I've mentioned the idea of funding people at the preproposal stage before, so I made a conscious effort in my panel reviews this round to see who I might consider for preproposal funding.
Invariably, it was senior PIs who included citations instead of preliminary data.
But this brings up a critical discussion point for NSF: With three year grants, 7-15% funding rates in most panels, an annual grant cycle and an unofficial policy of not funding too many proposals to one PI, an NSF dependent investigator runs a high risk hitting a dry spell. Is the potential of a small number of established labs getting funded on a 4 page proposal such a bad thing?
Discuss. (Your response may vary, depending on career stage)