National Science Foundation (NSF)

MissionThe National Science Foundation (NSF) describes itself as “the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences.”

Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI):   Most NSF grants to Bates College have been through the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) program. Applications for RUI projects must include significant research and educational opportunities for undergraduate students. For more details on RUI, please visit the program page at

NSF Directorates, Divisions and Programs: RUI proposals must be submitted as “unsolicited” proposals to a specific disciplinary research program within NSF. Disciplinary research at NSF is organized by “Directorates,” which are subdivided into “Divisions,” each of which includes several programs. The following are NSF Directorates and Divisions of potential interest to faculty at Bates College. Please click on the links for the NSF Division or Divisions of interest to you to review the list of programs and decide which is the closest match for you. (Note: In Biological Sciences, programs are called “Clusters” instead.)

Each program page will specify the proposal window, deadline or target date applicable to unsolicited proposals. It will also list one or more Program Directors—the NSF staff members responsible for administering the distribution of program funds and overseeing funded projects.

NSF Program Directors are, as a rule, accomplished scientists with Ph.Ds and a significant track record of their own funded research and publications. Because NSF does not have intramural research staff and facilities, they are usually academic researchers, either on leave from their positions or taking a hiatus from academic work. Thus, with few exceptions, they will be knowledgeable in your area and eager to hear from researchers in the field. We encourage Bates faculty to contact their Program Director to discuss their research, make sure that the program they have selected is the right fit, and receive guidance on proposal preparation.

Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE): The Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) within the Education and Human Resources directorate (EHR) is the primary source for NSF funding for educational initiatives impacting undergraduate students. DUE programs support curriculum development, research on science education, institutional and multi-institutional improvements to science education, and scholarships for students. DUE programs do not accept unsolicited proposals, instead issuing regular solicitations that specify proposal format, desired project attributes, and review criteria in great detail. For a full list of DUE programs, please visit

Faculty considering applying for DUE funding should consult A Guide to Proposal Writers, prepared by DUE staff and published in 2004.

Major Cross-Cutting Initiatives

The following initiatives are available to researchers in all NSF-supported disciplines. The disciplinary research programs do play a role in their review and support, so faculty considering applying to one of these should reach out to their Program Director.

  •  Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER)

Tenure-track assistant professors may apply up to three times for one of these grants. CAREER grants provide five years of support and are to be used for initiation of a transformative research program and innovative intramural and extramural educational activities. A critical review criterion is the integration of research and education. Proposals are due in July of each year.  Please review the solicitation at and the FAQs at

  •  Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

The REU program provides experiences in competitive, faculty-led research for qualified undergraduate students. You can apply for an REU supplement to an existing research grant, or to establish a new REU site in your discipline. A full list of active REU sites, organized by discipline, can be found at; please refer your students to this list. For more information about the REU program, please visit the program page at and review the solicitation for new REU Site proposals at

  •  Major Research Instrumentation (MRI)

The MRI program assists with the acquisition or development of shared research instrumentation that is too costly or otherwise inappropriate for other NSF programs. Proposals will be due in January. Please review the MRI solicitation at

 NSF Proposal Preparation, Formatting and Submission:   All NSF proposals, whether unsolicited or in response to a solicitation, must conform to all the requirements of the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG), which is available at The following is a summary of some of the major requirements, but is not intended as a substitute for consultation of GPG.

  • All proposals must have a 1-page Project Summary which specifically addresses, under separate headings, the NSF Merit Review Criteria of “Intellectual Merit” and “Broader Impacts”.
  • All proposals must have a Project Description which may not exceed 15 pages, inclusive of all notes, figures, diagrams, etc. Appendices are not allowed.
  • References Cited is separate from the Project Description and does not count against the Page Limit.
  • All PIs, Co-PIs and Senior Personnel must provide a biographical sketch, not to exceed two pages. NSF biographical sketch templates are available from OEG. Full CVs are not acceptable, nor are condensed resumes that do not follow the NSF format.
  • Budgets must include a narrative budget justification, not to exceed three pages.
  • Voluntary Committed Cost-Sharing is not allowed by NSF. Reduction of indirect costs: from Bates College’s Federally negotiated rate would be a type of cost-sharing and is therefore not allowed. All NSF proposals will be reviewed carefully by OEG to make sure no voluntary cost-sharing commitments are stated or implied.
  • A Data Management Plan of no more than two pages is required for all NSF proposals. This is a relatively new requirement that went into effect January 18, 2011. For more information on NSF’s policies governing dissemination and sharing of research results, please visit

All NSF proposals must be submitted through either ]NSF FastLane or OEG strongly recommends use of FastLane, which is a user-friendly system for the preparation and submission of NSF grants. If you need a FastLane user ID, please contact OEG. If you think you may have a FastLane user ID already, but have misplaced your ID number or password, contact us as well. We can also provide hands-on technical assistance for new FastLane users.