ICM Research



Proposals and the NSF FastLane

What is FastLane?

FastLane is an NSF Web site. The purpose of FastLane is 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. FastLane is actually an experimental development website, and NSF is working with colleges and universities nationwide in the design and evaluation of this website. The URL to the NSF FastLane homepage is: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov

How is it used?

FastLane features include: NSF Award Search. Graduate Research Fellowships, Medal of Science, Proposal Review, Proposal Status, Proposal Preparation, Project Reports. A few additional features are given on the website. Current NSF Guidelines are available, and there are instructions available throughout the site.

You need a PIN to prepare/submit a proposal on FastLane. Proposals can still be written in LaTeX. LaTeX files are compiled into PDF (with the pdflatex command on Linux/UNIX systems for exampe) before being uploaded to FastLane.

this page, for tools for creating and manipulating PDF files.

How to get a Userid and Password

The Kent Research and Graduate Studies Office (referred to as Sponsored Research Office or SRO in FastLane) can get you set up as a FastLane user by entering your name into the system and assigning you a userid and password. Once you login on Fastlane you can change your password so only you know what the password is.

What are the steps in preparing a FastLane proposal?

Once you have obtained your Userid and Password from Kent State's Research and Graduate Studies Office, you may log on through the FastLane Home Page


and enter your standard proposal through the NSF FastLane website. Also available is a page of tips for PI's for preparing their proposals. FastLane has smart forms capability that pulls in individual and institution information available through the NSF database. PDF files can be uploaded and cut and paste is also available, in addition to directly typing on the forms. NSF Proposal Guidelines must still be followed and required forms must be completed.

Starting 2001, NSF has simplified its FastLane process. FastLane will now accept file uploads in a variety of formats Word, WordPerfect, PostScript, plain text, RTF, EPS, PowerPoint, DVI, and TeX (MiKTeX 1.20e) within FastLane Proposal Preparation sections. NSF recommends that PIs continue to use standard fonts to avoid font substitutions when their files are converted by NSF to Acrobat 3 PDF format. PDF files will continue to be accepted.

For people who use TeX/LaTeX for proposal preparation, we recommend you use the well-tried procedure outline here:

  1. Prepare your proposal in LaTeX as usual.
  2. Finalize your proposal and generate PDF files.
  3. Use a Web browser (Netscape for example) and go to the FastLane homepage.
  4. Select Proposal Preparation and login.
  5. Enter/update PI information, if necessary.
  6. Use the OK button in the Proposal Actions box to start a new proposal or continue work on an existing proposal. To start a new proposal you can use an old proposal that you have saved on Fastlane as a template.
  7. Once you have created a proposal or selected an existing one, you can perform a number of functions on that proposal. The "Edit" button leads you to a page to prepare the proposal.
  8. The first thing to do on the "Form Preparation" page is to enter information in the "Cover Page". Make sure you enter the Propsoal Title, NSF program/unit, PI, CoPI, and other investigations on the Cover Page. Your SRO usually enters the "Budget" and "Current and Pending Support" info for you after you have completed your forms. Use the "Allow SRO Access" button on the "Proposal Actions" page to give SRO access to your proposal on Fastlane.
  9. Use the edit button to go to a page with the proposal forms and complete each form required. Many forms allow you to upload a prepared PDF file. The Print button on the proposal preparation page allows you to produce a hardcopy for proof reading. You can make changes by editing text information and by uploading revised PDF files.
  10. From the forms list, select Cover Page, entering the PI and Co-PI data as requested so that FastLane may generate the other forms (current and pending support, biographical sketch, budget) suitably.
  11. As the PI begins work on the proposal he/she should, at that time, allow SRO access so that SRO staff can facilitate the process as early as possible. Allowing SRO access to your proposal is done directly on FastLane. SRO can also approve the budget and make the final submission from FastLane.

Sometime you will encounter a problem or error using Fastlane. You can report such problems to fastlane@nsf.gov by email.

How will our research office assist me?

Once you begin your proposal, our Sponsored Research Office can be very helpful relative to working with NSF. The SRO are responsible for actual submission of your proposal and will help with the budget for your proposal. The PI can assign a Proposal PIN number. Then the PI clicks on the ``Allow SRO Access'' button, allowing SRO to review work on the actual proposal. Regular NSF guidelines and forms must still be followed through this electronic process. Hard copies of signature and internal Kent State forms are also still required. The proposal is then submitted after Kent State's regular approval process has been completed.

Whom to contact in our Sponsored Research Office (SRO)?

  • Sharon McWhorter, Sponsored Programs Administrator
    email: sharon@rags.kent.edu
  • Valerie Boaz, Grants Coordinator
    email: valerie@rags.kent.edu
  • Charlee Heimlich, Director, Sponsored Programs Development
    email: charlee@rags.kent.edu
  • Carol Toncar, Grant & Contract Administration
    email: carol@rags.kent.edu

How to generate PDF Files?

NSF FastLane no longer requires that you upload PDF format files. You can prepare file in a variety of formats as listed before. You may type text directly onto the forms or use cut and paste on plain text.

For people using LaTeX, it is still most convenient to generate PDF files for NSF proposals.

  • ICM has prepared these template LaTeX files for your use in preparing your proposal. The template files also contain comments on how to use them. It is recommended that you use the 12-point times font for best results.
  • Figures may be included as .eps files.
  • Use the latex command to produce .dvi files. Use dvips to convert DVI files to postscript files. Then use distill to convert .ps files to .pdf files. The PDF files can be uploaded to FastLane. On aegis for example do:
         /local/opt/Acrobat3/bin/distill file.ps > file.pdf
  • Generally you need to prepare separate PDF files for
    • Project Summary
    • Project Description (can ONLY be submitted as PDF file)
    • References Cited
    • NSF format Biographical Sketches (for each senior investigator separately, 2 page length limit)
    • Budget Justification
  • If you use latex to cross reference the bibliography you need to put the cited references at the end of the project description. But the Fastlane format wants you to put the References Cited in a separate PDF file. So here is how to get around it: Put the references at end of the project description and generate a .dvi file. From this DVI file, generate a .ps file without the references. This can be done either with dviselect, or ghostview.

Which forms CANNOT be uploaded as files?

  • Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207)
  • Table of Contents (NSF Form 1359)
  • Summary Proposal Budget (NSF Form 1030)
  • Current and Pending Support (NSF Form 1239)
  • The proposal budget sheets can be uploaded as an Excel spreadsheet, and our research office usually does this for a proposal. All the PI needs to do is to communicate the budget needs to the research office. This can usually be done by email.

Contact Misty Tackett at ICM if you run into problems or need help.

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