MSU Center for Water Sciences


Resources and Tips for Preparing Proposals

CWS has been facilitating proposals for a while now and we've collected the following list of resources and tips to help faculty with their grant proposals. Take a look below and if you have any questions- or would like CWS to help you with your proposal- feel free to contact us. Note that some of the info on this site is only accessible with an MSU NetID.

Getting started- proposal prep guides

Find out who to contact

Institutionally-limited proposals

Get help with large grants

Preparing proposal budgets

Frequently requested MSU info

NSF proposals proposals

Forms and templates


Getting Started- Proposal Preparation Guides

Everyone tells you this and they're right: Start early. No really, start early. In addition to developing the research proposal, contact your department, college and relevant OSP staff well in advance of the proposal deadline.  OSP requires you to submit the final proposal to them three full business days prior to the RFP deadline. Some units require 24-48 hours to review proposals before signing off on transmittal forms so don’t wait until the last minute! Start early.

OSP Proposal Deadline Policy

Wondering how to start? Check out these proposal preparation guides:

Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) Proposal Preparation Guide

College of Natural Science Proposal Preparation Guide: the guide was developed for CNS faculty, but it is useful for all MSU faculty.


Find out who to contact

These are the people who will be reviewing your budget and signing off on the transmittal. Many of them also offer pre-award support to help with your proposal. Find out who to contact:

Institutionally-limited Proposals

The Vice President for Research & Graduate Studies (VPRGS) is responsible for coordinating the internal review and selection of competing proposals when their number exceeds what is allowed by the sponsor as specified in their program announcement or request for proposals. The Limited Submissions website provides information on the internal review process and also maintains a list of all known institutionally-limited programs.


Get help with large multi-disciplinary and/or multi-institution proposals

In addition to the units listed below, check with your college.

VPRGS Research Facilitation

Provides facilitation services for approved cross-disciplinary, all-university, or multi-department proposals.

AgBioResearch Office of Research Support

The Preawards Office helps departments, units and faculty members prepare and submit grant applications and contracts. The Preawards Office focuses on large proposals involving multiple departments, units, colleges or institutions.

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Proposal Budgets

Nothing can cause a headache like working on a proposal budget. Here are links to resources to help with your budget and hopefully alleviate some of the pain.

Budget Excel template for proposals from OSP

Budget worksheets for NIFA, NIH, and NSF from AgBioResearch Office of Research Support

Graduate fringe rates 2013-2019

Graduate and undergraduate salary rates

Faculty fringe calculator (SI Excel worksheet)

Budget builder (MSU log-in required)

Still searching for budget info? Check out this OSP page on preparing budgets for more resources.


Frequently Requested MSU Information

Here’s where you’ll find the university’s DUNS number, tax exempt forms, and other frequently requested data for proposals:

Frequently Required Budget and Proposal Data: useful info for filling out cover forms

Fringe rate agreement (see bottom of page)

Tax exempt status


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NSF Proposals

NSF Grant Proposal Guide

This is the first place to start when you're wondering what the requirements are if they aren't listed in the specific RFP.

NSF Grant Proposal Guide


FastLane Password

If you're going to submit or collaborate on an NSF proposal you should get a FastLane password. If you do not already have one, obtain an NSF password by emailing your OSP proposal group contact. In the email include your name, contact info, your highest degree achieved and the year you achieved it, and OSP will send you a temporary password.


Submitting in FastLane

All uploaded and ready to submit? You need to release the proposal for OSP access and they will submit the proposal.


Data Management Plans

First, check out NSF's requirements for the plans. Here's a link to the relevant section of the NSF Grant Proposal Guide. And here are resources for developing your plan:

OVPRGS Data Management Guidelines

OVPRGS provides resources for preparing NSF Data Management Plans- resources include links to example plans, an online tool for writing your plan, and background literature on preparing plans.

Research Data Management Guidance Service

The Research Data Management Guidance service is a joint effort between the MSU Libraries and University Archives to respond to the emerging concern surrounding research data management. One of the service's purposes is to provide guidance to faculty in the development and execution of research data management plans.


Post-doc Mentoring Plans

First, check out NSF's requirements for the plans. Here's a link to the relevant section of the NSF Grant Proposal Guide. And here are resources for developing your plan:

Individual Development Plans for Post-docs

This page from the Graduate School shows how Individual Development Plans and the MSU CAFFE can be used for post-doc mentoring plans.

National Post-doctoral Association: Developing a Post-doc Mentoring Plan

The Association provides a toolkit for developing a mentoring plan.

Examples of mentoring plans from other institutions:

NSF Engineering (Word doc)

Tufts University (Word doc)

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (pdf)


Broader Impacts

All NSF proposals must demonstrate broader impacts. The merit criteria were recently revised, so be sure to check out the new information. We also provide a link to a broader impacts wizard to help you develop your broader impacts.

Revised merit review criteria resources from NSF: info from NSF to allow the research and education communities to prepare proposals in accordance with the revised criteria

COSEE NOW Broader Impacts Wizard: this site was developed with NSF funding and offers help to develop a broader impact statement that will satisfy the NSF merit review criteria and fulfill your interest in communicating your science.

When thinking about broader impacts, don't forget the resources other faculty and units on campus have to offer. If you don't do broader impacts activities, find those who do. We have many faculty who specialize in outreach on campus- and don't forget Extension specialists! Consider talking with the following units about how they could work with you on broader impacts:

MSU Extension

Knight Center for Environmental Journalism

University Outreach and Engagement


Current & Pending and Biosketch

Check out the section at the bottom of this page for links to templates. Click here to go there now.


Back to Top Proposals

Principal investigators (PIs) and departmental staff do not submit the application to, create accounts, or register in OSP is registered as the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) /Signing Official (SO) for submitting applications on behalf of the PI to applications are pdf files, so you’ll need Adobe Reader 8.0 or higher to complete the application package. You can check to see if your Adobe software is compatible here.

OSP provides a good overview of applying for a grant through

OSP guide

USDA Submissions

USDA put together a list of resources for anyone applying to NIFA using The site includes templates for current and pending forms and project summary/abstract.

USDA Application Support Templates

OSP has also put together information for USDA applications:



Forms and Templates

NSF Biosketch


Template from Tufts University (Word doc)

NSF Current and Pending



Note: the above template is an archived form, the “current” version is to enter C&P info in FastLane)

EPA Forms

Forms and Instructions Download page: includes cover forms, budget forms, current & pending forms, etc.


Current and Pending Support

Project Summary/Abstract

Conflict of Interest

USDA Forms: for other forms not listed above


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