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Electronic Submission

Electronic communication has revolutionized the submission of proposals to certain sponsors. Electronic Research Administration (ERA) has several advantages, including:

  • Access to the proposal by distant collaborators
  • Elimination of photocopying and mailing
  • Editing of a proposal minutes before submission

More and more federal agencies are beginning to require or encourage electronic submission of proposals for all or some of their programs. These include:

Allow time to practice uploading the various parts of the proposal to the agency website. Allow SRA access to the proposal once the proposal is set up in the agency system so that budget information and justifications can be uploaded. Do not submit the proposal until final authorizing signature has been obtained on the internal RIT Proposal Review Form. When the proposal is complete, ask the SRA to review your proposal. The SRA will have institute authority to send the proposal and will submit for you.

NSF FastLane

The National Science Foundation's version of ERA is FastLane. The purpose of FastLane is to experiment with ways to use the World Wide Web to facilitate business transactions and the exchange of information between the National Science Foundation and its client community including researchers, reviewers, research administrators, and others doing business with NSF.

Go to FastLane

All proposals submitted to NSF must be submitted electronically via FastLane.

In order to prepare and submit proposals to NSF, you must be registered on the FastLane system. The SRA for your college or unit will register you, and will explain use of the FastLane system.

FastLane is now capable of transferring your word processing document(s) into PDF format for uploading to the FastLane system. However, if you are close to a time deadline for submission of your proposal, you may prefer to convert documents into PDF on your own computer - uploading to FastLane will be much faster if you do the conversion yourself.

Using Adobe Acrobat Reader for Printing and Viewing Within FastLane:

Some FastLane applications provide the capability to download PDF forms for printing and viewing. In most cases this provides the ability to print official NSF forms at your location. In order to use this feature, Adobe Reader must be installed on your computer and the browser's helper application for file type "application/pdf" must be configured. The Reader can be obtained free of charge from Adobe.Get Adobe Reader

Using Adobe Distiller to Create PDF Files for Uploading into FastLane:

See NSF's instructions to convert your word processing documents to PDF files. Adobe Distiller must be purchased and installed on your computer.


FastLane: Instructions They Do Not Mention

FastLane has an excellent set of instructions. Anyone who is submitting their first proposals to NSF should read their guidebooks, which are available at What follows are RIT procedures and things not in the guidebook.

Always read the solicitation guideline! It will give all sorts of pertinent data, including if the PI should submit the Letter of Intent or if SRS (called SRO by NSF) should do so. It will also tell you if a pre-proposal is required and how it will be used, such as a preliminary approval process.

Proposal Access:
It is imperative that as a PI, you immediately allow SRO access to view, edit, and submit your proposal. If this does not happen, you will be the only one with the ability to edit the proposal, including the budget, and neither you nor our office will be able to submit your proposal. Allowing SRO access to submit eliminates any unneccessary delay when it comes time to submit on deadline day. 

Letters of Intent:
The LOI can be entered by the PI or SRS. If entered by the PI, it might need to be “submitted” officially by SRS. Read the solicitation and call the program officer if you are not certain what is required.

The PI should be the POC (Point of Contact). The alternative POC should be the co-PI. To list others will be confusing administratively.

There is no “approval” by the AOR required. Once the LOI has been accepted as “successfully submitted” you can begin work on the full proposal.

DUE – Institutional Data Form:
The Division of Undergraduate Education requires an additional form be submitted by us. Called the Institutional Data Form, this provides data that shows the impact of the project. This is not necessarily spelled out in the solicitation or in FastLane, so if you are doing a DUE project, make sure you check to see if this is referenced and required.

Character Limit:
When NSF specifies a character length, it includes all spaces and all punctuation marks. In recent versions of MS Word, go to “Tools -> Word Count” and refer to the “Characters (with spaces)” statistic.