NSF CAREER Program

Guidelines for complete submissions are found on the website in the Five Day Proposal Submission Procedure. Please read the document carefully.  In short, proposals to be considered submitted "on-time" contain a reasonable draft technical and a draft version of the references cited section.  All other sections of the proposal must be complete and in Fastlane with submit access granted and routed through Kuali to OPAS at least 5 days in advance of the deadline.   The technical and references cited must be clearly marked "draft," and no further changes that will affect personnel, budget, cost share, or F&A can be made after the 5-day deadline unless requested upon the review of the OPAS Administrator.  The final version of the technical section and references cited must be uploaded to Fastlane by 9 a.m. 2 business days in advance of the sponsor deadline.  Proposals not submitted by the Five day deadline will be required to submit a request for a late proposal exception.  The procedure for requesting a late exception along with an explanation of the requirements of such an exceptions are fully explained in the Five Day Proposal Submission procedure referenced above.

The current solicitation can be found on the NSF site and this link to the solicitation: NSF 20-525.

The Official Due Dates to NSF:

July 25, 2022
Directorate for Biological Sciences
Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering
Directorate for Education & Human Resources
Directorate for Engineering
Directorate for Geosciences
Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
Office of Integrative Activities
Office of International Science and Engineering

The following is a summary as to how the CAREER Program varies from standard NSF applications as detailed in the NSF Proposal and Award Policy and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) NSF 22-1, effective October 4, 2021. Applicants are expected to be familiar with the PAPPG.

  1. Budget. The minimum CAREER award size is $400,000 for a five-year period for all directorates with the following exceptions: Awards for proposals to the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), the Directorate for Engineering (ENG), or the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) are expected to total a minimum of $500,000 for the 5-year duration. These proposals must include the current federally negotiated F&A rate under Indirect Cost Rates.
  2. Project Title. The project title must begin with "CAREER:" and follow with an informative title.
  3. Co-PIs. No co-PIs are permitted.
  4. Project Summary. Summarize the research and education objectives, and plans for the integration of education and research activities. The Project Summary must clearly address in separate statements how the proposal meets both the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact review criteria.
  5. Project Description should be developed in consultation with the department head or equivalent organizational official and should include:
  • a description of the proposed research project, including preliminary supporting data where appropriate, specific objectives, methods and procedures to be used, and expected significance of the results;
  • a description of the proposed educational activities, including plans to evaluate their impact on students and other participants;
  • a description of how the research and educational activities are integrated with one another
  • a description of other broader impacts, besides the education activities, that will accrue from the project; and
  • results of prior NSF support, if applicable.
  1.  Departmental Letter must be included in the proposal.

The Departmental Letter should be no more than 2 pages in length, and include the department head's name and title, below the signature. The letter should contain the following elements:

  • A statement to the effect that the PI is eligible for the CAREER program. For non-tenure-track faculty, the Departmental Letter must affirm that the investigator's appointment is at an early-career level equivalent to pre-tenure status, pursuant to the eligibility criteria specified above. Further, for non-tenure-track faculty, the Departmental Letter must clearly and convincingly demonstrate how the faculty member satisfies all the requirements of tenure-track equivalency as defined in the eligibility criteria specified in this solicitation.
  • An indication that the PI's proposed CAREER research and education activities are supported by and advance the educational and research goals of the department and the organization, and that the department is committed to the support and professional development of the PI; and
  • A description of a) the relationship between the CAREER project, the PI's career goals and job responsibilities, and the mission of his/her department/organization, and b) the ways in which the department head (or equivalent) will ensure the appropriate mentoring of the PI, in the context of the PI's career development and his/her efforts to integrate research and education throughout the period of the award and beyond.

Specified in the Solicitation for Automatic Turndown

Proposals that are non-compliant for the following reasons will be returned without review:

  1. Co-Principal Investigators listed on the cover page
  2. Departmental Letter missing (be careful to put this in the Supplementary Documents section, not the Single Copy Documents section)
  3. Submitted after the relevant deadline has passed
  4. No description of mentoring activities for post doctoral researchers in proposals that request funds for post doctoral researchers
  5. The proposed work duplicates or is substantially similar to a proposal under consideration by NSF from the same submitter
  6. The proposal was previously declined and was not revised to take into account the major comments from the prior NSF reviewers
  7. The proposal topic falls outside the purview of NSF
  8. Letters of collaborative arrangements deviate from the format detailed in NSF’s grant proposal guidelines. The format is:

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

Common Mistakes in NSF Proposals

  1. Biosketches do not adhere to NSF format: Biosketches should include both research and education activities and accomplishments. The list of publications should include no more than ten publications, including up to five publications most closely related to the proposed research and educational activities and up to five other significant publications, whether or not they are related to the proposed project. The Biographical Sketch may not exceed three pages in length. The current template for bio-sketches can be found here.
  2. Fonts do not adhere to NSF format. Acceptable NSF fonts are:
  • Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger
  • Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger
  • Arial 11, Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points or larger
  1. This proposal is not listed as “Pending” in the current & pending form
  2. The dollar figures on the current & pending form and budget pages do not match.
  3. Proposal title does not begin with “CAREER” on the cover sheet
  4. Project summary is missing “Broader impact” and “Intellectual Merit” sections and headers
  5. The results of Prior NSF support section must be in the format below:
    • the NSF award number, amount and period of support;
    • the title of the project;
    • a summary of the results of the completed work, including accomplishments, supported by the award. The results must be separately described under two distinct headings: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts;
    • a listing of the publications resulting from the NSF award (a complete bibliographic citation for each publication must be provided either in this section or in the References Cited section of the proposal); if none, state “No publications were produced under this award.”
    • evidence of research products and their availability, including, but not limited to: data, publications, samples, physical collections, software, and models, as described in any Data Management Plan; and
    • if the proposal is for renewed support, a description of the relation of the completed work to the proposed work.
      • If the project was recently awarded and therefore no new results exist, describe the major goals and broader impacts of the project. Note that the proposal may contain up to five pages to describe the results. Results may be summarized in fewer than five pages, which would give the balance of the 15 pages for the Project Description
      • If there are no results of prior NSF support to report, then please add in the header “Results of Prior NSF support: Not applicable”
  6. Special sections as required by the solicitation are missing. Please see Section A. above
  7. Cost share commitments are stated in the departmental letter which results in voluntary cost share that is not allowable by NSF policy.

*Due to the high volume of CAREER proposals, it is highly recommended that you prepare and submit your proposal earlier than 5 days prior to the deadline to help relieve the last minute frenzy especially if you are new to the process.

OPAS Contact Information for NSF:

College of Natural Sciences: Mary Santos,  (413) 545-0699

All other Colleges: Kim Lowney,  (413) 545-0699