NSF Proposal Guide

Proposals and the budgets for projects being submitted to all sponsors should be developed by principal investigators (PIs) with the assistance of their department and/or Research Business Manager Liaisons (RBML).  Proposals must be submitted to OGCA following the 5 day proposal submission procedure.  As stated in this procedure, the proposals may include a draft technical section but must be complete in all other respects.  Proposals and IPFs are routed to relevant signatories and finally to the Office of Grant and Contract Administration (OGCA) for review prior to the official submission to the NSF.

OGCA reviews each proposal for compliance with both sponsor and University policies. OGCA also reviews the proposal to verify that only allowable costs have been requested and only approved University and/or other vetted personnel such as subcontractors, consultant, fee for services providers are included in the proposal.

FastLane and Research.gov Registration

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made changes to the way the research community registers for NSF accounts and maintains account and user profile information in FastLane and Research.gov. Effective March 26, 2018, NSF introduced a new centralized and streamlined account registration process in Research.gov for the research community that provides each new user with a single profile and unique identifier (i.e., NSF ID) for signing in to FastLane and Research.gov for proposal and award activities.

For the complete NSF guidance on Account Management, please see the Research.gov Accounts Management page.

The new account management functionality:

  • Allows users to create and self-manage accounts, including personal information and role requests;
  • Eliminates the need for organizational Administrators to create accounts and maintain profile information for their users, allowing Administrators to focus on managing roles for their organizations through a dashboard with functions to approve, disapprove, assign, and remove roles; and
  • Replaces the existing FastLane and Research.gov account management functions

All Fastlane accounts now must be assigned roles. Guidance on selecting a role is below:

If you need this role(s)   To perform these functions Select this "Add Role"

Principal Investigator (PI)     
Co-Principal Investigator (co-PI)

Prepare Proposals
Manage Awards
Add Investigator Role
Other Authorized User (OAU) Assist a PI with proposal preparation Contact the OGCA administrator to be assigned the OAU role by emailing OGCA


For Existing NSF Principal Investigator Accounts (created before March 26, 2018)

Existing NSF account holders, including Grants.gov and Application Submission Web Service (ASWS) users, will need to be migrated to the new account management system through a simple, one-time operation when initially signing in to FastLane or Research.gov. Account holders will be required to verify the account’s primary email address and phone number to transfer it to the new system. Each user will have one NSF ID per the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (NSF 18-1), Chapter I.G.4.

Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID. Forgotten passwords for established NSF accounts may be retrieved here.

For more information on account migration, please see this NSF page: Migrate Your Existing NSF Account - Account Management Guide

Existing users can log in here.

For New Principal Investigator Accounts:

To register a new PI account, go to Research.gov, and click on “register” in the top right corner. Fill out all the information (ORCID is not required), and hit submit. You will be sent an email with a temporary password. Sign into Research.gov, and enter in the temporary password.  Once you sign in, you will be prompted to change your password. Please review password complexity requirements before creating a new password.

Once the password has been changed, you will need to add a role for yourself.

To select a principal investigator role, Select “Add Investigator Role” under “Prepare Proposals and Manage Awards”. Select “Yes, prepare and manage proposals with an organization” and “Submit”. Enter in the UMASS DUNS number (153926712). Verify that the organization selected is “University of Massachusetts Amherst”, if so, click “Next”, and fill out the contact details there. Choose Role as PI/co-PI. Click on next. Review the information, and if it is correct, click on submit.

For more information, please see these NSF pages:

For Other Authorized User Accounts (Business Managers):

Business Managers can be added as an Other Authorized User (OAU) role to assist in proposal preparation.

To register a new OAU account, go to Research.gov, and click on “register” in the top right corner. Fill out all the information (ORCID is not required), and click on submit. You will be sent an email with a temporary password. Sign into Research.gov, and enter in the temporary password.  Once you sign in, you will be prompted to change your password. Please review password complexity requirements before creating a new password.

Once the password has been changed, the Business Manager will need to email OGCA@reseach.umass.edu to request that they be given an OAU role. The UMASS Research.gov Administrator will then approve the OAU request.

Existing users can log in here

Adding an OAU to a proposal:

Once the Business Manager has been registered in Research.gov, and their OAU status has been approved by UMASS Research.gov Administrator, the PI can then add an OAU to a specific proposal. The PI should select the proposal they want to work on, then click “Manage Personnel” under “Personnel Access” on the left hand side of the screen.  “Add Other Authorized User”, and find the correct person through their email or NSF ID. Please note, if the Business Manager has not be registered in Research.gov, and requested that OGCA@research.umass.edu assign them the OAU role, then the Business Manager will not show up as a selection when searching for the OAU.

A full list of FAQ’s has been posted by NSF

Since OGCA is no longer able to create accounts in Fastlane/Research.gov, the majority of registration related questions should be directed to NSF’s Help Desk: 1-800-673-6188.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Sites (FastLane and Research.gov)

Beginning on April 30, 2018, Principal Investigators will now have the option of using Research.gov to submit Full, Research, non-collaborative proposals to NSF.

Please note, RAPID, EAGER, Fellowships, Collaborative proposals, and SBIR/STTR full proposals, as well as submissions other than full proposals (letters of intent, preliminary proposals, revised budgets and renewals), all must still go through Fastlane.

The initial release of this new Research.gov capability will run in parallel with existing FastLane proposal preparation and submission capabilities. As a result, proposers can choose to prepare and submit full, research non-collaborative proposals in Research.gov or in FastLane. Other proposal types will be added to Research.gov in the future.

Please note, proposals initiated in the new system will not be available in FastLane and proposals prepared in FastLane will not be available in the new system.

This new system is being developed incrementally and as capabilities are migrated from FastLane to Research.gov, the system features will expand until it eventually replaces FastLane for proposal preparation and submission.

For this reason, the Internal Processing Form (IPF) must specify whether NSF proposals will be submitted via Fastlane or via Research.gov in the submission instructions area, when the proposal is logged into OGCA.


NSF Links

General Guidance for NSF Proposal Preparation

Specific NSF Program Guidance

Students apply for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships directly as individuals via Fastlane: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do

OGCA does not have a role in the application process. The GRF money comes to UMASS in the form of one grant with Vice Provost John McCarthy as the Principal Investigator of record. The Graduate School then uses that grant to pay the fellowship stipend to the student. Information about the GRFP may be found at this website: http://www.nsfgrfp.org/

Questions may be directed to Heidi Bauer-Clapp (hbauercl@anthro.umass.edu), who works in the Graduate School and is the expert on GRFs and other fellowship applications.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Coordinating Official at UMASS Amherst is Susan Chinman schinman@grad.umass.edu.

NSF Budget Revisions

Revised budgets for NSF proposals are handled through the Fastlane system. If your budget results in a cut of 10% or more, you will need to prepare and route a revised IPF to OGCA. If the cut is under 10%, a revised IPF is not required, however, please email your OGCA NSF Proposal Administrator to let them know you will be sending through a revised budget.
To create the revised budget in Fastlane:

  1. Click the on link titled "Proposals, Awards, & Status"(found on the left hand-side of the web page) at HTTP://WWW.FASTLANE.NSF.GOV
  2. Enter your login information into the "PI/Co-PI Login" box and click on the "Login" button.
  3. Click on the link titled "Proposal Functions".
  4. Click on the link titled "Revised Submitted Proposal Budget".
  5. Highlight your proposal and click the "View" button.
  6. The next page is titled "Principal Investigator (PI)/Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) Proposal Revised Budget". Click the radio button next to "Edit the Budget" and click the "OK" button.
  7. Year One will appear under the Year column next to the organization name. To edit the budget for Year One click the "Funds" link.
  8. The Year One budget will then display on the screen and allow you to make any changes that are needed. Click on the "Calculate and Save" button to save the changes to this year.
  9. Repeat steps 7-8 to revise additional years if needed.
  10. From the main 'Project Budget' page, upload the entire revised budget justification (including supporting documentation) using the "Budget Impact Statement" option. When there is a budget reduction of 10% or more from the amount originally proposed, a corresponding reduction should be made in the scope of the project. A revised proposal budget also must include a Budget Impact Statement that describes the impact of the budget reduction on the scope of the project.
  11. Go back to the page titled "Principal Investigator (PI)/Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) Proposal Revised Budget". Click the radio button next to "Forward Budget Revision to Sponsored Research Office (S R O)" and click the "OK" button.
  12. Click on the "Forward" button.
  13. OGCA now has access to the revised budget in Fastlane.

Proposal File Updates in Fastlane

It is the responsibility of the proposing organization to thoroughly review each proposal prior to submission. On occasion, however, a problem is identified with a portion of the proposal after the proposal has been submitted electronically to NSF.
The FastLane Proposal File Update Module allows the organization to request the replacement of files or revision of other Proposal Attributes, associated with a previously submitted proposal. (Note: The FastLane Proposal File Update module must not be used for submission of revised budgets. All budgetary revisions must be submitted through use of the FastLane Revised Proposal Budget Module.) A request for a proposal file update must be signed and submitted by the AOR. An update request must contain a justification that addresses:

  • why the changes or file replacements are being requested; and
  • any differences between the original and proposed replacement files.

A request for a proposal file update automatically will be accepted if submitted prior to:

  • the deadline date;
  • initiation of external peer review in cases when a target date is utilized;35 and
  • initiation of external peer review in the case of an unsolicited proposal.

A request for a proposal file update after the timeframes specified above will require acceptance by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. Such requests shall be submitted only to correct a technical problem with the proposal (i.e., formatting or print problems). Changes in the content of the proposal should not be requested after the timeframes specified above. When a request is accepted, the proposed files or revisions to proposal attributes will immediately replace the existing files and become part of the official proposal.
PIs can access the Proposal File Update Module via the "Proposal Functions" section of FastLane.

NSF will consider only one request for a proposal file update per proposal at a time. It is anticipated that it will be a rare occurrence for more than one file update request to be submitted for a proposal.

To create an update in Fastlane, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Fastlane as the PI
  2. Click the radio button “Proposal functions”
  3. Click the radio button proposal file update
  4. Select the proposal that you want to update
  5. Upload the revised documents for the proposal sections that need to be updated
  6. Complete the “Justification Note for the Requested Update” textbox
  7. Enable SRO permissions to view, edit & submit

OGCA will then be able to see the update in Fastlane.

Transferring NSF Awards

Initiating the Request

In general, NSF accepts proposals from, and makes awards to institutions, rather than to individuals.

When a PI plans to leave an organization during the course of a grant, the organization has the prerogative to nominate a substitute PI or request that the grant be terminated and closed out. In those cases where the PI’s original and new organizations agree, NSF will facilitate a transfer of the grant and the assignment of remaining unobligated funds to the PI’s new organization.

All transfers begin at the institution the PI is leaving, and it is his/her responsibility to initiate the process. University of Massachusetts Amherst PI’s must follow the procedures as outlined in the Transfer guidelines. Formal notification of the impending transfer can be electronically initiated by either the PI or the PI's organization. The most current Federal Cash Transaction Report must be posted to NSF’s financial accounting system prior to submitting the PI transfer. The amount transferred must be equal to or less than the unobligated balance.

NSF Forms required at the original organization

The request shall include a:

  • Brief summary of progress to date; PI to provide
  • Description of work yet to be accomplished; PI to provide
  • Completed on-line transfer request, including total estimated disbursements to date (transfer amount will be automatically calculated, based on the amount

OGCA Contacts


Post award contact for all Colleges is John Fillio