Proposal Development

Here are the key steps and processes for submitting a proposal.

Please remember to contact your Research Administrator as soon as you plan on submitting a proposal so that he or she can work with you to start the process.

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Proposal Process

1) Notify Your Research Administrator

Let your Research Administrator (RA) know as soon as you consider applying. Even if you are not certain you will be submitting, it is still best to notify your Research Administrator of the possibility.

2) Read the Solicitation

Read the solicitation carefully to make sure you are responding appropriately to the sponsor's guidelines.

Important items to note in a solicitation include:

  • Deadlines
  • Submission method (i.e., electronic, paper, etc.)
  • Restrictions (i.e., no foreign travel, no salary, etc.)
  • Required documents
  • Eligibility (i.e., only open to new faculty, only open to multi-institution collaborations, etc.)
  • Sponsor contact information

Learn about the Office of Research Development's limited submission process at Northwestern University.

Be aware of certain terms that may require special consideration. The following are some examples of items that should be discussed with your Research Administrator:

3) Plan the Project

  • Identify your project team
  • Develop a budget and budget justification with your research administrator. The proposal budget is driven by the needs of the project and guidelines of the solicitation. Remember to consult federal, sponsor, and solicitation guidelines for allowable costs and any restrictions.
  • Initiate subaward process (if applicable)
  • Initiate cost-share process (if applicable)

4) Prepare the Proposal Documents

The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for preparing all scientific elements of the proposal.

The Research Administrator, in collaboration with the Principal Investigator and key personnel, is responsible for preparing all administrative elements of the proposal. There include:

  • Budget and budget justification
  • Biographical sketches
  • Current and pending documents
  • Facilities, equipment and other resources
  • Sub-recipient commitment packages (if applicable)
  • Cost share commitments (if applicable)

The Research Administrator will create an InfoEd record (Northwestern University’s internal sponsored research system). All sponsored research proposals, regardless of submission method, need to be entered and routed through InfoEd prior to review and approved by OSR's submission to the sponsor.

5) Obtain Administrative Approvals

6) Finalize Proposal Documents

  • The final scientific documents need to be finalized two business days prior to the proposal deadline.
  • The Research Administrator coordinates with Principal Investigator to prepare final proposal package.
  • The Research Administrator and an Office for Sponsored Research Grants Officer review the proposal package, to ensure all applicable sponsor and institutional policies have been adhered to.

7) Submit Proposal

  • The Office for Sponsored Research submits the final proposal to the sponsoring agency after the proposal has been reviewed and endorsed.

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Proposals including a sub-recipient must include the following documents from the subcontractor:

  • Budget
  • Budget justification
  • Statement of work
  • Letter of intent endorsed by sub-institution; the letter of intent must include total subcontract budget amount, title, and project start and end date
  • Sub-recipient commitment form
  • Sub-recipient disclosure form (required only if subaward institution does not have an established Conflict of Interest Policy)

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Cost Sharing

Cost sharing refers to the expenditure of University or third-party resources beyond the amount funded by the sponsor to support the scope of work defined by a sponsored award. Get additional information about Northwestern University's cost sharing policies.

Process for Obtaining Institutional Cost-Share Support

  1. Notification to the Office for Sponsored Research (OSR) Cost Share Officer by PI.
  2. Development of cost share budget, justification, and letter of support.
  3. Negotiation and formal request of cost sharing commitments.
  4. Generation of official cost share letter of support.

Get additional information about Northwestern University's cost sharing process.