTEM ON THE FRONT PAGE. These additional color copies should be sent directly to the Program and must be received within five business days. No text changes will be permitted.

Another option is to put the images on a website and list the URL (web address) under the images in the submitted proposal, with text stating that high resolution color versions of the images can be found at the specified address. This will ensure that reviewers receive every proposal in the version originally intended - i.e., with the image quality the PI is capable of producing.

FastLane developers strongly recommend using Acrobat Distiller to create PDF files when using Adobe Acrobat software. For instructions on how to create PDF files, go to "FastLane PDF Creation Hints and Pointers". This web page also contains links to Distiller job option profiles created by NSF specifically for use with FastLane. These profiles have been optimized for most standard text and graphics files and eliminate the need for PIs to manually change the settings in Distiller.

NSF has added a Supplemental Docs form to the FastLane Forms Kit. This is found in the "Special and Supplemental Information Proposal Section 1" information listed in the Grant Proposal Guide. The new form allows you to upload one PDF file containing all supplemental information (e.g., letters of support, etc.).

FastLane users needing assistance can contact the FastLane Help Desk by calling (800) 673-6188 (due to upcoming changes to the NSF phone system, this number is subject to change) or by sending an email to:

Please note that FastLane is required for the following.

- Proposal Preparation and Submission
- Submission of Peer Review
- Business Transactions (Payment and Financial Reporting)
- Annual & Final Project Reports
- Postaward Notifications and Requests.

(e.g. No Cost Extensions, Supplement Requests, etc.)

Change is always difficult in the beginning and we do appreciate everyone's cooperation. It is a learning process for all of us but we will try to make it as painless for you as possible.

Thank you for your patience.

Herman B. Zimmerman
Division Director


NSF Celebrating 50 Years Division of Earth Sciences, NSF
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 785, Arlington, Virginia, 22230
Tel: 703.292.8500 | FAX: 703.292.9042| TDD: 800-281-8749
Last Modified:
Apr 16, 2004
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