Letters of Collaboration--Guidelines and Samples

Guidelines for NSF Letters of Collaboration/Commitment


A few NSF divisions had adopted this policy for letters a couple of years ago.  It is currently (5/2105) open for discussion and comment for the next GPG, but it is in the 2015 program announcement for CAREER (pp. 7-8):

Letters of collaboration, [which are] limited to stating the intent to collaborate and not containing endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project, are allowed. Letters of collaboration should follow the single-sentence format:

>> “If the proposal submitted by Dr. [insert the full name of the Principal Investigator] entitled [insert the proposal title] is selected for funding by the NSF, it is my intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description.”

>> They continue:  "Departure from this format may result in the proposal being returned without review. The Project Description should document the need for and nature of collaborations, such as intellectual contributions to the project, permission to access a site, an instrument, etc."

Now Archived:  NSF has adopted what I think is a short-sighted policy with respect to letters of collaboration, so in case they change back, I'm leaving this old advice here.  I suggest that in the real world--i.e. not in NSF-land--these are basic principles that make good sense. 

(from Lucy Deckard, Research Development and Grantwriting News, Apr. 2011)

Letters of collaboration are not needed (and not permitted) from individuals who are named in Senior Personnel or in a subawardee organization. (Their commitment is warranted by the inclusion of their biosketch.)

On the other hand, you will generally submit letters for non-UMass-affiliated and/or unfunded collaborators, such as people who will help with your broader impacts, or will supply research materials.  In those letters, be sure to respect the difference between a letter of collaboration (which says very specifically what the person will do for or with you) and a letter of recommendation or support, which is generally disallowed, at least by NSF.  There should be no wording that tries to encourage the panel to fund the proposal.

Page 2 is a rough template to help you get your letters started.

(1/2014) Note that some NSF program announcements have substituted a very specific template for these letters, that I attach here.  They are streamlined and say that the undersigned person agrees to take the role/ or provide the materials as noted in the Project Narrative.  That means that you have to indicate the necessary information in the project narrative:  "So and so, who has <these unique qualifications>, will provide such and such" (see letter of commitment)."  Here is an example template.  As of 1/2014, such a template is required for IOS PA 13-600, Dimensions of Biodiversity 14-525, and recommended for GSS 12-570.  There may be others that we have not had experience with yet.  Be sure to check the Program Announcement carefully, and when in doubt, confirm with the program officer.

Sample letters
 (from bpearson)

Contents of document (4 samples):

#1 and #2 are drafts for community partners to tweak and put on their letterhead.

#3 a letter I wrote as “UMass infrastructure”

#4  a letter for a research partnership

Etiquette Be sure to ask for the letter, whether a full page letter or the abbreviated template, in plenty of time!  When it's all done and submitted, don't forget to write thank-you notes to your letter writers!


Back to BI home  |  Back to Career Resources home