Preparing Proposal Submission Documents

Last updated on July 29, 2016 8 min read Proposal Submission - Preparing Proposal Submission Documents

The format or presentation of a particular proposal will depend on the requirements of the sponsor. Most sponsors have developed policies and procedures for the submission of proposals and may require the use of specific application forms or electronic web-based systems. Other sponsors may have less stringent format requirements. In any case, PI/PDs should obtain the most recent version of the sponsor’s application guidelines and follow the required proposal format. It is particularly important to understand and adhere to agency format requirements, page limitations, requirements for the inclusion of appendix materials, and the format and content of the proposer’s relevant publications.

It is recommended, particularly for new investigators, to start the writing process months in advance of any expected due date. Estimates of the total time devoted to producing a new application may range from two to three months or longer. Revised applications and renewals may take less time but are still a major effort that should not be underestimated.

First Steps

Contact with Sponsored Programs

Your Sponsored Programs Research Administrator (RA) can assist you with any questions you may have during the proposal preparation process. As far in advance as possible, please notify your RA of your plans to apply, and provide a copy of the sponsor’s program guidelines and the RFP for reference.

Initial Contact with the sponsor

A key element of successful proposal writing is establishing a relationship with the potential sponsor early on in the process. The purpose of this initial contact is to confirm the common areas of interest of the sponsor and the PI/PD. A contact at the funding agency can greatly facilitate writing the full proposal, as well as serve as a resource for answering questions. A PI/PD may initiate contact with technical personnel at a sponsoring organization to confirm research interests by a telephone call, office visit, letter of intent, or a preliminary proposal.

Registering with Federal Agencies

Many federal agencies, including NSF, NIH, and NASA, require principal investigators, project directors, and other personnel participating on a research project to be registered with the agency.
The NIH registration process must be coordinated through a central SP representative who is authorized to request registration credentials. Since affiliations are typically institution-specific, faculty are reminded that—even if registered via one institution—an additional institutional affiliation or change of institution requires a new registration.

Register with eRA Commons

For all other federal agencies, investigators and research personnel can create their own account. Please reach out to if you need assistance or have questions.

Reviewing Program Guidelines

If a sponsor has published a solicitation, RFP, program announcement, or any other request for proposals, the PI/PD should read it carefully prior to beginning proposal preparation. In addition, the PI/PD should review any application preparation instructions and forms published by the sponsor.

Components of a Proposal Package

 In addition to your grant proposal and any special components required by your sponsor, BU requires additional supporting documentation to process your proposal submission.

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 effort on proposal submissions.

Involves industry

While Sponsored Programs helps with submission and management of grants from federal sponsors and nonprofits, researchers may also pursue funding opportunities working with industry partners. Industry-specific agreements are not handled by Sponsored Programs but are instead negotiated and executed by the Industry Engagement team or learn more about industry-sponsored research at BU.

Includes subawards

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 IACUC approvals (if applicable)
  • Any other documents required by prime sponsor

Subrecipient / Contractor Determination (2 CFR §200.331)

The Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.331) 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 §200.1 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 PIPrincipal Investigator View Boston University's policy on...
    • 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 §200.1 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.

Includes consultants

  • 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.

Involves international research collaborations, affiliations, and activities

Involves Joint Veterans Affairs-Medical Campus

Requests lower F&A rate

  • 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.

Involves cost-sharing

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

Involves an individual whose appointment would not automatically confer PI status

Approved requests for PI or Co-PI status (see Policy on PI Status).

Proposal Package Submission Checklist

Proposal Submission

Learn about the proposal submission process for once your proposal is ready to be reviewed by SP.

Prior to submitting a proposal package to Sponsored Programs, ensure that you have reviewed the following:

Review sponsor guidelines

  • 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 version of BU 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.
  • These may include:
    • 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

Ensure accuracy and timeliness

  • Provide your completed proposal to 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.
  • Check the institutional numbers and rates before submitting the proposal

Submit required contract documentation

  • 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

Key Contacts

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