The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Proposal Development Process & Best Practices

Getting Started

I need help. Where do I start?

  • To find out who is available to provide assistance on your proposal, please reach out to Research Development Services (RDS) via our Assistance Request Form at the bottom of this page.
  • By completing this form, you will be making a reservation with Research Development Services.
  • Please do not hesitate to request assistance, even if you are unsure whether the proposal will be submitted.  It is easier to remove you from our schedule, than it is to fit you in at the last minute.
  • We will attempt to reply to your request within 24 hours (1 business day). However, please allow up to 48 hours (2 business days) for a response.

The early bird gets the worm...

  • To obtain administrative support, we are asking that Principal Investigators (PIs) request assistance as early as possible.
  • This will allow RDS to reserve a spot for you in our calendar and add your proposal to our project management software.
  • Further, this allows us to properly manage our workload capacity and provide College of Engineering faculty, post-docs, and graduate students with the most comprehensive service possible.
  • If you are new to campus, please allow for additional time so that we can help familiarize you with UMass policies and assist you with gaining access to sponsor portals.

How much lead-time should I allow?
To ensure RDS can accommodate as many reservations as possible, we are asking PIs to please respect the following lead-times when requesting assistance:

  • Proposal assistance should be requested four weeks, or more (4+), prior to the sponsor deadline (or the preceding Friday if the deadline falls on a weekend).
  • If something appears out-of-the ordinary, please allow for additional time. As proposals become more complex, additional logistics, approvals, and documents are often required. In such a situation, proposal assistance should be requested six weeks, or more (6+), prior to the sponsor deadline.
  • Complexity Examples
    • Multiple (3+) Subrecipients
    • Cost-Share/Institutional Commitments
    • International Collaborators
    • Instruction Grants
    • Center Creation Grants
    • This is not an exhaustive list. If something appears out-of-the ordinary, please allow for additional time.
  • Lead-time Exemptions:
    • Requests for Revised Budgets before/during award negotiations. An assistance request should be made within one (1) business day of receiving notice from the sponsor.
    • Invitations to submit a full proposal after the LOI/Pre-Proposal stage. An assistance request should be made within one (1) business day of receiving an invitation from the sponsor.
    • UMass as a subrecipient. An assistance request should be made within one (1) business day of receiving an invitation from the lead organization.
    • Solicitations (RFPs/FOAs/BAAs) posted AFTER the timelines outlined above. In such a situation, an assistance request should be made within two (2) business days of the announcement being posted by the sponsor.
  • RDS cannot guarantee service on request forms submitted after the timelines posted above.


Scope and Budget Preparation

  • Discuss initial project scope and a rough budget outline with your research administrator at the beginning of the proposal development process.
  • Agree on a timeline for completing and uploading proposal components with your assigned research administrator. Communicate any needed changes to the timeline as soon as possible.
  • Communicate compliance aspects of your project to your research administrator as soon as possible. There may be additional forms or notifications that must be completed during proposal stage as a result.
    • Human Subjects
    • Vertebrate Animals
    • Export Controls
    • Foreign Collaborators
    • Biosafety
    • Conflicts of Interest
    • Clinical Trials
    • Dual Use Biologics
    • Custom Antibodies
    • Biological Substances
  • Aim to finalize the budget one (1) week before routing to OPAS for internal review.
  • Attempt to keep last minute budget alterations to a minimum, as this often leads to delays in routing.
  • The budget and budget justification must be in FINAL form at routing.

Subrecipient Documents

  • Attempt to line up partners six weeks, or more (6+), prior to the sponsor due date.
  • Allow the RDS research administrator to coordinate deadlines and documents with the subrecipients. This will require the PI to put the research administrator in touch with their counterparts at any partner institutions.
  • The research administrator will coordinate with the subrecipient to receive their documents two (2) weeks prior to the sponsor deadline. This will allow for a compliance audit and budget reconciliation prior to internal routing.
  • Approved/Final subrecipient documents are required at routing.

Supporting and Science/Technical Documents

  • Supporting documents should be prepared and provided to the research administrator 2 - 3 business days in advance of the routing deadline.
  • Supporting documents must be in FINAL form at routing.
    • Biographical Sketches, Current and Pending Support, Facilities and Other Resources, Data Management Plans, etc.
  • Science/Technical documents must be in a “near final”, reviewable, DRAFT form at routing.
    • Project Summary/Abstract, Specific Aims, Project Description/Research Strategy, or References Cited/Bibliography.


Sponsor Forms, Sponsor Portals, and Kuali Research

  • RDS will assist with completing sponsor forms by entering institutional and budgetary information.
  • RDS will assist with uploading documents to sponsor portals.
    • Certain sponsor portals will require that PIs provide the research administrator with their login credentials.
  • RDS will assist with data entry and document upload into the University's electronic research administration (eRA) system, Kuali Research.

Administrative Review and Submission

  • ALL proposals to funding agencies for externally sponsored programs in research, instruction, and other public service programs are required to be reviewed and submitted by the Office of Pre-Award Services (OPAS)
  • Please read and understand Research and Engagement’s Five-Day Proposal Submission Procedure »
  • Through the review process, OPAS and RDS will coordinate to reduce procedural, administrative, and formatting errors that may cause a proposal to be returned without review.
  • Stay calm and stay in touch. Communication and the PI's prompt feedback are often required during the five-day review period.
  • Every proposal is an opportunity to learn, even when not awarded. Best of luck!


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