Components of a Proposal
Most sponsors provide guidelines that specify the form and content of a proposal. Careful attention to these guidelines is essential, because a lack of conformity may cause the proposal to be returned without review.
In addition to a technical description of the work to be performed, many sponsors (particularly federal agencies) require the completion of specific forms available on the individual agency’s website, at Grants.gov, or via the university's proposal submission system.
1. Cover sheet
Sponsors usually request that applicants complete forms that provide basic administrative information, including project title; project period (start and end date); funds requested; principal investigator (PI) and any Co-PI name(s), title(s), address(es), phone and fax number(s), email address(es); and administrative contact information (the Office of Sponsored Programs). Basic cover sheet information also includes the university’s corporate and legal name as well as the university’s primary DUNS number (075746271).
2. Representations and Certifications
All federal grant and contract applications require that an authorized university signatory sign a series of representations and certifications attesting to the institution’s eligibility to receive and administer federal funds. The three most common types of representations and certifications are Debt and Debarment, Lobbying and Drug-Free Work Place. Other types of representations and certifications vary by agency. Most federal sponsors require that these forms be submitted with the application, but some do not require them until the time of award.
Also referred to as a “project summary,” this document provides a brief (typically no more than one page) high-level description of the goals of the proposed research. If the sponsor has specific requirements for the project summary, they should be followed carefully. The NSF, for example, requires that the project summary explicitly address the “intellectual merit” and the “broader impacts” of the proposed research and will return (without review) proposals that do not include this information.
This is the scientific or technical description of the project. Many sponsors have strict guidelines regarding page length and formatting (margins, lines per inch, font size, etc.) and may reject proposals that do not meet these guidelines, so it is essential to review the program announcement carefully and to adhere to the sponsor’s guidelines.
5. Budget and Budget Justification
Most research proposals and many fellowship proposals ask for a detailed (“line-item”) budget and a narrative explanation of the items in each budget category. Information about budget preparation can be found in the Budget Preparation sections of this Guide.
6. Curriculum Vitae (CV) and List of Publications
Literally the “course of life,” the CV is sometimes referred to as a résumé or biographical sketch (biosketch). Normally, the CV is accompanied by a list of the person’s publications. CVs for the PI and any other faculty members who will be working on a project should be included with the proposal. Here again, many sponsors have specific formatting and page length restrictions. Most federal sponsors require a shortened CV and a list of publications of between two (NSF) and three (NIH) pages.
Note that typically, the CV/list of publications of all people playing a significant role in the project are required, whether or not they are Co-PIs or Key Personnel, and even if they are not otherwise affiliated with the University of Idaho.
7. Current and Pending Support
Many sponsors request that applicants provide summaries of their current and anticipated grant and contract funding. Information requested usually includes the sponsor, project title, period of performance and amount funded. Some agencies also ask for percentages of effort. To avoid cost-sharing implications, the amount of effort committed to projects should not be reported unless it is explicitly requested.
*Note — using the university's system-to-system submission software for your federal proposals will automatically fill University of Idaho information into the Cover Sheet, and automatically store Curriculum Vitae/Biosketches and Current and Pending files to drop into Grants.gov and NSF forms. In addition, using this software allows the proposal to be created as a single file that can be submitted electronically to the sponsor.