PART II : PRE-AWARD PROCEDURES
PREPARING AND SUBMITTING A PROPOSAL
Grantsmanship is a strategic, organized process to obtain external financial resources for the work of an individual, group or formal unit of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). It includes development of an idea, finding appropriate funding sources to support the idea, developing a proposal (making the case to the potential funding agency to fund your idea), and ensuring College approval and support of the proposal.
This chapter is designed to guide faculty and staff through the process of developing a competitive proposal, and to make the application process as smooth as possible. The Office of Academic Grants and Sponsored Research (OAGSR) staff is ready to assist in the grantsmanship process and has many resources in place to provide the support needed to submit a grant proposal. The Pre-Award Specialist will provide support for this process and assists in the use of Office resources, such as GENIUS and SMART (assistance in finding funding sources, and more), and eGrants, a homegrown electronic proposal development and management program.
GENERAL PRE-AWARD INFORMATION
Characteristics of Successful Proposals
- Start with a good idea that the potential Principal Investigator (PI) is excited, even passionate about
- See funding sources as partners in realizing that idea
- Are written with the proposal reviewer in mind
- Are clear and direct, making it easy for a reviewer to follow
- Include clearly defined objectives, goals, or hypotheses
- Are written as a persuasive document , incorporating general rhetorical principles of persuasion
- Follow the Request for Proposals (RFP) meticulously
- Respond to each item in the Proposal Review Criteria section of the application guidelines, if they have been provided. The proposal writer should consider adapting review criteria from major sponsor application guides (such as NSF) when specific criteria are not provided by the sponsor.
- Are developed with enough lead time to thoroughly describe the project. An early start is the key to ensuring that a proposal has the best possible chance of success.
- Are frequently discussed with a program officer from the funding agency. Whenever possible, discussing the basic concepts of the proposal and strategies for approaching the funding agency improve chances for success.
Successful grant seeking begins with a good idea. The idea can manifest itself as a research, scholarly, or artistic project, an educational program, or a service initiative. The search for funding sources represents the beginning of an important interactive process in which a well-developed idea provides the basis for identifying potential funding agencies. At the same time the process of reviewing funding opportunities can contribute to new ideas and/or a more focused project. The project should align with the mission and goals of the department, school and the College. It is helpful to think of the search for a funding source as the search for a partner with a mutual goal. This concept of sponsor-as-partner defines the writer’s perspective as the proposal is developed.
Identifying Funding Sources
SUPPORT OF SCHOLARLY ACTIVITIES (SOSA)
SOSA is the mechanism used at TCNJ to provide internal support for faculty research and scholarly work. Alternate Assignment for 1 course per year is awarded competitively on either a sustained (three-year) or annual basis. Visit the Academic Affairs web site for details and application guidelines.
SPINPlus (GENIUS, SMARTS, and SPIN)
In order to provide easily accessible funding information for faculty and staff at TCNJ, the College has obtained a membership subscription to InfoEd’s SPINPlus. SPINPlus is a Web-based subscription package that bundles Sponsored Programs Information Network (SPIN), Global Expertise Network for Industry, Universities and Scholars (GENIUS), and SPIN Matching and Researcher Transmittal System (SMARTS). Collectively, this system provides effective support for developing sponsored programs.
SPIN is a funding opportunities database (with over 10,000 programs) designed to provide up-to-date information on current federal and non-federal program announcements. It allows users to search the database using keywords and other criteria.
GENIUS is a database of profiles or expanded curriculum vitae of scientific and scholarly expertise that is accessible institutionally and/or globally (based upon individual preference) through the World Wide Web. The profile categories will assist us in compiling institutional data on scholarship, and all individual information is kept confidential.
SMARTS is an electronic transmittal service whereby InfoEd will match an individual’s GENIUS profile against the funding opportunities offered through SPIN and e-mail the results on a daily basis.
- Go to the OAGSR web site and click on Funding Opportunities from the menu at the left. Scroll down to SPINPlus (GENIUS, SMARTS, and SPIN) and click. This will bring you to the InfoEd Office menu.
- Click on GENIUS/SMARTS (SPIN is also available at that menu selection site), then on Create New Profile.
- Select The College of New Jersey from the drop down menu, and click continue.
- Complete the requested entries from name to password and click submit.
- A profile summary page will appear.
- A partial profile of basic user information can be completed initially, with additional information added at a later date. Social security number is not required, but may be included at the user’s option.
- Initially, at least 15 keywords must be chosen. This may be edited later.
- Upon completion of information entry, click save, and then log out.
Within 2 days of submission, the profile will be validated and e-mail notices will begin the next day.
Anyone having difficulty with this process should call the Pre-Award Specialist in the Office of Academic Grants and Sponsored Research at extension 3255. Once registered, a user is free to revise the personal information and search for funding opportunities directly through SPINPlus.
The following are the most widely used agency listservs. The agencies send our grants announcements, deadlines, and other news about the agencies to all subscribers. Subscription information is available at the URL listed for each.
In addition, most professional organizations disseminate information pertinent to members of the field (including grant announcements) through similar e-mail lists.
CATALOG OF FEDERAL DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a government-wide compendium of federal programs, projects, services, and activities which provide assistance or benefits to the American public. It contains financial and non-financial assistance programs administered by departments and establishments of the federal government. Federal contracts, by PL-95-224, are Procurement, not Assistance; therefore, there are never any CFDA numbers issued for contracts. A grant from the United States Agency for International Development (AID) or other US State Department activities for foreign assistance will also not have CFDA numbers.
Working with Collaborators
Proposals for collaborative projects usually involve faculty from more than one institution and are subject to the same policies and procedures as single-institution proposals. When a portion of the project is going to be carried out at another institution or organization (third parties), a subcontract or sub-agreement between the prime grant recipient and the third party is required in order to ensure compliance with sponsor requirements. The third party is required to provide the necessary resources to conduct the work, including providing an investigator at the work site to oversee the project activities. Costs normally associated with third party effort could include: labor, employee benefits, materials and supplies, travel, equipment, subcontracts, consultants, other direct costs, and indirect costs. The lead institution should be so designated based on its substantive role in carrying out the project’s activities and its assumption of overall administrative responsibility for the project.
For any collaborative proposal, evidence of institutional approvals in the application is important for proposal review. Letters of endorsement and signatures of authorized officials from participating institutions are helpful for indicating to the funding agency that collaboration has been established at the time of proposal submission; that all parties are fully aware, and in approval, of the content of the study and the institution’s commitment to the project; that the budgetary request is consistent with institutional policy and negotiated rates; and that award negotiations between collaborating institutions and the funding agency will be facilitated. When TCNJ is the prime or lead institution on a collaborative proposal, all collaborator letters and approvals must be submitted to OAGSR for final TCNJ clearance of the proposals. TCNJ budget must request Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs at the current federal negotiated rate, whether TCNJ is submitting as the prime institution or as a sub-recipient.
A proposal with sub-agreements generally has a prime budget for the lead or prime institution which includes sub-agreements for the other participating organizations. The total direct and F&A costs, listed as a single amount, for each sub-award agreement must be included in the prime budget. In addition, separate detailed budgets for each sub-recipient should be attached to the prime budget. Sub-recipients are generally allowed to include F&A costs at their organization’s negotiated rate when full F&A is allowed by the funding agency. When F&A is restricted or disallowed by the funding agency, the sub-recipients must follow the agency’s application (RFP) requirements.
If TCNJ is the prime institution with sub-recipients on its budget, the other institutions must submit (1) an approved work statement and timeline, (2) signed itemized budget with justification, and (3) a signed letter of intent to TCNJ for inclusion in the proposal. A signature from the authorized institutional signatory of the sub-recipient institution is required on both the letter of intent to collaborate and on the budget prior to including the budget and other documents in a TCNJ proposal. Specific instructions for potential sub-awardee organizations are available from the OAGSR.
If TCNJ is the sub-recipient on a proposal submitted by another institution who is the lead, the TCNJ portion of the proposal, along with TCNJ Proposal Routing Form, must be reviewed and approved by OAGSR prior to submitting the materials to the prime institution for inclusion in the proposal. All required agency forms, budget, work statement or proposal narrative, and other proposal sections for TCNJ must be approved by OAGSR before submission to the prime institution.
Once an award is received, the prime grantee institution will enter into a written agreement with each sub-recipient.
PREPARING THE PROPOSAL
A proposal is a formal request for financial support from a specific sponsor for a research, instructional, or public service project. It identifies a need or a problem and offers a persuasive plan to resolve it. A good proposal recognizes and addresses the values and goals of the funding agency, and justifies the claim with appropriate data. A well-crafted proposal presents a detailed, systematic plan for implementing the idea, which usually includes specific and measurable goals and objectives, a work plan and timeline, biographical sketches of the key personnel, an appropriate, transparent budget, and a strong evaluation plan.
Preparation begins with a thorough understanding of the sponsor’s mission and goals; and it includes communicating with OAGSR from the earliest stages onward in order to tap all available resources.
Initial Contact with a Sponsor
Contact with a sponsor prior to the submission of a formal proposal can be beneficial. An investigator may initiate contact to confirm research interests by e-mail, a telephone call, office visit, letter of intent (a brief outline of the project emphasizing the methodology, objectives, and importance of the project), or preliminary proposal. Initial contact can help an investigator determine a sponsor’s funding interests.
A sponsor may request that a letter of intent or a preliminary proposal be submitted. These introductory submissions give the sponsor enough basic information about a project to make preliminary recommendations to the proposer, without having to make a formal commitment. The letter of intent or preliminary proposal goes through the regular TCNJ Routing process (using eGrants) so that the chair, dean, and Vice Provost are informed.
Proposal format is usually determined by a sponsor’s guidelines. The major federal agencies have general guidelines available in print and online (see the list below with links to common sites). An investigator should download the online version or request a print copy of the application guidelines from the sponsor.
Requests for Proposals
Most federal and state agencies, and many private agencies, in addition to their general funding areas, solicit proposals on predetermined areas of need through publication of Request for Proposal (RFP) or similarly named document (RFA). The RFP requirements normally take precedence over the generic requirements for a funding agency; however, often, both must be followed. It is very important that the guidelines be followed precisely. Most agencies will not even consider a proposal that is incomplete or late.
In addition to basic proposal content and format instructions, most RFPs include a section outlining the review criteria that will be followed by reviewers. To ensure a competitive proposal, carefully review and respond to every item in the review criteria section of a proposal preparation guide. This will help you to target your proposal directly to the concerns of the reviewers.
At this point, the PI should use eGrants (described in the next section) to notify OAGSR of her or his intent to submit a grant proposal. The Early Notification Form will give OAGSR the preliminary information needed to prepare to support your proposal submission.
If no guidelines or application forms are available from the sponsor, the proposal format in the Proposal Components section below can be used as a guide.
Developing the Proposal
Developing the Proposal
The OAGSR and the Department Application Development Team (DADT) of Information Technology at TCNJ have collaborated to develop our own electronic proposal development and grant management system, eGrants. By using eGrants, a prospective Principal Investigator (PI) can receive automatic guidance in preparing and submitting a proposal to an external sponsor. It is a tool that allows users to inform chairs, deans, and OAGSR of intentions to submit a grant, assists users in preparing proposal budgets, and routes proposals through the approval process that includes the chair’s, dean’s, and OAGSR’s approvals.
The Pre-Award functions include the Early Notification Form, Budget Template, and Proposal Routing Form. Post Award options presently include an interactive format for the completion of TCNJ Sponsored Programs Outcomes (SPO) report.
HOW TO USE eGrants
All TCNJ employees can log in using their regular system login and password. Once logged in, first-time eGrants users should fill out the Profile information. Previously registered users can continue to the Main Menu items.
To log in, go to: https://jedi.tcnj.edu/webteam/egrants/Login.php. (We recommend using Internet Explorer.)
All users will complete the Early Notification Form when they are just beginning to get their thoughts together for a proposal they intend to submit. All of the information available at the time of completion should be entered. The URL of the grant application is especially important.
The Early Notification Form is the mechanism by which the chair, the dean, and OAGSR are notified of the PI’s intention to submit a proposal. In situations where there is a limit to the number of proposals that can be submitted, it is in the PI’s best interest to submit an Early Notification early.
PROPOSAL AND BUDGET DEVELOPMENT
A budget is best developed along with the concept of the proposal and during the writing of the proposal narrative. When a prospective PI keeps the budget in mind while writing the proposal narrative, the budget is more likely to adhere closely to the intentions of the project.
DEVELOPING THE PROPOSAL BUDGET
The prospective PI uses the budget template to develop a draft budget A new budget can be created by clicking on View/Edit Submitted: Budget. If the PI has already completed the Early Notification Form, most of the information from that form will transfer directly onto the budget template. The template is organized into budget categories common to most grant budget requirements and serves as a budget checklist for the PI to ensure that all important budget categories have been considered.
Basic information about the College such as fringe benefit rates and Facilities and Administration (F&A, aka Indirect Costs), rates are built in and automatically calculated, as are projected salary increments for subsequent budget years. The prospective PI can reset these rates by clicking the Edit link, if a different rate must be used for a particular proposal. Viewing options allow the budget to be viewed and printed in summary form or itemized form.
When working in a budget category, information is entered by clicking on at the top, Select an Item and then Add Budget Item. Once a budget item is added, it will be automatically added to the main budget form and totals will be computed and saved. Once a draft budget is prepared, the Continue to Summary button should be clicked, and this will show the completed budget. The Submit button should then be clicked and the final budget will be sent to OAGSR for preliminary budget approval.
In working with the budget template, it is possible when adding each budget item to designate monies allocated each year for specific costs. All of the information input on each budget item will be added to the main budget form and subtotals and totals will be calculated. The user can then go in and edit appropriately for the budget year being developed.
DEVELOPING THE PROPOSAL NARRATIVE
The prospective PI develops the proposal using his or her own word processing files. Upon completion, the proposal file(s) is attached to the Proposal Routing Form for review by the chair, dean, and OAGSR. We strongly recommend that the prospective PI works with the Pre-Award Specialist who can provide assistance in reading the manuscript for consistency, clarity, and responsiveness to funding guidelines. Early drafts are encouraged.
PROPOSAL ROUTING FORM
As soon as the budget is given preliminary approval from OAGSR, the prospective PI will receive an e-mail notice. At that point, the Proposal Routing Form can be completed by clicking on Proposal Routing on the PI Dashboard. There will be very little additional information required on the Routing Form based on automatic entries from the Early Notification and budget. The budget will automatically be attached.
After completing the remaining entries, the proposal files should be attached. This is accomplished by browsing local files on the user’s computer. Once the proposal has been attached, the Routing Form can be submitted. The proposal will route electronically, first to the chair, then to the dean, for approval. After they have both approved, it comes back to OAGSR for final approval. The PI will receive an e-mail notification of the proposal acceptance or denial at each stage.
The chair’s approval on the Grant Routing Form confirms the following:
- the proposal is appropriate within the discipline
- the proposal is in keeping with department mission and goals
- reassigned time, if applicable, is approved
- all cost-share items listed for the department are committed by the chair. Should the grant be awarded, those monies will be moved from the departmental account to the separate cost share account set up for that grant project
The dean’s approval on the Grant Routing Form confirms the following:
- the proposal is in keeping with department, school and TCNJ mission and goals
- reassigned time, if applicable, is approved
- all cost-share items listed for the school are committed by the dean. Should the grant be awarded, those monies will be moved from the school account to the separate cost share account set up for that grant project
Writing and Compiling the Proposal
Below is an outline of the most common elements of grant proposals and some suggestions for their preparation. This section can be used as a template to create a proposal when specific guidelines have not been provided by the funding agency, or as a guide in completing parallel sections when using specific agency guidelines. For those working from agency guidelines and/or an RFP, first and foremost, we recommend a careful reading of the application and instructions. The language is usually thoughtfully chosen to guide the applicant in a specific way. It is crucial to pay particular attention to page limitations and budget instructions.
Proposal Components Outline
I. Cover Sheet/Title Page
The cover sheet includes the following information:
1. Title. Select a title that is descriptive of the project, expresses the end result of the project and not the methods, describes benefits to clients, and is short and easy to remember.
2. Sponsor Name and Address
3. TCNJ Name, Address, Telephone Number, E-Mail Address
4. Name, Department, Address, Telephone Number, E-Mail Address of Principal Investigator
5. Duration of Project with Start and End Dates
6. Amount Requested
7. Submission Date
8. Institutional Information
9. Signature of Principal Investigator
10. Name and Title, and Signature of Authorized Institutional Representative (Vice President for Development & Alumni Affairs). All grant applications and proposals must have the signature of the Vice President for Development & Alumni Affairs, who signs grant proposals only after the budget has received preliminary approval and the Proposal Routing Form has been completed (see eGrants). The Proposal Routing Form, approved by the chair and dean (or their equivalents) must be received at OAGSR at least five (5) business days before the proposal deadline in order to allow sufficient time for proposal review, including time needed to ask and answer questions about the proposal, address concerns, finalize negotiation of College commitments, and make any necessary changes in the proposal before the deadline.
II. Proposal Narrative
The proposal narrative includes the following information:
1. Abstract or Project Summary. This is the first item a program officer or reviewer will read. This is usually between 50 and 2000 words long. The abstract is a condensed description of the project, stating clearly and concisely the significance of the project, project goals and objectives, and the plan for accomplishing them. If the sponsor funds the project, the abstract may be used for reporting or publicity purposes. Therefore, the abstract should stand alone as an independent document, and it should be directed toward the intelligent general reader rather than toward experts in the field. Make no references in the abstract to other portions of the proposal such as figures, tables, charts, or the narrative. The abstract should give readers a favorable first impression. Sponsors begin evaluating projects based on the main idea. A program officer may determine priorities for the agency’s proposal review or assign the proposal to a specific panel or set of reviewers after reading only the abstract. Thus, the abstract is very important.
2. Table of Contents. This section shows an organizational pattern and how the various sections of the proposal are related to one another. An effective Table of Contents will help reviewers find specific information without scanning the entire document. It should include the major divisions of the narrative as well as major subdivisions of the project description such as: Summary of Previous Work, Statement of Proposed Project, and Methods or Procedures. Read the agency’s proposal review criteria to find the specific information they will look for in the proposal. Use the Table of Contents and topical headings to make sure that information is easy to find.
3. Introduction/Statement of Purpose. What problem or issue is addressed by this project? Why is it important? The introduction should be used to reinforce the connection between the applicant’s interests and those of the sponsor. It should be interesting and brief, offer statistics, statements, and/or endorsements to support credibility in the project area, lead logically into the problem statement, and emphasize anything unique or unusual about the project.
4. Needs Statement or Impact of the Study. Who will benefit? Document the compelling need of the prospective client population, or through a review of the research, justify the need for research in the intended area of this proposal. Describe why this proposal and project staff are uniquely suited to solve this problem.
5. Description of Project. This section explores the general background of the current or previous research. It also describes the approach to be used in the performance of the project, which should convince the reviewers at the funding agency that the procedure has been carefully worked out and that it will succeed. The inclusion of a realistic project timetable indicates careful planning. The narrative (often technical) must be a concise and coherent explanation of a research or training plan which has specific and reasonable goals. It should establish the significance and objectives of the proposed work, its relation to the larger field of which it is a part, the rationale and suitability of the methods to be employed, the abilities and qualifications of the investigator(s) and institution, and a procedure for evaluating the progress and outcomes of the project.
6. Goals and Objectives. Goals are the overall accomplishments the proposal expects to achieve. Objectives are measurable and/or observable steps the project will take to close the gap between needs and goals.
7. Methods. This section should be a detailed description of the research protocol or project activities. It should include many of the following, as appropriate:
- describe program activities in detail and explain how they fulfill objectives
- describe the sequence and interrelationship of activities
- describe planned staffing of the program and assignment of responsibilities to specific individuals
- describe the subject/client population and method of determining selection
- present a reasonable scope of activities, stating specific time frames for completion
- make reference to the cost/benefit ratio of the project
- include a discussion of risk (why the success of this project is probable)
- describe the uniqueness of the methods for each part of the project
8. Project Timeline/Planner. This is the time-management chart or plan that spells out how, when, and by whom each objective and every activity of the project will be carried out.
9. Bibliography. A listing of references cited in the body of the proposal should appear at the end of the narrative.
10. Facilities and Equipment. This section of the proposal should itemize all accessible facilities and all equipment pertinent to the project. One possible way of organizing this section is to itemize, and annotate if necessary, facilities and equipment based on accessibility. Include a list of items requested for sponsor purchase and a list of resources available to the project at the College. Include resources such as the amount and kinds of studio, laboratory, office space, field resources, library resources greenhouse space, controlled environment facilities, computing equipment and services, and animal care facilities.
11. Evaluation. This is a critical, often ignored section of the proposal. This section often includes both formative and summative evaluations. All evaluations should be based upon project objectives and should be written in sufficient detail. It is often advisable to use external evaluators (sometimes it is required).
12. Dissemination. Possible means of dissemination include mailing or publishing the final report to the field, newsletters, sponsoring seminars or conferences on the topic, speaking at national or international conferences, and production of films, videos, and slide/tape presentations.
13. Curriculum Vitae. Curriculum Vitae for all key personnel should be submitted with every proposal to indicate their background, professional interests, research capabilities, and publications.
The budget section of the proposal generally includes the budget and accompanying justification, and should reflect a reasonable estimate of the expenses necessary to conduct the project. The budget is a vital part of your proposal because agencies evaluate proposals based on funding requests and how well the budget matches and supports the proposed project plans.
1. Create the budget first on eGrants. The eGrants budget template serves as a category checklist, it provides all necessary TCNJ rates (fringe, F&A, etc.), and it calculates automatically.
2. Budget Components and Effective Budget Preparation
a. Direct Costs. Costs incurred obviously vary from project to project. But, the following categories are often included:
- Salaries and Wages. Using the Budget Template in eGrants, list salaries and wages for all positions, indicating for each individual the percentage of time allocated to the research project and the amount of salary or wage to be paid from the grant. Make separate entries for academic year and summer for all personnel who are compensated on an academic year basis. All personnel involved in the project, whether faculty, professional staff, clerical, or student research assistants, must be paid in accordance with college salary and wage guidelines. For more information about categories of personnel and salary ranges, contact the OAGSR (X3255). For positions for which personnel have not been appointed, use the average salary for that specific rank or category.
Project grant personnel may not work more than 100% of their time, nor can they be paid more than 100% of their College base salary rate. In other words, the total allocation of time to College duties and the sponsored project may not exceed 100%. Monthly compensation for all duties is computed at 12% of base salary for 12-month employees and at 10% of base salary for 10-month employees. All monies paid to a grant employee may not exceed 100% of their College base salary rate. Payment of faculty summer salary is allowable as long as total College/sponsored project work time does not exceed 100% (based on a 40-hour, 5-day work week) and the payments do not exceed 20% of the preceding academic year salary. See federal guidelines below:
Compensation for personal services
Compensation for personal services covers all amounts paid currently or accrued by the institution for services of employees rendered during the period of performance under sponsored agreements. Such amounts include salaries, wages, and fringe benefits. These costs are allowable to the extent that the total compensation to individual employees conforms to the established policies of the institution, consistently applied, and provided that the charges for work performed directly on sponsored agreements and for other work allocable as F&A costs are determined and supported as provided below. Charges to sponsored agreements may include reasonable amounts for activities contributing and intimately related to work under the agreements, such as delivering special lectures about specific aspects of the ongoing activity, writing reports and articles, participating in appropriate seminars, consulting with colleagues and graduate students, and attending meetings and conferences. Incidental work (that in excess of normal for the individual), for which supplemental compensation is paid by an institution under institutional policy, need not be included in the payroll distribution systems described below, provided such work and compensation are separately identified and documented in the financial management system of the institution.
Salary rates for faculty members
- Salary rates for academic year. Charges for work performed on sponsored agreements by faculty members during the academic year will be based on the individual faculty member’s regular compensation for the continuous period which, under the policy of the institution concerned, constitutes the basis of his salary. Charges for work performed on sponsored agreements during all or any portion of such period are allowable at the base salary rate. In no event will charges to sponsored agreements, irrespective of the basis of computation, exceed the proportionate share of the base salary for that period. This principle applies to all members of the faculty at an institution. Since intra university consulting is assumed to be undertaken as a university obligation requiring no compensation in addition to full time base salary, the principle also applies to faculty members who function as consultants or otherwise contribute to a sponsored agreement conducted by another faculty member of the same institution. However, in unusual cases where consultation is across departmental lines or involves a separate or remote operation, and the work performed by the consultant is in addition to his regular departmental load, any charges for such work representing extra compensation above the base salary are allowable provided that such consulting arrangements are specifically provided for in the agreement or approved in writing by the sponsoring agency.
- Periods outside the academic year.
- Except as otherwise specified for teaching activity in subsection (b), charges for work performed by faculty members on sponsored agreements during the summer months or other period not included in the base salary period will be determined for each faculty member at a rate not in excess of the base salary divided by the period to which the base salary relates, and will be limited to charges made in accordance with other parts of this section. The base salary period used in computing charges for work performed during the summer months will be the number of months covered by the faculty member’s official academic year appointment.
- Charges for teaching activities performed by faculty members on sponsored agreements during the summer months or other periods not included in the base salary period will be based on the normal policy of the institution governing compensation to faculty members for teaching assignments during such periods.
- Part time faculty. Charges for work performed on sponsored agreements by faculty members having only part time appointments will be determined at a rate not in excess of that regularly paid for the part time assignments. For example, an institution pays $5000 to a faculty member for half time teaching during the academic year. He devoted one half of his remaining time to a sponsored agreement. Thus, his additional compensation, chargeable by the institution to the agreement, would be one half of $5000, or $2500.
Noninstitutional professional activities
Unless an arrangement is specifically authorized by a Federal sponsoring agency, an institution must follow its institution wide policies and practices concerning the permissible extent of professional services that can be provided outside the institution for noninstitutional compensation. Where such institution wide policies do not exist or do not adequately define the permissible extent of consulting or other noninstitutional activities undertaken for extra outside pay, the Federal Government may require that the effort of professional staff working on sponsored agreements be allocated between (1) institutional activities, and (2) noninstitutional professional activities. If the sponsoring agency considers the extent of noninstitutional professional effort excessive, appropriate arrangements governing compensation will be negotiated on a case by case basis.
- Fringe Benefits. Funding agencies allow for payroll assessments such as Federal Insurance Compensation Act (FICA), Workers’ Compensation, insurance benefits, and retirement expense. These rates are calculated automatically by the eGrants budget template and changed annually.
- Consultant Services. If your project requires consultants (calls for expertise of a well-defined natures for a fixed period of time), estimate their fees and travel expenses separately from the Salaries and Wages section. The general policy is to obtain written verification of the consultant’s willingness to serve on the project. If you have not chosen your consultants when you are preparing the budget, you should include appropriate, competitive rates for services to be rendered. Consultant fees cannot exceed what the individual can command in the public market.
It is often difficult to determine whether certain outside services needed by a grant project should be treated as a consultant or as a sub-award. The following list of criteria was developed to assist in distinguishing between the use of a Consulting Agreement or a Sub-Award:
i. Consulting Agreement
- Given to independent individual contractors or consulting organizations for professional services
- Tasks are specific, well-defined and of limited scope
- A hired service
ii. Sub-Award (see procedures for sub-awards below)
- Given to colleges and universities, other institutions and organizations
- Usually has a partnership role, even when it is a small one
- Often has more autonomy in the completion of the work, within the parameters of the agreed-upon work plan, timeline, and budget
- Permanent Equipment. List each major item of equipment. Permanent equipment is defined as an item with a value greater than $1,000 with a useful life expectancy of one year or longer. Describe each equipment item and list the item’s estimated cost including freight charges and installation costs, based whenever possible on a 90 day price quotation. Specify the manufacturer and the model number. The departmental Information Technology liaison must be contacted for all computer-related equipment.
- Expendable Supplies. Categorize and itemize in this section supplies and expendable equipment. Allowable items will ordinarily be limited to research equipment and apparatus not already available for the conduct of the work.
- Travel. Follow the eGrants budget template to indicate the type and extent of travel that may be required to perform the project. Separate travel costs into Domestic and Foreign. Consult agency instructions for allowable travel methods and costs and for definitions of foreign and domestic travel. Foreign travel generally requires special permission from the funding agency and requires clear and convincing justification. In most cases, travel to professional meetings may be included when such meetings are justifiably related to the project, such as dissemination of results.
- Publication Costs. Indicate and itemize costs for copying, reprinting, duplications, plate preparation or publishing. Include any publication costs connected with dissemination and evaluation. It is generally viewed favorably by reviewers to suggest publication in a journal that has an outstanding reputation because of the quality of the merit review process. Check journal page charges and reprint rates for a correct and current estimate.
- Other Direct Costs. Since budget requirements vary from agency to agency, items included in Other Direct Costs are defined as those costs that fit in none of the other categories for a particular agency. Other direct costs may include space rentals away from the College, service charges, equipment rental, maintenance contracts, library acquisitions, communications (telephone, mail, fax), and subcontracts.
b. Facilities and Administration (F&A or Indirect Costs). F&A charges to a sponsored project reflect a carefully calculated estimate of the true cost to the College of Research and Sponsored Projects. Based on negotiations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the F&A costs rates are established at regular 3-year intervals. TCNJ uses a Salary and Wage Basis for calculation of F&A. F&A is automatically calculated on the Budget Template of eGrants. The negotiated rate agreement and the date of the agreement are often required for submission along with the proposal. The full negotiated F&A rate is included in the budget, except when it is restricted or disallowed by the sponsor.
c. Cost Sharing. TCNJ policies on cost sharing can be found in TCNJ Pre-Award Policies. When cost sharing is required for a project, documentation of the cost share is necessary and must be approved in advance of the submission by the department chair, the dean, and the Provost. The use of direct costs for cost sharing purposes requires the written consent of the College. The exact source of the cost share must be identified and the person responsible for authorizing its use must approve the commitment.
3. Other Budget Consideration
a. Is each category of expenditure that was described and justified in the narrative itemized in detail? Does it match the Project Timeline/Planner?
b. Is any unusual expenditure in the narrative (e.g., use of a helicopter for local travel) explained?
c. Will the reviewer understand how the totals for each category (e.g., PI at 25% time @ $60,000 = $15,000) were obtained?
d. If some items are unusual, and the agency form permits, is the budget keyed to pages in the narrative?
e. Is each college contribution to the project (including indirect cost on cost share portion of budget) itemized?
f. Was the budget objectively reviewed to determine that the request is a sufficient, but not excessive, sum for each expense category to permit the project to be properly executed?
g. Were the cost-share contributions discussed with those responsible for specific cost share contributions and approved by them? (The Proposal Routing Form should accommodate this.)
IV. Compliance Issues
Federal regulations stipulate that institutions applying for federal funds assure the appropriate federal agency that certain conditions and policies are in place at the applicant institution. Federal funding is at risk college-wide if individuals do not comply with these assurances. Questions regarding the assurance process may be addressed to OAGSR. Some of the most common compliance issues include:
1. Human Subjects. The use of human subjects in a research proposal must be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). This is accomplished by submission of a human subjects protocol to the IRB.
2. Protocol approvals must be obtained either before the proposal is submitted or before a deadline set by the sponsor. IRB information can be obtained online at the IRB web site or by contacting the IRB chair.
College policy requires that the use of human subjects in research regardless of funding (College funds, gifts, federal, etc.) must receive IRB approval prior to the PI initiating the research.
3. Animal Welfare. Proposals which involve the use of live vertebrate animals, regardless of the funding source, must be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Prior to proposal submission, an initial contact must be made with the Chair of the IACUC Committee, Dr. Andrew Leynes (firstname.lastname@example.org). Review IACUC policies and procedures online through the OAGSR web site.
4. Bio-Safety. Proposals and laboratory teaching activities which employ the use of recombinant DNA (which are not exempt from NIH guidelines), infectious agents, teratogens, mutagens, carcinogens, biohazards, hazardous waste, and radioactive material must be reviewed by the TCNJ Occupational Safety Specialist, Mr. Brian Webb. Contact him at email@example.com for information.
5. Radiation Safety. Anyone considering the procurement, use and/or disposal of radioactive material and other sources of ionizing radiation, lasers, and other non-ionizing sources of radiation must contact Mr. Brian Webb, Occupational Safety Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Audits. TCNJ undergoes an A-133 audit annually; the College will furnish a funding agency a copy of the annual audit if the agency so desires. The College’s independent audit is also available to a funding agency upon request. Contact the Pre-Award Specialist in OAGSR.
7. Some agencies require that special forms be signed and submitted with an application assuring the College’s compliance with certain regulations. The following checklist reflects TCNJ’s status with regard to the most frequently included assurances.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 —————– yes
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ———————— yes
Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 ——————– yes
Age Discrimination Act of 1975 —————————————— yes
Misconduct in Science Assurance filed annually ———————- yes
Delinquent on Federal Debt ———————————————- no
Debarred or Suspended ————————————————– no
Drug-Free Workplace —————————————————— yes
Lobbying with Federal Funds ——————————————— no
GENERAL WRITING TIPS
1. Call the program officer at the sponsoring agency for assistance in developing a proposal. Generally, their role is to provide information, interpretation, and guidance to prospective PI’s. They work to ensure that each proposal is submitted to the right program and that each gets a fair read.
2. Obtain sample proposals. Some can be found on the web.
3. Pay attention to criteria frequently used in rating proposals and applications, in particular:
- Significance. Why should this project be funded and undertaken? What are the broader impacts of this project? Be specific.
- Clarity of conception and methodology. Is this the best way to meet project goals? Are the methods clear and do they lead directly to accomplishing the goals and objectives?
- Avoid using jargon. Use a direct, active writing style. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs as much as possible. Reviewers are usually reading many proposals, and they appreciate clarity.
4. Proofread carefully.
5. Letters of recommendation should be carefully planned. People who write the letters must have first-hand knowledge with the project staff and work to be done. It is preferable to avoid people who are overseas. When requesting a letter, it is advisable to send a copy of the proposal (or a brief description) to the letter writer and tell her or him specifically which aspects of the work the letter should address. Ask the person to speak to the question of significance and to include specific comments. Sending an outline of the points to be covered, a draft or a sample letter to work from is often helpful.
PROPOSAL EVALUATION CHECKLIST
____ Is the title page complete, and is the person who will act as correspondent clearly designated with accurate title, address, and telephone number?
____ Does the table of contents list accurate page references for each section of the proposal as well as major subdivisions?
____ Is your abstract a true summary, written in plain English? Does it exclude any citations to other sections of the proposal?
____ Do you clearly establish that your project is needed?
____ Is the need for the proposed activity relevant to the funding agency’s priority areas?
____ Are the objectives of the project true objectives? Are they sharply defined yet sufficiently detailed?
____ Are the objectives of the project realistic, capable of being achieved and measured?
____ Are the size, scope, and duration of the project sufficient to secure productive results?
____ Are your qualifications and experiences adequate to carry out the proposed project? (Sometimes in negotiations between the College and the funding agency your original plans can grow or shrink beyond your capabilities or interests).
____ Are the qualifications and experiences of your personnel adequate to carry out the proposed project?
____ Are College and area resources and facilities adequate?
____ Is the proposed plan of operation sound?
____ Are the budget and professional narrative consistent?
____ Is the commitment of all involved parties evident? Are letters of commitment in the appendix? Is cost sharing stated both in the proposal narrative and the budget?
____ Are the uses of money clearly indicated in the proposal narrative, itemized in the budget, and explained in the budget justification section?
____ Have all budget figures and totals been checked for accuracy?
____ Have provisions been made for adequate evaluation of the project’s effectiveness and for determining the extent to which you accomplish your objectives?
____ Have you made provisions for disseminating the results of the project and for making materials, techniques, and other project output available to the public?
____ If appropriate, is there a clear statement to continue the project after external funding ends?
____ Have you followed all directions given in the agency’s application outline, including those for required proposal length?
____ Have all College and agency prior approvals been obtained?
PROPOSAL SUBMISSION AND FOLLOW-UP
After the completed proposal and accompanying proposal budget have received final OAGSR approval, the proposal is ready for submission to the sponsor. Reproduction and mailing of the proposal will be done by OAGSR, if the completed proposal is received at least five days before the deadline. Regardless of the mode of delivery-courier service, U.S. Postal Service, or in-person delivery by the PI, it is advisable to obtain a dated receipt.
In general, large foundations and federal agencies review proposals at three specific levels: (1) independent ad hoc reviews by several investigators, (2) meetings of standard review panels, and (3) evaluation by chief administrators or boards of directors. These levels are incorporated into two basic review systems: internal review and external review. Obviously, an awareness of the type of review and the criteria for evaluation will contribute to your ability to write a successful proposal.
When an agency’s own staff of full-time, trained personnel is responsible for the technical review of proposals, the agency is said to have internal proposal review. These personnel, called program officers, determine which projects will receive funds by considering each proposal’s excellence and suitability to the agency’s program needs. Several levels of administrators within most agencies must also approve those proposals selected for funding. Sometimes internal reviewers seek outside opinions from other agency scientists, other agencies, and universities.
When the evaluation of proposals is conducted by professionals not within the agency’s employ, the agency is said to have external proposal review. External review is often referred to as peer review since reviewers are chosen from different parts of the country and from special segments of the population of scholars in a particular field.
External reviews may be conducted through the mail or e-mail (reviewers selected by the agency are mailed or e-mailed the proposal for evaluation), through meetings (reviewers meet with agency and staff several times a year to evaluate proposals that have been circulated prior to these meetings), or through a combination of these two methods. External reviewers advise the agency on the appropriateness of the budget and make recommendations for funding; however, final funding decisions often rest with agency officials.
The Award/Declination Letter
A significant amount of time can pass between the submission of a proposal and announcement of funding decisions (up to six months is not unusual). Receipt of proposals is frequently acknowledged by a postcard or letter which may specify an applications identifier or processing number. If such an identifier has been assigned, any correspondence with the agency should include the identifier.
An announcement of the expected decision date may be a part of the guideline for application or may be communicated with the acknowledgement of receipt of the proposal. Before contacting the agency to inquire on the status of your proposal, consult with OAGSR. Frequent or improper communication with an agency regarding the status of a proposal can lessen the chances of funding and give the prospective sponsor a negative impression of the College.
When any communication is received from the agency, regardless of whether an award has been received or the proposal has been denied funding, OAGSR should be notified as soon as possible. Such notification is necessary for the award to be formally accepted or to initiate a search for another funding source. Copies of all communications should be sent to OAGSR for inclusion in the official College master file of the proposal and documents relating to it, including correspondence, and letter of award or denial.
WHAT TO DO IF AN AWARD IS MADE.
In some cases, projects are approved with no modifications to the budget or to the project plan. In other cases, the project director is asked to submit a revised budget (which may require a revision of the project plan) or a revised project plan (which may require a revised budget). Contact OAGSR for assistance in meeting the agency’s requests. All revised project plans or budgets require OAGSR approval before they are submitted to the sponsor.
When notification of an award is received, OAGSR must be contacted IMMEDIATELY and the original award notice sent to our office. The Office of Academic Grants and Sponsored Research arranges for formal acceptance of the award, sets up the Award Implementation and Management (AIM) Meeting with the PI, and begins processing the appropriate forms to set up the grant account. Even when a proposal has been funded, reviewers’ comments should be requested from the sponsoring agency. These comments provide valuable information on strengths and weaknesses of the project. Finally, the PI should thank the sponsoring agency and keep the agency informed of progress in implementing the project by completing all required reports in a timely manner.
WHAT TO DO IF A PROJECT IS DENIED FUNDING.
The PI must notify OAGSR and send a copy of the letter of denial so that the file is current and alternative sources of support can be investigated. The PI should also contact OAGSR to discuss the situation. Frequently, a proposal is declined, not because of any defect or lack of merit, but because the agency received a large number of excellent proposals requesting an amount of funding greater than the amount available.
The letter of denial should be read carefully, searching for reasons why the proposal was not accepted. Will the agency allow a re-submission? The chances of success increase statistically with each re-submission.
When a proposal is denied funding, reviewer comments and assessments are especially important in improving the proposal and preparing it for re-submission. If they are not provided, the PI can write or call the agency and request them. Reviewers’ comments should be analyzed carefully and the revised proposal should respond to the reviewer comments appropriately.