Quick Guide to Working with NSF FastLane and Research.gov
The National Science Foundation’s FastLane is a web-based computer system used for information exchange and business transactions between NSF and its client community.
All NSF investigators and their administrators must use FastLane to prepare and submit proposals, supplemental funding requests, and no-cost extensions and other notifications and requests, as well as perform other functions such as change principal investigators (PIs), transfer PIs, and add subawards. FastLane is also used for administration of proposals and awards by the Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) and NSF, and for panel peer review.
NSF is in the process of moving FastLane functions to Research.gov. Eventually, Research.gov will replace FastLane as NSF’s end-to-end award management system. As of 2013, NSF has used Research.gov for project reporting. NSF is continuing to transition notifications and requests from FastLane to Research.gov.
NSF Account Management
FastLane users (PIs and co-PIs) must have an NSF ID to access FastLane. As of March 26, 2018, NSF uses an account management system that allows users to create and self-manage accounts, including personal information and role requests. Each user has a single profile and unique identifier (NSF ID) for signing in to FastLane and Research.gov for proposal and award activities.
New users can register directly with NSF.
Note: After creating a FastLane ID, new users will need to affiliate with UC Berkeley. To do this, new users should send a message to email@example.com and provide the newly created FastLane ID. SPO will then affiliate the new user with UC Berkeley going forward.
Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID. Forgotten passwords for established NSF accounts may be retrieved on the Forgot Password page. For more information, see About Account Management on Research.gov.
The “Proposal Function” applications include letter of intent and proposal preparation, proposal status, revised submitted proposal budget, and proposal file update.
FastLane proposal applications are organized in sections that follow the traditional format of NSF proposals. A tip for users: if you are lost or have made errors, navigate backwards (“Go back”) to find your bearings or to check for mistakes. FastLane Help that can be accessed at the right top corner of the FastLane home page is a great tool with step-by-step instructions on every function of FastLane. Below is a brief description of some functions to get you started.
On the FastLane home page, click “Proposals, Awards and Status,” log on, then click “Proposal Functions” on the “What Do You Want To Work On?” page.
Starting a New Proposal
After reaching the Proposal Preparation link, PIs can check the accuracy of personal information and correct it, if necessary. Clicking “Prepare Proposal” will bring up the “Proposal Actions” screen; once there, click the “Create Blank Proposal” button to bring up the “Form Preparation” screen.
Proposers may upload files in Word, Excel, or PDF into the various sections of the proposal or use the FastLane templates. Some sections require the web templates to be used. For example, the budget template calculates and formats your information to the standard NSF budget page (Form 1030), and the Current and Pending template formats your data to the standard NSF Current and Pending page.
Collaborations and Subawards
The lead institution coordinates the submission process. To collaborate with other institutions, click the “Link Collaborative Proposals” button on the “Form Preparation” screen. Subaward budgets may be included either by clicking the “Add Another Organization” button in the budget section, or by giving the subawardee a proposal PIN so that they can enter their own budget.
Working with SPO to Submit Proposals
To allow SPO to review and submit a proposal, the user must navigate back to the “Proposal Actions” page and click the “Allow SRO Access” button. Then choose “Allow SPO to view, edit, and submit proposal.” Proposal submission to SPO is not considered complete until SPO is granted SRO access.
See the SPO Quick Guide to Proposal Review and Submission for UC Berkeley Faculty for instructions on how to submit a proposal to SPO and IAO.
After the proposal is submitted by SPO, this section (which can be accessed from the “Proposal Functions” screen) lists the date the proposal was received by NSF, the NSF division and program, the NSF program officer and contact information, proposal status, and peer or panel review dates. Proposal status can be checked as often as needed. FastLane is updated nightly with information entered that day by NSF program and grant officials on proposals being routed through the review process.
Research.gov also provides a tool to check proposal status.
Revised Submitted Proposal Budget
Revised budgets are submitted only at the request of the program official. PIs may access their original budgets on FastLane under “Revise Submitted Proposal Budget” to make the requested changes. Click “Forward Budget Revision to Sponsored Research Office” to allow your SPO Contract and Grant Officer (CGO) access to the revised budget and notify your SPO CGO by email once access is granted. Make sure to notify your SPO CGO of any requested budget changes from NSF. SPO then reviews and submits the revised budget. Neither NSF nor SPO requires a paper copy.
The “Award and Reporting Functions” option at the “What Do You Want To Work On” page includes notifications and requests (such as no-cost extensions, subawards, and change of PI), continuation funding status, view/print award documents, and supplemental funding requests. The project reporting function has been transitioned to Research.gov.
Notifications and Requests
NSF is using FastLane for the functions listed below. (See the Research.gov section for other notifications and requests.) After preparing notifications or requests, send an email to the SPO CGO that works with the PI’s unit, click “forward to SRO,” and SPO will review and submit the notification or request.
Notifications to NSF:
- Annual and Final Cost Share Notification by Recipient
Requests to NSF:
- Subawarding, Transferring or Contracting Out Part of an NSF Award
- Substitute PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
- PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD Transfer from One Organization to Another
- Change to cost sharing commitments reflected on Line M of the NSF award budget
- Request for Supplemental Support
Continuation Funding Status
Investigators may view the status of their next increment of funding using this function.
View/Print Award Documents
Investigators may view and print their award documents from FastLane. The official award documents are sent from NSF to SPO for review and distribution. Only SPO can authorize Contracts and Grants Accounting to set up a fund account.
Supplemental Funding Requests
Investigators must submit requests for supplemental funding with FastLane by completing an abbreviated proposal. Click “Award and Reporting Functions” and “Supplemental Funding Request.” Then, prepare a summary of proposed work, a justification, and a budget. When the supplement is finished, click “Allow SRO Access” to generate an e-mail notice to SPO. SPO will then review and submit the supplement. Neither NSF nor SPO need paper copies or signatures, however, SPO will need a Phoebe proposal submitted if there is a change in Scope of Work or addition of funding over 25% of the original amount.
Change PI Information
Investigators may update or correct their information without having to go through NSF or SPO.
Research.gov Help found on the right top corner of Research.gov provides step-by-step instructions on every function of Research.gov. The Research.gov About pages provide additional information. Below is a brief description of some functions to get you started.
As of March 26, 2018, NSF uses an account management system that allows users to create and self-manage accounts, including personal information and role requests. Each user has a single profile and unique identifier (NSF ID) for signing in to FastLane and Research.gov for proposal and award activities.
New users can register directly with NSF. Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID. Forgotten passwords for established NSF accounts may be retrieved on the Forgot Password page. For more information, see About Account Management on Research.gov.
UC Berkeley may also log in with a CalNet ID and password by selecting “University of California, Berkeley” under “Organization Credentials” on the Log In page. Once logged into Research.gov with CalNet, PIs and co-PIs can connect to FastLane PI/co-PI services without having to log in again.
Research.gov provides a tool to check proposal status. The tool can be found in the “Prepare & Submit Proposals” tab at the top of the page. Click “Proposal Status” and then either scroll through the list or click on the Change Search button for search fields including by PI/PD Name and Agency Tracking Number. Research.gov Proposal Status will normally be available one day after assignment to an NSF Program Officer.
FastLane also provides a proposal status tool.
Notifications and Requests
NSF uses Research.gov for the functions listed below (See the FastLane section for additional notifications and requests.) After preparing notifications or requests, click “Save and Forward.” Notify your SPO CGO by email after you are done. SPO will then review and submit the notification or request.
Notifications to NSF:
- Grantee-Approved No-Cost Extension
- Significant Changes in Methods/Procedures
- Significant Changes/Delays or Events of Unusual Interest
- Conflicts of Interest that cannot be satisfactorily managed reduced or eliminated and research that proceeds without the imposition of conditions or restrictions when a conflict of interest exists
Requests to NSF:
- First NSF-Approved No-Cost Extension
- Second NSF-Approved No-Cost Extension
- Change in Objective or Scope
- Long-Term Disengagement of the PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
- Change in Person-Months Devoted to Project
- Withdrawal of PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
- Pre-award Costs in Excess of 90 Days
- Salaries of Administrative or Clerical Staff
- Travel Costs for Dependents
- Rearrangements/Alterations in excess of $25,000 (Construction)
- Reallocation of Funds Provided for Participant Support Costs
- Additional categories of participant support costs other than those described in 2 CFR § 200.75 (such as incentives, gifts, souvenirs, t-shirts and/or memorabilia)
As of February 1, 2013, NSF requires PIs and Co-PIs to use Research.gov instead of FastLane to submit all project reports, including submission of final, annual, and interim project reports and the project outcomes report. For more information, see Research.gov About Project Reports. Annual reports are due 90 days before the end of the current budget period, and final reports and project outcomes reports are due 90 days after the expiration date.
What is Required?
NSF requires that all Principal Investigators (PIs) submit annual reports during the course of an award.
- The annual report is due no later than the 90-day period before the end of the current budget period for the award; it is overdue the day after that 90-day period ends.
- A final report must be submitted no later than 120 days following expiration of an award. It is overdue after that 120-day period ends.
- The annual and final reports are reviewed by the award's managing Program Officer; the reporting requirement is met only after the Program Officer has reviewed and approved the report.
- NSF also requires that PIs submit a non-technical, Project Outcomes Report (POR), for the general public 120 days following expiration of an award. This report is submitted and posted on the Research.gov website exactly as submitted, without review by a Program Officer. Its intended audience includes the general public, journalists, Congress and its staffers. The Project Outcomes Report should be a brief summary (200-800 words). The POR does not need to include a list of publications resulting from the award because NSF automatically imports the citations that the PI provided as part of the PI’s annual and final project reports into Research.gov’s Research Spending and Results.
Overdue reports will prevent the release of continuing grant increments (CGI), approval of No-cost Extensions, and the awarding of additional funding to the PI and all co-PIs listed on the award that has the overdue report.
Where and How to Submit
The above reports are submitted by the PI to NSF via the Project Reporting module in Research.gov.
Select “Awards & Reporting,” then “Project Reports.” The PI will need a NSF username and password to login.
- To find an existing user ID, go to the NSF ID Lookup.
- To create a new ID, go to Research.gov and click on “Register” at the top of the page. Remember, after creating a FastLane ID, new users will need to affiliate with UC Berkeley. To do this, new UC Berkeley users should send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the newly created FastLane ID. SPO will then affiliate the new user with UC Berkeley going forward.
The reporting module can be accessed only by the PI and co-PIs of an award. The module is organized with tabs for each of the components of the report: Accomplishments, Products, Participants, Impact, Changes/Problems, and Special Requirements.
The template also allows the PI to attach PDF documents for images, charts and other supplemental materials; PDF attachments are not permitted for the narrative content of the report.
Note that annual and final progress reports are not cumulative and should be limited to accomplishments, products, etc. from the current reporting period.
A “Getting Started Guide” for creating (and editing) annual and final reports is available on Research.gov. Another NSF resource is Project Report Frequently Asked Questions For Research Organizations.