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Research - Preparing A Proposal

Preparing a research proposal for submission requires early planning, coordination with the preaward research administrator, and approval by the Department, SoHE, and Research and Sponsored Programs. This page outlines the key steps in the process and a timeline for ensuring a high-quality and on-time proposal submission.


Any planned proposal submission to an extramural funder must be approved by the Department, SoHE, and RSP prior to submission. RSP is the campus unit authorized to submit extramural proposals on behalf of researchers.

As you prepare to work on your proposal, be sure to review the Basics of Research Administration for Principal Investigators which summarizes the roles and responsibilities of the PI, research administrators, and Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP), the office on our campus responsible for submitting proposals on behalf of a researcher.

Once you’ve identified a funding opportunity, the next step is to contact Sarah Marcotte, SoHE pre-award research administrator with the funding opportunity information. Sarah will assist with creating a WISPER record, generating a proposal preparation timeline, including a detailed checklist of the required proposal elements, and will assist with creating and finalizing the budget. When the proposal is ready for submission, it must be approved by SoHE and processed to Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) for submission.

As a reminder, non-faculty members (Emeritus Professors and Academic Staff) must establish PI Status in order to serve as PI on a grant proposal.  Refer to UW campus policy for PI Status and the SoHE procedure for PI Status.  Contact Sarah Marcotte, SoHE pre-award research administrator, with any questions or for assistance with the request.

Proposal Submission Timeline

proposal submission timelineProposal Preparation

Refer to the New Faculty Guide to Competing for Research Funding [UW NetID login required] for detailed and comprehensive guidance on all aspects of proposal writing. The sections below provide a snapshot of proposal elements required by most federal and non-federal sponsors.

Project Summary or Abstract - Typically one page or less, the abstract or summary outlines the main project objectives and significance.

Research Narrative - This is the heart of the proposal and will most likely determine whether your project is funded or not. The NIH provides comprehensive guidance and resources for writing a strong narrative.

Bibliography / Citations / References - Use a format that is standard for the scientific discipline of the project. UW-Madison Libraries offer a number of citation managers for researchers.

Budget & Budget Narrative - Preparing a budget that captures all anticipated costs is crucial to a successful research project. Visit the "Develop Your Budget" section above for additional resources and templates.

Biographical Sketch or CV - Many sponsors have a specific Biosketch format, require certain section headings or have page limits. The NIH and other federal grant-making agencies recommend using ScienCV for managing the information required for a Biosketch.

Resources, Equipment, Facilities - This section details the scope and scale of institutional facilities, resources, and equipment available for conducting a project. You may want to start with boilerplate language of standard SoHE departments, Centers, and facilities. For descriptions of facilities or resources across the UW campus or non-campus partners, contact your collaborator in that unit or organization for a description of the facilities and resources the collaborator will contribute to the project.

 Current and Pending Support - This form addresses current support and allows the PI to address overlap in funding, effort, or scientific inquiry with the proposal being submitted. When overlap does exist, sponsors will expect a plan to resolve the overlap before making an award. UW-Madison has a tool for generating Current and Pending Support for different sponsors.

 Letters of Support - Follow sponsor guidelines closely for the types of letters of support that are permitted. The letter writer should not make voluntary financial or resource commitments (cost share). Letters should also not to be written in a way that could be perceived as circumventing page limits of proposal sections.

Proposal Submission Steps

Remember: The proposal must be submitted by RSP. To do this, RSP needs i) a WISPER record and ii) notice from the PI or SoHE that the proposal is ready for submission.

7 days before to the due date: WISPER record must be signed by the Principal Investigator.  Who does this? Only the PI may sign the WISPER record.

4-7 days before the due date: Proposal must be compiled into the format or system in which it will be submitted. This may require uploading proposal elements to Cayuse, FastLane,, ProposalCentral, or a sponsor's online submission system. Who does this? It depends - either the PI or the SoHE research administrator, depending on sponsor and campus requirements.

1-3 days before the due date:

  • WISPER record must be routed to RSP. This is the way campus units notify RSP that a proposal is ready for submission. Who does this?The SoHE research administrator. This step cannot be completed until the PI has signed the WISPER record (see above).
  • The proposal record must be released in the submission system. Who does this?  It depends - either the PI or the SoHE research administrator. It's important to be clear about who is responsible for this step.
  • Proposal is submitted. Who does this?RSP submits all proposals to external funding agencies. In rare circumstances, RSP may provide an institutional approval letter for the proposal to the PI or SoHE research administrator to complete the submission. But in those cases, early communication with RSP is crucial so that the approval can be given well before the proposal deadline.

After Submission

Most sponsors outline the review process and timeline, which can range from a few weeks to several months before a funding decision is communicated. Refer to the sponsor's guidelines or policies about whether and how to inquire about a proposal under review.

If you're notified your proposal will be funded, contact Sarah Marcotte to assist with award receipt and acceptance. Because awards are made to the University, not to an individual, the research administrator must work closely with Research and Sponsored Programs to accept an award and set it up properly in the University's financial system.

If you're notified your proposal will not be funded, contact Sarah Marcotte to close out the WISPER record and archive internal files.

Receiving a Grant Award

See Research - Receiving a Grant Award for the steps involved in order for the university to receive a new grant award.

Keywords:research preaward proposal development grant submission application   Doc ID:105079
Owner:Sarah M.Group:School of Human Ecology
Created:2020-08-19 10:22 CDTUpdated:2020-09-21 12:08 CDT
Sites:School of Human Ecology
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