NSF Proposals: Administrative Review Stage

NSF routinely screens proposals for administrative issues before assigning them for peer review. RAS’s goal is to make sure that the greatest percentage of our proposals make it through this administrative screening, and so we track these issues to make sure we can warn PIs about them before a proposal is submitted. 

The NSF may decide to return without review (RWR) any proposal for failure to comply with any portion of the solicitation instructions or the guidance in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide. More often, the NSF will reach out and request a Proposal File Update to remove or revise documents that are out of compliance.

The RWR result is very rare, but there is no appeals process. The NSF’s decision to return a proposal without review is final.

Issues known to result in Return Without Review:

  • Solicitation-specific requirements not fulfilled
  • Not appropriate for selected program
  • Missing “Broader Impacts” in Project Description
  • One or more PI/Co-PIs did not list “Results from Prior NSF support”
  • Proposal was previously rejected and not substantially revised
  • “Results from Prior NSF support” did not include separate headings for Broader Impacts and Intellectual Merit.

Issues known to require Proposal File Updates:

  • Collaborators & Other Affiliations Document missing formatted incorrectly
  • Letters of Collaboration included statements of support, and had to be removed.
  • Biographical sketch did not comply with NSF format
  • URL included in the Project Description
  • “Results from Prior NSF Support” did not describe prior research product sharing
  • References cited did not include complete information for each reference
  • Data Management plan did not address directorate-specific guidance 

Should you receive any administrative feedback about a proposal from NSF, we ask that you forward your RAS Contract Administrator a copy of the correspondence, so that we can continue to improve MIT’s success rate in getting all of our research proposals through to merit review.