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Pre-Proposal or Preliminary Proposal Guidelines

A sponsored project proposal is a formal request for financial support from an extramural source. It is also a binding offer of University resources, representing commitments that must be tracked (e.g. proposed investigator effort levels or cost sharing). Generally, a proposal consists of technical and administrative components.

What is a pre-proposal?

A pre-proposal is a short description of a project that does not involve a binding commitment of university resources. Depending on the sponsor, a pre-proposal may be called a preliminary proposal, white paper, letter of intent (LOI), or concept paper.  A pre-proposal may include a total cost estimate; however, it does not typically include a line-item budget and is not expected to result directly in an award. Note: even when a line-item budget is not being provided, the total estimated project cost presented to the sponsor should factor in F&A (indirect) costs, except in situations where only direct cost totals are requested. Typically, the purpose of a pre-proposal is to inform and catch the interest of a potential sponsor so that the sponsor then requests a formal proposal including full technical and budget information.

Institutional signature and routing

A pre-proposal must be routed to Sponsored Research (via Infoed) when any of the following applies: 

  • Institutional endorsement is required
  • A detailed budget is required
  • The pre-proposal must be submitted system-to-system (via InfoEd) or through another system in which only the university has submission capabilities (e.g. Fastlane)

At the full proposal stage, a detailed/line item budget should be provided by the department, even if the sponsor does not require one.