Research and Development in the FastLane

By October, the National Science Foundation hopes to have all of its research proposals submitted and processed electronically through a system called FastLane.

The system is a World Wide Web-based proposal submission, review and tracking program that started as an experiment and has grown into the agency's method for achieving an electronic business process.

During the first part of this year, 78 percent of proposals from academic institutions were submitted electronically, said Linda Massaro, NSF's chief information officer and director of information and resource management. Massaro is well aware that getting the last 10 percent probably will be the hardest.

Who's in the FastLane?

FastLane enables NSF customers to conduct business electronically with the agency. Individuals — primarily from academic institutions — sign on to the system and send and receive transactions with NSF. Those transactions include award searches, proposal preparation, proposal reviews, status reports, project reporting, requests for funding under a current grant, or post-award notifications and requests.

FastLane is connected to the agency's accounting systems, which will enable grantees to draw on their awards electronically. When they make the request through FastLane, the system will verify the amount, which is based on NSF's account records, and send an electronic fund transfer request to the Treasury Department. The Treasury then will distribute those funds to the university electronically.

Why use FastLane?

NSF says it believes that using FastLane will result in more efficient processing of transactions, faster NSF response to requests and proposals, and direct access by users to the information that affects their daily work.

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