General Proposal Considerations
The following are some general considerations to discuss with your Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) team during the early stages of proposal development. This is not an exhaustive list. Talking with OSP early in the proposal development process will ensure that the solicitation and proposal are reviewed extensively by OSP.
Review the Proposal and Submission Guidelines Accordion Closed
Make sure solicitation is active. Ensure that everyone involved in the grant development process has access to the solicitation, the Cayuse SP manual, as well as other sponsor submission and application instructions and frequently asked questions (i.e., Grants.gov instructions) if applicable. Identify any ambiguities in the solicitation and discuss with the sponsor’s program officer(s). OSP will also review the solicitation, other sponsor guidelines, and monitor the proposal as it is developed to ensure its consistency and accuracy before the proposal is submitted to the sponsor. It is important to maintain a current draft of the proposal in Cayuse SP.
TIP: A meeting between the investigator(s), the project team, and OSP can be very helpful during the early stages. A meeting is imperative for major funding opportunities.
Notify OSP of Intention to Submit a Proposal Accordion Closed
PIs/PDs planning a proposal should make contact with OSP as soon as possible. Oftentimes, initiating a proposal via CAYUSE SP will be the first indication to OSP that a PI/PD intends to apply to a solicitation.
NOTE: Final proposal packages (narrative, budget, letters of support, waivers, etc.) be submitted to OSP no later than three (3) days before the sponsor’s deadline. However, if the investigator has chosen not to work with OSP during proposal development, then complete proposal packages are due to the OSP office no later than five (5) days before the sponsor’s deadline. Any proposal packages submitted after these internal deadlines are at risk of not obtaining AOR approval before the sponsor’s deadline.
Determine University Eligibility Accordion Closed
The opportunity must be open to educational institutions first, and within this broad category, to institutions which fit NAU’s profile. NAU is eligible for most announcements that are open to educational institutions.
- As a PhD granting institution, NAU is not eligible to submit to programs that restrict the number of PhDs awarded. For example, NAU is not eligible to submit a proposal to the NSF Research in Undergraduate Institutions RUI program because it open to Primarily Undergraduate Institutions.
Determine Principal Investigator/Project Director Eligibility Accordion Closed
Intent of Solicitation Accordion Closed
Ensure that the purpose or intent of the solicitation is consistent with the interests and expertise of the PI and a proposal will enhance the NAU mission.
Make Contact with Program Officer (PO) Accordion Closed
OSP staff can answer most questions about proposals, but for clarification of technical requirements, investigators should contact a PO(s) who is responsible for the solicitation, if allowed. The sponsor may already have issued FAQs addressing many questions; otherwise, the investigator should e-mail questions to the program officer, along with description of the proposed project. OSP is available to review these communications at an investigator’s request. Usually, program officers are able to provide very good feedback but this is best accomplished early in the development of the proposal.
- Write out your questions – “White Paper” your thoughts and questions first
- Send e-mail that you would like to speak with the PO
- Indicate best time and day to discuss your questions
- Inform the PO of your questions ahead of time
Determine Key Personnel Requirements Accordion Closed
All key personnel participating in proposed activities must have completed the NAU e-CERT program within the last year, including the section on sponsored research. This is an important requirement to meet ABOR as well as federal regulatory requirements governing conflicts of interest in sponsored projects. In addition, key participants must have completed agency-specific training or certification requirements. Work with OSP to identify key personnel and other internal and external requirements.
Register on Sponsors’ Websites Accordion Closed
- NAU is already registered on most sponsors’ websites. If you’re not sure, contact your OSP team or the Office of Sponsored Projects.
- If NAU is not registered, we will complete an institutional registration prior to the submission deadline.
- Some agencies require that subrecipients also register on sponsor’s website. Check with OSP to determine if subrecipients are required to register.
Determine if Opportunity is a Limited Solicitation Accordion Closed
- A Limited Solicitation is a funding opportunity that limits the number of proposals that may be submitted from one institution.
- If the opportunity is a Limited Solicitation, STOP! Do NOT start a proposal in CAYUSE SP. Contact the Office of Sponsored Projects and inform that you are interested in a Limited Solicitation opportunity.
- OSP’s standard procedure is to work with the Office of the Vice President for Research to determine the level of interest in the opportunity and if necessary, form an internal review committee to select the proposal(s) which may go forward to be submitted to the sponsor.
- Depending on the level of interest, investigators may be approved to move forward to prepare a proposal OR asked to submit a short summary of the proposed project, sources of support, and requirements for institutional support for consideration by a review committee.
- The investigator(s) will be formally notified if they are approved to submit a proposal.
Determine Deadlines/Timelines Accordion Closed
- Discuss with your OSP team how you work and more importantly, your work schedule. Determine when critical documents will be provided to OSP throughout the proposal preparation period.
- Identify any scheduling restraints (i.e. vacations, spring break, etc.) that may hinder tasks from being accomplished on time.
- Develop an appropriate timeline and identify who will be responsible for completing which sections of the proposal or Cayuse SP file.
- If NAU will be issued a subaward in a proposal submitted by another institution, what is the collaborating institution’s deadline for receipt of NAU documents?
- Conversely, if the proposal includes subawards to other institutions, the collaborating institution will need to submit documentation of its commitment to the project. Usually, OSP will contact its counterparts at the other institution(s), but you as the PI/co-PI, will need to provide some contact information for collaborating investigators, etc.
Gather Budgetary Information Accordion Closed
Typically, investigators are expected to be able to estimate the proposed project’s travel, materials and supplies, equipment, and operational costs with the help of data readily available from vendors. However, personnel data and employee benefit rates are harder to access, and our office can provide information about each current employees Institutional Base Salary (IBS), FTE, Academic Year (AY) or Calendar Year (CY) costs, and ERE rates. We also have current information about tuition and insurance rates for Graduate Research Assistants. We typically use an ERE rate calculator to estimate ERE rates, but for tightly constrained budgets, each individual may need to provide their specific benefit elections to OSP. Here are some other important considerations:
- Has the sponsor imposed a funding cap/maximum amount that may be requested? Here are two types of cases, but there may be other scenarios:
- If the sponsor indicates that the requested amount should be “not more than” a specific dollar amount, then the proposed budget should be at or just below the sponsors “not to exceed” amount.
- If budgets requesting (for example) “$1,000,000 or more” must have prior approval to submit, then either (1) the proposed budget must be $1 less than that amount, or (2) the investigator must receive prior approval to submit.
Work closely with OSP when developing a proposed budget for more extensive guidance on budget considerations, requirements, review, etc.
Determine if Proposal includes Institutional Data Accordion Closed
If the proposal includes institutional data, the data must be approved by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis (IRA) prior to proposal submission. If statistical data will be used, contact Institutional Research and Analysis to assure that the most up-to-date, accurate information is included in your proposal. Submit data at least two weeks before submitting a proposal.
Determine if Proposal includes Proprietary Data Accordion Closed
If so, contact NAU Innovations for guidance. If proprietary data is included in a proposal, the section containing this information should be clearly labeled with a legend such as: “The following is (proprietary or confidential) information that (name of proposing organization) requests not be released to persons outside the Government, except for purposes of review and evaluation.”
Determine Project Location: On/Off Campus? Accordion Closed
This will affect the F&A rate used to calculate indirect costs. This is a simple calculation based of the amount of NAU salaries that will be expended on and off campus. If you believe that your project might qualify to use the off-campus rate, provide OSP with a budget showing which personnel costs will be incurred “on” and “off” campus.
- Use NAU’s federally approved F&A rates for each project type unless the sponsor has stipulated a rate for the solicitation. If this is the case, the rate must be cited in official sponsor documents.
- Review the budget to determine whether the project qualifies as an on- or off-campus project.
- Utilizing off-campus rates requires approval by the AOR.
Determine Activity Type Accordion Closed
This data is used for a variety of ABOR and federal reports.
The most common Activity Types include:
- Basic Research is undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge without any particular application or use in mind. It includes federally funded grants and R&D funds from other universities, some from foundations and nonprofit organizations.
- Applied Research is conducted to gain knowledge or understanding to meet a specific, recognized need. It includes R&D funds received through Federal cooperative agreements and Federal contracts, all state-funded R&D (except through Proposition 301), and R&D funds received from private for-profit institutions, and most (but not all) funding received from federal mission agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Department of the Interior (DOI).
- Development is the systemic use of the knowledge or understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including the design and development of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements.
- Instruction/Training category includes expenses for all activities that are part of an institutions instruction program. Expenses for credit and noncredit courses; academic, vocational, and technical instruction; remedial and tutorial instruction; and regular, special, and extension sessions should be included.
- Public Service category includes expenses for activities established primarily to provide non-instructional services beneficial to individuals and groups external to the institution. These activities include community service programs (excluding instructional activities), and cooperative extension services. Included in this category are conferences, institutes, general advisory services, reference bureaus, radio and television, consulting, and similar non-instructional services to particular sectors of the community.