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The format or presentation of a particular proposal will depend on the requirements of the sponsor. Most sponsors have developed policies and procedures for the submission of proposals and may require the use of specific application forms or electronic web-based systems. Other sponsors may have less stringent format requirements. PI's should obtain the most recent version of the sponsor's application guidelines and follow the required proposal format.

Note: A preliminary proposal or white paper is, in many cases, an expanded abstract. The pre-proposal does not usually include a detailed budget and justification required of formal proposal. However, some may include an estimated budget. The certifications and assurances normally required for full proposals are not usually included at this stage.

Components of an NSF proposal

Most NSF proposals call for completion of a Cover Sheet, Project Summary, Project Description, References Cited, Biographical Sketch, Budget, Budget Justification, Current and Pending Support, Data Management Plan, Facilities, and Supplementary documents. Refer to NSF's Proposal Preparation Instructions

NSF Collaborative Research Proposals

When involved with a collaborative research project, the lead institution provides all the pieces listed above, and the other collaborators (when submitting as a single proposal, as described immediately below) provide Cover Sheet, Biographical Sketch, Budget, Budget Justification, Current and Pending Support, Facilities, and Supplementary documents as applicable.

Collaborative proposals are those in which investigators from two or more organizations wish to collaborate on a unified research project. They may be submitted to NSF in one of two methods:

  • As a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested with subawards administered by the lead organization; or
  • As a simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award. 

For more, read the explanation in the PAPPG Chapter II.D.3, or refer to Fastlane Help (search for specific step, i.e., "Link a Temporary Proposal").

Components of an NIH proposal

Most NIH proposals call for completion of a Project Summary/Abstract, Project Narrative, Bibliography/References Cited, Facilities and Other Resources, Equipment, Biographical Sketch, Personnel Justification, Budget, Budget Justification, Specific Aims, Research Strategy and Letters of Support. Refer to NIH's How To Apply - Application Guide.