Skip directly to content

Research.gov - Proposal Preparation Site Document Upload FAQ

1. What file types are allowable for upload in required proposal sections?

All proposal sections must be uploaded in PDF format with the exception of the Collaborators and Other Affiliations (COA) document, which requires an .xlsx format. Complete information on COA is available in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter II.C.1.e and at https://nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/coa.jsp.

Note: Document formatting compliance checks for PDF upload sections have been tested so far with PDFs generated in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Open Office and some LaTeX sources. PDFs generated in other tools may require your proposal to be submitted through FastLane or Grants.gov.

2. What are PDF upload document formatting requirements in the system?

The proposal must conform to the following requirements:

a. Use one of the following fonts identified below:

  - Arial (not Arial Narrow), Courier New, Palatino, Palatino Linotype, or Helvetica at a font size of 10 points or larger;

  - Times New Roman at a font size of 10 points or larger; or

  - Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 10 points or larger. 

A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figures, tables or diagram captions and when using a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special characters. Other fonts not specified above, such as Cambria Math, may be used for mathematical formulas, equations, or when inserting Greek letters or special characters.  If the system detects that your PDF upload file for a section contains font size(s) less than 10 points, a warning will display on upload but your proposal will still be able to be submitted and would not be returned without review if the less than 10 point font size is due to the aforementioned criteria.  PIs are cautioned, however, that the text must still be readable. 

b. No more than six lines of text within a vertical space of one inch.

c. Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch. No proposer-supplied information may appear in the margins.

d. Paper size must be no larger than standard letter paper size (8 ½ by 11”).

These requirements apply to all uploaded sections of a proposal, including supplementary documentation.

3. Why is there a margin error for the PDF I am uploading? My margins are set to one inch.

Some potential root causes may be:

Remove page numbers: Be sure that the document has no text in the header or footer including page numbers. The system will automatically paginate and add page numbers for you whenever the proposal PDF is generated.

Review inserted images or shapes: Margins can be set to 1 inch but a stray image or shape can violate the margin rule. Setting the margin rule to 1 inch would not automatically correct the images or shapes back within margins.

4. Why do I receive a font warning upon document upload when the font was set to an acceptable font type and size using “Select All”?

Much depends on the particular word processor used because of how word processors export files to PDF.

For Microsoft Office, “Select All” will not include inserted images, shapes, and numbered lists or bullets. Each object will have its own font and those would have to be updated to accepted fonts and sizes. Be mindful of images inserted into shapes, each image and shape can have its own font type.

In Microsoft Office Word, ensure images were not inserted as objects (e.g. PowerPoint slides) by double clicking on the image. If another application opens this means a non-graphical image was inserted and the object contains invalid metadata that will make the PDF upload fail.  Re-insert images by “Pasting as an image”.

 5. I am getting an error that I do not have a required document section heading (i.e. Broader Impacts) but it is included. What is causing this error?

A section heading must be on its own line without any other text in order for the validations to work.

6. Are there any other known issues that I should be aware of for unallowable fonts when exporting to PDF from a program?

  • OpenOffice inserts an unallowable font for superscript and subscript when exporting to PDF.
  • Google Docs has a PDF export issue with bulleted text.
  • Certain LaTeX conversions may still not be supported.
  • Microsoft Office for Macs “Save as PDF” functionality “Best for Printing” may not be supported. Please select “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service)”
  • Older versions of Microsoft Word (2007 or earlier) may produce font warnings when exported to PDF.
  • Microsoft Office - Do not use “Print as PDF” to convert.

7. I am getting a warning when uploading my Collaborators and Other Affiliations (COA) template that not all cells could be saved. When I look at my uploaded PDF file, I see missing data. What is causing this?

  • Cell contents cannot exceed 255 characters including spaces.
  • Ensure all data is entered especially column A for tables 2-5.
  • Ensure “Last Active” column is entered as a valid date format (mm/dd/yyyy).
  • Cutting and pasting from other programs or files with formatting may produce errors or bring in invalid fonts and borders and would display warning(s) on upload. We suggest reinserting and retyping information.