Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I start to find external funding and to which agencies should I send my proposal for funding? I have an idea for a project or I have been working on a project. It may be a research, instruction or public service project or creative artistry activity. more >
Contact your designated OSP Research Development Specialist. They will be glad to talk with you about your project and its potential for external funding. If this is a potentially collaborative project, we can help you make those other NIU contacts. We can also help you communicate with funding agency staff as well.
2. How do I find out about agency deadlines and web sites; whom do I contact for agency guidelines and application forms? more >
Refer to the Finding Funding section of our website. If you have a particular agency in mind or a specific call for an RFP, the Finding Funding section can help you locate funding opportunities by the type of sponsor (federal, state, or foundation) or the type of project (such as seed money, standard research projects, equipment grants, and more). Your designated OSP Research Development Specialist can also assist you with locating specific guidelines.
3. Where do I go with my draft proposal or where do I obtain help to turn my proposal into a finished application? more >
Refer to the Proposal Support section of the OSP Staff Directory. Research Development Specialists (RDS) are assigned to different colleges and disciplines and they can provide expert proposal/application submission support. Given sufficient time and upon PI request, they will edit your draft narrative and review the narrative against the agency/solicitation review criteria.
Also, refer to the Developing a Proposal section of our website, particularly the section on Developing a Narrative. We provide guidance and links to agency guides that may be helpful to refine the sections of your narrative.
4. Where do I go for budget assistance on my application for external funding? more >
Your Research Development Specialist will help you develop your budget and complete the agency budget forms. OSP staff must review project budgets for all applications submitted for funding to external sponsors. For more information on the proposal approval process see the Developing a Budget section of our website.
5. How do I send an application to an agency? more >
The Research Development Specialists can assist with mailing printed applications and submitting electronic applications. Most agencies now require electronic submission of an application and most electronic systems (i.e. grants.gov for federal proposals) require OSP to submit the proposal on behalf of the PI.
6. Whose approval and signatures are necessary before I submit an application for external funding? more >
For external funding applications, with the exception of some fellowships, NIU is the official applicant and the application must be institutionally reviewed prior to submission. The institutional review includes final approval by OSP to submit the application. Therefore, institutional signatures must be obtained on internal forms (e.g. OSP System Tracking and External Project – STEP form) that OSP initiates and on forms that will be submitted to the sponsor. OSP will assist with obtaining institutional signatures from the required administrators for your unit (e.g., Chair or Director, Dean or Associate Dean or Vice President and Associate Vice President). Obtaining institutional signatures from all units, especially when multiple colleges are involved, can take time. All proposals must be in final form and ready to begin the institutional review process at least five (5) business days prior to the sponsor deadline.
Some application forms require the signature of the Institutional Official or Authorized Organization Representative. Only the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects or the Vice President for Research should sign in this capacity on an application for funding.
Your Research Development Specialist can assist with mailing print applications and submitting electronic applications. When appropriate, PIs may submit their applications directly to the sponsor as long as the application has undergone the institutional review process.
7. My project may involve the use of human participants, animal subjects, recombinant DNA, or biohazards. What do I have to do to clear my project for submission to a potential funding agency? more >
If you believe your project involves human subjects, animal subjects, recombinant DNA, or biohazards, you should consult the web site of the university's Office of Research Compliance or call that office at 753-8588. Sponsor and university regulations require approvals by the appropriate university compliance committee/s before an award is made, and in some cases, approvals must be obtained at or soon after submission. You should be aware that you cannot begin data gathering on your project until university clearances have been obtained. Your project's involvement with any of these compliance issues is noted on the OSP System Tracking and External Project (STEP) forms. Typically, you will have to address these issues within your external application.
8. My project will be submitted to an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (e.g., NIH) or to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Are there special certifications that I must complete specific to these applications? more >
These two agencies require key persons responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of funded research, educational, or service activities to disclose any significant financial conflict of interest (FCOI) that would reasonably appear to be affected by those activities. Because the University believes that public trust is essential to the scientific endeavor, it is paramount that research conducted at NIU be unbiased and of the highest degree of integrity. OSP, therefore, screens for significant FCOI on all applications submitted for external funding. All individuals meeting the definition of key personnel as stated above must complete Section III of the OSP STEP form. Consult the web site of the University’s Office of Research Compliance or call the Office at 753-8588 with questions regarding FCOI.
9. Someone from the agency to which I've applied has asked me for a revised budget. Whom should I contact? more >
When a sponsor decides to support a project, it may fund the project at a different level from that requested. It also may request changes in the proposed work or in the services to be provided by the PI. If so, the sponsor will notify the University of the need to negotiate the award agreement. Contact your Research Development Specialist for assistance with revising the budget. A new System Tracking and External Project (STEP) form will be completed for budget revisions that must be submitted and approved by the sponsor prior to the release of award. As noted in FAQ #6, your RDS will assist you will obtaining the necessary institutional approvals.
10. My potential sponsor wants to negotiate a research contract. Whom should I call or email at OSP? more >
Contact the OSP Contracts and Industry Relations Coordinator. OSP’s CIR Coordinator, in consultation with other campus offices as necessary, will negotiate agreement terms and conditions with sponsors on behalf of the University. Industry agreements in particular may require extensive negotiation due to the marked differences between a corporate sponsor’s commercial mission and the University’s educational mission.
See the Engaging Industry and Contracts page for further information on how OSP assists with this process.
11. I have a R&D project that I believe would be of benefit to industry but am not sure how to begin this conversation an industry sponsor. Can OSP help me identify possible companies to contact? more >
Yes, contact the OSP Contracts and Industry Relations Coordinator (CIR). The CIR can help identify companies that may have an interest in your R&D and assist you with preparing a cost proposal to submit to an industry sponsor. You may also find the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership Researcher Guidebook helpful as you consider pursuing industry-supported research. The Guidebook is available on the OSP Engaging Industry and Contracts page in the “Useful Links” section.
12. I received a notification from the agency that my project was not funded. Now what? more >
If the agency to which you applied provides information on the reviewers' comments, please request them and, when you receive them, contact your OSP Research Development Specialist. Using those comments, your RDS can discuss your situation with you, perhaps help you to identify another potential funding source or to reorganize your project to revise and submit the application. Your RDS can help you refine your narrative and budget. If the agency does not provide comments, OSP staff will help you based on their expertise and previous experiences.
Furthermore, if you submitted an application to a federal sponsor and received a score (e.g. NIH) or reviewer comments encouraging you to resubmit, you may contact the Associate Vice President for Research (AVP) to discuss plans to revise and resubmit your proposal as part of the Division for Research and Graduate Studies “A1” program. The A1 program can assist with identifying external reviewers to review the declined proposal against reviewer comments and identify a strategy for resubmission. Stipends may be available for the external reviewers and will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the AVP. The AVP works closely with OSP Proposal Support staff when discussing plans to revise and resubmit to promote collaboration between the AVP and OSP offices and to ensure the highest quality of pre-award support for NIU investigators.
13. My project was funded. Now what? more >
If you have received an official notice of award, send it as soon as possible to the OSP Award Coordinator. The Award Coordinator will initiate the official NIU acceptance of award process, develop the OSP Notice of Award, and send the award information to the Office of Grants Fiscal Administration (GFA) where your award will be assigned to a Grant Administrator. The Grant Administrator will set up your grant in the University financial system and assign a grant number (e.g. a 44 account) to the account and notify you of the account information via the official NIU Notice of Award. PIs are encouraged to request a meeting with their GFA administrator to discuss post-award processes and expectations for managing an award. Please remember that a grant account cannot be established until all compliance issues have been reviewed and approved (see question # 7, above).
If the amount of your award is different from the amount you requested, contact your Research Development Specialist for assistance in revising your budget (see question #9).
14. I've received a contract from the sponsor. What do I do with it? more >
Contact the OSP Contracts and Industry Relations Coordinator. OSP’s CIR Coordinator, in consultation with other campus offices as necessary, will negotiate agreement terms and conditions with sponsors on behalf of the University. Industry agreements in particular may require extensive negotiation due to the marked differences between a corporate sponsor’s commercial mission and the University’s educational mission. Note that only the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects and the Vice President for Research, as institutional officials, are authorized to sign sponsored (e.g. performance) contracts on behalf of NIU. Contracts signed by the PI, Chair, or Dean are non-binding and will need to be counter-signed by the appropriate institutional official.
15. I've conceived an invention and/or reduced it to practice either fully or partially under an external grant or contract. Now what do I do? more >
You should file an invention disclosure. The invention disclosure form may be found at the web site of the NIU Technology Transfer Office. Once you have completed the invention disclosure form, you must inform the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) so that, as required, the external sponsor may be informed and appropriate protections put in place.
16. I still have work to do on my project and would like to extend it for another year. How do I do this? more >
First, you must have funds remaining in your grant account in order to extend your project beyond the original project period and be able to justify either internally to OSP and GFA or externally to your funding agency why the extension is necessary. Most federal agencies allow for a an initial one time extension of up to 12 months beyond the original project end date however some agecies, such as NSF, impose a timeframe (generally at least 10 days prior to the project end date) for which the grantee (NIU) must notify the agency of our intent to extend the project end date. If this deadline is not met agency approval must be obtained. Non-federal agencies and federally funded subawards often require prior approval of a no cost extension. See the NIU policy Managing Project Changes on Federally Funded Extramural Award for more information on obtaining a no-cost extension.
17. What types of project changes require prior agency approval? more >
In general, federal sponsors provide some flexibility in managing a grant award and this flexibility is outlined in the OMB circulars, Federal Research Terms & Conditions, and agency award notices. NIU, as the grantee often has the ability to approve certain project related changes at the institutional level. These changes include pre-award spending, implementation of a first no-cost extension up to twelve (12) months, carrying unspent funds forward from one budget period to another (“carryforward”), and rebudgeting between budget categories. OSP approves non-financial post award changes and, therefore, provides institutional approval for pre-award spending and no-cost extensions. GFA approves financial post-award changes including carry forward and rebudget requests.
There are some project changes that will always require prior agency approval and these changes are outlined under the Managing an Award section of the OSP website. Such changes include a change to the originally proposed scope of work, a change in key personnel listed in the award agreement (including a 25% or greater reduction in time/effort), and subsequent no-cost extension requests beyond twelve (12) months.
Anytime a change requires prior agency approval (whether a federal or non-federally funded award), the change shall be routed through the Institutional Prior Approval System (IPAS) and reviewed by GFA and approved by OSP. Because some awards may have special Terms & Conditions, it is important that you consult your GFA Grant Administrator to discuss any planned financial post-award changes or to discuss non-financial post-award changes (e.g. change of scope) with the OSP Award Coordinator. Such conversations should occur well in advance of the planned change; agencies require that requests be submitted at least thirty (30) days prior the proposed change.