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Agency Guidance

National funding agencies provide a number of resources to assist faculty in the proposal writing process. Visit the following sites for helpful information, or find funding here.

National Science Foundation

The NSF is strengthening its commitment to proposal requirements. The CMMI Division, for example, strictly enforces compliancy, and sends a letter to PIs whose proposals are returned without review explaining their position. See RWR letter.


Some common errors to avoid in complying to guidelines include:

  1. Project Summary: MUST be submitted in the three text boxes if no special characters are included. If a PDF upload, must still include the three categories (overview, intellectual merit, broader impact).
  2. References: MUST include all authors (no "et al.")
  3. Data Management Plan: MUST be comprehensive. See data management plan tools.
  4. Biosketch: MUST be in exact NSF format (i.e. max of 10 products; 5 synergistic activities; collaborators must be in alphabetical order by last name).
    NEW for 2015: Section (a) - LOCATIONS of undergrad, grad, and postdoctoral institutions must be listed, and Section (e) - TOTAL NUMBERS must be provided for each subsection as follows: 1) collaborators and editors (last 24-48 months), related to the current proposal that is being submitted, 2) all of the person's own graduate advisors and postdoctoral sponsors, and 3) all graduate students advised (total number) and postdoctoral scholars sponsored (last 5 yrs). Also, including personal information on your biosketch is not appropriate.
  5. Budget Justification: NEW for 2015: All travel must be justified and relevant to the project. Also the limit is now 3 pages per institution.
  6. Project Description: MUST NOT include URLs.
  7. Project Description: NEW for 2015: MUST include as a separate section within the narrative, a section labeled EXACTLY "Broader Impacts of the Proposed Work."
  8. Project Description: MUST include all items mentioned in the GPG in the Results for Prior NSF Support section. These are:
    (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.

The complete text of the NSF application guide is available on the NSF website.

National Institutes for Health

NEW FOR 2015: A new Biosketch format is required. See this link for the notification:
See this link for the biosketch format template and sample:

NIH, like NSF, is cracking down on proposal compliance issues. See

Other helpful information:

National Endowment for the Humanities

Department of Energy

Office of Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies • Lehigh University • 7 Asa Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • (610) 758-2585