Letters of collaboration and letters of support are separate documents that may be either permitted or required attachments to a proposal submission. Details on the differences are identified in the Proposal and Award Policy & Procedures Guide (PAPPG). Anyone submitting a proposal should carefully read the PAPPG. Below, you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions on this topic, along with links to relevant portions of the PAPPG.
What is a Letter of Collaboration?
A letter of collaboration documents a collaboration between a principle investigator (PI) and other entities whose contributions are significant to a proposal. There are two types of collaborations:
- An unfunded collaboration is “any substantial collaboration with individuals not included in the budget.” These contributions must be documented in a letter of collaboration from each collaborator. Each letter should contain only the statement of collaboration described below – letters that include additional information will be omitted from the proposal. Unfunded collaborations should also be described in the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.
- A funded collaboration is one where a collaborative activity is identified in the proposal budget. Refer to Chapter II.D.3 in the PAPPG for instructions on how to complete the budget.
What is the recommended wording for a letter of collaboration?
“If the proposal submitted by Dr. [insert the full name of the Principal Investigator] entitled [insert the proposal title] is selected for funding by NSF, it is my intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description or the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.”
What is a Letter of Support?
A letter of support is a requirement of specific programs or solicitations and is not a standard component of an NSF proposal. The letter aims to increase enthusiasm for the project or to highlight the qualifications of the PI or co-PI. Letters of support typically come from key stakeholders such as a department chair or mentor and must be unique to the specific proposal. Programs such as Transitions (NSF 20-505) and CAREER (NSF 20-525) require a letter of support from the department chair. Unless specified by the solicitation, a letter of support is generally 1-2 pages in length.
Letters of support should not be submitted unless required by the solicitation. An unsolicited letter of support may cause a proposal to be returned without review.
The following table highlights key differences and similarities between a letter of collaboration and a letter of support:
|Letter of Collaboration||Letter of Support|
|Optional or Required?||May be submitted with any proposal||May only be submitted if required by the program or solicitation|
|Impact on proposal processing?||Improper letters may be removed from the proposal; however, the proposal will still be accepted||Inclusion when not required may cause the proposal to be returned without review|
|Impact on proposal length?||Neither counts against the 15-page limit|