Proposal Development

Applying for grants can be a complicated and daunting task, especially for new faculty members. The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) offers resources and training to ease the process.

While the OVPR does have local resources available to assist researchers with grant proposal writing and copy editing, investigators are expected to write their own proposals. Contact the Research Development Team for information. The RDT provides additional organizational resources for those individuals and teams preparing large multi-investigator and/or multi-institutional proposals.

The Office of Research Services (ORS) offers a variety of training opportunities, including a research orientation, as well as workshops on budgeting, Cayuse 424, the university’s electronic proposal development system, and other resources. ORS also has developed a checklist to assist with proposal preparation.

Roles and Responsibilities

While a grant is actually awarded to the university on behalf of the researcher, it is the researcher’s responsibility to adhere to the requirements of the sponsor and the university.

Office of the Vice President for Research

The OVPR provides a myriad of resources to encourage research, scholarship and creative activity across the university. The OVPR:

  • Provides access to federal funding opportunities through the Funding Resources Web page
  • Has established the Research Development Team to provide support for large or complex awards or transdisciplinary efforts involving multiple areas or institutions
  • Provides resources for researchers to assist them with proposal development and writing
  • Administers Limited Submissions.
  • Provides Responsible Conduct of Research oversight and training, including conflict of interest, laboratory/studio safety, animal care and use, human subjects, environmental health and safety, and various institutional safety and compliance committees

Principal Investigator

A sponsored project may have single or multiple principal investigators (PIs). In order to be a PI on a TTU submission, the individual must be a TTU employee who is a faculty member, instructor, post-doctoral researcher, or staff member. The Office of Research Services will examine any requests for exemptions to this rule on a case-by-case basis. A principal investigator is responsible for the research, scholarship or creative activity funded by the outside entity. While a sponsored project may be awarded based on the researcher’s expertise, the formal award is made to Texas Tech University. Once an award is accepted, the principal investigator takes responsibility for conducting the research and administering the project. The PI must follow all sponsor regulations as well as university policies.

PI responsibilities include:

  • Review of sponsor and university requirements that must be fulfilled by the PI
  • Preparing and submitting internal forms and materials for pre-award review and approval, following the requirements of the sponsor and of the university
  • Preparing appropriate letters of intent for the sponsor or for the university in the case of a limited submission
  • Submitting any additional information a sponsor might request
  • Managing the project in accordance with sponsor and university requirements
  • Managing the agreed-upon budget; Over-expenditures are the responsibility of the PI’s department
  • Submitting time and effort reports according to university policy
  • Submitting conflict of interest notifications as appropriate
  • Working with Human Research Protection Program, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Environmental Health and Safety or the Bio-safety Committee as appropriate
  • Reviewing and following all export control rules as appropriate
  • Submitting and retaining documents as required by the award
  • Completing award requirements as stipulated by the sponsor
  • Following sponsor and university rules upon completion of the project or if a researcher leaves the university for any reason

Office of Research Services

The Office of Research Services (ORS) is a part of the OVPR. ORS provides pre-award, contract negotiation and some award closeout services. Most post-award services are provided by the Office of Research Accounting (OAR), formally known as Sponsored Programs Accounting and Reporting (SPAR). Those services are outlined below. ORS responsibilities include:

  • Training faculty and staff to access and use local and agency-provided on-line program information
  • Responding to faculty requests for specific information
  • Assisting with budget preparation and completion of assurances and other forms
  • Ensuring that agency and university requirements are met
  • Ensuring that export control regulations are met
  • Submitting electronic proposals and proposals requiring hard copies by mail
  • Maintaining files of active proposals and awards
  • Providing regular reports to the THECB, Board of Regents, vice presidents, deans and other administrators concerning proposal and award activity
  • Responding to requests for information or special reports
  • Negotiating the business aspects of grants and contracts on behalf of the university
  • Reviewing all award documents prior to acceptance by the university
  • Processing all awards for acceptance
  • Award extensions, continuations, renewals, and modifications
  • changes in principal investigators/key personnel
  • sub-award agreements
  • advance FOPs
  • human subject, animal care, hazardous material, and financial conflict of interest compliance
  • Assisting and advising principal investigators, project directors and project staff

Office of Research Accounting

The Office of Research Accounting, formerly Sponsored Program Accounting and Reporting (SPAR), has responsibility for most post-award administration functions.

The post-award administration for sponsored projects was consolidated in June 2014 to more effectively support the university's vision to become a nationally-recognized public research university.  The overall goal with the consolidation is to improve customer service to departments and principal investigators and to maximize efficiencies in post-award processes. 

A dedicated grant specialist within ORA will assist with all post-award administrative activities and will address any and all issues, concerns, and questions you may have about the award, related compliance requirements, and institutional processes.  You will now have ONE point of contact for all post-award matters.ORA responsibilities include:

Project Management

The grant specialist will provide the following services throughout the term of your project:

  • Award Setup – establish all project and cost share FOPs and budgets in Banner
  • Award Management – process and monitor budget revision requests, approve procurement of federally-funded equipment, monitor certain project expenditures, monitor cost share commitments, address all questions and issues related to the financial administration of projects, and obtain sponsor approval as needed
  • Award Closeout – coordinate the submission of all required closeout documents
Accounting and Reporting

A separate group within ORA will perform the following post-award financial and accounting activities:

  • Billing – submit invoices and/or draw down project funding
  • Reporting – submit required financial reports
  • Collections – follow up with sponsors to collect amounts owed

The invoicing and reporting for some projects may require some departmental coordination. To the extent possible, ORA will work through your grant specialist to meet the billing and reporting obligations. Again, the goal is that you have one point of contact.

Cost Accounting and Compliance

ORA also has responsibility for the following, some of which may involve different points of contact on a less-frequent basis: facilities and administrative (F&A) rate proposal, academic service center rate development, effort reporting, sub-recipient monitoring, ePAF approval, eVerify compliance, and various other internal and external reporting.

Department’s Role

The role of a department or unit may vary. Each faculty member should consult with his/her department chair about available assistance.

Generally, departments are responsible for:

  • Assisting in the preparation of the budget by assuring all salary rates are correct, and appropriate university rates have been used for fringe benefits, tuition and F&A costs; these details can be obtained from the ORS website and proposal development modules
  • Ensuring all departmental and college approvals are secured

Sponsored Project Definition

A sponsored project is one in which funds are awarded to the university by an external party in support of research or other scholarly pursuits. A sponsored project typically, but not always:

  • Is awarded through a request for proposals (RFP) or other similar competitive process
  • Has designated principal investigator(s)
  • Commits the university to specific conditions and requires that the principal investigator follow a specific plan of research or meet stated goals
  • Has specific financial accountability that will include regular budget reporting; the university’s F&A or indirect cost rate; equipment purchase agreements; and any salary, fringe benefits and insurance to be paid
  • Has a specified end date for funding
  • Includes project outcome reporting
  • May require reports to the sponsor
  • May require a university data management plan

The university may also receive gifts that can be used for research, scholarship and creative activity. Gifts are made by a person or organization external to the university. Your college’s development officer also can assist you. However, to receive credit for any research funding, you must submit a routing sheet to ORS for processing, even if the development of the funding occurred through your development officer.

Sponsored Project Stages

A sponsored project has several stages:

  • Pre-proposal Development – a PI determines a need in his/her field. Often a PI will need to look outside his/her area for co-PIs or collaborators with complementary skills and expertise.
  • Funding Opportunities – once a PI determines a need, he/she must look for external funding opportunities. Opportunities from all federal agencies are available through Community of Science Pivot, or Grants.gov. You also may contact the Office of Corporate Engagement to pursue private corporate sponsored research opportunities. A proposal may require a letter of intent or may have a limited submission rule. The PI is responsible for knowing deadlines. All limited submissions are managed through the OVPR. A Request for Proposal will state specifically if it limits the number of submissions. Texas Tech manages all limited submissions through the OVPR. The OVPR maintains a list of limited submission opportunities.
  • Proposal Development – The PI is responsible for assembling the proposal package, preparing a budget, obtaining pre-award review, completing the internal routing process and acquiring the appropriate approvals and departmental signatures. Faculty should check with their respective department chairs for policies and approvals specific to their department.
  • Proposal Submission – ORS will review and submit the proposal. Faculty are encouraged to allow adequate time for ORS to check the proposal to ensure that university and sponsor requirements are complete and that budgets are correct.
  • Award Negotiation and Acceptance – Once a sponsor approves a proposal, the university will negotiate acceptance of the award. Once final documents are signed and budget amounts set, oversight moves from ORS to ORA, formerly SPAR.
  • Post-AwardORA is responsible for account setup, sponsor billing, sponsor financial reporting and other functions.
  • End of the Project – contact ORS to close out grant accounts.

Types of Proposals

Most proposals are submitted in response to a specific request from a funding sponsor. Each RFP (request for proposal) and agency may have differing requirements. The PI is responsible for understanding and meeting those requirements. The ORS Pre-Award Services Team can assist faculty in interpreting sponsor guidelines.

  • Preliminary Proposals, Pre-proposals or Letters/Notices of Intent – Some sponsors will request a short proposal from researchers to determine interest in a project. Many federal agencies are increasingly asking for pre-proposals. ORS is using the pre-proposal cover sheet to aid in tracking effort on pre-proposals. The routing sheet does not need to be signed in this case as there are no certifications being made at the pre-proposal stage. Pre-proposals will receive an ORS Log Number which will be retained if a full proposal is invited.
  • Solicited Proposals – Federal, state and private entities will issue calls for proposals for funding of new projects.
  • Unsolicited Proposals or White Papers – Investigators may submit proposals to a sponsor that is not in response to an RFP. PIs should talk with their department chairs, college deans and with Michael San Francisco, special advisor to the vice president for research, or the Research Development Team before submitting an unsolicited proposal.
  • Continuation Proposals – These are proposals asking for continuation of funding based on work delivered with the initial funding. Sponsors may request a new budget.
  • Revised Proposals – This is submitted if a sponsor has indicated the project may be fundable if specific changes are made.
  • Limited Submissions – Some sponsors limit the number of proposals that will be accepted from an institution. A proposal RFP will state specifically if it limits the number of submissions. Texas Tech manages all limited submissions through the OVPR. The OVPR maintains a list of limited submission opportunities. When a limit is imposed, the university will require a notice of intent from those interested in submitting a proposal in response to that particular RFP. If more notices are received than the institutional limit allows, an internal competition will be held. As with all proposals for sponsored projects, proposals for limited submission programs are not authorized to leave the university without review and approval from ORS.

Content of a Proposal

The proposal format should always adhere to the agency guidelines. Many funding agencies have moved to electronic submission of grant proposal applications.

ORS uses the Cayuse 424 electronic proposal submission system. Cayuse provides streamlined internal routing and approval of proposals, facilitates submission to sponsor systems, tracks research proposal and award activity, and stores proposal and award documents. A series of training modules are available to help researchers understand how to use Cayuse. For questions, please contact your ORS pre-award staff person.

A proposal format should always adhere to the agency guidelines. If the agency does not have specific guidelines, ORS has provided general guidance on a standard proposal format with components that are standard to most proposals.

All proposals should be routed through ORS to ensure that the proposal has been authorized by the appropriate university representatives. Proposals will utilize the new online routing capabilities of the Cayuse system. In most cases, ORS acts as the authorized office to sign applications on behalf of the university.

ORS has created a proposal checklist to help expedite review of proposals within TTU, avoid delays in rewriting and revising proposals, and facilitate planning for the initiation of the proposed project.

Budget Development

The budget is a detailed statement outlining estimated project costs to support work under a grant. The preparation of a budget is an important part of the proposal preparation process and should be considered as the project is developed. This is important for two reasons:

  • Developing the budget alongside the narrative assures that the budget items are specifically related to activities described in the proposal.
  • Reviewers often examine the budget in the context of the program narrative, evaluate whether sufficient and appropriate personnel to perform the work have been included, and match the overall budget to the work proposed.

Please note that investigators must obtain approval from their department and college before committing the university to any cost sharing.

To aid investigators ORS has created a Budget Development website that includes a budget template.

Research expenses can be divided into two areas:

  • Direct costs – specific line items in a budget, such as salaries, fringe benefits, equipment and travel.
  • Indirect costs (F&A costs) – costs incurred for common or joint objectives, such as building/equipment depreciation and general administrative costs. F&A is paid as a percentage of direct costs, with the amount negotiated by the university and the sponsor. The distribution of F&A costs is worked out between the colleges and the OVPR. Distribution varies by college. Check with your department chair for specifics.

Cost sharing has a significant financial impact on the university. The final decision on cost-sharing is made by the vice president for research. All requests for cost-sharing should be routed through department chairs, college deans and the VP for research. A decision to cost share should therefore be carefully weighed. Commitments should be held to a minimum. The university's position is to provide cost sharing only when required by agency guidelines or delineated in specific program announcements or are necessary due to the competitive nature of the proposal. In some cases, voluntary committed cost share is prohibited by the sponsoring agency, such as the National Science Foundation, which will only accept cost share in a select number of programs.

Data Management Plans

The National Science Foundation requires that projects have a data management plan that includes permanent storage and accessibility provisions. The Texas Tech University Libraries has created a Data Management section on their website to help fulfill this requirement.

If your project requires exceptionally large amounts of space for data storage and transfer or involves complex and/or security related issues, please contact the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Frequently Used Material

Information that may be helpful to you in preparing proposals can be found in TTU Institutional Data. This information includes the certifying official, Federal Employer Identification numbers, the most recent fringe benefit, graduate student tuition and indirect cost rates.

Required Certifications

If your proposal involves human subjects and/or animal use, review and approval by specific university boards is required. It is important to note that Texas Tech may have different human subjects and animal research policies and procedures than your previous institution. Please contact the appropriate office before submitting a grant proposal.

For human subjects, the Office for Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) or the Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews all projects involving human subjects, regardless of funding.

Any project using animals must be reviewed and approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee.

Please note that some proposals need IRB approval before submissions. If research includes genetic testing or use of the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) equipment at Texas Tech for body or brain scanning of human subjects, please contact the HRPP office.

If the proposal requires the use of radiation, lasers, biohazards, or recombinant DNA, authorizations are required from the appropriate campus committee. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety assists with these areas.

The appropriate committee will notify the researcher and ORS of its approval, once it has been obtained. As required, ORS will forward this notification to the potential sponsor. Information regarding approvals is also entered into Texas Tech’s proposal database.

All investigators must annually disclose significant financial interests to Texas Tech. The Investigator Financial Disclosure website provides forms and instructions. For those who have or plan to apply for National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other Public Health Service grants, Texas Tech follows NIH guidelines for financial disclosure. In addition, Texas Tech Operating Policy 70.37 outlines the general university regulations and procedures regarding annual disclosure of significant business and financial interests as well as the identification of conflicts or potential conflicts of interest. The regulations and procedures serve to protect the credibility and the integrity of the university's faculty and staff, as well as the institution, so that public trust and confidence in its sponsored activities are not compromised.

Subcontract and Professional Services

If any of the work on a project will be done by an entity outside of Texas Tech, the PI must provide a scope of work (technical proposal) and budget for each sub-awardee. ORS provides general subcontract information to assist PIs in preparing this section of a proposal. It also will be necessary to include a letter of commitment signed by the sub-awardee’s authorized institutional official, usually ORS. Be sure to follow any other specific instructions including form preparation required by the sponsoring agency. In addition to the letter of commitment, each sub-awardee should complete the Texas Tech Subrecipient Commitment Form.

Industry Sponsorship and Engagement

Industry and commercial organizations are a valuable source of research support. While the university encourages faculty interaction with their counterparts in industry, faculty members must recognize the potential for conflicts of interest. Faculty members engaging in discussions with companies should notify the Texas Tech University System (TTUS) Office of Corporate Engagement (OCE). Any faculty member receiving funding from industry or corporations must file disclosure documents with the Research Integrity Office of the OVPR.

If funding is coming from an industry source, ORS provides important forms for both the researcher and the industry sponsor. Those forms include:

  • TTU policies for industry sponsors
  • Standard agreement for industry sponsors
  • Nondisclosure agreement (two-way)
  • Nondisclosure agreement (one-way)
  • Material Transfer Agreement

The Office of Corporate Engagement serves as the business development arm for the system, matching university resources with commercial opportunities focused on privately funded research. OCE provides the TTUS researchers time and expertise to negotiate the best value and offers relationship management and development with industry partners.

It is common for industry partners to request an opportunity to license intellectual property that is developed through sponsored research agreements. The Texas Tech University System Office of Technology Commercialization is responsible for negotiating such license agreements for technology developed by university researchers and is availableto assist with all intellectual property patent and licensing questions.

Export Control

Individual PIs can be liable for violation of export regulations and penalties range from loss of research awards to fines that can approach $100,000 per day per violation, or jail time.

Current export law controls both hardware and information concerning a range of designated “defense articles” in a way that may have a substantial impact on university research. As a general proposition, a “deemed export” (one requiring a license and imposing access restrictions) exists whenever a foreign national on U.S. soil may be exposed to or be able to access in any manner an export-controlled item of information.

ORS has compiled an Overview of Export Control Laws and Related TTU Procedures to assist principal investigators in determining whether the research they are proposing may be subject to export controls. The information is intended to promote understanding of and compliance with the regulations by all persons involved in research, whether the research is administered by the Office of Research Services. If you have questions about how the export regulations apply to specific research, please feel free to contact Amy Cook at amy.cook@ttu.edu

Data Rights

Original data produced by the research project is owned by the university. This includes any information recorded in any form by the researcher or anyone working on the project, technical data, software code, flow-charts, laboratory books, DNA sequences, viruses, cell lines, etc. The PI, along with the university, is responsible for the retention and appropriate dissemination of the data. The project sponsor also may have an impact on what is done with the data.

The Texas Tech University Libraries has created a Data Management section on their web site to help fulfill this requirement.

If your project requires exceptionally large amounts of space for data storage and transfer, please contact the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

While the university owns the data, the PI has the right to publish the data and is encouraged to do so by the university. The PI is responsible for knowing if the funding agreement with the sponsor has any limits on or special requirements for publication. If patent protection is sought, this could result in a delay in publication.

Intellectual Property and Commercialization

Intellectual property is composed of tangible property produced in the course of research including patentable inventions and copyrightable works, and intangible property such as ideas, expressions, formulas, or any other creations of the mind. All intellectual property created by university researchers made by researchers with the use of university resources or during the course of covered persons university responsibilities is automatically owned by the university and must be promptly disclosed to the Texas Tech University Office of Research Commercialization (ORC). All communications with ORC must initially notify Amy Cook in the ORS.

It is advised that, when possible, researchers disclose intellectual property and meet with the ORC representatives several months prior to public disclosure in a journal article or conference presentation to prevent the loss of patent rights. ORC works with faculty to identify intellectual property for patenting and licensing and will decide whether to pursue patent protection on inventions disclosed to the office.

ORC will work with researchers to protect valuable intellectual property before publication dates where necessary.

As a public institution, Texas Tech is entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the application of intellectual property for public use and to provide an equitable distribution of interests among the creators, the university, and where applicable, the sponsoring or contracting funding source as outlined in Texas Tech Operating Policy 74.04 and Board of Regents’ Rules. ORC has developed an Inventor’s Resources website with a step-by-step chart to help faculty understand how to patent and commercialize an invention.

Reference Material

ORS also maintains important information about the institution for your proposal.

Several agencies provide proposals guides to assist researchers, including: