|Funding||Types of Proposals
Conflict of Interest
Limited Proposal Submissions
Principal Investigator Eligibility
Principal Investigator Responsibility
Insurance and Risk Management
Institutional Biosafety Committee (formerly rDNA)
Space Rental or Renovation
|Components of a Proposal||Format and Content
Facilities and Administrative Costs
|Proposal Preparation and
|Principal Investigator Responsibilities
Office of Sponsored Programs Responsibilities
|Appendix A||Where to Route a Funding Request
|Appendix B||Office Responsible for Post-Award Administration
|Appendix C||Internal Academic Approval of Sponsored Programs (OSP Form 10)
|Appendix D||Sample Budget Format Showing Major Categories
|Appendix E||Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Cost Calculation Detail
Now, more than ever, the escalating cost of academic programs and limited availability of University funds makes it necessary for faculty and research staff to apply to public and private organizations to support research and extension projects.
The definition of a sponsored project is a signed award (grant, contract, or cooperative agreement) under which the University agrees to perform a certain scope of work, according to specific terms and conditions, for a specific budgeted financial compensation.
This Guide was written and designed to provide faculty and staff from any University unit (except the Weill Medical College) with the information necessary to prepare and submit a sponsored project proposal through Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP).
All requests for external funding of University activities are institutional actions that require the administration by, and approval of, either OSP or the appropriate program within University Development - usually Corporate or Foundation Relations. Deciding which office should be involved is determined by both the type of sponsor and the type of funding request (see Appendix A, "Where to Route a Funding Request").
When a proposal is funded, the type of sponsor and the type of award terms determine the office responsible for the negotiation, acceptance, and related post-award administration of the award (see Appendix B, "Office Responsible for Post-Award Administration").
OSP has delegated limited responsibility to some departments and units to act on its behalf for proposal processing. Your department or unit administrator can assist you with any special procedures this may involve.
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. Common proposal types include:
Solicited proposals, submitted in response to a specific solicitation issued by a sponsor. Such solicitations, typically called Request for Proposals (RFP), or Request for Quotations (RFQ), are usually specific in their requirements regarding format and technical content, and may stipulate certain award terms and conditions (see Proposal Preparation and Processing Responsibilities). Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) are not considered formal solicitations.
Unsolicited proposals, submitted to a sponsor that has not issued a specific solicitation but is believed by the investigator to have an interest in the subject.
Preproposals, requested when a sponsor wishes to minimize an applicant's effort in preparing a full proposal. Preproposals are usually in the form of a letter of intent or brief abstract. After the preproposal 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 competing 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.
U.S. Government: Most of Cornell's sponsored project support is provided by the federal government. The largest sponsors include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. These agencies announce funding opportunities through a variety of print and electronic media.
Non-U.S. Government: This group encompasses foundations, corporations, state and local governments, and other non-profit organizations. Funding interests vary significantly among these organizations, and most opportunities are cultivated through recognition of like interests.
The Office of Sponsored Programs can assist researchers in identifying potential funding sources. Funding opportunities are also announced in the following publications: the Federal Register, the National Institutes of Health Guide to Grants and Contracts, and the NSF E-Bulletin.
Also available are links to the Community of Science and the University of Illinois' Researcher Information Service funding databases. Combined, these two databases offer over 35,000 potential funding opportunities. A description of each service, including instructions for performing funding searches and directions for creating an alert service are detailed on the Funding Opportunities page.
Both Corporate Relations and Foundation Relations have extensive experience in soliciting support from the individuals, foundations, and corporations that have a special giving relationship with Cornell. Some College development and research offices and departments are also experienced in working with these supporters. Investigators are strongly encouraged to first contact these offices when considering a proposal submission to these types of supporters (see Appendix A, "Where to Route a Funding Request").
Investigators considering a proposal submission to any sponsor should first contact their department or unit administrator. Some administrators are experienced in preparing sponsored project applications and can offer valuable assistance in developing a competitive proposal and budget. In addition, most Colleges and departments have unit-specific requirements and considerations (e.g., cost-sharing, release time, use of space, equipment purchase or usage) that must be addressed before a proposal can be approved and forwarded to OSP.
General policy considerations related to sponsored project activities are outlined in the Cornell University Faculty Handbook (2002 revision). The following considerations are those that investigators will frequently encounter when preparing a proposal. Your Grant and Contract Officer (GCO) can provide additional guidance with other questions or concerns that may arise.
"In 1989 the Cornell Faculty Council of Representatives adopted a resolution endorsing the right of faculty to pursue research of their choosing, as long as that research: is within the guidelines of scholarly quality; is accessible to all interested scholars; and is in compliance with the laws of the land." More specifically, only proposals to sponsors whose terms and conditions allow freedom of access and publication are acceptable to Cornell. The University does not permit government classified research, research projects that do not permit the free and open publication, presentation, or discussion of the results, nor the exclusion of hiring foreign nationals.
Conflicts are most likely to arise when a proposal is submitted to a company where the Cornell investigator(s) has a financial interest. The Internal Academic Approval of Sponsored Programs form, Form 10, contains a question asking if the principal investigator or other key personnel on the proposed project have current or pending obligations that could create a conflict of interest if the proposal were funded. When such potential exists the appropriate Dean or Vice Provost will review the circumstances in accordance with Cornell's Conflicts Policy. If the Annual Disclosure Statement has not been completed, the proposal cannot be sent.
Proposals for research to be conducted by Cornell 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.
A consortium arrangement exists when two or more organizations agree to participate in a collaborative project. It is not necessary for a consortium to be a formal or legal agreement. One participant will be designated as the lead institution at the time of proposal submission and accepts full funding and responsibility from the sponsor. Subcontracts are then used to transfer part of the work and appropriate funds to the other participant(s). All conditions imposed by the sponsor on Cornell are also imposed on the subcontractor(s).
When Cornell is the lead institution OSP requires a statement from each participating organization that includes a full cost budget and work scope, and is signed by an authorized representative. Your GCO can provide you with further details.
Consultants and subcontractors 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. Cornell 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.
A consultant should not be confused with a subcontractor. Both are different in their activity and relationship to the Statement of Work (SOW). A consultant guides, aides, or provides other technical or professional service to the principal investigator. While a consultant may impact the results of the SOW, they do not conduct work resulting in the satisfaction of a portion of the SOW. A subcontractor conducts a part of the SOW and is responsible for the outcome of that work.
Questions concerning the use or status of an independent contractor should be directed to your GCO 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 Cornell in the event of an award. Exceptions to a sponsor's terms and conditions are addressed by the GCO in a transmittal letter. For commercial sponsors OSP will often include a copy of the standard Cornell agreement. Investigators who are aware of special sponsor requirements should discuss them with their GCO well in advance of the proposal deadline.
Cornell 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.
Intellectual property is addressed in the terms and conditions negotiated by OSP when accepting an award. For most awards Cornell 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 by the Vice Provost for Research. Sponsor rights are protected through appropriate licensing arrangements.
As with patents, Cornell prefers to retain ownership of copyrights. In some instances Cornell will allow the sponsor to own the copyright on deliverable reports, while retaining the right of use for University purposes.
Two policies discuss intellectual property: the Patent and Copyright Policies, both published by the Executive Committee of the Cornell University Board of Trustees.
Some sponsors limit the number of nominations or proposals that Cornell may submit to a particular program. Limited submission competition announcements soliciting individual nominations or brief proposal abstracts are distributed via the CU-RES-ADMIN-L listserv. The Local Advisory Committee, a subset of the Faculty Senate, reviews the nominations or proposals and select those that most closely match the sponsor's interests and have the best opportunity for success. Further information can be found on the Limited Submission Competitions page.
Full time faculty members are eligible to serve as principal investigators (PIs) or project directors on sponsored projects. Within certain limitations other titles such as senior research and extension associates, senior lecturers, librarians and emeritus faculty are also eligible. Exceptions may be made with prior approval from the Vice Provost for Research Administration. Eligibility requirements are fully described in the Principal Investigator Eligibility Policy and Application to Serve as Principal Investigator/Project Director.
The principal investigator or project director is responsible for the conduct of the research or other activity being supported by a sponsored project. Responsibility includes the technical direction of the work and other contractual obligations such as reporting, proper cost assignment, and supervision of project personnel and subcontractors.
See Proposal Preparation and Processing Responsibilities.
Awards made to Cornell are usually conducted within the University's physical boundaries. Occasionally a part of the effort may need to be provided by other institutions or companies (third parties) who are held responsible for a part of the project. When the part being performed by a third party constitutes a substantive component of the sponsored project, the third party is required to provide the necessary resources to conduct the work, including providing an investigator at the work site to oversee the project activities. Costs normally associated with third party effort could include: labor, employee benefits, materials and supplies, travel, equipment, subcontracts, consultants, other direct costs, and indirect costs. In the for-profit sector it is not uncommon to include costs such as labor overhead, material overhead, general and administrative expense, and cost of money.
Once the relationship is established, OSP develops a subcontract that legally binds the relationship and includes the third parties' responsibility to adhere to the sponsor's regulations and requirements.
A number of internal compliance review and approval procedures may be required before proposal submission, 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. Where appropriate, approval notification should be noted on the Internal Academic Approval of Sponsored Programs form (Form 10).
The use of animals, either for research or instruction, must be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Some sponsors require that approval be obtained prior to submission of a proposal, or within a specified time after submission. If required by a sponsor, OSP will forward animal protocol approval after a proposal has been submitted. In no case may animals be purchased, utilized, or handled without prior IACUC approval.
Both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine have Biohazards Committees that review all proposals and procedures involving biohazards within their Colleges. Investigators outside those Colleges should contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (255-8200) whenever hazardous materials (e.g., infectious agents, toxins, mutagens, carcinogens, explosive chemicals) or procedures will be used.
Institutional Review Board for Human Participants as required by federal law, acts as the institutional review board for research on human participants at Cornell, regardless of the source of funds. All uses of humans as subjects (including survey respondents) must be reviewed and approved by the Board prior to starting the research.
In order to limit the University's liablity and protect its assets, investigators should contact the Office of Risk Management and Insurance (254-1575) if their proposed project involves any special property or liability insurance considerations (e.g., use of vehicles, foreign travel or expeditions, or hazardous equipment) warranting special insurance. During proposal review and in contract negotiations OSP will consult with Risk Management if there are concerns with contractual requirements that increase the University's exposure to risk.
Agreements between Cornell and foreign governments or institutions require special considerations. Examples of such agreements are student and/or faculty exchanges, and research or technical assistance for international development or extension. Special considerations include currency exchange, payment and collection of provisions, extra liability protection, health and medical evacuation insurance, and special per diem rates when federal funds are used.
International agreements that do not involve an exchange of financial commitments are coordinated by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies (255-6370). International agreements that will involve financial commitments by either party are considered sponsored agreements and must be negotiated and signed by OSP.
Agreements made by individual faculty or staff that will not involve Cornell commitments (e.g., book contracts) do not require coordination with either the Einaudi Center or OSP.
In order to comply with various state and local regulations, the Office of Environmental and Health Safety (255-8200) should be contacted prior to planned or potential use of any radiation producing materials or devices.
All research involving the use of molecules, viruses, bacteria, cells, or organisms constructed with Recombinant DNA methodology or techniques must be reported to the Institutional Biosafety Committee, even if the rDNA material being used was constructed elsewhere.
In most cases the costs associated with space rental or renovation are not allowed on federal or state sponsored projects. However, there are exceptions when it may be appropriate to bill costs to a sponsor. For example, the use of off-campus space entails applying the off-campus facilities and administrative cost rate as well as addressing various insurance and liability issues. Advance discussion with your GCO will ensure that any special costs are properly budgeted.
It is the investigator's responsibility to discuss with their department chair or unit administrator if additional space or renovations will be necessary to perform the proposed research. This should be done prior to submitting the proposal to OSP.
Most government sponsors publish guidelines that list proposal requirements and instructions on how to prepare a proposal. The following agencies require specific forms, most of which can be downloaded from http://www.osp.cornell.edu/GovtRelLinks/FedAppls.html: Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Sponsors frequently revise proposal guidelines and other requirements (e.g., page limits, font sizes, margins, number of copies). Guidelines can vary not only among 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 your GCO or his/her Administrative Assistant. In general, both government and non-government sponsors require the following:
1. 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 College or department signatures. As the legal entity submitting the proposal on behalf of the investigator, Cornell University, with OSP's address, should be used for the institutional address.
2. 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.
3. Table of contents or index with page references.
4. 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.
5. Description of current facilities and equipment, and the percentage of time they will be available for the proposed project.
6. List of personnel: 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.
7. Curriculum vitŠ of key personnel: Include only professional and academic essentials and avoid personal background information.
8. List of principal investigator's publications: Include only those that are relevant or significant to the proposed project. The list should not include items such as publications being printed, or invited lectures.
9. Budget with justifications and supporting documentation, where appropriate. See Appendix D, "Sample Budget Format". Also see Appendix E, "Facilities and Administrative Cost Calculation Detail".
10. Concurrent submission: When the same proposal is being submitted to other sponsors a statement should appear in each proposal indicating that it is a concurrent submission.
11. List of key personnel's current or pending support: Indicate a) the source of support; b) project title; c) percent 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.
12. If required, include letters of collaboration, subcontractor proposals, and other supporting documentation.
13. Special requests or justifications: These could include: a change of principal investigator on renewal or continuation proposals, use of unexpended funds from a prior budget period, or the temporary absence of the principal investigator.
14. Certifications and representations and other forms that may be required. These should be prepared by the department for signature by OSP.
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.
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 consult OSP's Budgeting and Costing Guide for detailed information on budget costing procedures.
Under certain circumstances it may be appropriate or required for Cornell to share the costs of a project. Cost-sharing under a federal grant is subject to Office of 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 your GCO and department administrator well in advance of the proposal deadline, and must be reflected in the Form 10 and approved by all parties.
Typical budget categories include personnel, employee benefits, equipment, travel, materials and supplies, and facilities and administrative costs. 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. This is particularly important when calculating facilities and administrative costs using the modified total direct cost base (see Appendix E).
Certain costs are unallowable on research projects. Unallowable costs, along with allowable costs, are explained in detail in OSP's Budgeting and Costing Guide.
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), Cornell'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.
In addition to direct costs, sponsored projects are also charged facilites and administrative costs. Facilites and administrative costs are charged to a project by applying a percentage (the facilites and administrative cost rate) to the total direct costs of the project minus certain exclusions (see OSP's Budgeting and Costing Guide). The facilites and administrative cost percentage charged includes prorated costs for the following Cornell operations:
a. Academic administration, e.g., salaries of deans, department heads, administrative officers, their administrative assistants and expenses;
b. University Library operations, including the purchase of books, journals, and serials;
c. Plant operations, e.g., campus utilities, maintenance and repair of buildings;
d. Administrative salaries and expenses of offices such as the President, Provost, Vice Provosts, Human Resources, Supply Management, etc.;
e. Grant and contract administration and accounting;
f. General expenses including insurance, taxes, campus police; and
g. Allowance/depreciation for use of buildings and equipment.
Facilites and administrative cost rates are proposed annually by Cornell to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) 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 an facilities and administrative cost rate that is applied to certain direct costs, (referred to as the modified total direct cost [MTDC] base), in order to arrive at the facilities and administrative costs that are charged to a project.
The MTDC base consists of total direct costs minus those exclusions (e.g., equipment, subcontract costs in excess of $25,000, graduate student tuition and fees) as stipulated in the agreement between Cornell and the DHHS. Since the combination of costs and MTDC base varies across campus, there are separate rates for the Endowed Units and Contract Colleges and the Geneva Experiment Station. Projects that do not use University-funded facilities, or where faculty or staff are away from campus for two or more consecutive months qualify for a lower off-campus facilities and administrative cost rate.
Current rate information can be obtained from the Division of Financial Affairs Web site, your GCO, or his/her Administrative Assistant.
Some sponsored projects may generate gross income as a result of the award. Program income includes, but is not limited to: income from fees for services performed, the sale of commodities or items fabricated under an award, license fees, royalties on patents and copyrights, and interest on loans made with award funds. Interest earned on advances of federal funds is not considered program income.
Except as otherwise provided in federal awarding agency regulations or the terms and conditions of an award, program income does not include the receipt of principal on loans, rebates, credits, discounts, or interest earned on any part thereof. Program income should be treated in accordance with Cornell's Program Income Policy.
For continuation or renewal proposals most sponsors require an estimate of unexpended funds and reserve the right to approve the use of those funds for future budget periods. This should be discussed with your GCO well in advance of a resubmission to determine whether a carry forward request or a no-cost extension is more appropriate.
After the proposal's final text and budget are complete, the following checklist should be reviewed to ensure that the proposed project complies with both sponsor and University requirements:
When responding to an RFP or RFQ with the proposed terms and conditions stated in the solicitation the investigator should notify and forward a copy of the solicitation to their GCO as far in advance of the deadline as possible.
The Office of Sponsored Programs Internal Academic Approval of Sponsored Programs, known as Form 10, must accompany every proposal submitted to OSP. Form 10 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 Form 10 and, by signing it, accept full responsibility for the project (see Principal Investigator Responsibility). The proposal and Form 10 should be received by OSP at least five business days before the proposal deadline.
When does OSP require a Form 10?
In addition to the investigator's signature Form 10 must also be signed by the department head or chair and College 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.
Occasionally a sponsor may require an institutional cover letter or letter of support from the President or Provost. These proposals should be received by University Development/OSP at least 10 business days before the deadline. In addition to the required internal review, extra time is necessary to obtain a signature due to the President's and Provost's extensive travel schedules. Investigators are strongly urged to coordinate their proposal schedule with Development/OSP as soon as the proposal deadline is known.
Many departments have administrative staff who can offer proposal preparation assistance in the areas of:
Each College or Center is responsible for ensuring that major commitments of resources are appropriate for a project. Colleges and units with policies regarding proposal approval may wish to sign Form 10 to ensure that the appropriate commitments have been made. OSP should be notified when a unit's proposal routing policy changes.
OSP has delegated limited signature authority to some Colleges and units to review and submit proposals to certain sponsors. All other proposals must be submitted to Development or OSP.
OSP is available to assist as needed the investigator and/or unit in any phase of proposal preparation. Proposals are carefully reviewed to ensure that they comply with all University, federal, 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:
OSP then prepares a transmittal letter and mails the proposal.
Investigators should notify their GCO as soon as possible when responding to an RFP, RFQ, or other type of solicitation. In order to be responsive to a solicitation, all conditions must be met or otherwise qualified in a transmittal letter. Usually a solicitation will state the proposed terms and conditions for any resulting award, but if the conditions are unacceptable to Cornell the GCO must address these conditions and explain the University's position. The research, preparation, and documenting of a response requires five business days and can not be left to the last minute.
A revised budget and work statement may be necessary if a sponsor notifies OSP or the investigator that the funds available for a program vary substantially from the proposed budget. Consideration should be given to whether the scope of work is of such a specific nature that reduced funding would seriously affect the accomplishment of the proposed objectives. A revised proposal is reviewed by OSP in the same manner as a new proposal, and should be received at least five business days before the deadline.
RETURN to beginning of document
RETURN to OSP Home Page