Even at the very early stages of conceptualizing a research idea, it is a good idea to think about reviewers expectations and use these questions to guide the formation of your research project:
• What is the main research problem? What hypothesis will you test?
• Why is this research question important?
• What is the current understanding in the field?
• What gap in knowledge will this fill and how will this project add to the knowledge in your field?
• What are the best methods to use to address this research question?
• Who is your competition? What methods are they using and why are you choosing a different tactic?
Many research proposals benefit from or require collaboration with others including faculty outside your discipline, researchers at other institutions, community organizations, local educators, or industry. The Office of Research offers faculty consultations to discuss collaboration options and can set up meetings of interested researchers to discuss cross-disciplinary research topics. Contact Meredith Murr, Director of Research Development, for more information.
Identify potential sponsors
The Office of Research offers many resources to find funding suited to your research proposal.
Funding Databases Both COS and IRIS aggregate thousands of funding opportunities from federal, local, and private sources into searchable databases. Visit our funding page for more detailed instructions or contact Kelly Pillsbury in Research Development to set up individual or group training sessions.
Funding Searches Research Development can conduct one-time funding searches for specific research projects. Contact Kelly Pillsbury with information about your research to receive a targeted listing of possible funding opportunities.
Check for Limited Submission restrictions
Check the guidelines to see if the agency limits the number of applications that UCSB may submit. If the number is limited, the Office of Research will conduct an internal review and selection process to choose the campus candidate(s). All current limited submission funding opportunities are listed here. If you become aware of a funding opportunity with limited submission requirements that is not listed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Decide which department/research unit will process your proposal
UCSB is structured with traditional academic departments as well as a variety of research units. The staff in the departments and research units are the primary point of contact for a PI in the proposal submission process. These staff, called liaisons, work with the Office of Research to assist you in the preparation and submission of grant proposals. As a PI, you often have a choice whether to submit a proposal through your home department or through affiliated research units.
For science and engineering, PIs usually have a choice whether to submit a proposal through their home department or through an affiliated research unit.
If you are uncertain about where to submit your proposal, you should discuss the options with your department chair.
CONTACT YOUR LIAISON
As soon as you decide to prepare a research proposal, contact your department contract and grant liaison and provide them with a link to the agency guidelines, which they will provide to Sponsored Projects. The liaison will assist you with proposal preparation including budget creation and submission of Office of Research forms.
Review agency guidelines
After you have selected a funding agency and program, review the guidelines provided on the agency website and familiarize yourself with the requirements. Meet with Meredith Murr, Director of Research Development, for assistance with particular aspects of agency requirements including mentoring, outreach, and evaluation plans. Your Department Liaison and Sponsored Projects team can assist with budgets, etc.
See Agency Specific Resources for information about agency missions, application structures, submission requirements, and review processes.
Start the subaward process
If your project requires participation of researchers or individuals at someplace other than at UCSB, a subaward may be required. A subaward is a binding legal agreement between the University of California, Santa Barbara and a non-UCSB entity where:
A defined portion of the UCSB work statement's intellectually significant activity is assigned to another entity (“the subrecipient”) to fulfill.
Work is generally performed by the subrecipient’s personnel using their resources, usually at their site.
The subrecipient takes full responsibility, including intellectual leadership and financial management, for the portion of UCSB’s work statement that they will undertake.
The award terms and conditions UCSB has accepted from our funding agency are “flowed down” to the Subrecipient, who must also agree to comply with them. (e.g., audit requirements, restrictions on rebudgeting, human and animal subjects approvals, conflict of interest, clean air and water, etc.)
These agreements require coordination between UCSB and the non-UCSB entity, and require more time to process than a project that does not contain subawards, so this process should be started as early as possible. Refer to the Subaward page, Research Circular D.7, and your liaison for more information.
Set up online access accounts
Many funding agencies, especially federal agencies, use online grant management systems for proposal submission. Depending on the system, you may have to create an account or get linked to a UCSB institutional account. See the following links for instructions on using the most common online systems. Do this early to avoid last minute submission problems. Contact your Sponsored Projects Analyst for any online access or account information.
If you have specific questions that are not easily answerable from the agency guidelines or web site, contact the appropriate program officer or other agency official. Establishing relationships with these individuals can be beneficial in securing research funding now and in the future. Research Development can help you identify and connect with the appropriate contacts at many funding agencies.
CHECK IN WITH YOUR LIAISON
Keep your Liaison informed at every step of the proposal preparation process — they are there to help you!
Project Contributions are resources that are contributed to a sponsored project over and above the support provided by the extramural sponsor of that project. This means that the sponsor does not fully reimburse the campus for all allowable costs associated with the project and the terms of the award requires the University to contribute a portion of the costs for that project. The requirements of the award and the funding source determine the type of contribution. If you would like to request cost sharing for your proposal, please fill out the Cost Share Request Form.
Discuss project with appropriate chairs, directors, and deans
If you have specific needs for your project beyond your current allocation (for example space or laboratory needs, etc.), opening a dialogue with your department chair, director, or dean is essential. However, it is a good idea, regardless of additional project needs, to keep senior administration informed of your research program , extramural funding, and exciting projects.
Identify regulatory and campus compliance requirements and complete necessary forms
Many research proposals require additional forms and procedures to comply with campus, state, and federal research policies.
Does your research involve human subjects or protected health (HIPAA) information?
All research involving human subjects conducted by students, staff, or faculty must be reviewed and approved by the Human Subjects Committee. Refer to the Human Subjects approval process guidelines. Timeline: 1-2 months
Does your research involve vertebrate animals?
All instances of live vertebrate animal use in research, teaching, and/or testing on campus and at UCSB Natural Reserve sites must be appropriately reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) prior to beginning such work. Refer to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee submission guidelines. Timeline: 1-2 months for new animal use protocol
Researchers must complete conflict of interest forms when submitting to a non-government agency, NSF, NIH, UC Programs, and other agencies with Federal Financial disclosure requirements. Forms must also be submitted when research is funded by a gift. Refer to the Conflict of Interest page for more details.
Submit Biological Use Authorization application if the intended research includes: Risk Group 2 or 3 infectious agents; human/primate tissues or fluids; recombinant DNA experiments covered by the NIH Guidelines on Research Involving Recombinant DNA. The application and approval process takes approximately one month.
National Science Foundation projects that support undergraduates, graduate students, or postdoctoral scholars, as well as some NIH-funded projects, must meet Responsible Conduct of Research training requirements. Refer to the Responsible Conduct of Research page for more information.
Work with department liaison to develop budget
The contract and grant administrator in your department or unit is trained to prepare budgets according to campus cost principles and will work with you to create detailed budgets for research proposals. See the budget preparation page for more information about budgets.
Before submitting your proposal to the agency, get it reviewed by multiple people. Research Development can review your proposal for clarity, fit with agency priorities, research design, grammar, structure and organization. Research Development will work with as many PIs as time allows, with a priority given to junior faculty members and multi-investigator proposals. Please notify Research Development of a proposal for review so we can plan accordingly. The more time we have, the more thorough the review will be.
If your project contains subawards, be sure all the required documents are submitted to SPO with your proposal for their review prior to submission. This includes the statement of work, budget, all required forms, and any back-up documentation requested in the forms.
Work with your liaison to finalize your budget based on the final project description and the finalized subaward agreements. Costs should be budgeted how they will be paid out on campus and should be based on actual costs as often as possible. See the budget preparation page for more information about budgets.
Work with department liaison to submit proposal package for Sponsored Projects approval
At this point, you should have been working closely with your departmental liaison for several weeks, keeping them updated at every step in the proposal process. Once all of the materials required by the sponsoring agency are complete (including proposal narrative, budget, subawards, and any regulatory and compliance forms), the departmental liaison will work with the Office of Research to submit your proposal to the funding agency.
• Your department liaison will input your proposal information into the campus proposal database, ORBiT, and compile all required forms for submission to Sponsored Projects for review.
• Sponsored Projects reviews proposals for compliance with University, state, and federal policies, practices, and regulations. Sponsored Projects will also review the proposal for compliance with substantive guideline requirements, such as requirements related to limited submissions and proposal requirements or proposed award terms that may be in conflict with UC policy. In order to provide a thorough review, Sponsored Projects requests proposals at least five full business days prior to the UCSB Proposal Deadline.
• After review, Sponsored Projects will provide your liaison with the review comments and request that any necessary changes be made before final submission.
• Depending on the funding agency, either you or Sponsored Projects will submit the proposal. For the vast majority of funding agencies, Sponsored Projects is responsible for proposal submission and have access to the electronic proposal submission sites. In rare cases, only the researcher has access to the electronic proposal submission site. For these cases, Sponsored Projects must still review and endorse the submission before the researcher submits the proposal. If the funding agency requires hard copies, it is the responsibility of the department to submit the proposal.
Each agency has their own method of reviewing proposals. Overviews of the review process from major funders of campus research are assembled here.
There are times when the agency is willing to fund the project but at a reduced amount from what was proposed. In these cases, they will ask for a revised budget. Depending on the size of the reduction, this may also result in a revision to the statement of work. Your department liaison will help prepare the revised budget which will then be submitted to Sponsored Projects for review. Once Sponsored Projects has reviewed the revised budget and any necessary changes have been made, Sponsored Projects will submit the revised budget to the funding agency.
Once a proposal is selected for funding, Sponsored Projects will review the resulting award document to assure that there are no terms that would either violate UC policies or hamper the researcher's ability to carry out the project. Potentially problematic terms include those that may affect academic freedom, equal access to education, or open publication, or may impose unreasonable or burdensome administrative requirements, such as unusually frequent or voluminous reporting requirements. If the award contains problematic terms, Sponsored Projects will try to negotiate with the sponsor to remove them, working with the principal investigator and the administrating department. Once the award terms are acceptable, Sponsored Projects confirms that all compliance issues are cleared (such as animal use or conflict of interest) and if so, will accept the award on behalf of the Regents. See more information on negotiating the award.
Sometimes additional time is needed to complete the original scope of a project, utilizing existing funds available on an award. A request for a no cost extension can be submitted to the agency for the purpose of completing the work. The liaison works with the PI to send a request to SPO which is reviewed and endorsed and submitted to the agency. The extension cannot be to simply expend remaining funds. Depending on the agency, besides the justification for the extension, sometimes details such as the amount of remaining funds need to be included with the request.
Reporting and Deliverables
Specific reporting and deliverable requirements are typically set forth in the sponsor's award documents or in policies or documents incorporated by reference. Both the award documents and the UCSB Award Synopsis will identify the specific reporting requirements or provide reference to the specific requirements for interim reporting.
The Principal Investigator should review the provisions of each award and make sure that they are aware of such requirements and the dates for submission.
Closing the Award
When a sponsored project ends, certain administrative actions are required to ensure an orderly and formal closing of the award. Specific reporting and deliverable requirements are typically set forth in the sponsor's award documents, or in policies or documents incorporated by reference. Both the award documents and the UCSB Award Synopsis will identify the specific reporting requirements or provide reference to the specific requirements for closeout reporting. Refer to Closing the Award for more information.