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Pre-Award Policies and Procedures

A proposal is a request for support of sponsored research, instruction, or extension projects, and generally consists of a cover page, brief project summary, technical or narrative section, biographical sketches of the key personnel, and a detailed budget.

Types of Proposals

Solicited proposals are submitted in response to a specific solicitation issued by a sponsor. Such solicitations, typically called Request for Proposals (RFP), Request for Quotations (RFQ), Broad Agency Announcements (BAA), NASA Research Announcements (NRA), or Requests for Bids (RFB), are usually specific in their requirements regarding format and technical content, and may stipulate certain award terms and conditions.

Unsolicited proposals are submitted to a sponsor that has not issued a specific solicitation but is believed by the investigator to have an interest in the subject.

Pre-proposals are requested when a sponsor wishes to minimize an applicant’s effort in preparing a full proposal. Pre-proposals are usually in the form of a letter of intent or brief abstract. After the pre-proposal is reviewed, the sponsor notifies the investigator if a full proposal is warranted.

Continuation or Non-Competing proposals confirm the original proposal and funding requirements of a multi-year project for which the sponsor has already provided funding for an initial period (normally one-year). Continued support is usually contingent on satisfactory work progress and the availability of funds.

Renewal or Noncompeting proposals are requests for continued support for an existing project that is about to terminate, and, from the sponsor’s viewpoint, generally have the same status as an unsolicited proposal.

Research Funding Sources

The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) assists faculty and staff in identifying funding sources and maintains a comprehensive electronic collection of sponsor guidelines. They include generalized and special interest grant directories and other publications that enable clients to locate potential sponsors. The OSP subscribes to a number of publications, including the, including Pivot, and InfoEd | SPIN+.

The Office of Sponsored Programs Newsletter lists a wide range of upcoming funding opportunities and announces changes in University and sponsor policies that affect sponsored projects. There are several types of Funding Sources for Grants and Contracts. They include: Foundations, Corporations, Federal government, State government, City government, Quasi-government/Local and Institutes of Higher Education.

Potential proposal developers may have an idea and sometimes may have a fully developed proposal in hand but they do not have a funding source. It is the responsibility of the Office of Sponsored Programs to review the proposal and then find funding sources that may best fit the concept of the proposal.

Funding Sources Databases

There are various databases available to the faculty and staff at NSU, however the faculty and staff sometimes feel anxious about trying to maneuver those sources. To make the process as easy and painless as possible for the proposal developer, we assist them in pulling the information needed. The Office of Sponsored Programs provides links to several databases that can be used in retrieving relevant funding sources that are suited to your particular program or research interest.

  • Pivot (formerly COS) is a websites for scholars, scientists, and R&D professionals. It offers funding sources in Agricultural and Food Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, Health and Medical Sciences, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Technology and Computer Science.
  • InfoEd | SPIN+ (Sponsored Programs Information Network) is a computer database with detailed and up-to-the-minute information about thousands of Federal and Non-Federal and International funding opportunities and allows electronic proposal preparation.
  • has current funding sources and government rulings, etc. listed. The Federal Register can be accessed from the Office of Sponsored Programs Webpage.
  • The Foundation Center lists funding opportunities for private and public foundations as well as community and corporate opportunities. Health and Human Services Funding for Families and Children lists funding sources for the Families and Children Services, as well as, news, frequently asked questions, regulations and reference materials.
  • FedBizOpps.Gov list more than 18,400 active federal business opportunities.

Research Proposal Resources

Other items that may be needed in research proposal information can also be found on the web.

  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is a government-wide compendium of Federal programs, projects, services, and activities which provide assistance or benefits to the American public. It contains financial and non-financial assistance programs administered by departments and establishments of the Federal government.
  • General Accounting Office is the investigative arm of Congress and provides financial audits, program reviews, investigations, legal support, and policy/program analyses.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.
  • Population Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property Laws provide the copyright laws from the Library of Congress Copyright office.
  • Crime statistics provides access to online reports, consumer safety tips, crime news, video, and audio.

Proposal Development and Submission

Requests for Proposals (RFP's) are announcements in which potential sponsors predetermine activities to be funded along with methodology and related technical matters. RFP's from government agencies will appear daily on this website. A "statement of work", guidelines and instructions, agency contact personnel and submission deadlines are also included in the RFP. Once you receive the RFP you can begin to write your proposal remembering to follow statement of work and all other guidelines/instructions in the announcement.

When responding to an RFP, RFQ, NRA, BAA or RFB with the proposed terms and conditions stated in the solicitation the investigator should notify OSP by completing and submitting an Intent to Submit form. The investigator should also forward a copy of the solicitation to the OSP as soon as possible. Please be sure to discuss and review your proposal concept with directors, department heads and/or deans.

Types of Match and Signatures Required

Develop detailed budget maintaining strict adherence to University, state and agency guidelines. The following chart shows the types of match and the signatory required.

Required Routing Terms & Conditions
PI/PD, Department Head, Dean/Director, Office of Sponsored Programs With no University Match
PI/PD, Department Head, Dean/Director, Appropriate Vice President, Sponsored Programs With University Match
PI/PD, Department Head, Dean/Director Release time Match
PI/PD, Department Head, Dean, Vice President Academic Affairs, Office of Sponsored Programs Equipment Trust


Developing Your Proposal

When developing your proposal the following concerns/needs should be addressed.

  • Identify the need for animal care, human subjects protection, biohazard or other relevant research issues.
  • If any of the above-mentioned research is applicable the necessary form should be completed. Identify potential intellectual property products.
  • If intellectual property is involved, the intellectual property form should be completed.
  • If the proposal is a partnership or collaborative venture, a teaming agreement should be completed.
  • For further information refer to the Special Reviews section.
  • Forms found on the Sponsored Programs forms section.

Completing Your Proposal

Once you have addressed the above concerns and completed your proposal you should complete execution of the Internal Approval Form (IAF), including appropriate signatures. The Internal Approval Form (OSP Form 100) can be downloaded from the OSP webpage.

The internal approval form must accompany every proposal submitted to OSP. The IAF provides OSP with information on where to submit the proposal and identifies what compliance issues exist and what institutional resources are required for the project. Investigators are responsible for completing the IAF and, by signing it, accept full responsibility for the project. The Internal Approval Form along with your proposal should be submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs at least ten days prior to proposal due date and ten days prior for a collaborative proposal.

In addition to the investigator’s signature, the IAF must also be signed by the department head or chair and Dean or Center Director. Investigators requiring signatures for cross-unit or interdisciplinary proposals should take into consideration the additional time needed to obtain the cross-unit signatures. The following is a suggested timetable for proposal submission and review.

Time Frame Detail
Thirty to forty-five days prior to submission date Inform Office of Sponsored Programs of Intent to Submit by completing the OSP Intent to Submit form.
Thirty to forty-five days prior to submission Preliminary research and proposal development
Thirty days prior to submission date Write abstract
Twenty-five to thirty days prior to submission date Complete proposal draft and submit to OSP
Twenty to ten days prior to submission Write proposal revisions
Ten to ten twenty days prior to submission date Complete proposal revisions
Five days prior to submission date Final review and submission of proposal to Sponsor

Occasionally a sponsor may require an institutional cover letter or letter of support from the President. These letter requests should be received by OSP at least ten business days before the deadline. In addition to the required internal review, additional time is necessary to obtain a signature due to the President’s extensive travel schedules. Investigators are strongly urged to coordinate their proposal schedule with the OSP as soon as the proposal deadline is known. All proposals should be submitted to the OSP electronically and on a CD, flash drive or other USB mass storage device. Proposal forms and guidelines are available on the Office of Sponsored Programs forms page.

Components of a Proposal

Format and Content

Most federal sponsors publish guidelines that list proposal requirements and instructions on how to prepare a proposal. They also require the use of specific forms, most of which can be obtained from this website.

Sponsors frequently revise proposal guidelines and other requirements (e.g., page limits, font sizes, margins, number of copies). Guidelines can vary not only between sponsors, but also among programs within an agency. Questions concerning proposal requirements that are not addressed in the sponsor’s guidelines can usually be answered by OSP staff.

In general, both federal and non-federal sponsors require the following:

  • Cover or Title Page: This should include the title of the proposed project, name(s) and title(s) of the principal investigator and co-investigators (if any), proposed project period, dollar amount, sponsor, the date, and any required school or department signatures. As the legal entity submitting the proposal on behalf of the investigator, NSU, with OSP’s address, should be used for the institutional address.
  • Introduction: A brief description of the proposed project’s objectives, any direct or closely related work which may be in progress, and any other pertinent background information as required by the sponsor.
  • Table of contents or index with page references. Detailed Program Description, including an explanation of the objectives in clear and concise terms, and a description of the procedures to be followed in carrying out the objectives.
  • Description of Current Facilities and Equipment, and the percentage of time it will be available for the proposed project.
  • List of personnel to include the names and titles of all professional personnel. Since named personnel might be used within key personnel clauses in an agreement, nonprofessional personnel should be listed by title or function only.
  • Curriculum Vitae of Key Personnel to include only professional and academic essentials and avoid personal background information.
  • List of Principal Investigator’s Publications: Include only those that are relevant or significant to the proposed project. The list should include items such as publications being printed, or invited lectures.
  • Budget with Justifications and Supporting Documentation, where appropriate.
  • Concurrent submissions: When the same proposal is being submitted to other sponsors a statement should appear in each proposal indicating that it is a concurrent submission.
  • List of Personnel’s Current or Pending Support: Indicate a) the source of support, b) project title, c) percent of effort; d) dates of project period, e) annual costs, and f) how this project does not overlap or duplicate projects supported by other funds. The statement “No overlap” is considered insufficient by most sponsors.
  • If required, include letters of collaboration, endorsement letters subcontractor proposals, and other supporting documentation.
  • Special requests or justifications: These could include: a change of principal investigator on renewal or continuation proposals, use of unexpected funds from a prior budget period, or the temporary absence of the principal investigator.
  • Certifications and representations and other forms that may be required. These should be prepared by the department for signature by OSP.

Estimating Your Budget

It is crucial for investigators to closely follow the sponsor’s instructions when preparing a budget. A competitive budget is one that will provide the sponsor with a complete financial picture of the proposed project. Budget should be allowable, allocable and reasonable. A budget is reviewed by the sponsor to verify if the costs are reasonable and necessary to carry out the proposed project, and if it conforms to the sponsor’s instructions. During award negotiations a budget is sometimes subjected to further analysis by the sponsor’s audit staff. Investigators and department administrators should refer questions to the OSP staff.

Direct Costs

Typical budget categories include personnel, employee benefits, equipment, travel, materials and supplies (refer to OMB Circulars A-21, A-87, A-122, A-102, A-110, and A-133). Some budgets may need categories for publication costs, consultants, or subcontracts. In most instances the direct costs should be reflected by major budget categories with an attached narrative detailing how the costs were calculated. The budget narrative should contain enough detail for the sponsor to verify the appropriateness of the costs. Certain costs are unallowable on projects. Unallowable costs, along with allowable costs, are explained in detail in Agency Guidelines.

In addition to the greater level of budget detail that may be required prior to making an award, some sponsors will perform their own audit or request an audit by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), NSU’s cognizant audit agency. The purpose of the audit is to verify costs and rates, and is the basis for which budget estimates have been determined. In some cases an audit is conducted by telephone, while others involve on-site visits by a DCAA audit team. Salary compensation should be based on the percent of time the employee will spend on the project. Example: (monthly salary rate) x___% of effort x number of months. If the project is multi-year include a 5% annual increase. Check with OSP for forward projections of increases. Salary requests for non-University people should be listed under the category of “Consultants”. Consultant payments are not salary or wage payments and should be listed as a separate line item under consultants.

Hours and/or rates and/or hourly rates are occasionally a requirement for proposals. Always include the following note when reporting hours: Hours – The estimate of hours and/or hourly rates are furnished solely for the purpose of this proposal. It is understood that the University will be required to maintain a record of hours of effort under any resultant award. A similar note should be included in proposals that require a cost by task or project breakdown. Fringe Benefits are expenses directly associated with employment and are applicable to all University salaries and wages. All full-time salaries carry a fringe benefit rate of 42%. Part-time staff and wage payroll personnel benefits are 7.65%.

Direct Costs - Budget Note

Facilities and Administrative (F & A) Costs or Indirect Costs are those costs that benefit common or joint objectives and cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored program, instructional activity or other institutional activity.

In addition to direct costs, sponsored projects are also charged facilities and administrative costs. Facilities and administrative costs are charged to a project by applying a percentage (the facilities and administrative cost rate) to the total direct costs of the project minus certain exclusions. Facilities and administrative costs rates are proposed annually by NSU to the Department of Health & Human Services using the federal cost principles detailed in OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions). The proposed rates are then audited by the federal government and negotiated by the University Controller with the government’s representative. The calculation results in a facilities and administrative cost rate that is applied to certain direct costs, in order to arrive at the indirect costs that are charged to a project.

NSU's F & A Rate was negotiated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The fixed rate for July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2018 (or until renegotiated) is 40% for on-campus or 24.50% for off-campus. Modified total direct costs, consisting of all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel and subgrants and subcontracts up to the first $25,000 of each subgrant or subcontract (regardless of the period covered by the subgrant or subcontract). Modified total direct costs shall exclude equipment, capital expenditures, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships and fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000.


Under certain circumstances it may be appropriate or required for NSU to share the costs of a project. Cost-sharing under a federal program is subject to Office Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 (Grants and Agreements With Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Nonprofit Organizations: Uniform Administrative Requirements). A-110 stipulates that the cost-sharing must come from non-federal sources and contribute directly to the proposed project. Proposals listing cost-sharing should explain how the cost-sharing commitments will be met. The actual cost-sharing is auditable and subject to verification. Cost-share commitments should be discussed with OSP and department head well in advance of the proposal deadline.

Sponsored Program Responsibilities

OSP is available to assist as needed the investigator/director and/or unit in any phase of proposal preparation. Proposals are carefully reviewed to ensure that they comply with all University, sponsor, and/or State requirements, and are prepared in such a way as to meet with favorable reviews during competition. Proposals are reviewed for the following criteria:

  • Proposal format and content must comply with sponsor guidelines;
  • Budget must reflect adequate resources and costing detail to accomplish the project and complies with sponsor, University and State guidelines;
  • Review of IAF for appropriate signatures and investigator compliance with relevant special reviews;
  • Verification of cost-share commitments and/or matching funds;
  • Verification of documentation for subcontractor and/or consultants;
  • Review and signature of certifications and representations, OSP then prepares a transmittal letter and forwards the proposal as appropriate.

University Policy Considerations

Consortiums/Joint Proposals/Subcontract Agreements

Research to be conducted by NSU and one or more other parties as a joint venture or partnership will occasionally raise questions concerning the legal relationship and liability of each party. When such questions arise OSP will review the arrangement and/or special concerns with University Counsel, unless the arrangements are clearly intended to establish a traditional contractor-subcontractor, consortium, or joint study relationship. Investigators/directors cannot contractually commit the University. When NSU is the lead institution OSP requires a statement from each participating organization that includes a full cost budget and scope of work. - Sample Subcontract Agreement

Teaming Agreement

In the case of consortiums/joint proposals a Teaming Agreement may be needed. A Teaming Agreement is a document that shows whereby a prime contractor and subcontractor agree to combine resources to partner on a major opportunity. Typically, this agreement includes the actual bid of the subcontractor as an exhibit. Sample Teaming Agreement

Non-Disclosure Agreement

In instances where confidentiality is an issue a confidentiality agreement, also known as non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is needed. NDAs are agreements by which one or more parties, standing in a confidential relationship to each other, promises to keep secret certain information acknowledged by the parties to be confidential or trade secrets. A non-disclosure agreement shows a recipient's rights and obligations in respect to confidential information. Sample Non-Disclosure Agreement


Consultants are independent contractors and not employees or agents of the University. Special review and approval procedures are required if a project anticipates using consultants. Designation of independent contractor status is governed by the Internal Revenue’s Code of Common Law. NSU may be subjected to significant institutional tax penalties should the individual be incorrectly classified as an independent contractor. In addition, contracting with an independent contractor may expose the University to significant financial risk if the consultant has limited net worth or inadequate insurance coverage. Questions concerning the use or status of an independent contractor should be directed to your OSP well in advance of the proposal deadline.


At the time of proposal submission a sponsor will often require an indication of what terms and conditions will be acceptable to NSU in the event of an award. Exceptions to a sponsor’s terms and conditions are addressed by the OSP in a transmittal letter. For commercial sponsors OSP will often include a copy of the standard NSU agreement. Investigators who are aware of special sponsor requirements should discuss them with their OSP well in advance of the proposal deadline. NSU will normally only enter into agreements that adhere to the following principles: the research is conducted on a best efforts basis without guarantee of success and without financial risk or liability to the University; costs are fully reimbursed unless cost-sharing has been approved; and, there are no restrictions on the dissemination of the research results except: 1) those that relate to the protection of a sponsor’s proprietary information; 2) the rights of privacy of individuals; or 3) establishing rights in patentable inventions and other intellectual property.

Limited Proposal Submissions

Some sponsors limit the number of nominations or proposals that NSU may submit to a particular program. When this situation occurs OSP will carefully base their decision on who gets to submit on who sends in their proposal first, the quality of both submissions and input from appropriate Vice Presidents.

Special Reviews

A number of internal review and approval procedures may be required before proposal submissions, or before an award can be accepted by the university. All necessary reviews and approvals should be initiated before OSP’s proposal review process, thereby avoiding last minute delays.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is addressed in the terms and conditions negotiated by OSP when accepting an award. For most awards NSU will retain ownership of intellectual property developed on sponsored projects in order to avoid conflicting commitments to various sponsors. In the case of patents, policy requires the University to retain ownership unless a special waiver is approved. As with patents, NSU prefers to retain ownership of copyrights. In some instances NSU will allow the sponsor to own the copyright on deliverable reports, while retaining the right of use for University purposes. Intellectual Property Agreement


Currently, Norfolk State University does not have any active animal research on campus. NSU researchers who are engaged in research involving animals do so through subcontractual arrangements with Eastern Virginia Medical School, Old Dominion University and or other partners. This policy will be updated, vetted and revised by the end of the current fiscal year. Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee Policy

Human Subjects

The Human Subjects Protection Committee, as required by Federal law, acts as the institutional review board for research on human subjects at NSU regardless of the source of funds. All uses of humans as subjects (including survey respondents) must be reviewed and approved by the Human Subjects Protection Committee prior to starting the research. Guidelines for Submitting Protocols to the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Scientific Misconduct

In compliance with PHS regulation (42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart A) the OSP has in place procedures for Responding to Allegations of Scientific Misconduct. Scientific Misconduct means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

This office will work exhaustively to protect the reputation and position of good faith whistleblowers as outlined in the Office for Research Integrity's Handbook for Institutional Research Integrity Officers. OSP staff will place major importance on fostering a research environment that discourages misconduct in research efforts as outlined in (42 C.F.R. Part 50, Section 105) as well as encourage researchers in cultivating new and innovative research ideas. The Scientific Misconduct Policy

Proposal Processing Channels

Approval is evidenced by signatures on the proposal and on the University’s Internal Approval Form (IAF). After the Principal Investigator (PI)/Project Director (PD) and any co-investigators have signed the final version and signed the IAF, the proposal must be approved by the Department Head and Dean and forwarded to OSP. After Campus/Unit review and approval (as evidenced by the signatures on the IAF), proposals are submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs. OSP reviews the proposal and budget and the PI/PD secures the required authorized University signatures. OSP assigns a number to the proposal for data entry and submits the proposal to the sponsor as per instructions on the RFP, RFB, RFQ, and BAA.

Principal Investigator's - Project Director's Responsibilities

The University assumes legal responsibility for funded projects and the PI is responsible for the management, activities and technical reporting activities. The PI/PD must maintain contact with the sponsor’s technical monitor and comply with all technical reporting requirements. The PI/PD must also initiate correspondence with the sponsor’s administrative or contract monitor to request programmatic or budgetary changes. All such requested revisions should be routed through OSP for appropriate approval signatures.

Proposal Preparations and Processing

Responsibilities of Project Directors and/or Principal Investigators

  • Notifies Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) of intent to submit
  • Coordinates with OSP during proposal development
  • Researches and develops proposal information and components
  • Produces and types each draft and the final proposal in electronic format
  • Complies with sponsor guidelines and requirements
  • Verifies of University and other resource availability
  • Reviews program concepts with directors, department heads, deans, and/or appropriate supervisors
  • Develops of detailed budget
  • Completes execution of Internal Approval Form (IAF)
  • Identifies animal care, human subject protection, DNA, or other relevant research issues
  • Identifies potential intellectual property products
  • Secures all University and/or partners hierarchy approvals
  • Secures OSP access and approval for electronic submissions
  • Identifies and secures approval of desired space use
  • Secures Letters of support (supervisors, partners, etc.)

Program Management

Responsibilities of the Project Director or Principal Investigator

  • Oversees Day-to-Day management of all program activities
  • Monitors all IFAS entries
  • Reviews GL-19 Report monthly for accuracy and make/pursue adjustments accordingly
  • Implements program objectives
  • Maintains director or investigator expense ledger
  • Generates an Account Directors Summary Report and resolves open commitments monthly
  • Selects, supervises, and evaluates of program staff
  • Works with HR to create personnel positions
  • Ensures timely completion of NSU and sponsor program reports
  • Generates paperwork to create special program accounts
  • Sends early warning of successes and problems to the OSP
  • Follows paperwork through systems
  • Secures OSP clearance for all contacts with sponsors
  • Complies with University use policy for Small Purchasing and Travel cards
  • Meeting sponsors reporting requirements and all reporting requests of OSP

Office of Sponsored Programs Responsibility

Proposal Preparation and Processing

Responsibilities of the Office of Sponsored Programs

  • Identifies potential sponsors
  • Provides training and assists with development of draft and final proposals
  • Conducts compliance review
  • Reviews and approves University commitment
  • Assesses University liability
  • Reviews format and content
  • Assists in identifying and approval of cost-sharing plans
  • Reviews and approves budget proposal
  • Reviews and approves of Internal Approval Form
  • Approves partnering plans
  • Processes Assurances
  • Prepares transmittal letters
  • Performs Final Review Authority for all NSU proposal submissions
  • Prepares NSU Official letters of support
  • Copies, Package, and mails proposals
  • Completes electronic submission of proposals
  • Provides Instruction for accessing sponsored programs resources

Program Management

Responsibilities of the Office of Sponsored Programs

  • Provides administrative oversight for University sponsored programs
  • Serves as Official University negotiator for sponsored program agreements
  • Serves as Final approval point for sponsored program activity
  • Serves as designated reviewer for the Research and Technology
  • Serves as Official University contact for government and other sponsors for all sponsored program activity
  • Serves as Official reviewer of sponsored program agreements
  • Monitors program compliance issues for sponsored programs
  • Completes and reviews requests for all extension requests
  • Reviews reports to sponsors, prior to submissions by directors
  • Coordinates between sponsors and directors/investigators interactions on program matters