Learn Standard Proposal Components

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. Learn the specifics of each NSF component, and 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 sub-awards administered by the lead organization; or
  • As a simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award.
    For more, refer to Fastlane Help (search for specific step, i.e., “Link a Temporary Proposal”).

If you are working on a single proposal that involves collaboration, please see the information on obtaining sub-recipient documentation.

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. Learn the specifics of each NIH component, and refer to NIH’s Proposal Preparation Instructions.

NIH Consortium Agreements

NIH uses a consortium agreement when a grantee collaborates with one or more other institutions in carrying out the grant-supported research. The grantee, as the direct and primary recipient of NIH grant funds, is accountable to NIH for the performance of the project, the appropriate expenditure of grant funds by all parties, applicable reporting requirements, and all other obligations of the grantee.

Under grants that include consortium agreements:

  • The award will be made to a single grantee with a single PD/PI (or Contact PD/PI, in the case of multiple PD/PI applications), even though one or more organizations other than the grantee will carry out portions of the planned programmatic activity.
  • The prime grantee must perform a substantive role in the conduct of the planned research and not merely serve as a conduit of funds to another party or parties. This includes being able to provide appropriate oversight of all scientific, programmatic, financial, and administrative matters related to the grant.

Applicants are expected to detail their proposed collaborations as part of the grant application. If the application is approved as submitted, no further approval is required unless, during performance, the grantee plans to undertake additional or alternative collaborations that would constitute a change in the scope of the approved project.

If you are working on a proposal involving a consortium, please see the information on obtaining subrecipient documentation.