NSF Proposals "Returned Without Review"

To:  NSF-PIs, ra_ls
Date: 12/09/2015
Subject: NSF Proposals "Returned Without Review"

Dear Colleagues

We are writing to bring your attention to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) practice of returning proposals without review when they do not meet the submission requirements. The proposal may be determined to be incomplete, or out of compliance with NSF’s typical or solicitation-specific instructions, and there is no appeals process. In recent months, MIT PIs have seen proposals returned without review for the following reasons:

  • Missing “Intellectual Merit”/”Broader Impact” subheadings in “Results from Prior NSF support”
  • A collaborating organization included faculty in Other Personnel (instead of Senior Personnel)
  • Letter of Support included where only a Letter of Collaboration was acceptable
  • Proposal was previously rejected and had not been substantially revised
  • Proposal was not a good fit for the program

To prevent rejections, OSP recommends following NSF proposal preparation guidelines to the letter and in accordance with the most recent NSF guidance. 

The NSF Grants Proposal Guide is updated annually.  The next edition (GPG 16-1) will be effective for proposals due on or after January 25, 2016.  OSP maintains a proposal preparation checklist and other resources on the NSF section of the OSP website, and a new checklist for GPG 16-1 will be posted soon. 

As always, if you have any questions about the NSF GPG, or about a specific solicitation, please feel free to reach out to your OSP Contract Administrator.

Thanks very much,
Danforth Nicholas
Office of Sponsored Programs
NSF Liaison