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Proposal Preparation and Process

Getting Started

We encourage grant seekers to meet with Jeff Meserve, the LBJ School's senior grants and contracts specialist, to discuss your project, ideally no less than two weeks before a targeted proposal deadline. Both walk-ins and scheduled appointments are welcome. His office is located on the third floor of Sid Richardson Hall in Room 3.389.

Any LBJ School faculty member, staff, and Center pursuing external funding opportunities, on behalf of the school or university, should notify the Associate Dean for Research and this Grants office, in advance, to maintain coordination and ensure compliance. 

Also note, only the university’s Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) can authorize submittal of most research grants/proposals and acceptance of an official award. Please refer to the OSP website for official policy and guidance.

Proposal Submission Sites

There are two primary websites used by the University of Texas at Austin to submit to most of the major federal agencies, while most private sector foundations accept e-mailed and hard copies of grants and contracts.

Guide and Flowchart of Proposal Application Process

Step One: Contact the Grants and Dean’s Office of Intent to Submit Proposal

The Principal Investigator (PI) first contacts the Grants and the Dean’s Office regarding their intent to submit an idea for external funding support. The PI should take this step early enough to allow sufficient time for developing and planning the submission.  Details to consider in the proposal idea might include the potential time commitments, graduate student support, office space requirements, conflict of interest status, computer/technical equipment or manpower needs, and administrative support.

The senior grants and contracts specialist also needs time to prepare various internal university documents (e.g., Proposal Review Form (PRF), PI status for the faculty member) in order to properly submit the proposal. PIs should contact the grants office at least two (2) weeks before the submission deadline.

Step Two: Identify Potential Sponsor and Contact the Funding Agency/Program Officer

Once the PI has a clear proposal idea, the next step is to look for potential sponsors (funding agencies) who have programs or announcements that would fit the scope of the project. In consultation with the senior grants and contracts specialist, the PI will identify the process for finding a funder, framing the project from the funder’s perspective, and explaining why the research project is a good investment. With assistance from the senior grants and contracts specialist, the PI may also make initial contact with the funder to make sure the project is a good fit with the sponsor’s priorities.

Step Three: Prepare a Preliminary Budget

Early budget preparation allows the PI to think through the elements required for the project and to make sure the funding projections fit with the research goals. Please feel free to work with the senior grants and contracts specialist for help with budget and budget justification development to ensure that budgets meet compliance requirements. This may include the calculation of in-direct or facilities and administrative costs, employment of consultants and subcontractors, identification of the potential value and nature of cost-sharing sources, and the development of the administrative letter support/commitment from the Dean’s Office. OSP also provides a standard, 5-year budget calculator (Excel), which PIs can use to generate single or multi-year project budgets.

Step Four: Prepare a Preliminary Proposal

Work with the senior grants and contracts specialist to write the proposal and help edit, proof, or review for readability. It is essential to follow all requirements stipulated in the Request for Proposals (RFP) announcement distributed by the funder. Funders often require very specific informational, formatting, supporting documentation and submission requirements that could be crucial to a successful proposal. If the proposal requires electronic submission through Grants.Gov (Cayuse) or National Science Foundation (Fastlane), the senior grants and contracts specialist can assist the PI in completing all the requirements.  

Step Five: Gather Support Letters, Subcontracts, Vendor/Business Documents, Etc.

Work with the senior grants and contracts specialist to gather support letters and develop subcontracts and vendor/business contracts. It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to request support letters and develop any subcontracts or vendor/business contracts as far in advance of the deadline, as possible. The following represent useful OSP and Business Office resources:

Step Six: Ensure Appropriate Office of Research Support Review

Most funders will require that you submit documented approval from the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) as part of the proposal. The Office of Research Support (OSR) manages the IRB and Departmental Review Committee (DRC) for human subject protections at the university. All research projects involving human participants conducted by faculty, staff, and students associated with UT Austin must receive IRB approval prior to initiating research. Application requirements available at www.utexas.edu/research/rsc/humansubjects/ userguide.html. to assist with the what to include in the proposal, how to complete, and submit an application to the IRB, how to change an existing study, and how to access the IRB access human subjects research database to manage your research studies.

If research is determined to be subject to review, the principal investigator must submit official documentation electronically and undergo a preliminary review by the LBJ School’s Departmental Review Committee (DRC), which Dr. Chandler Stolp chairs. The LBJ School’s DRC receives automatic notification, when a preliminary review is required. No research should be undertaken until you have received formal approval from the IRB. An application for exempt status typically takes 2 to 3 weeks after receiving DRC approval from the school. In the event of a full IRB review, it may take up to 2 weeks from the date of the monthly IRB meeting to receive notice of a decision. 

Please note LBJ School Policy Research Projects may require special IRB considerations. From our experiences, most PRPs are not subject to IRB review. Most PRPs involve some form of human interaction, but it is often merely of a “journalistic nature” (which do not require any form of review according to federal government definition). Others lie in a gray area and should submit a formal request to the IRB to be considered “exempt”. This is especially recommended if the PRP is expected to produce a published report. Very few PRPs have had to undergo a full-blown, formal IRB review.

The rules vary depending on the nature of the PRP. At one extreme, the PRP may be considered a regular class in which students produce individual papers. In this case, no formal IRB review is necessary, but students conducting human subjects research as part of a class project must complete the Five Part Human Participant Training (http://www.utexas.edu/research/rsc/training/index.php) and submit the “Class Project Review Form,” at a minimum. If the instructor wishes to publish any of the research, however, he or she is required to obtain written permission from the students involved. At the other extreme, the PRP is regarded as a faculty research project involving human subjects in which students participate as research assistants. In this case, faculty members conducting individual research involving human subjects must complete the Five Part Human Participant Training (http://www.utexas.edu/research/rsc/training/index.php) and submit an IRB Electronic Application and a statement of “Topics To Address in Your Research Proposal” per required format with the additional proviso that students will also need to complete the Five Part Human Participant Training, at a minimum. The PRP director need only submit one IRB application for the project. Most PRPs subject to IRB review fall somewhere between these two stylized extremes.

Step Seven: Submit the Final Proposal at least FOUR (4) Business Days before Deadline to OSP

Once the PI completes and submits all the parts, the senior grants and contracts specialist will compile all documentation and review all guidelines to ensure the proposal’s technical correctness. Following section verification, the senior grants and contracts specialist coordinates with the Office of Sponsored Projects to finalize submission. OSP requires a minimum of four (4) working days before the deadline to process any proposals properly.

Step Eight: Award Won to Post-award

Typically, sponsors make notifications three (3) to six (6) months after submission on grant awards or rejections. If the sponsor makes an award, then OSP negotiates and processes the award, ultimately advancing the grant award to the post-award phase. During the post-award period, OSP and LBJ School Business Office establish grant accounts to pay the grant-related salaries, travel, equipment, consultants, or other miscellaneous expenses of the awarded budget. The LBJ School Human Resources staff also assists in grant-related hiring and employment matters. The PI through the University assumes the responsibility for the proper fiscal management of the funds received.

With assistance from the senior grants and contracts specialist, the PI must also proactively process all pertinent subcontracts or vendor/business contract work through OSP and Central Business Office process. The PI must follow all subcontract and purchasing compliance protocols, including the use of proper university and system, if applicable, procurement and contract forms and templates.

The PI must make sure to devote the designated amount of time to the grant, as the funding agency often requires time and effort accounting for the grant in both progress and the final/close-out report. PIs should also complete and submit all progress and final reports to the sponsoring agency in a timely manner, since a positive awardee-sponsor relationship assists in future funding requests. 

Step Nine: Resubmission or Begin Again

If the PI receives a rejection notice, the sponsor may or may not provide a critique from reviewers. PIs normally receive reviewer critiques when the award is well-scored, but still falls short of the success benchmark. The PI should decide whether to revise and resubmit or consider another sponsor.