Proposal Preparation

Remember to contact your Research Administrator using the McCormick Proposal Intake Form as soon as you plan on submitting a proposal so they can work with you to start the process.

View McCormick Proposal Intake Form

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Proposal Process

1) Notify Your Research Administrator using the McCormick Proposal Intake Form

By notifying your RA early, they can begin the process early. Upon notification they will prepare a proposal checklist, outlining key deadlines up until submission, as well as note all the document and solicitation requirements. 

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., foreign participation, foreign travel, 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 technical components of the proposal.

The Research Administrator, in collaboration with the Principal Investigator and key personnel, is responsible for preparing all non-technical components of the proposal. These include, but are not limited to:

  • 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 a record in CERES (Northwestern's Central Electronic Research System). All sponsored research proposals, regardless of submission method, need to be entered and routed through CERES prior to Sponsored Research's submission to the sponsor.

5) Route for McCormick Administrative Review and Approval

  • Final non-technical components should be completed 9 business days prior to the deadline, so the proposal can be routed, and reviewed, within McCormick.
  • Proposals are routed through CERES for approval by the Principal Investigator, department, and Dean’s Office.
  • Conflict of Interest disclosures must be updated in eDisclosure. This can be done through COI's website. Contact your Research Administrator if you have questions.

6) Finalize Proposal Documents, and Send to Sponsored Research for Final Submission to Sponsor

7) Submit Proposal

  • Sponsored Research submits the final proposal to the sponsoring agency once the proposal has been reviewed and endorsed, and no institutional compliance issues have been identified.

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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
  • LOI Sample Template
  • Sub-recipient COI (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.

Process for Obtaining Institutional Cost Share Support

  1. Notify McCormick Research Administrator of intent to submit a sponsored research proposal with cost share. Review Northwestern’s Cost Share Policy, Office for Research Cost Share Guidance, and McCormick Cost Share Policy.
  2. Develop cost share budget and justification, ensuring Northwestern and McCormick policies are being followed.
  3. Make formal request for cost share support.
  4. Prepare and obtain official cost share letter of support.

There are a variety of resources available on the Sponsored Research Cost Share page to assist PI’s and RA’s with navigating the cost share process.