Last modified: Nov 8, 2017

Project Description

The Project Description should provide a clear statement of the work to be undertaken and must include:  objectives for the period of the proposed work and expected significance; relation to longer-term goals of the PI's project; and 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 elsewhere.

The Project Description should outline the general plan of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken, and, where appropriate, provide a clear description of experimental methods and procedures.  Proposers should address what they want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful.  The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.  These issues apply to both the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions.

The Project Description must contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities.  Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to the project.  NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes.  Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

Plans for data management and sharing of the products of research, including preservation, documentation, and sharing of data, samples, physical collections, curriculum materials and other related research and education products should be described in the Special Information and Supplementary Documentation section of the proposal.

1. Page Limitations and Inclusion of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) within the Project Description:

Brevity will assist reviewers and Foundation staff in dealing effectively with proposals.  Therefore, the Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support, which is limited to five pages) may not exceed 15 pages.  Visual materials, including charts, graphs, maps, photographs and other pictorial presentations are included in the 15-page limitation.  PIs are cautioned that the Project Description must be self-contained and that URLs that provide information related to the proposal should not be used because 1) the information could circumvent page limitations, 2) the reviewers are under no obligation to view the sites, and 3) the sites could be altered or abolished between the time of submission and the time of review.Conformance to the 15-page limitation will be strictly enforced and may not be exceeded unless a deviation has been specifically authorized.  (GPG Chapter II.A contains information on deviations.)

2. Results from Prior NSF Support:

If any PI or co-PI identified on the project has received NSF funding (including any current funding) in the past five years, information on the award(s) is required, irrespective of whether the support was directly related to the proposal or not.  Funding includes not just salary support, but any funding awarded by NSF.  Each PI and co-PI who has received more than one award (excluding amendments) must report on the award most closely related to the proposal.  The following information must be provided:

(a) the NSF award number, amount and period of support;

(b) the title of the project;

(c) a summary of the results of the completed work, including accomplishments, described in two separate sections, related to the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact activities supported by the award

(d) publications resulting from the NSF award;

(e) 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

(f) if the proposal is for renewed support, a description of the relation of the completed work to the proposed work.

Reviewers will be asked to comment on the quality of the prior work described in this section of the proposal.  Please 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.

3. Unfunded Collaborations:

Any substantial collaboration with individuals not included in the budget should be described and documented with a letter from each collaborator, which should be provided in the supplementary documentation section of the FastLane Proposal Preparation Module.  Collaborative activities that are identified in the budget should follow the instructions in GPG Chapter II.D.4.  See also instructions for completion of the Facilities, Equipment or Other Resources section of the proposal (GPG II.C.2.i).

4. Group Proposals:

NSF encourages submission of proposals by groups of investigators; often these are submitted to carry out interdisciplinary projects.  Unless stipulated in a specific program solicitation, however, such proposals will be subject to the 15-page Project Description limitation established in Section (ii) above.  PIs who wish to exceed the established page limitations for the Project Description must request and receive a deviation in advance of proposal submission.  (GPG Chapter II.A contains information on deviations.)

5. Proposals for Renewed Support:

A proposal for renewed support may be either a “traditional” proposal in which the proposed work is documented and described as fully as though the proposer were applying for the first time; or, an “Accomplishment-Based Renewal” (ABR) proposal, in which the Project Description is replaced by copies of no more than six reprints of publications resulting from the research supported by NSF during the preceding three to five year period, plus a brief summary of plans for the proposed support period.  (See GPG Chapter V for additional information on preparation of Renewal Proposals.)