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Proposal Development

While planning and writing a proposal for submission to an external sponsor is not always a straight line, the resources listed below explain the key considerations and provide useful information and tools for proposal development and submission.

 

Glossary of Terms and Acronymss

Locate Funding Opportunities

Investigators should develop a general knowledge of potential funding sources for their work and the likelihood of receiving funds in their discipline. ORA assists with this effort by:

  • Compiling and distributing funding opportunities via ORA Newsletter on a weekly basis.
  • Assisting investigators in conducting targeted searches in SPINPlus, an online database containing over 40,000 funding opportunities. Contact us to assist you in registering for SPINPlus.

In Addition, ORA’s Funding Opportunities webpage contains links to many of the federal and non-federal funding sources.

 

Locate Collaborators

Multi-disciplinary, multi-institution, collaborative teams are becoming increasingly important in research. As a result, there have been a number of software programs developed to facilitate scientific collaboration. OUHSC has implemented the Profiles Research Networking Software, an open source web-based application for research networking and scientific collaboration developed by Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (HCTSA), where you can quickly find researchers with specific areas of expertise to collaborate with, build professional networks, and search electronic CVs, publications, and more.

Types of Proposals

Letter of Intent: Submitted by the SPA or PI/PD (ORA’s approval is only needed for a LOI if it requires institutional signature, acceptance of terms, or includes budget information.) to the funding agency indicating intent to submit a full proposal in the future, typically to enable the funding agency to prepare their resources in advance of the full submission round.

Pre-Proposal (Preliminary Proposal/Pre-Application/White Papers): A concise preliminary description of the goals, methods, personnel, and overall budget of a project. Pre-proposals are used by funding agencies to determine the eligibility of the applicant and the suitability of the proposed project for support.

Full Proposals

Unsolicited Proposal. This type of proposal is submitted to a sponsor that generally has not issued a specific solicitation but is believed by the investigator to have an interest in the subject. The unsolicited proposal is developed around general agency guidelines, within a specific subject field, where the scope of the project is not limited by specific solicitation guidelines. For most agencies, unsolicited proposals may be submitted anytime, although there may be target submission dates set to meet particular review panel meetings. It is recommended that you contact a program officer or a person at the agency to gauge interest and their policy on unsolicited proposals (many may ask you to submit a white paper first).

Solicited Proposal (Response to a specific program). This category can include Broad Agency Announcements (BAA), Requests for Proposal (RFP), and Requests for Quotation (RFQ). A proposal submitted to a specific program should conform to the solicitation guidelines issued by the agency. Proposals submitted in response to a BAA are usually accepted at any time during a specified time frame, which may be as long as two or three years. To respond to an RFP or RFQ, the proposed project would have to fit the needs described in the specific work statement developed by the funding agency. An RFP or RFQ is usually specific in its requirements regarding format and technical content and may stipulate certain award terms and conditions (many agencies also have general guidelines that are used in conjunction with the specific solicitation). They usually have a “hard” deadline; if the proposal arrives late, it normally will not be considered. Also, most are one-time solicitations to fit a specific need that may not recur.

Renewal/Competing Renewal. A proposal based on previously funded work for consideration by the sponsor for renewed funding.

Resubmission: A proposal that is based on a previously not-funded application, resubmitted for consideration by the sponsor.

Non-competing Continuation: A proposal submitted to a sponsor for expected, continued funding (e.g., Year 2 funding of a five-year grant).

Supplement: A proposal for supplemental support on an active award.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Roles and Responsibilities

Submitting proposals, executing and managing awards, and the conduct of research at OUHSC involve many different people and offices. While there may be variations depending on department, college, or the particular proposal, the following matrix outlines who has primary responsibility for each activity.

Proposal Timeline

The Office of Research Administration must receive finalized proposals for review three business days prior to the sponsor deadline for single-project grants and five business days prior to the sponsor deadline for multi-project grants. Please see the policy here

It is imperative that submissions are received in advance to ensure that the University has sufficient time to review all proposals.

Budget Development

A key component of the all proposals is the budget. ORA’s Detailed Budget Spreadsheet – SF424 Format can be used to create a grant proposal budget. It automatically calculates indirect costs, as well as the actual amounts for fringe and other employee benefits that are associated with personnel salary costs to be incurred and charged to sponsored projects.

Basic Elements of a Proposal Budget

Salaries and Wages

PIs are required to verify that salaries and wages charged to sponsored awards are reasonable and reflect actual work performed by technical staff, students, and postdoctoral researchers. Note that OUHSC employees should be listed in this section.

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits are direct costs associated with salaries and wages. OUHSC uses a rate-based distribution system for allocating fringe benefits to sponsored research accounts. Rates are negotiated annually with OUHSC’s cognizant agency, DHHS. Current fringe benefit rates may be found here.

Equipment

OUHSC’s threshold for capitalization is $5000. Only those items with a unit cost over $5000 and a useful life of one year or more should be listed in the budget as equipment. The amount may include shipping, installation, and training. Parts to fabricated pieces of equipment may also be included provided the cumulative value meets the threshold for capitalization.

Subcontracts/Subrecipient

Subcontractors provide programmatic input into the research project and collaborate closely with the PI regarding the scientific design and completion of the research project. Subcontractors are also referred to as “subrecipients”. Research Administration negotiates and prepares the OUHSC subcontract with information provided by the PI. For collaborators at the OU Norman Campus, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be prepared.

Supplies

Supplies are defined as items of expendable equipment that do not meet the definition of permanent equipment. These include laboratory supplies, chemicals, books, and computer supplies that are directly allocable to the sponsored agreement are allowable as a direct cost. Generally, office supplies are unallowable as direct costs since those costs are treated as indirect costs.

Travel

The OUHSC travel policy applies to all sponsored research and may be accessed at Travel Policy. However, if specific agency guidelines for a sponsored research project are more restrictive than OUHSC policy, the agency rules shall apply. Individuals should be familiar with the specific cost allowability provisions of their sponsored research award. An amount larger than that allowed under OUHSC’s policies and procedures will not be reimbursed. Many funding agencies require prior written approval for unbudgeted travel, foreign travel, or travel exceeding the budgeted amount. PIs should contact AP-Management@net.ou.edu for more information.

Direct Costs vs. Indirect Costs

The cost of a sponsored agreement is comprised of the allowable direct costs plus the allocable portion of the Facilities & Administrative Costs (F&A) or Indirect Costs of the institution

  • Direct costs: Costs directly needed to accomplish the specific project (e.g., summer salary, GA assistants, graduate and undergraduate student workers, fringe benefits, equipment, materials, supplies, travel, external consultants, subawards, tuition).
  • Indirect costs: Costs that the University incurs to support all research/sponsored program activities on campus (e.g., maintenance of University lab facilities, utilities, University administration, library, sponsored programs).

Uniform Guidance Basics

On December 26, 2013 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its final rule of “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards” (2 CFR Chapters I, II, Part 200, et al), and later provided interim updates.

This guidance to federal agencies consolidates and replaces eight OMB Circulars such as the A-110 (Administrative requirements), A-21 (Cost principles), and A-133 (Audit requirements). The Uniform Guidance (UG) applies to all new federal awards issued on or after December 26, 2014. Modifications adding new funding to awards issued prior to that date may also include a clause updating the terms of the award to fall under UG.

Federal agencies (NIH, NSF, Dept of Energy, etc) have each developed their own agency-specific implementation plans for the Uniform Guidance. The plans for some agencies adopt the Uniform Guidance in its entirety. Other agencies list specific exceptions. It is necessary to review the Uniform Guidance, the sponsoring agency’s implementation plan and the award terms to determine what rules will apply to any new federal funding.  

Navigating the Uniform Guidance

Information can be found more easily by understanding that the Uniform Guidance is broken down into Subparts. The preamble also provides a useful framework and discussion of how certain guidelines were ultimately determined.

Preamble – Major Policy Reforms

Subpart A – Acronyms and Definitions

Subpart B – General Provisions

Subpart C – Pre Award Requirements

Subpart D – Post Award Requirements

Subpart E – Cost Principles

Subpart F – Audit Requirements

Proposal Writing Tips and Links