400.00 Proposal Development

OSP staff are available to assist PI’s with the development of their proposals. Two levels of service exist for PI’s to choose from, (1) design and development or (2) package preparation and review. Other pre-award services include referral to relevant, research-related services providers on campus and assistance locating funding. OSP also maintains electronic databases, reference guides, reports, directories guidelines, forms and templates, and notices from Federal, state, and private agencies which can be consulted. OSP also maintains an active list of limited submission opportunities and can guide PI’s in the application process. PI’s may consult with OSP to decipher information about a sponsor including the program deadline, application and review process, allowable costs, past and present funding priorities. 

410.00  Protection of Confidential or Sensitive Information

When preparing proposals, PI's should be aware that Federally funded proposals must be made available as stipulated by governmental regulations for audit and review. Therefore, PI's should be cautious about including sensitive information such as personal, scientific, or proprietary information that the PI may not want publicly distributed. If the Federal agency receives a request for access to the proposal under the "Freedom of Information Act" (FOIA), the agency will notify the PI to review the application for any information that may be withheld under applicable law. Notices of FOIA requests for information contained in MSU proposals should be reviewed with the Office of Legal Counsel before responding.

420.00 Identifying Funding Sources

MSU holds a license for SPIN (InfoEd International), a comprehensive database of over 40,000 funding opportunities from Federal, state, and private entities. Students, staff, and faculty are permitted to use this system that is limited to MSU campuses. Faculty may define and execute custom searches based on keywords or enlist for a service that will send funding alerts directly to the email address provided. To save and share searches, PI's and their affiliates must sign up for a profile in SPIN by creating a new account. OSP can assist PI's with establishing an account as well as help with troubleshooting and use of the system. Faculty may also schedule an in-person appointment to learn about SPIN as well as review potential funding opportunities that align with their research agenda.

430.00 Research Funding Sources

Faculty are automatically registered for the weekly MSU Research Funding Opportunities email upon hire. Staff and students must contact OSP to be registered. This email lists funding opportunities that are relevant to faculty agendas with instructions on how to apply. Limited submission opportunities as well as internal announcements are also listed. The opportunities listed are linked to a system that publishes the opportunities on the Office of Research and Economic Development, Research Funding Opportunities webpage.

440.00 Grants.gov

Grants.gov is a government-sponsored clearinghouse that provides access to information on over 1,000 grant programs and vets grant applications for Federal agencies. Grants.gov functions as a funding opportunity database, grant submission and reporting interface, as well as a repository of Federal information related to grants. Grants.gov has replaced most if not all paper application submissions with an electronic submission process. Most agencies require submission through Grants.gov unless they have their own submission interface. MSU is already registered as an institution through Grants.gov and no additional registration is necessary. If the agency requires submission through Grants.gov, contact your OSP fiscal manager at least two weeks before the due date and they will submit your grant application on your behalf. PI’s may not submit direct to Grants.gov as signature of an Authorized Organizational Representative (OAR) is required.

450.00 Limited Submission Opportunities

Sponsors may limit the number of proposals that MSU may submit to a particular program. Institutional procedures have been developed for selecting proposals in these circumstances. For many but not all opportunities, OSP will distribute an announcement soliciting internal letters of intent (LOI’s) as well as post current limited submission opportunities to the Funding Opportunities webpage. Limited Submission Opportunities are also available on the OSP Limited Submission Page. Faculty are advised to stay apprised of current limited submission opportunities by visiting these pages regularly. In the event an opportunity is not advertised, faculty must consult the limited submission policy. For all limited submission opportunities, an internal selection process is used to review the proposals in order to select those that most closely match the sponsor’s and MSU’s funding priorities and are most viable for funding. MSU has established a Limited Submission Policy that must be adhered to for acceptance of a proposal.

460.00 Limited Submission Policy

By definition, limited submissions are funding opportunities that limit the number of applications that may be submitted per institution. The increase in limited submission opportunities and their changing requirements mean that some must be dealt with on a case by case basis. In order to prevent any potential disqualification of submissions by Montana State University, the following policies and procedures have been established. These policies and procedures apply to all grants and contracts including awards made directly to faculty members.

Identifying a Limited Submission Opportunity

In the request for proposals document, organizations will specify whether the opportunity is a limited submission. The funding agency will typically indicate the number of proposals allowed per institution and the process by which they must be submitted. The Office of Sponsored Programs has developed an internal process that aids the institution in processing limited submission applications. These policies and procedures must be followed carefully and are detailed below.

Limited Submission Application Process

Summary of Proposed Project / White Papers

Principal investigators interested in a limited submission opportunity must submit a white paper, no more than two pages long along with a CV (also two-page maximum) via the ePCF system by the internal submission deadline established by OSP. OSP will post many select program opportunities on the OSP website under “Research Funding Opportunities” with internal deadlines as well as those established by the sponsors. Principal investigators who discover a limited submission opportunity not posted on the OSP website, must notify OSP immediately to ensure consideration of his/her project.

Selection of Projects

If fewer than the allowed number of whitepapers are received, the routine process for submission will be followed, which consists of allowing the PI to proceed with an application. The PI will be notified by ePCF of their permission to proceed. If more than the allowed summaries are received, the MSU Research Council (or ad hoc subcommittee) will select the project(s) to be put forth on behalf of the university. Evaluation criteria will include, but not be limited to quality of the proposal, key deliverables, what makes the project competitive, and eligibility of the investigator. Other key considerations include probability of successful funding and support of the mission of the University. The committee is not obligated to disclose other committee members or provide detailed feedback in order to protect the identity of the committee members and other applicants. The Vice President for Research (VPR) or his/her designee is the decision-making authority for limited submissions.

Resubmission of Limited Submission Whitepapers

If a proposal is submitted for a limited submission opportunity and is not funded, that proposal will have no preference over other projects in any subsequent limited submission opportunities. In order to be considered for any subsequent limited submission opportunities, such proposals must be resubmitted and will be evaluated against competing projects.

470.00 Proposal Preparation Overview

The format or presentation of a particular proposal will depend on the requirements of the sponsor as they typically develop policies and procedures for the submission of proposals and may require the use of specific application forms or electronic submission interfaces. Other sponsors may have less stringent format requirements. PI’s should obtain the most recent version of the sponsor’s application guidelines and follow the required proposal format. Should PI’s request assistance in preparing the application, guidelines and/or program URL’s should be sent to OSP well in advance of the due date. The Proposal Timeline and Responsibility Chart, Appendix C, provides a detailed timeline by which particular proposal tasks need to be completed to ensure sufficient time for internal review and processing.

480.00 Electronic Proposal Clearance Form (ePCF)

OSP has developed the Electronic Proposal Clearance Form (ePCF) which must be used when submitting proposals to OSP for review and approval. The form summarizes key administrative and fiscal information about the proposal that is needed by the MSU reviewer in order to grant approval to proceed. The PI must review and approve the ePCF and the form is then routed via email to those responsible for certifying the proposal as sound and in compliance with MSU and agency guidelines. This may include the PI’s department head, dean, departmental accountants or other administrative contacts, the Human Subjects/Institutional Review Board Chair, and the Vice President for Research. The proposal will not be authorized or transmitted to the sponsor until the completed ePCF and accompanying documents, such as Grants.gov packages have been received by OSP. The link and instructions for the ePCF are available on the main OSP website page.

PIs are cautioned that the ePCF and all attachments must be submitted to OSP for review no later than 72 hours (3 business days) prior to the submission deadline. In order to ensure that proposals are submitted in a timely, complete and accurate manner, all proposals and required documents will be submitted to the sponsor/agency no later than 72 hours (3 business days) prior to the posted deadline. OSP personnel will typically have the ability to recall submitted materials should you decide that changes need to be made after the initial submission, however it is the PI’s responsibility to plan ahead and determine the appropriate amount of time required in order to adhere to this policy.  It is recommended that you submit your proposal materials to the OSP with sufficient lead time to allow for processing and review your proposal.

Proposals received less than 72 hours prior to the submission due date will be submitted only if the Assistant Vice President for Research (or designee) determines that there is adequate time for a complete review of the proposal materials. In certain instances, a proposal may be submitted to the sponsor but later withdrawn or declined if issues arise due to the lack of time to properly review proposal materials. It is the responsibility of the PI to ensure that the proposal is submitted to OSP at least 72 hours prior to the deadline. Please see the “Proposal Timeline and Responsibility Chart,” Appendix C to review OSP’s standard approved proposal submission timeline as well as this section for instructions on the ePCF.

490.00 Standard Elements of a Proposal

In general, a proposal requires the following elements:

  • Title Page includes the applicant name (Montana State University), title and duration of the project, amount requested, name and address of the PI and institutional contact (in most cases, the OSP fiscal manager);
  • Abstract or Proposal Summary describes the objectives, methodology, and significance of the proposed project. The abstract should be intelligible to someone who is not an expert in the field and should be able to represent the project as an independent document;
  • Introduction frames the problem and concisely states the importance of the research being proposed;
  • Project Narrative includes the specific aims of the research, background and significance, preliminary studies and research design and methods;
  • Bibliography consists of a full list of citations for sources referred to in the proposal documents in the style convention preferred by the funder;
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Biographical Sketch should be submitted for all key personnel, indicating educational and professional background, professional activities, honors and awards, and publications;
  • Budget and Budget Justification reflecting a reasonable estimate of the expenses necessary to conduct the project. For more information about budget development, see section 600.00;
  • Current and Pending Support outlines active awards and pending proposals for all key personnel. This includes all financial resources, whether Federal, non-Federal, commercial or institutional, available in direct support of a PI’s research endeavors, including but not limited to research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and/or institutional awards. Training awards, prizes, or gifts typically do not need to be listed;
  • Facilities and Resources describing spatial, human, or other resources that will be available to support the project. Examples include laboratory and office space, computing capabilities, animal facilities, library resources, or administrative personnel and departmental or institutional programs and services;
  • Equipment describes regular and specialized research equipment such as vehicles, high-cost (above $5,000) scientific equipment and facilities, and like items that support the functions of the project;