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A GUIDE FOR PROPOSAL WRITING NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION DIRECTORATE FOR EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES Division of Undergraduate Education Table of Contents Introduction ___________________________________________________3 Program Information ________________________________________________4 Review Process ____________________________________________________5 Criteria for Evaluation _______________________________________________6 I. Intellectual Merit ________________________________________________________6 II. Broader Impacts _______________________________________________________7 ADVICE TO PROPOSAL WRITERS _________________________________9 Step 1 - Before You Write_____________________________________________9 Getting Started___________________________________________________________9 Gathering Background Information __________________________________________10 Looking at the Program Solicitation or Announcement ___________________________10 Thinking About the Target Audience _________________________________________11 Building Coalitions _______________________________________________________11 Other Considerations _____________________________________________________12 Step 2 - Writing the Proposal_________________________________________13 Writing the Proposal Narrative ______________________________________________13 Including Budget Information _______________________________________________14 Writing the Credentials of the PI and Other Staff ________________________________15 Including Evaluation and Dissemination Information _____________________________15 Letters of Endorsement ___________________________________________________16 Project Summary and Project Data Form______________________________________16 Step 3 - Before Sending Your Proposal to NSF __________________________17 Learning More About the Review Process_____________________________________17 Getting Advice __________________________________________________________17 Before Finishing the Proposal ______________________________________________17 Little Things That Can Make a Difference _____________________________________18 Step 4 - Awards and Declinations _____________________________________18 If The Grant is Awarded ___________________________________________________18 If Your Proposal is Not Funded _____________________________________________19 A Final Note ____________________________________________________________19 2 A GUIDE FOR PROPOSAL WRITING INTRODUCTION The staff of the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) often provide informal guidance to proposers. Staff members give workshops on proposal writing, answer questions by phone and e-mail, and talk to potential awardees at professional meetings and at NSF. The following is the essence of the advice often given to inquirers. These suggestions for improving proposals were collected from a variety of sources, including NSF Program Directors, panel reviewers, and successful grantees. Ultimately, most proposals are peer reviewed in panels consisting of colleagues in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines or related fields, and the success in obtaining funding depends in great measure on reviewers’ judgments and their written reviews. While this Guide may provide valuable information for proposal writing in general, it was specifically prepared for programs in DUE. Because programs, priorities, technologies, funding levels, and many other details change, advice in this Guide will also change with time. Following the advice given here certainly does not guarantee funding although we hope it will help applicants write better and more competitive proposals. Another factor that must be considered is that NSF receives many more proposals that are worthy of funding than there are funds to support. National priorities and the desire for a balanced portfolio of projects influence what is ultimately funded. We hope that you find this Guide informative. NSF, together with creative partners, makes an important difference in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. “What makes a good proposal?” A good proposal stems from a good concept. The best proposals are those to which the reviewers respond, “Of course, I wish I had thought of that” The most important thing is a project that will benefit undergraduate education and directly improve student opportunities to learn. That said, however, the proposal must be written in sufficient detail to allow reviewers to understand: • what the project hopes to accomplish; • if the project personnel have the necessary expertise to accomplish the goals and objectives; • the potential of the project to improve undergraduate education; • the national impact and cost effectiveness of the project; and • evaluation and dissemination plans. Carefully read the Program Solicitation or Announcement (both defined below). The Program Solicitation or Announcement gives the most current information available. For the relevant program it provides, (a) a rationale, (b) an overview, (c) detailed program information, 3 (d) instructions for preparing and submitting proposals, and (e) special review criteria, if any. This is the best possible guide for preparing a proposal for a DUE program and should be read carefully and followed precisely. There are no hidden agendas. Proposals are funded in a competitive system based on merit. Program Announcements The term "program announcement" includes formal NSF publications that announce NSF Programs. Program announcements utilize the generic eligibility and proposal preparation guidelines specified in the Grant Proposal Guide and incorporate the National Science Board (NSB) approved merit review criteria (intellectual merit and broader impacts). These funding opportunities do not specify additional award conditions or reporting requirements, and do not require specific cost sharing beyond the required statutory (1%) amount. Proposals submitted in response to program announcements are considered "unsolicited." This means that the resulting awards are subject to the statutory cost sharing requirement. Program Solicitations Program solicitations are used to encourage the submission of proposals in specific program areas of interest to NSF. They generally are more focused than program announcements, normally apply for a limited period of time, and include specific proposal due dates. Competition among proposals is more precisely defined than with program announcements. When a program solicitation is used, the proposals received compete directly with each other. Accordingly, programs using solicitations will be responsible for systematic evaluation, including comparative analysis of scientific, educational, and/or technical aspects, cost, and other significant factors within all proposals in accordance with the criteria specified in the program solicitation. Proposals submitted in response to program solicitations are considered "solicited". This means that the resulting awards are not subject to the statutory cost sharing requirement. Cost sharing is not required unless explicitly included in the solicitation. Program Information Following is a list of grant publications with a short description. For those that are published annually, no NSF publication numbers are shown since they will change. Most of these documents are available on the NSF's online document system ( You can also receive publications electronically via e-mail by sending a request for a publication to Paper copies may be requested online at or can be ordered via mail by contacting the NSF Publication Clearinghouse, 4201 Wilson Blvd. Arilington VA, 22230 or by phone at (703) 292-7827. 4 • The Guide to Programs provides background information about all of the Foundation’s activities in education and research. The Guide to Programs is available on the Web at • The Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) provides guidance for the preparation and submission of proposals to NSF. Some NSF programs have Program Solicitations that modify the general provisions of the GPG, and, in such cases, the guidelines provided in the solicitation must be followed. The GPG is available on the Web at • Each Program Solicitation or Announcement describes the program and indicates the exact format for the preparation of the proposal and the criteria for evaluation. • NSF has published the 2002 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation (NSF 02-057), FOOTPRINTS: Strategies for Non-Traditional Program Evaluation (NSF 95-41), and User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations (NSF 97-153) that proposers may wish to obtain. There are also two online evaluation resources that proposers my wish to explore: the Online Education Resource Library ( and the Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide (FLAG) ( Information specific to undergraduate programs can be found on DUE's Web site at You my also contact DUE by e-mail ( or by phone (703-292-8670). Information about DUE funded projects can be found at Review Process NSF awards grants on a competitive basis. In selecting proposals to be supported, NSF is assisted by reviewers who are scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and educators in related disciplines. These reviewers are drawn primarily from two- and four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, industry, foundations, and professional societies and associations, as appropriate for the program being reviewed. The reviewers are chosen based on their demonstrated ability to assess the merits of a proposal based on the criteria for evaluation shown in the next section. Faculty writing proposals are advised to contact NSF Program Directors to learn the general demographics of the reviewers for the program for which they are submitting proposals. The majority of proposals submitted to DUE are considered by panels of peer reviewers. The purpose of the review is to provide NSF with a written critique and an individual rating from each reviewer as well as a summary analysis by the panel. In DUE, each panelist writes his or her own review for all proposals assigned to the panel. Reviewers are asked to provide a detailed evaluation of both the merits and the shortcomings of each proposal and to provide a rating. The panel then convenes as a group to discuss the proposals. This gives each reviewer 5 the benefit of an informed discussion upon which to base a decision. Following these discussions, panelists complete their individual reviews and one panel member writes a summary of the discussion for each proposal. Reviews are used by NSF Program Directors to inform funding decisions; and anonymous copies are made available to all proposers. Reviewers are charged with safeguarding the confidentiality of proposals and are asked not to copy, quote, or otherwise use material from any proposal. Reviews are not disclosed to persons outside NSF except to the principal investigator. At the end of the review process, the principal investigator can access via FastLane the written verbatim reviews with the reviewers’ names and affiliations omitted. Reviews are provided whether the proposal is funded or not. All reviews are confidential. NSF releases abstracts and other information about funded proposals only. Criteria for Evaluation Proposals to NSF are evaluated for merit on the basis of two general criteria: intellectual merit and broader impacts. These criteria are described in Chapter III, Section A, of the Grant Proposal Guide. These criteria, as they relate to education, are defined below. In addition to the suggestions listed in the “Advice to Proposal Writers” section, special attention should be paid to the criteria and questions specified below. Reviewers are asked to comment on the quality of the proposal with respect to each of these two criteria. Some programs include additional criteria. See the applicable Program Solicitation for this information. I. Intellectual Merit What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of the prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources? Typical questions raised in the review process of proposals submitted to DUE programs include: • Does the project address a major challenge facing STEM undergraduate education? • Are the goals and objectives, and the plans and procedures for achieving them, innovative, well-developed, worthwhile, and realistic? • Does the project have potential for improving student learning of important principles of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? • Is the project informed by research in teaching and learning, current pedagogical issues, what others have done, and relevant literature? 6 • Does the project provide for effective assessment of student learning, which reflects the proposed educational objectives and practices? • Does the project design consider the background, preparation, and experience of the target audience? • Does the project have the potential to provide fundamental improvements in teaching and learning through effective uses of technology? • Is the project led by and supported by the involvement of capable faculty (and where appropriate, practicing scientists, mathematicians, engineers, technicians, teachers, and student assistants), who have recent and relevant experience in education, in research, or in the workplace? • Is the project supported by adequate facilities and resources, and by an institutional and departmental commitment? II. Broader Impacts What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity? How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society? Typical questions raised in the review process of proposals submitted to DUE programs include: • To what extent will the results of the project contribute to the knowledge base of activities that enhance student learning? • Are the proposed course, curriculum, faculty or teacher professional development, experiential learning, or laboratory activities integrated into the institution’s academic program? • Are plans for evaluation of the project appropriate and adequate for the project’s size and scope? • Are the results of the project likely to be useful at similar institutions? • What is the potential for the project to produce widely used products that can be disseminated through commercial or other channels? Are plans for producing, marketing and distributing these products and communication of results appropriate and adequate? 7 • For Advanced Technological Education (ATE) projects, does the project address the current and future needs of industry for technicians? Does the project enhance the current status of technician education? • Will the project result in solid content and pedagogical preparation of faculty and teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? • Does the project effectively address one or more of the following objectives: Ensure the highest quality education for those students planning to pursue STEM careers? Increase the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities? Provide a foundation for scientific, technological, and workplace literacy? Develop multi- and interdisciplinary courses and curricula that are aligned with national standards, as appropriate? 8 ADVICE TO PROPOSAL WRITERS The following steps are provided to help the proposal writer understand the steps that go into preparing a proposal and to share some advice that others have found useful. Step 1 - Before You Write Getting Started NSF grants provide funds based on merit, not on need. A good proposal begins with a clear idea of the goals and objectives of the project. For example, creating a course or curriculum, improving a laboratory by teaching new concepts directly, teaching new material to undergraduate faculty, or preparing future technicians or K-12 teachers in a more effective way. In addition, a good project begins with a sense of why it will be a significant improvement over current practice. Envision what improvements your project will make, and then ask yourself what activities and course(s) must be developed, what instruments will be needed, or what coalitions must be formed to make the desired improvements. Focusing first on the goals and objectives helps ensure that the activities are designed to reach those goals. After the goals and associated activities are well defined, consider what resources (e.g., people, time, equipment, technical support) will be necessary as part of the request to NSF. A better proposal is likely to result if the goals and activities are clear before resources are considered. Your project should be innovative within its context. It should not be designed merely to bring your institution up to the level of other similar institutions, nor should it be used to fill program deficiencies that have been caused by changing student registration patterns. Projects should explore teaching and learning methods that use equipment, scientific knowledge, or teaching techniques in effective ways; perhaps by adapting techniques to a new context or by teaching in a novel or attractive way. In addition, more extensive projects, such as ATE Centers must show clearly that they can initiate important changes in the teaching of undergraduate science, technology, engineering, or mathematics for a significant segment of the community. Mention what work has been done in preparation for the project, and describe specific attempts that have been made to try the proposed improvement on a small scale. 9 Evidence of preliminary work demonstrates planning and commitment to the project and often indicates the project’s potential for success. When the proposal requests significant funds for equipment, it is helpful to consider alternatives and explain why the instruments chosen are particularly suitable for the project and why others, especially less expensive ones, are less suitable. Get advice from people who have been successful in the proposal process. (See the Getting Advice Section listed in Step 3 and consider these activities early in the process.) Gathering Background Information When writing a proposal, look for previously awarded NSF projects or work supported in other ways that are similar. The relationship of the proposed project to the work of others should be described. In addition, the proposal must give appropriate attention to the existing relevant knowledge base, including awareness of current literature. Results of previous projects may have been presented at professional meetings or published in journals, and NSF regularly publishes abstracts of its recently awarded grants. Information can also be obtained from NSF’s Web site at DUE has developed a Web-based Project Information Resource System (PIRS) to provide a gateway to award abstracts and other information about projects supported by the division. The PIRS database is searchable by PI name, awardee organization, DUE program, project discipline, abstract keywords, and other criteria. The PIRS Web page can be found at When you find a funded project that is similar, call the principal investigator, discuss his/her project, and ask him/her to send or e-mail you a copy of the grant proposal. You will then be better able to see how that project is outlined and developed and how it meets certain needs on that particular campus and in the broader community. Clearly you will wish to use this only as guidance and should not copy the project. There will be differences in what is needed in each new project. Feel free to call a DUE Program Director (current number 703-292-8670) when unsure about any details or procedure. Looking at the Program Solicitation or Announcement Identify the program or programs that best fit what you hope to accomplish. Read the Program Solicitation or Announcement guidelines carefully and consider what is requested. Each program’s solicitation specifies requirements for that program and information that is used to review the proposal. The Program Solicitation clearly spells out requirements, including format requirements. All parts of the proposal should conform to the requirements, i.e., target dates, font size, 10 page limits, program objectives, budget limits, cost sharing, etc. The proposal should be concise and not exceed any text restrictions. The review criteria are particularly important to consider in writing the proposal. Keep in mind that different programs may have special emphases for review. These will be mentioned in the Program Solicitation. You should consider, if appropriate, how your project might address these areas. In some cases, programs have specific requirements that differ from the general requirements. When there are differences, the guidelines closest to the program should be followed (i.e., follow the program guidelines provided in the Program Solicitation). For example, if the Program Solicitation calls for double line spacing while the NSF Grant Proposal Guide leaves line spacing to the discretion of the proposer, you should use double line spacing. Thinking About the Target Audience The target audience of the grant should be clearly explained in terms of demographic characteristics, size, and special characteristics or problems/challenges faced by the group. The project design should be developed in a manner that will effectively assist the target group in addressing those special problems or challenges. The disparity between the educational sophistication of the project and the educational naiveté of the audience (e.g., a software package which is primarily being used for research that is proposed to be used in a developmental mathematics class) is usually noted by the reviewers and can be one reason for declination of funding. One of the goals of the Foundation is to increase the participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities. If your project is going to provide learning opportunities for women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities, explain exactly how this is going to be done. The proposal should explicitly identify components that will result in increased participation by and/or success of these groups. There must be a focused plan, explaining in detail how your project will accomplish this. Building Coalitions When several departments, several institutions, or constituencies outside the academic community are involved in the project, it is important to have these groups involved in the planning and to obtain letters of endorsement to the project. When faculty or teacher enhancement activities or industry partners are included, involve these potential participants in the planning of project activities. Where appropriate in terms of the project’s size and its potential for national impact, consider designing the project with an advisory board of outside experts to provide 11additional levels of expertise and experience and to help widely disseminate the project results. Even in smaller projects, an advisory board of outside experts from the college or local community can provide additional levels of expertise and experience. Build consensus on your idea within your own department and institution. If the courses are taught by different faculty members, reviewers may be more receptive if the proposal is submitted jointly by several members of the department or institution rather than by a single faculty member. It is often valuable to include a letter of endorsement from the department chair or other individuals to establish institutional support. Include information about where the project fits in the context of the institution’s academic program. As appropriate, show how your project is part of an overall plan to improve education by your institution and other institutions. Discuss involving other organizations in your proposal either as partners in the endeavor or as test sites. Other Considerations Organize a good working team. Distribute duties and develop a firm schedule of activities needed to prepare the proposal in time to meet the proposal deadline. Schedule proposal writing and information gathering activities over a reasonable time and carefully manage the schedule. Consider scheduling the writing in small, regular amounts of time. The effort needed to write a proposal might, at first sight, seem insurmountable. By proceeding a step at a time, you will be able to accomplish the task. Remember to allow enough time to have the proposal revised by a third party if needed and to obtain all the necessary internal and external letters of endorsement and permissions. Consider having one person write the final proposal to assure consistency. Typically a final version of a proposal will have gone through several drafts and revisions. Don’t plan on writing a final version in a first draft. Invest time running a pilot program and preparing preliminary versions of curricular materials prior to the actual writing of the proposal. The proposal should be written so that, if funded, it can serve as a blueprint for executing the plan. 12 Step 2 - Writing the Proposal Writing the Proposal Narrative A good proposal is always readable, well-organized, grammatically correct, and understandable. Be explicit in your narrative about how the program will make an improvement. This narrative must contain specifics including details of experiments and/or applications, both to show that planning has been done and to help reviewers understand why the particular application you propose is better than other ideas. You and your colleagues should think through several iterations of the definition of the project. The narrative should be specific about the proposed activities. Reviewers want details of the project’s organization, the course content, laboratory and other inquiry-based experiments, and participant activities, both to show that groundwork has been laid and to help them understand why the particular ideas you propose are better than others. Careful writing should allow you to describe, in the limited space available, enough about your project to give the reviewers a clear idea of exactly what you plan to do and why your plan is a good one. How would the project improve education at your institution and how might it be emulated at other similar institutions? How will your plan ultimately improve students’ understanding of concepts in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? How will you know it has been done? You must demonstrate in the narrative that you have a broad knowledge of current scholarship and activities in your field and how this is relevant to your project’s design. This knowledge should include current research in teaching and learning practices. However, do not focus entirely on this aspect and fail to adequately describe the components of your project. The project description/narrative of the proposal should be written by the person or persons in the science, engineering, or mathematics departments who will be the principal investigator(s). The submitting institution’s sponsored research office or grant administration expert can assist in some areas of the proposal writing, e.g., with budgets or grammar, but usually do not have the scientific qualifications or classroom experience to describe the project in an appropriately technical or pedagogical manner. It is helpful to reviewers to see that you have devised a time frame. This will show that you have done adequate planning and are realistic about the program’s implementation. Include examples that illustrate, for example, the innovative activities or exercises that students will be doing. Reviewers usually respond to projects that include an emphasis on active learning and student directed inquiry. In most cases, it is important to describe 13 your plans to continue the project and institutionalize courses and curriculum beyond the funding period. Including Budget Information The budget request should be realistic for the project and reflect the goals of the project. It must also be consistent with the requirements of the particular NSF program. It should request sufficient resources needed to carry out the project, but it should not be excessively high. Budget information should be complete and unambiguous. Carefully review your budget to ensure that ineligible items do not appear in the budget and that adequate attention has been given to cost sharing. Consult the Program Solicitation for eligible and ineligible items. Most reviewers and all Program Directors look carefully at the proposed budgets to find evidence of careful reflection and realistic project planning. Some programs require specific cost-sharing. If required in a Program Solicitation, cost- sharing information must be included on line M of the budget form, and if the proposal is awarded the cost-sharing becomes a condition of the award. Remember that cost-sharing is subject to audit. Proposers may not exceed the cost sharing level or amount specified in the Program Solicitation; and unless required by the Program Solicitation, proposers should not include cost sharing amounts on line M of the proposal budget. (For more information, see the Grant Proposal Guide and the Program Solicitation.) Make sure that your budget narrative reflects both your official NSF budget pages and the needs of the project. Cost of the project must be realistic. Many budget requests are out-of-line with others submitted to the program. Look at the Program Solicitation or Announcement for average size of awards and the award range. Budgets are often negotiated as a proposal is being considered; but a clear, realistic budget request strengthens a proposal. 14 Writing the Credentials of the PI and Other Staff When writing up the credentials of faculty for the grant proposal, each biographical sketch should be written with the proposal in mind and should display the unique background of the principal investigator(s) that will be valuable in working on the proposed project. Carefully follow program guidelines about format and length of biographical sketches. Be sure that the roles of all personnel, especially the principal investigators, are described in the proposal itself. Having the roles of the principal investigators and other personnel discussed within the narrative is important so that reviewers can understand their involvement, leadership, and commitment to the project. If your project involves industry, consider having a co-principal investigator representing industry. Including Evaluation and Dissemination Information A good evaluation plan appropriate to the scale of the project will provide information as the project is developing and will determine how effectively the project has achieved its goals. The effects of formative evaluation should be described. Also include how you intend to evaluate the final project and how you will determine whether this project met your scientific and pedagogical expectations. Discuss how you plan to collect and analyze data on the project’s impact (i.e., number of students or faculty affected.) Describe why the proposed project is a good way to improve education at your institution and how it might be emulated at other similar institutions. Explain in detail how you will disseminate information on the success and content of your project to other scientists and educators. In general, setting up a Web page about the project is not considered sufficient. For projects that are creating instructional materials, include information on potential commercial publication. What products (text, software, CD ROMS, manuals, or other publications) might result, and what plans are in place to distribute them effectively? Projects that include plans for commercial publication are encouraged by NSF. Authors who submit such proposals should demonstrate that NSF funding is necessary to create the work, make the product available earlier, or better serve the community. When extensive utilization of educational technology is expected, how will the student learning outcomes be evaluated? What are the plans to ensure that electronic 15 dissemination will lead to broad implementation of material so provided, and that such material will be subjected to continued scrutiny for editorial quality and currency of content? Consider the value that an outside evaluator may add to your project. Letters of Endorsement Include letters of endorsement from your department chair and other appropriate administrators. If your project involves other people or groups not on your campus (e.g., K-12 teachers, consultants, or other colleges), include letters of endorsement from appropriate individuals. Include letters of endorsement with specific contributions from the participants' supporting institutions. These should make specific commitments and not just be generic support of good will. Uniquely phrased letters of endorsement from different institutions are better than nearly identical letters from the institutions to be served. Project Summary and Project Data Form The project summary (abstract) is the first thing that reviewers and NSF staff read. It should be written clearly and concisely. In the space allotted, it should outline the problem, the objectives and the expected outcomes, project activities, and the audience to be addressed. The project summary must also clearly address in separate statements the intellectual merit of the proposed activity and the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity. Proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the project summary will be returned without review. Program Directors use the summary to choose reviewers for the proposal. It is also the reviewers’ introduction to the project. NSF publishes an abstract of the project should it be funded. Considerable effort and thought should be spent in preparing a well-written summary. The numbers given on the Project Data Form concerning student impact should be as accurate as possible. Reviewers look for discrepancies in enrollment data and the projected numbers of students. They look for reasonable expectations in those numbers. 16 Step 3 - Before Sending Your Proposal to NSF Learning More About the Review Process To gain expertise in NSF’s proposal review system, volunteer to serve on a program review panel yourself. Each Division compiles names of appropriate individuals who can serve as reviewers. Contact the pertinent division to volunteer for reviewer status. Encourage your professional organization to form a committee to help members review their proposals before submitting them to NSF. Getting Advice Consider asking someone who has served on an NSF program review panel to assess your proposal. If possible, have someone not connected with the proposal read and comment on a draft of your proposal—with sufficient time allowed for changes prior to the submission of your proposal. This person can help identify omissions or inconsistent logic before reviewers see the proposal. Some programs require a preliminary proposal. Check the Program Solicitation and with NSF staff. When working on a proposal or award for several years, you may be transferred from one Program Director to another. Many Program Directors come to NSF from colleges and universities for one or two-year assignments and then return to their schools at the end of their rotational assignments. Before Finishing the Proposal When a checklist is provided in the Program Solicitation or Announcement, use it to ensure that all needed information and/or administrative details are included. Look again at the goals and objectives and at your written plans and procedures for achieving the goals. Check to see that the goals are well-developed and realistic and that your plans are innovative and appropriate. Consider using graphics to make your point stronger and clearer. A time line to show when different components of your project are to take place can be particularly effective. 17 Little Things That Can Make a Difference Use a spell checker before submitting the proposal. Proofread carefully. Be sure to follow the directions given in the Program Solicitation. In particular, follow any specific requirements such as page limitations. In general avoid abbreviations. For example, use laboratory, not lab and mathematics, not math. The first time you use an acronym, write out what it stands for and put the acronym in parentheses. For example, American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC). After that you can use the acronym. Make sure all your references are correct. Use page numbers in your proposal. Print out a copy of your proposal from FastLane to ensure that all sections of the proposal are readable. Step 4 - Awards and Declinations If The Grant is Awarded If the proposal is successful, make the best possible use of the funds awarded. Situations may arise that require changes in your plans to accomplish the goals of the project. Within broad limits described in the grant conditions (reference GC-1, FDP, and NSF’s Grant Policy Manual) and within the overall budget, such changes may be possible. Consult your institution’s sponsored research office or grant administration office for guidance. In addition, let others know about your project. This may include providing advice or assistance to faculty developing similar projects. It clearly includes disseminating products and results. Make sure that other scientists and educators learn about your activities through correspondence, telephone conversations, presentations, and publications. Finally, reference the National Science Foundation as well as the sponsoring Division and/or program in all presentations and publications. 18 If Your Proposal is Not Funded If the proposal is not funded, consider the reviews of the panel and the comments from NSF staff objectively and seriously. Consult NSF staff if necessary and, unless the feedback indicates otherwise, submit a revised or new proposal the following year. Many awards made in the programs have been for proposals that were revised thoughtfully and resubmitted after having been declined initially. Your institution may have a strong enough commitment to the project to provide funding. You may also discover other funding avenues open to you. If you have contacts with business and industry in your community, a company in the private sector may be interested in helping fund your project. Often, institution grant officers have directories that include the names of other foundations and their funding priorities. A Final Note The National Science Foundation is looking for proposals of programs that will improve the quality of education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at all levels. It seeks to support the best science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education activities that meet the needs of target audiences. It is in our mutual best interest to have your proposal be of the highest quality. We hope that you have found this Guide helpful and encourage you to contact a Program Director at NSF for additional information. 19

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