Office of
Sponsored Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I start preparing a proposal?
Q: Where can I find information about internal/external funding opportunities?
Q: If an employee signs an Award document without an institutional review and signature, is the employee personally at risk for liability and legal process?
Q: Where are human research policies and forms?
Q: Where are animal research policies and forms?
Q: Where are export control policies and other material?
Q: What is the purpose of an itemized budget when not required by a particular sponsor?
Q: Who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator on a proposal?
Q: Can there be more than one Principal Investigator on a proposal?
Q: What is the difference between a Co-Investigator and a Co-Principal Investigator?
Q: What approvals are required for proposal submission?
Q: What are the current staff benefit and indirect cost rates?
Q: What if the funding agency I submit to will not pay full overhead?
Q: Can I request funds for secretarial salary on a proposal to a Federal Agency?
Q: How many copies of my proposal do I need to make?
Q: What can I do to expedite the proposal process for myself?
Q: How much lead-time is necessary in order for OSP to provide a thorough review of a proposal?
Q: What is the difference between a Sponsored Research Agreement and a gift?



Q: How do I start preparing a proposal?
A successful proposal starts with a thorough understanding of what the potential sponsoring agency expects. Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) for current guidelines and forms. If you have any questions after reading agency guidelines, the OSP preaward staff will be happy to assist you.


Q: Where can I find information about internal/external funding opportunities?
Preaward Operations in the Office of Sponsored Programs will be glad to assist with the identification of funding opportunities.  Jessica Adamo, Preaward Development Specialist is at 201.216.5204 and Chrissa Papaioannou, the Director of Preaward Operations is at 201.216.8051.  


Q: If an employee signs an Award document without an institutional review and signature, is the employee personally at risk for liability and legal process?
Yes.  The Executive Director has delegated signature authority from the Board of Trustees to bind the university in grants and contracts.  Failure to have such a review and approval puts the faculty member, or other employee, at personal risk for any adverse consequences arising from the relationship.


Q: Where are human research policies and forms?
All policies, forms, guidance, meeting schedules and other relevant material are on the OSP webpage.


Q: Where are animal research policies and forms?
All policies, forms, guidance, meeting schedules and other relevant material are on the OSP webpage.


Q: Where are export control policies and forms?
All policies, forms and guidance and other relevant material are on the OSP webpage.


Q: What is the purpose of an itemized budget when not required by a particular sponsor?
Although NIH no longer requires a detailed budget for modular grants that do not exceed $250,000 in direct costs per year, OSP still requires a categorical budget (at a minimum) in order to exercise its responsibility to prevent the budgeting and request of costs that are unallowable or unreasonable.  Sponsors (with NIH offering the clearest presentation of this) do not regard a budgeted request and subsequent agency approval of the budget as synonymous with approval of unallowable costs.  It places the responsibility for that stewardship on the university’s research administration office.  For this reason, and to conform with university federally approved Cost Accounting Standards, a categorical and/or detailed budget is deemed necessary.


Q: Who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator on a proposal?
Faculty with tenure-tenure track appointments of Full, Associate and Assistant Professor may serve as PI on a proposal.  Faculty members with professorial appointments such as Industry Professor are eligible to serve as PI on sponsored projects. Members of the research faculty, postdoctoral scholars, visiting or adjunct faculty and members of the Professional Staff are eligible to serve as PI by exception only with approval of the Department Director and the Dean.   It should be clear that there is sufficient space, (lab and office), support and that all circumstances relevant to appointment at Stevens have been or will be finalized at the time of award.


Q: Can there be more than one Principal Investigator on a proposal?
A single member of the Institute's faculty should be designated as the P.I.  Most agencies do not recognize more than one Principal Investigator. Co-Investigator's are permitted by some funding agencies, but Co-P.I.'s are discouraged. Exceptions may be made where an agency insists, or when collegial relations require such an arrangement, but even in such instances there should be a first among equals (P.I.) who assumes primary responsibility. There should be no doubt about where the responsibility lies.


Q: What is the difference between a Co-Investigator and a Co-Principal Investigator?
A Co-Principal Investigator is typically recognized by the funding agency as an individual who shares with the PI the responsibility for the conduct of a research project, including meeting the reporting requirements.  A Co-Investigator is an individual recognized by the Institute and the Principal Investigator as someone making a significant contribution to a project. The Co-Investigator is an individual that the PI relies on to assume responsibilities above those of other personnel.  These two terms are still used, applied and regarded unevenly, both within academia and by sponsors.  This reflects an evolving attitude at the federal sponsor level; thus, any questions in this regard MUST be resolved and clear before the proposal is submitted.  After an award is NOT the time to sort out the responsibility/credit hierarchy.


Q: What approvals are required for proposal submission?
 If both the PI and the Co-PI are professorial, all that is required is the approval of their Division Chair(s). If either the PI or Co-PI is not otherwise eligible to serve, approval of the Provost or Vice Provost, in addition to that of the Division Chair, must be obtained on the Division Approval Form before bringing the proposal to the Office of Sponsored Research.


Q: What are the current staff benefit and indirect cost rates?
Please refer to the Stevens “F&A and FRINGE BENEFIT RATES” for current rates.


Q: What if the funding agency I submit to will not pay full overhead?

  • Federal Sponsors
  • It is expected that full F&A will be assessed to all federal sponsors who do not legislatively restrict or limit recovery; however, the university will usually allow submission to those federal sponsors.  A few are the Department of Education at 8%, some NIH Fellowship Programs at 8%, and the USDA at 35%.  It is important that thought be given to proposals submitted to federal agencies who forbid the full recovery of our negotiated and approved F&A rate, especially if the agency also imposes a cost-share requirement.  Such decisions are made by the Provost, often in concert with the Dean and sometimes after counsel with the CFO.
  •  
  • Private Foundations and other Non-Profit Sponsors:
  • Many private foundations and other non-profit sponsors limit the indirect costs that will be provided in their grant awards. As long as this limitation is supported by a Sponsor's written policy, and equally applied to all grantees, the Institute will accept such grants.
  •  
  • Commercial Sponsors:
  • Institute policy requires commercial sponsors of research to provide for full reimbursement of its indirect costs in all awards.  Any deviation from this position requires the approval of the Provost and must be submitted for the Provost’s review via an “OSP Cost-Share Commitment Form.”  The voluntary waiver or reduction of F&A will be tracked and reported to the Provost as voluntary cost-share.

Q: Can I request funds for secretarial salary on a proposal to a Federal Agency?
Yes, but only if the clerical or secretarial services are directly required for the conduct of the project. Under OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions), "the salaries of administrative and clerical staff should normally be treated as indirect costs. Direct charging of these costs may be appropriate where a major project or activity explicitly budgets for administrative or clerical services and individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity." Any request for secretarial/clerical salaries made to a federal agency must include justification in the budget explanation.  Additionally, the form entitled “Major Projects and Unlike Circumstances” must be completed at the time of proposal preparation and approved by the Executive Director of OSP.


Q: How many copies of my proposal do I need to make?
Since most proposals are submitted electronically, copies are rarely an issue.  For those rare proposals that must be submitted via ‘hard copy,’ the number of copies is typically stated in the program announcement.  OSP Preaward requires one electronic copy from the Investigator.


Q: What can I do to expedite the proposal process for myself?
The Office of Sponsored Program should receive a proposal at least three days prior to the agency due date in order to have adequate time for review of the proposal. We recognize, however, that faculty workloads do not always permit advance preparation. The following are some tips to help us get your proposal approved in a timely manner:

  1. Enter your proposal information into the “Grant Proposal Management System.”  This pre-registration requires only a few moments but allows preaward to anticipate peak volume deadlines and ensure resources are in place to provide uninterrupted service to the research community.
  2. Prepare a copy of the Routing Form, and whenever possible, start it through the review and approval process.  Proposals must be accompanied by approved Routing Forms in order to be submitted.  Most Deans want to see a rough draft of the project narrative to review the science involved and determine if there are any college commitments.  
  3. Since OSP Preaward serves in the role of departmental support in many cases, other items that require time and attention are the cover page, budget, and budget explanation. The budget is usually the most time consuming portion of a proposal to check, and advance copies allow us to help correct possible errors while the text is still in its draft stage.  Additional forms that will need to be completed are often Current and Pending Support, CVs, subrecipient material and statements of work, letters of support and appendix material (if allowed).
  4. E-mail the Office of Sponsored Programs if the proposal is being submitted in response to a specific Broad Agency Announcement, Request for Proposals, Research Announcement, etc. so that staff is familiar with solicitation guidelines ahead of time.
  5. The end of the month is often a busy time for proposal submission.
  6. Allow time for corrections. In many cases, proposals that arrive in the Office of Sponsored Programs are ready to be signed and mailed off without further correction or revision. However, there are times when corrections need to be made, particularly if a budget has not been sent in advance or if a PI is applying to an agency he/she is unfamiliar with. Allowing time for corrections helps to ensure the proposal is correct when it is submitted.

Q: How much lead-time is necessary in order for OSP to provide a thorough review of a proposal?
It usually requires a 3-day lead-time (prior to submission) in order for OSP to provide a complete proposal review.  This is due to the fact that OSP is often reviewing many proposals simultaneously for the same deadline, in addition to processing awards, miscellaneous award transactions, and assisting Investigators with the foregoing.  In order to provide a better idea to faculty and support staff regarding what OSP can do, given certain amounts of lead time, we have prepared the following guideline:
With at least 3 days' lead time prior to submission, OSP will perform a complete review, including

  • Comparison of proposal to sponsors' guidelines (e.g. forms and formatting)
  • Review of budget (calculation, rates, relevance to project description, cost-sharing)        
  • (Note that these first two items are the most time consuming)
  • Review Routing Form
  • Compliance issues (e.g., human/animal subjects, health and safety, conflict of interest)
  • PI Eligibility to Submit
  • With 1 to 2 days' lead time prior to submission, OSR will perform review at least the following:
  • Review of budget for correct rates and cost sharing
  • Review Routing Form
  • Compliance issues (e.g., human/animal subjects, health and safety, conflict of interest)
  • PI Eligibility to Submit

With less than 1 day's time prior to submission, OSP may only be able to verify that the PI and Division Chair have signed the Routing Form (the minimum requirement for any proposal to be submitted.

Please note that this is not intended to represent the most we can do, but the minimum we will do, so that you know what you can expect from us.  If possible, we will provide a more thorough review than these minima, time permitting.  And your OSP team will let you know when a proposal will receive less than a complete review, due to time constraints.

If a proposal is received, or first contact is made, on the same day of the posted deadline, there is a risk that it might not be submitted.  That assessment will be made by the Director of Preaward Operations and will be predicated on several factors, such as general appearance (does it appear to be complete, i.e., all required sections, minimal required budget elements); is it too late to be submitted through the electronic portals in accordance with stated federal deadlines; are there any obvious and significant ‘flags’ that represent potential problems, i.e., export control issues, federal requirement that all exceptions must be identified at the time of proposal submission.  These items are examples, they are not the only reason why a last-minute, unreviewed proposal could be problematic and deemed unacceptable for submission.  That said, even if an unreviewed proposal IS submitted, the university reserves the right to administratively withdraw the proposal if senior academic management cannot successfully resolve any outstanding issues.


Q: What is the difference between a Sponsored Research Agreement and a gift?

  • A gift consists of funds that are provided with no deliverables expected in return. It provides unrestricted support for a particular purpose.
  • A Sponsored Research Agreement is an agreement between the Sponsor (agency) and the University and it’s PI that has a clear statement of work and set of deliverables in exchange for which the PI receives an agreed upon level of support for a specified period of time