How to Submit a Research Proposal

Digg-style FAQ page

What do I need to do?

What should I look for first?

What are the other key components a proposal needs to have?

When should I start to involve AHS in the process?

How hard is it to get University approval?

Any other words of advice you can give me?

I am an Allied Health Sciences faculty member/postdoc/grad student and I want to submit a grant proposal for funding.  What do I need to do?

The answer in layman’s terms is:  You worry about the research, AHS will worry about the administrative requirements.

While there is some overlap, during the proposal development phase it is the responsibility of the AHS department to assist and fulfill all of the administrative requirements of the grant, including – but not limited to - coordinating the construction of the application package, providing federal and university policy numbers as necessary and routing the proposal for University approval.

It is your responsibility to write the grant narrative including the abstract, all portions of the background, significance, research plan, and any other sections required by the funding agency.  If you are writing a proposal to a federal agency, this includes required information about the involvement of human subjects.  Take care to identify all of the narrative components that are required for the proposal.

Ok.  What should I look for first?

The first and one of the most important steps is to find the funding guidelines of the opportunity and review it thoroughly. This information is typically included in the Request for Application (RFA), though it may go by other names.

It is important to review this information thoroughly as very few funding opportunities are alike, even within the same agency.  One opportunity may allow or even encourage international travel, while another may not allow travel at all!  These guidelines will also tell you important key information such as what the application will need to include as far as research documents, proposal information, due dates, budget guidelines, etc.

Be sure to share this information with the AHS Contracts and Grants Manager as soon as possible!  This is one of the key documents the Contracts and Grants Manager will use to evaluate and assist with the details of the application package’s construction.

What are the other key components a proposal needs to have?

All proposals must have a budget and budget justification completed, even if they are not required by the sponsor.  This is a University requirement!

In addition, all proposals must be routed through the University’s central research office – the Office of Sponsored Research – for approval.  This is done via the University’s proposal routing system, RAMSeS, and this form is prepared by the AHS Contracts and Grants Manager.  Once the form has been submitted, you will be required to review and certify the submission.

Any other documentation necessary for proposal submission will be outlined in the RFA.

When should I start to involve AHS in the process?

As soon as possible!  The Department of Allied Health Sciences requires that a Grant Pre-Submission Online form be submitted before each proposal, and the earlier this is submitted the better.  The department looks at this form to evaluate the basic and administrative needs to the project (such as ensuring there is enough office space) to ensure the department is able to provide what you need to run your proposal, should it get funded. You will note that this form also requires the approval of your Division Director.

Ok, but when do I *really* need to get AHS involved to help put everything together?

Usually a month in advance is sufficient.  As mentioned above, each proposal is different so some may take longer or shorter to complete, but a month is usually far enough in advance for most projects to comfortably complete all of the administrative details.

Most of the interaction between you and the AHS Contracts and Grants Manager will involve the development of the proposal’s budget.  It is the responsibility of the Contracts and Grants Manager to be familiar with all of the policies and regulations of both the University and the funding organization to ensure an acceptable budget is presented for funding.

An absolute minimum of five business days is required for the central University research office – the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) - to review and approve on behalf of the University and submit.  This approval is mandatory!

How hard is it to get University approval?

Over 99.9% of proposals are approved by the University.  Most of OSR’s central review is to ensure that funds are budgeted appropriately and to review the legal requirements of the funder to protect the investigators and negotiating legal/financial requirements when necessary.   It is also the AHS Contracts and Grants Manger’s role to negotiate on behalf of the PI and the Department and advocate on their behalf.

At the end of the day, one of the core objectives of OSR is to ensure that every proposal possible is submitted, and only under very unusual circumstances does an irresolvable situation present itself.

Any other words of advice you can give me?

Be prepared for sticker shock when you budget for the proposal!  Many first time investigators are often surprised at how quickly the budget can increase in a very short time, especially with personnel.

For example, a Research Assistant being paid an annual salary of $30,000 on a typical NIH grant also must be paid benefits, health insurance in addition to the overhead rate the University charges.  Using 2011-2012 rates, the $30,000 employee will also be paid $6,330 in benefits (21.1% of their salary), $4,932 in health insurance, and the University charges an overhead rate of 48% on top of all of these expenses.  Adding these together, the $30,000 employee actually costs:  ($30,000 + $6,330 + $4,932) * 1.48 = $61,068)

Also, the department of AHS has many talented and welcoming researchers and it’s likely someone has submitted to or received an award from the agency you’re submitting to.  Many of them are happy to help!  Talk to the Contracts and Grants Manager if you’re looking for a mentor, as they will likely know whom you can talk to for research advice.


Updated February 22, 2012