The purpose of this page is to answer commonly asked questions regarding the proposal submission process. Please refer to this page and the rest of OSP's website for answers to your questions; for help with any questions not specified on this page, please contact OSP by phone (328-9540) or via e-mail. By clicking on the question, you will immediately be referred to the answer elsewhere on the page.
Office of Sponsored Programs Commonly Asked Questions:
What materials do I need provide OSP in order to submit a proposal?
Answer: Please route RAMSeS proposals with the following, at least 10 days in advance of mailing deadline: completed IPF in RAMSeS, the budget on the OSP Budget Worksheet, and a draft of the project narrative.
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When there are co-PIs or co-PDs from more than one department, what signatures are needed?
Answer: RAMSeS will route the IPF to ALL units affiliated with the proposal One designated RAMSeS approver in each unit will need to approve the proposal.
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How long does OSP need to process my proposal?
Answer: The length of time depends on your proposal and on the number of other proposals pending at the time yours is received by OSP. OSP staff review proposals as expeditiously as possible, generally in the order they are received. Often there are several proposals to be submitted for a particular deadline, which makes it especially important to provide materials well in advance. Please send all materials to OSP at least 5 days in advance of the mailing deadline. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you require an expedited turnaround time, contact OSP and we will do our best to help you meet your deadline.
If the proposal is to be submitted electronically, do I still need to complete the internal paperwork and send it to OSP for review in advance of submission?
Answer: Yes – But now it is done via RAMSeS.
How do I construct a budget?
Answer: Use the standardized OSP Budget Worksheet. Include all of the possible costs of conducting the project, including personnel salaries, student assistants, supplies, equipment, travel, and other expenses. These categories are included in the worksheets. The worksheets are Excel spreadsheets that will automatically prorate salaries and will calculate appropriate fringe benefits and indirect costs. Be sure to consult the sponsor's instructions for guidance and any limitations. The section on Budget Preparation contains information for developing budgets. OSP staff will be happy to provide assistance. The Budget Worksheet document will then be attached to RAMSeS for review.
How do I route a request for a No Cost Extension?
Answer: In the event of a no-cost extension request (when no progress report is due). the routing process does not use RAMSeS - instead use this form: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/osp/upload/NCE-Request-Form9-2-2011-3.doc.
What fringe benefits should be included in my budget?
Answer: Fringe benefits include the University's share of Social Security, retirement, and health insurance. Standard rates, and how to apply them, are included in the OSP Budget Worksheets available on the OSP Webpage. They are subject to change from time to time and OSP will update them as changes occur. The Worksheets automatically calculate benefits using current rates.
My project requires cost sharing or matching funds from the university. How can I obtain these?
Answer: First, consult your department chair for advice and possible assistance. If funds are unavailable from the department, the chair may endorse approaching the dean with your request. If the dean cannot provide the funds, he or she may in turn endorse approaching the appropriate Vice Chancellor. Your request should be in writing and should provide an explanation of need and benefits, accompanied by a copy of your proposal and budget.
What is indirect costs/overhead/F & A costs?
Answer: Indirect costs, also called overhead or facilities and administration (F&A) costs, are real costs that are not directly associated with the project, but are expenses the university incurs to support the project and enable it to be conducted. They include the expenses of buildings and utilities, maintenance, libraries, purchasing, human resources, research administration, and others. These expenses are averaged over all projects and official rates are established through negotiation with the Federal government. Current F&A rates can be found on the OSP webpage under the Tab – Preparing a Proposal.
The sponsor doesn't pay overhead/indirect costs/F & A costs, or pays them at a reduced rate. May I submit a proposal anyway?
Answer: Since indirect costs are real costs, they do not disappear if a sponsor declines to pay them. They must be paid by someone. ECU's policy is to recover full indirect costs from the sponsor of the project whenever possible. However, when a nonprofit sponsor has an official, written policy regarding indirect costs, the university will usually agree to honor it and "share the costs" of the project with the sponsor, as long as the same policy is uniformly applied to all grantees. For sponsors who pay reduced, or no, indirect costs, the PI should complete the RAMSeS Budget - (Cost Sharing or Cash Matching section) and attach a copy of the sponsor policy. See the F&A policy.
Do full indirect cost/F & A costs/overhead always need to be included in a proposal to a for-profit company? See the F&A policy.
Do pre-proposals, preliminary proposals, and "letters of intent" require OSP review prior to submission?
Answer: Generally no. See the pre-proposal policy.
Is review by the university's human subjects committee (IRB) required for behavioral or social sciences research projects involving questionnaires, surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups?
Answer: Yes. Complete the RAMSeS - Research Subjects section and Go to the UMCIRB webpage at www.ecu.edu/irb and follow the procedures for behavioral/social science projects.
Do I need to obtain approval by the IRB (Human Subjects Committee) or the IACUC (Animal Care & Use Committee) prior to submitting the proposal, or later?
Answer: Sponsor requirements vary. Most do not require approval of the use of human or animal subjects at the time of submission of a proposal; however, there are a few exceptions, and all sponsors require official approval before an award is made. Official, written, final approval of the IRB or IACUC must always be obtained before you begin any work on the project. OSP will not sign a contract, or authorize establishment of an account for your project, until the PI provides proper documentation of approval.
I plan to collaborate on a project with a colleague at another institution. What procedures do I need to follow?
Answer: Be sure to contact OSP as early as possible - well in advance of the deadline - since preparing and submitting collaborative proposals frequently requires considerably more time than single-institution proposals. Above all, don't wait until after a proposal is submitted by the other institution, or until the other institution is notified of an award! You and your colleague need to work out mutually agreeable arrangements as to who will do what on the project, and which institution will be designated to receive the "prime" award if the sponsor decides to fund the project. The other institution will receive a subcontract from the prime institution for their part of the work. Each colleague should construct a budget for his or her part of the work, and submit it to his or her own institutional office of sponsored programs, or the equivalent office, for review and approval. If ECU is to be the prime award, you will need to obtain the other institution's approved budget from your colleague and include the total as part of your own budget; then follow RAMSeS for submitting a proposal. If ECU is to be the subcontractor, you should follow the same procedures for OSP review as if you were applying directly to the sponsor. Please provide OSP with the name and phone number or e-mail address for a contact person in the sponsored programs office of the other institution.
If ECU is the lead institution in a consortium of several institutions wishing to submit an application, ECU requires institutional letters of intent and proposed budgets from the other participating institutions before the application can be approved for submission. If a grant is awarded, OSP will then prepare and negotiate the necessary subcontracts to transfer funds to the participating institutions. If another institution is to be the lead institution in a consortium in which ECU will be a participant, submission in RAMSeS and attachment of an institutional letter of intent and a proposed budget (and any narrative material) from ECU to the lead institution will be required. OSP will provide the letter of intent after reviewing the PI's materials, including the budget and administrative forms. This submission is considered to be administratively equivalent to a proposal. Thus, the PI should follow all of the above steps, including the completion of appropriate university forms, before OSP can issue a letter of intent. If awarded, ECU's funding will be in the form of a subcontract and will be processed through OSP as described in ECU Administrative Procedures for Contracts and Cooperative Agreements.
How soon will I get an account number after I receive an award?
Answer: OSP reviews and processes awards as soon as possible after they are received. For simple grants, this is usually accomplished within a day or two. For contractual agreements, especially with private for-profit sponsors, negotiation of acceptable terms often requires additional time. If required approvals, such as human or animal subjects, are lacking, award processing may be delayed. OSP forwards awards and related materials by campus courier to the Office of Grants and Contracts Administration, where accounts are established as expeditiously as possible, usually within a couple of days.
I just received a phone call from the sponsor informing me that my proposal will be funded. When can I start spending money?
Answer: OSP must receive official, written notification of an award from the funding agency's authorized official containing complete information on the amount, time period, and other terms and conditions of the award. Upon receiving this notification, OSP will review the award document (grant notice, contract, cooperative agreement, or other), check the proposal file and contact the PI for any needed approvals such as human or animal subjects, and if necessary, contact the funding agency to negotiate acceptable terms and conditions. The award document will then be forwarded along with the budget and a copy of the proposal to the Office of Grants and Contracts Administration for account establishment. Once this information is received by Grants Administration, an account is usually established within a couple of days. No purchases can be made until an account has been established.
What if my award is delayed?
Answer: It is fairly common for an official award document to be delayed, even though funding has been informally assured by an official of the sponsor. The university must always have a written commitment from a source of funds in order to pay expenses of the project. One way to do this is for the PI to request a "Financial Guarantee" in RAMSeS from a Chair or Dean willing to cover any cost not covered by the Sponsor. (The costs are not actually paid by the Guarantor at that time.) The "Financial Guarantee" should state the guarantor's commitment to cover expenses of the project, should an award fail to materialize. (The "Financial Guarantee" may set limits on the amount and time period that will be covered; this time period should be within the anticipated time period of the official award.) OSP will then provide Grants Administration with documentation from the proposal file. As soon as official award notification is received from the sponsor, the guarantor may then be reimbursed from the project budget for any expenses incurred.
How long do clinical trial agreements take to negotiate?
Answer: Clinical trial agreements are legally binding contracts that are typically issued by for-profit sponsors (pharmaceutical companies). They involve research with human subjects, which requires review and approval by ECU's IRB. There are also liability, confidentiality, intellectual property, and other issues which affect the core interests of the university and the PI. OSP is responsible for review and negotiation of these issues on behalf of the University. The negotiation process may require considerable time, even weeks, particularly if changes must be approved by the company's legal staff.
Effort certification - What's that?
Answer: Federal Government regulations require grantees, including universities, to track and certify the time and effort of employees, including faculty, staff, and students, who are either 1) paid from grant or contract funds, or 2) contributing their time and effort to grants and contracts at no charge to the sponsor. Please contact the Office of Grant and Contract Administration or the School of Medicine Business Office (for medical school personnel) for information on how to maintain records of time and effort. The university currently has an automated system that can be used by faculty and departmental administrators to accomplish this process.
What happens to the overhead/indirect costs/F & A costs paid to the university?
Answer: F & A costs are distributed according to policies developed by the Vice Chancellors and subject to state laws and regulations. 70% to Division Administration & Finance; 30% to the Originating College (or Colleges) generally divided equally between PI, Chair, and Dean (10-10-10). http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/osp/upload/POL-FACDISTRIBUTION.doc.
How are progress reports and non-competing continuations (for example, the 2nd or 3rd year of a multi-year grant award) handled in RAMSeS?
Answer: In RAMSeS, multi-year grant accounts are renewed annually – which gives chairs and deans an opportunity to review the project regularly. This process begins when the progress report is due to be submitted to the sponsor and completes when the sponsor provides the next year of funding. The process:
How does OSP handle deadlines that occur after 5 PM EST?