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					       NIH Proposal
• Purpose
 • DescribeRESEARCH PLANhow of the
            the what, why, and
  •  Core of the proposal and will be
     reviewed with particular care
  •  The what will be Part 1: Specific Aims
  •  The why, Part 2: Background and
  •  The how, Part 3: Preliminary Results
     contributes to both the why and how
  •  Part 4: Research Design and Methods.
     The assessment of this research plan
     will largely determine whether or not the
     proposal is favorably recommended for
• Content: The research plan should answer
            RESEARCH PLAN
  the following questions:
 •  What do you intend to do?
 •  Why is this worth doing? How is it
 •  What has already been done in general,
    and what have other researchers done in
    this field?
 •  What will this new work add to the field of
 •  What have you (and your collaborators)
    done to establish the feasibility of what
    you are proposing to do?
                RESEARCH PLAN
•   Make sure that all sections are internally consistent
    and that they dovetail with each other
    • Use a numbering system, and make sections easy to
    • Lead the reviewers through your research plan
    • One person should revise and edit the final draft.
•   Show knowledge of recent literature and explain how
    the proposed research will further what is already
•   Emphasize how some combination of a novel
    hypothesis, important preliminary data, a new
    experimental system and/or a new experimental
    approach will enable important progress to be made.
•   Establish credibility of the proposed principal
    investigator and the collaborating researchers.
• Specific Aims
 • Purpose: The purpose of the specific aims
     is to describe concisely and realistically
     what the proposed research is intended to
 •   Recommended Length: The recommended
     length of the specific aims is one page.
 •   Content: The specific aims should cover:
     • broad, long-term goals;
     • the hypothesis or hypotheses to be
       tested, and
     • specific time-phased research
•   Suggestions:
    • Generally, the Specific Aims section should begin
      with a brief narrative describing the long-term
      goals of the project and the hypothesis guiding the
      research. This is followed by a numbered list of
      the Aims.
•   State the hypothesis clearly. Make sure it is
    understandable, testable and adequately supported
    by citations in the Background and by data in the
    Preliminary Results Sections. Be sure to explain how
    the results to be obtained will be used to test the
•   Show that the objectives are attainable within the
    stated time frame.
       brief and specific as possible.
  clarity, each aim should consist of only one
  sentence. Use a brief paragraph under each
  aim if detail is needed. Most successful
  applications have 2-4 specific aims.
 •  Don't be overly ambitious. A small,
    focused project is generally better
    received than a diffuse, multifaceted
 •  Be certain that all aims are related. Have
    someone read them for clarity and
 •  Focus on aims where you have good
    supporting preliminary data and scientific
• Purpose: The purpose of the background
           RESEARCH PLAN to state the
    and significance section is PART 2
    problem to be investigated, the rationale for
    the proposed research, the current state of
    knowledge relevant to the proposal and the
    potential contribution of this research to the
    problem(s) addressed.
•   Recommended Length: Approximately 3
•   Content: The background and significance
    section should cover:
    • the rationale for the proposed project;
    • the state of existing knowledge, including
      literature citations and highlights of
• Suggestions
 • Make a compelling case for your proposed
   research project.
   •   Why is the topic important?
   •   Why are the specific research questions important?
   •   How are the researchers qualified to address these?
 • Establish familiarity with recent research
   •   Avoid outdated research
   •   Use citations not only as support for specific statements but
       also to establish familiarity with all of the relevant
       publications and points of view
   •   Your application may well be reviewed by someone working
       in your field. If their contributions and their point of view are
       not mentioned, they are not likely to review your application
• Preliminary Results/Progress Report
 • Purpose: The purpose of the preliminary
   results section is to describe prior work
   by the investigators relevant to the
   proposed project
   •   In a new application, the preliminary results are
       important to establish the experience and capabilities
       of the applicant investigators in the area of proposed
       research and to provide experimental support for the
       hypothesis and the research design.
   •   This section is not mandatory for new applications, but
       it is virtually impossible to obtain a favorable review
       without strong preliminary data
   •   In a renewal application, this section becomes a
       progress report describing studies performed during
             RESEARCH PLAN PART 3
• Recommended Length: The recommended
    length of the preliminary results/progress
    report section is 6-8 pages.
•   Content: The preliminary results section
    should include the following:
    •   most importantly, a description of recent studies by the
        applicant investigators that establish the feasibility and
        importance of the proposed project
    •   a brief description of older published studies by the
        applicant that provide important background information
        relevant to the proposed project
    •   results of previous studies by the applicant not directly
        relevant to the proposed project if they are needed to
        establish the applicant's competence and experience with
        the experimental techniques to be used in the proposed
• Suggestions
 •   All Tables and Figures necessary for the presentation of
     preliminary results must be included in this section of the
 •   Figures and Figure legends must be legible. There are
     specific limits on type size given in the application
     instructions, but beyond these rules, the critical factor is
     whether the data are legible and convincing to the
 •   Do not dwell on results already published. Summarize the
     critical findings in the text. Provide a PDF of a cited
     manuscript in the Appendix only if it is not published in a
     publicly accessible journal, or has been accepted but not
     yet published.
• Research Design and Methods
 • Purpose: The purpose of the research
     design and methods section is to describe
     how the research will be carried out. This
     section is crucial to how favorably an
     application is reviewed.
 •   Recommended Length: The maximum
     recommended length of the research
     design and methods section is 20 pages.
             RESEARCH PLAN PART 4
•   Content: The research design and methods section should include
    the following:
    •   an overview of the experimental design;
    •   a detailed description of specific methods to be employed to
        accomplish the specific aims;
    •   a detailed discussion of the way in which the results will be
        collected, analyzed, and interpreted;
    •   a projected sequence or timetable (work plan);
    •   a description of any new methodology used and why it
        represents an improvement over the existing ones;
    •   a discussion of potential difficulties and limitations and how
        these will be overcome or mitigated;
    •   expected results, and alternative approaches that will be used if
        unexpected results are found
    •   precautions to be exercised with respect to any procedures,
        situations, or materials that may be hazardous to personnel or
        human subjects.
             RESEARCH PLAN PART 4
•   Number the sections in this part of the application to correspond
    to the numbers of the Specific Aims.
    •   Give sufficient detail. Do not assume that the reviewers will
        know how you intend to proceed.
    •   Avoid excessive experimental detail by referring to publications
        that describe the methods to be employed. Publications cited
        should be by the applicants, if at all possible.
    •   If relevant, explain why one approach or method will be used in
        preference to others. This establishes that the alternatives
        were not simply overlooked. Give not only the "how" but the
    •   If employing a complex technology for the fast time, take extra
        care to demonstrate familiarity with the experimental details
        and potential pitfalls. Add a co-investigator or consultant
        experienced with the technology, if necessary.
    •   Document proposed collaborations and offers of materials or
        reagents of restricted availability with letters from the
        individuals involved.
• Purpose: The purpose of the assurances
    section is to ensure that the applicant
    organization will comply with all relevant
    Federal laws and guidelines.
•   Recommended Length: A special form must
    be completed for the assurances section.
•   Human Subjects Research
                                      •   Civil Rights
•   Research on Transplantation of
                                      •   Handicapped Individuals
    Human Fetal Tissue
•   Research Using Human              •   Sex Discrimination
    Embryonic Stem Cells              •   Age Discrimination
•   Women and Minority Inclusion      •   Recombinant DNA, including Human
    Policy                                Gene Transfer Research
•   Inclusion of Children Policy      •   Financial Conflict of Interest
•   Vertebrate Animals                •   Smoke-Free Workplace
•   Debarments and Suspension         •   Prohibited Research
•   Drug Free Workplace               •   Select Agent Research
•   Lobbying                          •   Principal Investigator Assurance
•   Non-Delinquency of Federal Debt
•   Research Misconduct
           The purpose of this section
    describing the involvement of human
    subjects is to ensure the protection of the
    rights and welfare of people who participate
    in research projects.
•   Recommended Length: There is no specified
    length, but be succinct.
•   Content: See Supplemental Instructions for
    Preparing the Human Subjects Section of
    the Research Plan in the SF 424 or PHS 398
    application to determine whether this
    section is required or your human subjects
    research is exempt.
• Provide aHUMAN SUBJECTSof the
           complete description
  proposed involvement of human subjects as
  it relates to the work outlined in the
  Research Plan section.
 • If an exemption has been designated on the face page, enough detail still
     must be provided to allow the determination of the appropriateness of the

• You must provide sufficient information for
  reviewers to determine that the proposed
  research meets:
 • the requirements of the DHHS regulations to protect human subjects from
     research risks (45 CFR Part 46);
 •   NIH and NCI policy requirements for Data and Safety Monitoring for
     Clinical Trials, if applicable;
 •   the requirements, if applicable;
 •   the requirements of NIH policies on inclusion of women, minorities, and
     children; and
• If the application involves the Inclusion of
              HUMAN SUBJECTS
    Women and Minorities, complete the
    Targeted/Planned Enrollment Table
•   A justification is required if there is limited
    representation of children, women, and
•   Peer review and NIH program staff will
    consider this justification in their evaluation
    of your application
•   Failure to address this issue will impose a
    bar, making any award until all the concerns
    raised by the integrated review group (IRG)
    have been resolved
• Purpose: The purpose of this section
     describing the use of vertebrate animals is
     to ensure the humane treatment of live
     animals involved in the proposed research.
•    Recommended Length: No specified length,
     but be succinct.
•    Content:
    • Provide a complete description of the proposed use of vertebrate animals
        as it relates to the work outlined in the Research Plan section
    •   There are five points which must be addressed in this section.
        •   Procedures, species, strains, sex, ages and number of animals to be
        •   Justification for the species used
        •   Veterinary care
        •   Methods for alleviating pain, discomfort and distress, and justify not
            using analgesics
        •   Methods of euthanasia and endpoint euthanasia criteria
• Purpose: The purpose of the resources and
     environment section is to describe the
     resources, facilities, and support available
     to the researcher.
•    Recommended Length: There is no specified
     length, but be succinct.
•    Suggestions
    • Make sure the resources and environment section addresses all
        requirements of the proposed research plan.
    •   Justify any reliance on resources external to the research.
    •   Make sure all subcontractors and consortium members have the capability
        to perform the tasks assigned to them.
    •   Make certain your resources and budget requests are consistent.
•   Observe application guidelines strictly.
•   Use basic English and avoid jargon.
•   Make sure all acronyms are spelled out when used initially.
•   Observe the type size and page limitations strictly; do not use a small font.
•   Include only those graphs, tables, etc., that are essential to the narrative;
    these should complement the text and be appropriately inserted.
•   Make sure all citations are complete: title, authors, book or journal, volume
    number, inclusive pages, year of publication.
•   Include a section on Resource Sharing Plans, including sharing model
    organisms or genome wide association studies, if appropriate.
•   Have an outside reader review the proposal for clarity and consistency.
•   Proofread carefully by reading aloud. Do not rely on computer "spell check"
    to point out mistakes.
•   Be consistent with terms, references, and form writing style.
•   Be sure that your application is received by the appropriate deadline.
•   You have three chances to get funded!
  NSF Grant Proposal
              NSF Directorates
•   Directorate For Biological Sciences (BIO)
    •   Division Of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
    •   Division Of Environmental Biology (DEB)
    •   Division Of Integrative Biology And Neuroscience (IBN)
    •   Division Of Molecular And Cellular Biosciences (MCB)
    •   Plant Genome Research Program
    •   Emerging Frontiers (EF)—Bio's Virtual Division

•   Directorate For Computer And Information Science And
•   Directorate For Education And Human Resources
•   Directorate For Engineering
•   Directorate For Geosciences
•   Directorate For Mathematical And Physical Sciences
•   Office Of Polar Programs
•   Directorate For Social, Behavioral, And Economic
•   Universities and Colleges
•   Nonprofit, Nonacademic Organizations
    •   Museums
    •   Laboratories
    •   Observatories
•   For-Profit Organizations - National need
•   State and Local Governments - Usually education related
•   Unaffiliated Individuals
    •   the proposed project is sufficiently meritorious and otherwise complies
        with the conditions of any applicable proposal-generating document;
    •   the proposer has demonstrated the capability and has access to any
        necessary facilities to carry out the project; and
    •   the proposer agrees to fiscal arrangements that, in the opinion of the NSF
        Grants Office, ensure responsible management of Federal funds.
•   Foreign Organizations - rarely
•   Other Federal Agencies - usually requires association with other eligible
        Merit Review Criteria for the
•        Selection of Research the
    What is the intellectual merit ofand
              Education Projects
    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
    •   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?

•    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,
    •   To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and
        education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?
        Merit Review Criteria for the
            Selection of Research and
                    Education Projects
• Integration of Research and Education
     NSF staff will give careful consideration to the following in making
                              funding decisions:
 •   One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster
     integration of research and education through the programs, projects, and
     activities it supports at academic and research institutions.
 •   These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may
     concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and
     students and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education
     with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity
     of learning perspectives.

• Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs,
  Projects, and Activities
 • Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens--
     women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with
     disabilities--is essential to the health and vitality of science and
 •   NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the
     programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.
      NSF Proposal Preparation and
•         Submission Mechanisms
    NSF FastLane System
    •   The NSF FastLane System uses Internet/Web technology to facilitate the
        way NSF does business with the research, education, and related
    •   The NSF FastLane System may be used for proposal preparation, file
        update, submission and status checking, project reporting, and post-award
        administrative activities.
    •   All FastLane functions are accessed by using a Web browser on the

    • provides a single Government-wide portal for finding and
        applying for Federal grants online.
    •   Proposals submitted via must be prepared and submitted in
        accordance with the NSF Application Guide
    •   The Application Guide contains important information on:
        •  general instructions for submission via, including, the
  registration process and software requirements;
        •  NSF-specific instructions for submission via, including
           creation of PDF files;
        •  grant application package instructions;
          NSF Programs and Funding
• Dear Colleague Letter
 •   Dear Colleague letters are intended to provide general information to the
     community, clarify or amend an existing policy or document, or inform the
     NSF proposer community about upcoming opportunities or special
     competitions for supplements to existing awards. In addition, they are
     often used to draw attention to an impending change in NSF policies or

• Program Description
 •   The term "program description" includes broad, general descriptions of
     programs and activities in NSF Directorates/Offices and Divisions.
     Program descriptions are often posted on Directorate/Division websites to
     encourage the submission of proposals in specific program areas of
     interest to NSF.
 •   Program descriptions, like program announcements, utilize the generic
     eligibility and proposal preparation instructions specified in the Grant
     Proposal Guide (GPG), as well as the National Science Board (NSB)
     approved merit review criteria.
          NSF Programs and Funding
• Program Announcement
 •   Program announcements and program descriptions are the primary
     mechanisms used by NSF to communicate opportunities for research and
     education support, as well as to generate proposals.

• Program Solicitation
 •   The term "program solicitation" refers to formal NSF publications that
     encourage the submission of proposals in specific program areas of
     interest to NSF.
 •   They generally are more focused than program announcements, and
     normally apply for a limited period of time.
 •   Competition among proposals is more precisely defined than with program
     announcements, and proposals received compete directly with each other
     for NSF funding.
           NSF Programs and Funding
• Program Solicitation (cont.)
 •   Program solicitations are issued when the funding opportunity has one or
     more of the following features:
     •   Provides supplemental proposal preparation guidance or deviates from
         the guidelines established in the Grant Proposal Guide;
     •   Contains additional specially crafted review criteria relevant to the
     •   Requires submission of a letter of intent or preliminary proposal;
     •   Deviates from (or restricts) the standard categories of eligible
     •   Limits the number of proposals that may be submitted by any
         organization and/or researcher/educator;
     •   Specifies additional award conditions or reporting requirements;
     •   Anticipates use of a cooperative agreement; or
     •   Permits inclusion of the payment of fees to awardees, when
Proposal Preparation Instructions
•                            Instructions for
      Conformance with proposals conform to
    It is important that all
              Proposal Preparation
    the instructions provided in the GPG.
• Conformance is required and will be strictly
    enforced unless an authorization to deviate
    from standard proposal preparation
    requirements has been approved.
•   NSF may return without review proposals
    that are not consistent with these
•   NSF must authorize any deviations from
    these instructions in advance of proposal
                 Format of the Proposal
• Proposal Pagination Instructions
 •   Proposers are advised that FastLane does not automatically paginate a
 •   Each section of the proposal that is uploaded as a file must be individually
     paginated prior to upload to the electronic system.

• Proposal Margin and Spacing Requirements
 •   The proposal must be clear, readily legible, and conform to the following
     •   Use one of the following typefaces identified below:
         •   Arial, Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points
             or larger
         •   Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger
         •   Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger
     •   A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical
         formulas or equations, figure, table or diagram captions and when using
         a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special characters. PIs are
         cautioned, however, that the text must still be readable;
 •   No more than 6 lines of text within a vertical space of 1 inch; and
 •   Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch.
               Format of the Proposal

• Page Formatting
 •   Single-column format for the text.
 •   While line spacing (single-spaced, double-spaced, etc.) is at the discretion
     of the proposer, established page limits must be followed.
 •   The guidelines specified above establish the minimum type size
     requirements; however, PIs are advised that readability is of paramount
     importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font
     for use in the proposal.
     •   Small type not in compliance with the above guidelines may be grounds
         for NSF to return the proposal without review.
     •   Adherence to type size and line spacing requirements also is necessary
         to ensure that no proposer will have an unfair advantage, by using
         smaller type or line spacing to provide more text in the proposal.
    • Cover the Proposal
Sections of
    • Project
    •   Table of
    •   Project
    •   References
    •   Biographical
    •   And even
• Cover sheet of the Proposal
 • Awardee and Performing/Research
 •    Program
 •    NSF Unit of Consideration
 •    Remainder of the Cover Sheet
     • Title of Proposed Project
     • Budget and Duration Information
     • PI Information and co-PI Information
     • Previous NSF Award
     • Other Federal Agencies
     • Awardee Organization Information
     • Performing/Research Organization
     • Other Information
              Sections of the Proposal
• Project Summary
 •   The proposal must contain a summary of the proposed activity suitable for
     publication, not more than one page in length.
 •   It should not be an abstract of the proposal, but rather a self-contained
     description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded.
 •   The summary should be written in the third person and include a statement
     of objectives and methods to be employed.
 •   It must clearly address in separate statements (within the one-page
     •   the intellectual merit of the proposed activity; and
     •   the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity.
 •   It should be informative to other persons working in the same or related
     fields and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically or
     technically literate lay reader.
 •   Proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within
     the one-page Project Summary will be returned without review.
             Sections of the Proposal
• Table of Contents
 •   A Table of Contents is automatically generated for the proposal by the
     FastLane system.
 •   The proposer cannot edit this form.
               Sections of the Proposal
• Project Description (15 page limit)
 •   The Project Description should provide a clear statement of the work to be
     undertaken and must include objectives, relation to longer-term goals of
     the PI's project, relation to the present state of knowledge in the field, to
     work in progress by the PI under other support and to work in progress
 •   The Project Description should outline the general plan of work, including
     a clear description of experimental methods and procedures and plans for
     preservation, documentation, and sharing of data, samples, physical
     collections, curriculum materials and other related research and education
 •   It must describe as an integral part of the narrative, the broader impacts
     resulting from the proposed activities, addressing one or more of the
     following as appropriate for the project:
     •   how the project will integrate research and education by advancing discovery and
         understanding while at the same time promoting teaching, training, and learning;
     •   ways in which the proposed activity will broaden the participation of underrepresented
         groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.);
     •   how the project will enhance the infrastructure for research and/or education, such as
         facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships;
     •   how the results of the project will be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and
         technological understanding;
             Sections of the Proposal
• References Cited
• Biographical Sketch(es)
 •   Professional Preparation
 •   Appointments
 •   Publications
     •  A list of: (i) up to 5 publications most closely related to the proposed
        project; and (ii) up to 5 other significant publications, whether or not
        related to the proposed project.
 •   Synergistic Activities
     •  A list of up to five examples that focuses on the integration and
        transfer of knowledge as well as its creation.
         • innovations in teaching and training;
         • contributions to the science of learning;
         • development and/or refinement of research tools;
         • computation methodologies, and algorithms for problem-solving;
         • broadening the participation of groups underrepresented in science,
           mathematics, engineering and technology
 •   Collaborators & Other Affiliations
          Sections of the Proposal
• Budget
• Current and Pending Support
• Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
• Special Information and Supplementary
•   Vertebrate animals
•   Human subjects

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