This page is intended to provide a short narrative introduction to the Office of Sponsored Programs, our website, and the wider research enterprise at ECU. The front page of our site is designed to be direct and transactional - when you visit us in the future we want you to find the specific information you need very quickly. This page will take a little more time and walk through some basics to help folks get oriented.
The Office of Sponsored Programs is a pre-award (or proposal focused) office for East Carolina University. We help people navigate the often complex process of applying for outside funding with the goal of receiving either a grant or a contract. A "sponsored program" is a specific activity (a program) which is funded (sponsored) by an entity outside of ECU. Though we are often described as "research administration", we work with folks involved not only in research, but also arts, entertainment, instruction, athletics, service, and just about everything else in which a University is involved. We do not handle gifts, which generally have no specific deliverable or reporting requirements - those are handled by University Advancement. Neither do we handle post-award accounting issues - the folks next door in the Office of Grants Administration do that work.
As a pre-award office, we focus on helping people evaluate funding opportunities, work through the indiosyncrasies of individual funding agencies, find the right forms and the various bits of information that go on them, develop a budget, and interact with the myriad universe of proposal submission systems. This area, as veterans well know and newcomers quickly sense, is characterized by complexity and change. The projects being proposed by our clients are speculative - they are not currently funded and it may be difficult to project precisely how they will be initiated or expanded. In the case of research, the project will often explicitly break new ground. Grant funding is often governed by multiple regulatory agencies at both the state and federal levels. The point is that we expect to provide answers and support to folks with complex plans, multiple competing considerations, and tight deadlines. If you are not quite sure what you need to do or where you need to start - start with us!
Each unit in the University has a point of contact at OSP. That grant officer will be familiar with the common types of proposals initiated by that unit, the staff and faculty there, and the funding agencies generally involved. Please contact your unit's point of contact at any time, there really is no correct or proper time. Some folks call us prior to even arriving at the University, just to start orienting themselves. Other investigators show up just days before they intend to submit a proposal with a complete document ready to be signed. If you are reading this text, you are almost certainly far enough down this path to justify chatting with us about your plans or goals. Our contact information is here.
This website is designed to be both a source of information and tools related to proposal submission and a portal to the larger research administration enterprise at ECU. Our information is organized in the navigation links to the left of each page, links to other ECU units are on the right. The main part of the site is intended to be highly transactional - most people show up looking for one specific thing and our goal is to help them find it as quickly as possible. If you see incorrect or missing data or have an idea about how we could improve, please send a note to email@example.com.
One great challenge of grantsmanship is the initial task of identifying possible sources of funding. A main part of this challenge is that for each person this search is highly specific to a particular project or program. It is difficult, therefore, to provide specific guidance about where and how to conduct such a search since success depends upon developing a detailed understanding of a collection of funding programs that will vary widely from individual to individual. There are a variety of resources available to assist, but it is perhaps best to begin with the understanding that becoming familiar with the funding landscape of any particular field is a long-term career development process. It is not something that can be completed in a day or a week or a month.
There are certainly things that can be done on any particular day (again, see our Tips and Tools), but lasting success depends on developing a habit of searching for and learning to evaluate potential funding opportunities. Established veterans of this process can read a proposal abstract related to their field and have some immediate conception of which agency (and perhaps which individual working in that agency) might be most interested. That veteran might also know that the proposal as written is unlikely to be funded because the most interested agency funded several similar grants last year and is waiting for results from them. The veteran has this information as a result of active participation in the funding process - browsing through databases, subscribing to e-mail lists, reading program announcements, writing proposals, sitting on review committees, participating in conferences, etc. The goal for a newcomer should be to acquire the veteran's habits, because that is the only reliable way to gain the veteran's knowledge.