NSF proposals for FastLane

As of 2003, the FastLane system for submitting NSF proposals became very picky about the documents it accepts.


Here are the suggested margin settings, assuming no running heads:
\headheight     0in
\headsep        0in
\topmargin      0in
\textheight     9in
\evensidemargin 0.05in
\oddsidemargin  0.05in
\textwidth      6.4in

These should appear after any \usepackage which might be internally setting its own margins. Anything that produces larger typeset area is likely to be rejected. If the file uses running heads, then the \headheight and \headsep lines should be commented out, and \textheight suitably decreased so the last line of text prints at least 1 inch from the bottom edge of the paper.

Pay attention to the `Overfull \hbox' warnings that LaTeX prints. These typically identify places where a line cannot be easily broken, and will be sticking out onto the right margin. If the warning says that the overfull box is one or two points too wide, it should be OK. But anything larger than that should be fixed. To easily find those bad breaks in the previewer, put

\overfullrule 5pt
in the preamble. This will produce black rectangles on the right margin at the points where TeX can't cleanly break the line.

To fix those problems either reword the document slightly, or see if you can suggest alternative hyphenation (e.g. by typing `ther\-mo\-dy\-na\-mics' where needed), or break wide formulas into aligned equations, etc. As with all "touch-ups" this should be done as the very last step, when all the typing is done and page dimensions are set to the final values.

Generating PDF files

The best way to produce PDF files from the document is as follows:
  latex bio.tex       (twice if need be)
  dvips bio.dvi -o

Some users may have preferences/settings which will make the "distill" command generate older, "compatibility mode" PDF. FastLane won't accept it. Before submitting the PDF files you should check the PDF version with the "file" command, as in file bio.pdf. If you see v. 1.2, the file should be OK. Submit that file as a test, and if it's accepted, proceed with the others.

If FastLane rejects that file, you may need to generate an even newer PDF format. Try ps2pdf13 instead of "distill", and check the PDF version again - it should be 1.3 now. But do this only in case of problems with v. 1.2.

There are cases when you prefer to create the entire proposal as a single LaTeX file, e.g. for automatic cross-referencing or citations. Then the end result will need to be split into parts that FastLane expects (bio, summary, etc.) To do this, create the PostScript file from the entire document with dvips, as above. Now open the PS file with ghostview, "mark" the pages of the first section, and use "Save marked pages" to save just that fragment in a smaller PS file. Now "unmark" the pages, and repeat the process for all the sections. Then run "distill" or "ps2pdf13" on each PostScript file you saved.

EJB 1/23/2004