When it comes to a research proposal, there are a lot of requirements, a lot of t’s to cross and i’s to dot. And not just for the potential sponsor, but for the University as well. We get it. That’s why we’ve tried to break the process into manageable pieces. Below, you’ll find an outline of applicant responsibilities and deadlines.

Whether it’s writing an effective proposal or help you developing a budget, we’ve compiled the essential information you’ll need to create your proposal.

Roles and Responsibilities

The following roles and responsibilities have been defined with regard to the proposal review and submission process: Principal Investigator (PIPrincipal Investigator View Boston University's policy on...), Department Administrators, and Research Administrators.

The PI is ultimately responsible for the entirety of the proposal, including all documents and forms, the budget, any subaward materials, and any other materials requested by the solicitation guidelines or required internally, as well as compliance with all internal and external deadlines.

The DA is responsible for all administrative components of the proposal including but not limited to: the budget, required internal forms, forms and documents required by the solicitation guidelines. The DA is also responsible for gathering the required departmental/dean/other signatures on the Proposal Summary Form (PSF) and forwarding (or ensuring the proposal is forwarded) to the appropriate RAResearch Administrator A sponsored programs team member w... in compliance with all internal and external deadlines.

The RA is responsible for complete review of the proposal, including all required internal forms, the budget, all documents and forms required by the solicitation guidelines, and compliance with all sponsor and institutional guidelines. In the cases where the sponsor requires submission of the proposal be done by the institutional official, the RA will ensure that the proposal has been successfully submitted and accepted by the sponsor.

Expected to ensure that they understand the commitments required by the proposal and that the proposal is consistent with the academic mission of their unit.

Proposal Process Flow

In order to facilitate a timely, orderly, and thoughtful review in Sponsored Programs, it is expected that Principal Investigators (PI) and their Departmental Administrators (DA) will provide a complete proposal package in advance of the sponsor deadline in accordance with Boston University’s proposal submission policy.

All proposal submissions must include a complete Proposal Summary Form signed by the BU Principal Investigators and all appropriate school approvals. Proposal submissions from University-wide centers or institutes that include investigators with appointments within a school or college must be routed to all appropriate center approvals as well as applicable school approvals. This gives schools and colleges the opportunity to review the committed levels of effortThe term Effort is used for persons charged to Sponsored Res... More on proposal submissions.

The following should be included if applicable:


Complete documentation for each proposed subaward is required, including:

  • Letter of intent to subcontract signed by institutional official of subcontract site
  • Scope of work
  • Budget/budget justification
  • Biosketches for key personnel (if applicable)
  • Subrecipient’s most recent negotiated rate agreement (if applicable)
  • Facilities/resources pages (if applicable)
  • IRB and IACUCInstitutional Animal Care and Use Committee IACUC oversee... approvals (if applicable)
  • Any other documents required by prime sponsor

Subrecipient / Contractor Determination (2 CFR §200.330)

The Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.330) requires a case-by-case determination whether an agreement made involving federal funds casts the party receiving the funds in the role of a subrecipient or a contractor.

PI signature on a Proposal Summary Form certifies that s/he has made this subrecipient/contractor determination for any subrecipient or contractor included in the project budget.

Below is information to assist in making the required determination. If you have any question, please contact your Sponsored Programs Research Administrator.

  1. Subrecipients. A subaward is for the purpose of carrying out a portion of a Federal award and creates a Federal assistance relationship with the subrecipient. See §200.92 Subaward. Characteristics which support the classification of an entity as a subrecipient include when the entity:
    1. Determines who is eligible to receive what Federal assistance;
    2. Has its performance measured in relation to whether objectives of a Federal program were met;
    3. Has responsibility for programmatic decision making;
    4. Is responsible for adherence to applicable Federal program requirements specified in the Federal award; and
    5. In accordance with its agreement, uses the Federal funds to carry out a program for a public purpose specified in authorizing statute, as opposed to providing goods or services for the benefit of the pass-through entity.

    Other characteristics of a subrecipient:

    • Has an identified PI
    • Work on the project may result in patentable or copyrightable intellectual property
    • Is expected to author or co-author publications
  2. Contractors (Vendor, including individuals or entities that act as a vendor of consultant services). A contract is for the purpose of obtaining goods and services for the pass-through entity (BU)’s own use and creates a procurement relationship with the contractor. See §200.22 Contract. Characteristics indicative of a procurement relationship between the pass-through entity (BU) and a contractor are when the contractor:
    1. Provides the goods and services within normal business operations;
    2. Provides similar goods or services to many different purchasers;
    3. Normally operates in a competitive environment;
    4. Provides goods or services that are ancillary to the operation of the Federal program; and
    5. Is not subject to compliance requirements of the Federal program as a result of the agreement, though similar requirements may apply for other reasons.

    Other characteristics of a contractor/vendor:

    • For individual vendors, has no employment relationship with BU
  3. Use of judgment in making determination. In determining whether an agreement between a pass-through entity (BU) and another non-Federal entity casts the latter as a subrecipient or a contractor, the substance of the relationship is more important than the form of the agreement. All of the characteristics listed above may not be present in all cases, and the pass-through entity (BU) must use judgment in classifying each agreement as a subaward or a procurement contract.


  • Consultant letter(s) of commitment (including consulting rate if paid consultant) and Biosketch.
  • If sponsor has specific requirements for consultants, required documents should be included.


  • Current Memorandum of Understanding.


  • F&A waiver/reduction approvals (see guidelines).
  • Note: A sponsor’s published rate can be documented by reference to a posting on their website or included in email from appropriate institutional officer.


  • Documentation of appropriate approvals for all direct cost sharing requests (see policy).


If the proposal is being submitted through a sponsor electronic system (e.g., grants.gov, FastLane), the PI and DA are responsible for preparing all required documents in the system. The PI/DA will notify the Sponsored Programs RA when the proposal is complete and ready for final Sponsored Programs review and submission.

If the proposal is being submitted as a hard copy, the PI and DA are responsible for preparing all required documents and providing the complete proposal to Sponsored Programs for final review and preparation of a transmittal letter and representations and certifications as required.

Many federal agencies require the institution to register and setup an account for the PI in the electronic submission system before the proposal is prepared.

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Helpful Tips When Preparing a Proposal


  • Review sponsor instructions (including general agency-wide guidelines, program-specific announcements or solicitations, and frequently asked questions).
  • Consult with Sponsored Programs staff early in the process of developing your proposal if you have questions or need help interpreting guidelines.
  • Contact Sponsored Programs to register with the electronic systems for NIH, NSF, and other agencies as appropriate.
  • Use current versions of Internal Boston University Forms. Be sure to use current versions of the Proposal Summary Form and other required internal forms rather than templates you may have retained from previous proposal submissions.
  • Obtain approvals for special requests. Allow adequate time for the review of special requests by institutional officials. Such special request approvals must be obtained before you route your proposal for final internal approval.
    • Approvals for Cost Sharing requests
    • Approvals for F&A Waivers
    • PI status for an investigator whose Boston University appointment does not automatically confer that status
  • Provide your completed proposal to Office of Sponsored Programs well before the sponsor deadline to ensure adequate time for review and allow time to correct any errors in the electronic submission process.
  • When you route your proposal for internal review, be sure to provide a complete proposal package.
  • Check all sponsor forms for completeness, accuracy, and proper formatting.
    • Provide all the information required in sponsor forms, and verify that the entire proposal complies with sponsor formatting instructions.
    • Take advantage of agency checklists and check functions with electronic systems (e.g., NIH ASSIST, NSF Fastlane) to make sure your application is complete and required fields are filled in.
    • Commonly required institutional information can be found in the Institutional Rates and Numbers section.
  • Review your budget to make sure that all costs are allowable, accurately calculated, and properly presented on sponsor forms. Confirm that:
    • Salaries are based upon current actual salaries for Boston University employees, sponsor salary caps, or standard BU rates;
    • You have correctly applied current fringe benefit and F&A (indirect) cost rates;
    • Budget justification notes are consistent with the budget and provide a level of detail required by sponsor; and
    • Annual increases have been estimated at reasonable rates.
  • Provide complete subcontract documentation, including:
    • A letter of intent to subcontract signed by an Institutional Official of the subcontract site
    • Scope of work
    • Budget and budget justification
    • Biosketches for key personnel
    • Facilities/Resources page (if applicable)
    • Information on the status of IRB and IACUC approvals (if applicable)
    • And other documents as required by the sponsor
  • Check the institutional numbers and rates before submitting the proposal