[mandelbrot set] MATH DEPT Computer News, Volume 11

How to submit an NSF proposal via the fastlane at


It's fast, it's easy, it's fun, it won't improve your chances.

Click on RELOAD now. This page is frequently updated and you might be looking at an old version saved by your netscape cache.

I just finished uploading my NSF proposal via the fastlane and I think it is the way to go. I'll explain here what I did. Don't be afraid to mess around in the fastlane. You can delete and overwrite pieces of your proposal a million times and nobody will ever know about it. The fastlane is for creating a proposal bit by bit from scratch and what you are doing will not be released or visible to anybody but you until the whole thing is done and you click on the ALLOW SRO ACCESS box (explained below). The more you play around there, the more comfortable you will be that the thing really works. I believe it does. I trust it more than I trust Purdue DSP to make 10 copies of my proposal and mail them in a timely manner to the correct address.

If after reading this you decide that you want to upload your proposal, but you are nervous about doing it yourself, Betty or I can do it for you in 5 minutes. We've done it for several people now.

Step 1

First, call Kim Dixon (4-4958) at Purdue DSP and tell her that you will be preparing an NSF proposal this season. She will give you a PIN number that will allow you to submit and edit pieces of your NSF proposal at the fastlane.

Step 2

Prepare your proposal in TeX as usual, but cut it into four pieces like this:

sum.tex       A. PROJECT SUMMARY
nsf.tex       C. PROJECT DESCRIPTION (including results from prior...)
refs.tex      D. REFERENCES

(Section B. is the TABLE OF CONTENTS which gets generated automatically at the fastlane.)

If you are using latex with automatic reference tags, see this little note.

About page numbering, computer wiz, Joe Lipman, found the answer below in the online documentation at the fastlane:

From NSF fastlane FAQ's:

How should I paginate my FastLane proposal?

You should number the first page of the Project Description as number 1. Each other section of the proposal that you can number (the forms that you upload as PDF files) you should number beginning with number 1.

However, the published instructions for NSF proposals say the pages must be numbered consecutively through the end of the proposal and so that FAQ should be a never asked question. I wouldn't worry too much about your page numbering system. I have an e-mail from one of the program directors that says that it doesn't really matter how you do it.

If you want to set your page numbers to something different than is natural, use an AMS-TeX command like


or a LaTeX command like


Step 3

Next, create the following PDF files to be uploaded to the NSF main computer.


For example, to create nsf.pdf just run the following sequence of commands:

amstex nsf.tex
dvips -Pweb nsf.dvi
distill nsf.ps

The last command creates a file called nsf.pdf that you can view by typing

acroread nsf.pdf &

NOTE: This page is rather outdated. The new Linux servers support the commands pdflatex and pdftex that create a PDF file directly from the TeX source file. If you run TeX to create a DVI file, you can then run dvipdf, which will create a PDF file from the DVI file. There is also ps2pdf that will convert a PostScript file to PDF.

Step 4

The Purdue DSP office initializes your proposal cover page for you. They botched mine up a bit and I had to go in and fix it myself. This turned out to be easy. First, cd to the directory in which you store your NSF proposal PDF files and type

netscape http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov &

and scroll down and click on

Proposal Preparation

You will get a window with three boxes. Click in the first box and type your last name (lower case is ok). Next, click in the second box and type in your social security number (without spaces or hyphens). Next, click in the third box and type the four digit PIN that Kim Dixon gives you. (Note, don't use the TAB key to move from one input box to another. It chokes on it.) Finally, click on the Proposal Preparation box. You will get a screen with your personal data on it.


Do not use the Back and Forward buttons of Netscape to move around the fastlane. You must use the OK and CANCEL buttons provided on the web pages at the NSF instead or the whole thing will get fouled up.

You will probably notice that your personal data is botched up. Click on the


box near the bottom of the information rectangle and edit the fields that are empty or wrong. Input phone numbers without hyphens, spaces, or parentheses. (If the thing demands that you fill in your address line that you left blank, fill in

1395 Mathematical Sciences

and click on OK.) One element of mine that was particularly wrong was the check button that said I had never been a PI or CO/PI of an NSF grant before. It's near the bottom. Make sure it's right.

Your personal data should look ok now. This first web page of your NSF proposal area is the front door to your proposal. It is the one place you can (and must) use the Netscape buttons to exit from. From anyplace else, click on CANCEL or OK until you are back to this front door to get out.

Step 5

Now that the front end of your proposal looks ok, go to the


box near the bottom and make sure the STANDARD PROPOSAL box is checked and click on OK.

A temporary NSF proposal number should be highlighted in the rectangle. Click on the EDIT box under the rectangle. The EDIT box takes you to a sceen that allows you to view or edit the various pieces of your proposal.

Click on the PROJECT SUMMARY button in the rectangle and then click on the


box at the bottom of the rectangle. If you had submitted a Project Summary earlier, you could view it by clicking on DISPLAY CURRENT SUMMARY. The first time you find yourself here, you will probably want to upload a PDF file containing your Project Summary. Click on the BROWSE box near the bottom of the page. A list of your files on the computer in front of you will appear. If you started Netscape from the directory in which you store your NSF proposal files, you'll see something like this in the FILE box:


Type the filename of your project summary PDF file at the end of this line so it looks something like


or better yet, scroll the files by until you see the one you want and then double click on it (or select OK).

(You can use the arrow keys to scroll this long string if it doesn't fit in the little box so you can verify that it is all there.)

Click on OK and then click on the TRANSFER PDF box. Click on OK until you have confirmation that the NSF computer has received your file.

When you have finished uploading your project summary, you can click on the DISPLAY CURRENT SUMMARY box near the top to verify that the NSF has what you think it has. When you click on this box, the PDF file will pop up in an ACROREAD reader (be patient, it could take a long time for the window to pop up after you click on the display button). If you want to change your summary, click on the DELETE box and then start Step 5 over again.

When you are satisfied that everything is ok with your summary, click on


Repeat this process for each of the other three items:


Step 6

Ask the business office to upload your COVER PAGE and BUDGET and CURRENT AND PENDING SUPPORT items. After this is done, you will notice that the proposal title will appear next to the temporary number in the rectangle. (Make sure you only have one proposal in preparation. I once started a second one by mistake and had to delete it by highlighting it in the box and then clicking on DELETE.)

Step 7

When you think your proposal is totally done, go to the PROPOSAL PREPARATION KIT box and click on PRINT underneath the box. Select PRINT THE WHOLE PROPOSAL in the box that pops up. Your proposal will appear all shiny and finished looking in an acroread reader window (after a 20 or more seconds wait). Select PRINT from the FILE menu of the acroread window and your proposal will print on your default printer. Take it to the business office to be copied to Purdue DSP with signatures, etc.

Step 8

One last thing to do: when the business office says you are done and you say you are done, click on the


button underneath the proposal preparation kit rectangle. This clears the thing to be released by Purdue DSP so that the NSF can send it out for review.

I don't know what happens next, but I'm sure it will be disappointing.

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