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SES Divisional Q&As

Where can I find basic information about submitting a grant proposal?
If you decide to prepare a proposal, you should consult the (GPG) Grant Proposal Guide. Your institution's grants office probably has copies; you can have a copy mailed to you by sending E-mail to

For which NSF Program shall I designate my proposal?
The assignment of proposals to NSF Programs is the responsibility of NSF. However, it is often helpful if you write the name of the Program you think most appropriate in the box labeled "For Consideration by NSF Organization Unit(s)." The easiest way to determine what Program or Programs at NSF might be most appropriate for your proposal is to access the database of NSF awards, which contains abstracts of all recent awards, as well as well as their amounts and which Program(s) funded them. One strategy is to search the database using keywords. Another strategy, using NSF's new FASTLANE system, is to search lists of recent awards made by those Programs you might think potentially appropriate; make sure to browse the list of NSF Programs, because FASTLANE requires precise spelling of the Program name and one minor error, such as substituting "and" for "&" or inserting or omitting a comma, may cause it not to work.

If, after trying this, you need further information, you should contact the appropriate Program Director or Directors via phone or E-mail. If you use E-mail, attaching a brief abstract of your proposed research is often useful.

How do I go about having my proposal jointly reviewed? And should I?
Determining whether joint review is appropriate is the responsibility of NSF. Programs review proposals jointly when they fall within the overlap of their areas of responsibility. We try hard to ensure that joint review will neither decrease nor increase a proposal's chance of funding. If you believe that your research might be of interest to two or more Programs at NSF, do not submit it separately to each such Program; instead, request that it be considered for joint review. To do this, at the same time you submit the required copies to the proposal processing unit, submit a courtesy copy of the proposal to the Program Director for each potential reviewing Program. Attach a cover letter with each courtesy copy noting which Programs you think potentially appropriate to review the proposal; this will facilitate discussion among the relevant Program Officers as to whether joint review is appropriate.

For NSF administrative purposes, one of the Programs involved in a joint review is the primary program, taking responsibility for the paperwork involved in its processing. You might want to suggest which Program you think is most likely to be primary on the proposal by designating that Program in the upper left-hand corner box on the proposal cover sheet in the box labeled "For Consideration by NSF Organization Unit(s)." It will facilitate joint review if you submit more than the usual number of copies of the proposal to the Proposal Processing Unit; a good rule of thumb is to add 7-8 additional copies for each additional Program after the first (for which 18 copies are usually required).

Can I make suggestions about appropriate reviewers for my proposal?
We encourage you to do so, taking care that those you suggest have no real or apparent conflicts of interest. You may also suggest a modest list of those whom you would prefer, for some reason, not to review your proposal. A good place to put such a list is in a cover letter with an courtesy copy of your proposal sent to the relevant Program Officer.

Can my Program Officer allow me to exceed the 15-page limit or include appendices?
These sorts of exceptions can only be authorized by personnel above the level of Program Officer and are very rarely allowed.

Does NSF provide funding for unaffiliated and emeritus scholars?
Scholars without regular faculty positions and researchers who are emeritus from full-time university positions can be funded in most cases. Contact your Program Officer for details before submitting a proposal from such individuals.

Does NSF support research done by organizations other than universities?
In general, this is possible, though there are some exceptions; for guidance, you should consult pages 1-2 of NSF's (GPG) Grant Proposal Guide

Does NSF fund foreign organizations?
NSF rarely provides regular research support to foreign organizations. NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving U.S. and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort. For more information, you may want to look at (NSF 96-14) International Opportunities for Scientists and Engineers, which will give you a better idea of the activities supported by the Division of International Programs.

What does the Division of International Programs (INT) do?
INT provides funds primarily for the US side of a variety of types of international collaboration, travel of US investigators to foreign countries to pursue cooperative research projects and similar activities, some kinds of doctoral dissertation research abroad for US citizens, international workshops and summer institutes, and fellowships for US citizens to perform postdoctoral research in some foreign countries. Since NSF's agreements differ from country to country, and not all kinds of support are provided for each country, it is recommended that you contact INT to see if what you want to do is supported for the country in which you want to do it.

Does NSF provide funding for non-citizen US faculty?
NSF funds institutions, which generally must be within the US, and allows them to decide who may or may not be a principal investigator for grant proposals they submit; few if any are concerned about the citizenship of the principal investigator. So, as long as an institution allows an individual, citizen or not, to be a principal investigator, NSF has no problem. There are certain special NSF solicitations, however, which do have citizenship or residency requirements; please read such solicitations carefully.

What are the rules on pre-award spending?
A Program Director "recommends" a proposal for funding, and then the Division Director concurs with the recommendation; however NSF's Division of Grants and Agreements ultimately makes an award. If it makes sense for your situation, the grants office at your institution has the authority to approve preaward spending for expenses that occur up to 90 days prior to the award start date, provided that their approval predates the spending. This spending is to be charged to the grant when it is made and is at the institution's risk. Most institutional grants offices are willing to approve preaward costs when they can confirm via NSF's FASTLANE system that your proposal is in NSF's Division of Grants and Agreements pending award. Since it is very rare for recommended proposals not to be awarded, the risk to your institution is typically minimal.

If I have not completed my research by the scheduled expiration date of my grant, how do I get a no-cost extension?
In most cases, the grants office at your institution can approve an initial no-cost extension. Any further no-cost extensions need to be approved by NSF in response to a request from you, addressed to your Program Officer, countersigned by an authorized institutional official, in a specific format. For further information, click on the phrase "no-cost extension."

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