Once a funding opportunity has been identified, principal investigators (PIs) prepare a proposal. Some federal agencies have specific application forms and/or their own Web-based submission systems (e.g., NSF uses FastLane). Other sponsors have a less structured application process. PIs should download the most up-to-date version of the application forms, policies, and procedures and adhere to the sponsor’s requirements.
Key Elements of a Proposal
Every grant proposal has its own special requirements for information that needs to be included. At a bare minimum, all proposals require the following elements:
- OSP Routing Form: The routing form provides important information about the project and confirms that the proposal has been appropriately routed, reviewed, and approved.
- Institutional Information: Sponsors need to know basic information about the PI’s institution, including Congressional district, EIN number, DUNS number, F&A rates, etc.
- Statement of Work: The Statement of Work (SOW) is a document that lists and describes all essential and technical requirements for the effort to be performed, including standards to be used to determine whether the requirements have been met. This document may include the following items, where appropriate:
- Reporting requirement and/or other deliverables
- Resources (if any) to be furnished to the subcontractor
- Personnel requirements
- Workload requirements
- A list of detailed work requirements
- Period of performance
- Objective or purpose
- Budget and Budget Justification: A competitive budget provides a sponsor with a complete financial picture of the proposed project. Budgets are reviewed by the sponsor to verify that the costs are reasonable and necessary to carry out the proposed project and that it conforms to the sponsor's instructions and format. The budget justification provides the sponsor with a rationale for certain items in the budget. Sponsors may want clarifying information on how budget calculations were made for faculty and staff salaries, fringe benefits, F&A rates, special equipment, travel, subawards, etc. View a sample budget.
Elements of an NSF Proposal
A standard National Science Foundation proposal typically requires a cover sheet, project summary, table of contents, project description, references cited, biographical sketch(es), budget, budget justification, current and pending support, data management plan, facilities, and supplementary documents.
Elements of an NIH Proposal
A standard National Institutes of Health proposal typically requires a project summary/abstract, project narrative, bibliography/references cited, facilities and other resources, equipment, biographical sketch(es), personnel justification, budget, budget justification, specific aims, research strategy, and letters of support. The proposal may also require additional components, such as care and use of vertebrate animals in research, consultants, facilities, a leadership plan for multiple PIs, and more.
When preparing a proposal, it is important to be aware of issues that require special attention. These issues include the following:
- Conflict of interest: As public employees of an institute serving the educational and public purposes of teaching, research, and professional service, there is an obligation to conduct research and official duties on behalf of the Institute in such a manner consistent with statutes and regulations.
- Compliance: Researchers must comply with regulatory requirements relating to research involving human subjects, vertebrate animal subjects, rDNA, synthetic nucleic acids, and export controlled research.
- PI/PD eligibility: The PI/PD is responsible for determining the intellectual direction of the research and scholarship. It is the policy of the Institute that the principal investigator or project director must be a current member of the general faculty of the Institute.
- Teaming agreements: When Georgia Tech researchers establish a working relationship with another company or organization to prepare a specific proposal for a potential sponsor, a teaming agreement is used. Access the teaming agreement form.
For additional guidance on preparing a proposal, please contact your contract officer.