Proposal Preparation

1. Review proposal guidelines/confirm eligibility

After a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) of interest has been identified, the proposal guidelines within the FOA should be reviewed in detail. Any possibly problematic terms within the FOA should be identified. The FOA is an indispensable guide for proposal preparation.

Institutional and/or principal investigator eligibility to submit the proposal should be confirmed before proposal preparation begins. (Sponsor’s eligibility criteria are set forth in an FOA; Northwestern’s eligibility criteria are set forth in the PI eligibility policy as well as through limited submissions competitions.) The proposal deadline and the method of proposal submission (e.g., electronic platform, paper-based) are other critical pieces of information in an FOA.

Note: beginning with the January 25, 2018 deadline NIH has implemented Clinical Trial-specific FOA's. For more information, visit our NIH Clinical Trials page.

2. Notify appropriate administrators of the intention to submit the proposal

Early communication (preferably via email) with the appropriate school and unit-level research administrators and Sponsored Research Grants Officer can significantly and positively impact proposal preparation and submission. Note that some FOAs contain terms that Northwestern would find problematic, or objectionable (such as cost sharing requirements, or publication restrictions). Early communication provides the relevant parties time to develop a proposal submission strategy.

3. Evaluate whether Northwestern intends to be a subcontractor on the proposal

It is not uncommon for another organization intending to submit a proposal to an FOA to invite Northwestern to collaborate as a subcontractor. In these cases, Northwestern typically submits subcontract proposal materials to the organization directly submitting the proposal to the sponsor.

Note that if Northwestern intends to be a subcontractor to another organization submitting a proposal under an FOA, the submission deadline for the subcontract proposal is often earlier than the deadline published in the FOA. The organization directly submitting the proposal to the sponsor should provide appropriate guidance to Northwestern in the preparation and submission of its subcontract materials.

4. Determine whether a relevant proposal checklist exists

Sponsored Research offers proposal preparation checklists for major sponsors and proposal types. These checklists may help principal investigators and/or administrators efficiently address standard budgetary and administrative elements in proposals. Checklists are not meant to replace or supersede proposal guidelines. Proposal guidelines in FOAs provide authoritative information on proposal preparation.

5. Identify key elements in the proposed project

In reviewing the scope of work, budget and the corresponding FOA, key elements of the proposed project should be identified, particularly those elements that may require additional support, review or approval. The InfoEd proposal routing form may assist in this. For example, does the proposed project involve other institutions? Cost sharing? Does it require additional space? Animal subjects and/or human research participants?

6. Consider the proposed project within the mission of the University

Northwestern University is a private, not-for-profit, tax-exempt institution of higher learning, and one of the world’s premier research universities. Its primary activities are research, education and outreach in furtherance of the public interest. The ability to conduct research openly, publish research results, and own research results (including intellectual property) under sponsored programs are expectations of the University, as set forth in its policies.