The Award Lifecycle

Writing a Strong Facilities Statement

Why is a Facilities Statement Important?

While it is understandable that PIs spend the bulk of their proposal-writing time and effort on the research plan, sponsors are increasingly looking to the “supporting documents” that typically accompany a proposal as they make their evaluation. PIs are often expected to provide a Facilities Statement which documents institutional capacity and the availability of the resources required for the project. As reviewers make difficult decisions among many equally strong and important projects, they look to these statements to assess which projects have the strongest institutional support. Therefore, boilerplate language is no longer sufficient.

Facilities statements used to include, for example, the size of a faculty member’s office, the office equipment available, etc. Certainly, these resources should still be noted if they are relevant to the scope of your work. However, sponsors generally expect you to have access to these resources, so it is important to highlight additional or unique resources that are available for carrying out your project.

Remember that nothing in the Facilities Statement has a dollar-value assigned to it, and all resources identified must be specific to the work you are proposing. Everything included should support the argument that the institutional capacity to support the research and the administration of the award is well in place.

NIU Resources

Below are some descriptions of NIU resources and capabilities that might be included in a Facilities Statement. Your Research Development Specialist can assist you with identifying organizational resources and crafting a strong Facilities Statement.

1. Existing Equipment

There is no need to list every single item in a lab or office.  In this section, though, you should indicate that you have the basic equipment to conduct the research, particularly if you are not asking for obviously-required equipment in the grant budget. Reviewers will want to know that you can, in fact, complete the research as described, if they give you the award.  Early-career investigators should certainly reference, without quantifying, any start-up package associated with the development of a lab or research setting.

2. Facilities

Basic scientists might need to include the scientific glassblowing services, the machine shop that will fabricate specialty items, the analytical lab with its shared instrumentation, and/or the electronics shop. Other resources may include access to the University’s high performance computer cluster for analyzing large amounts of data, Digital Convergence Lab, and/or the Research Methodology Service unit. Your Research Development Specialist can assist with identifying additional campus resources that may be appropriate for your particular project.

The Research Methodology Service is a specialized service unit at NIU helps faculty to strengthen research design and data analysis.  If the research plan involves complex analysis, management of large or complicated data sets, or a particularly esoteric form of analysis, then use of the RMS may strengthen your proposal.

3. Carnegie Classifications

You can look up NIU’s classification here:  http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/lookup_listings/institution.php. We are currently classified as Research-High, and have an impressive Engagement classification as well. If either of these classifications is important for your work, PIs should certainly consider mentioning them. However, one should always check these classifications before including them in a proposal. The Carnegie Foundation changes its classification system from time to time; it would not strengthen a proposal to use an out-of-date classification marker.

4. Grants Management or Statement of Fiscal Responsibility

Federal proposals typically need not include a statement about grant management; the existence of such services is covered in the standard certifications. Foundations and state-level sponsors, though, may well ask for an indication that there is the institutional ability to manage an award in compliance with the appropriate regulations. You might consider adding this language: “Northern Illinois University is committed to supporting externally funded faculty research. As part of that support, Grants Fiscal Administration (post-award) exists to assist faculty members with the administration of externally funded grants. Grants Fiscal Administration (GFA) is staffed with professional Grant Administrators who are knowledgeable of Federal and private agency regulations as well as NIU and State of Illinois procedures, PeopleSoft Human Resources, Procurement, Accounts Receivable and General Ledger systems.“ If additional language is required, contact your OSP Research Development Specialist.

5. Agency-specific guidance

NSF and NIH have very specific requests and requirements for the Facilities and Other Resources statements.  Below includes some guidance to prepare a statement for each agency.

NIH   

Facilities and Other Resources.  Information in this section is used to assess the adequacy of the organizational resources (inclusive of physical, intellectual, and human resources; exclusive of major equipment – see below) available to perform the proposed research. Identify the facilities to be used (laboratory, animal, computer, office, clinical, and other). If appropriate, indicate their capacities, pertinent capabilities, relative proximity and extent of availability to the project. Describe only those resources that are pertinent to the proposed project. Provide any information describing other resources available to the project (i.e., machine shops, electronics shops, etc.) and the extent to which they would be available to the project. Address how the research environment will contribute to the probability of success of the proposed research. Also note any unique features or resources that would contribute to the probable success of the project proposed (e.g., access to undergraduate student research assistants for a R15 application, time dedicated to research in the applicant’s institutional appointment). For an Early Stage Investigator, describe the institutional investment (start-up funding, course release, graduate assistants, etc.) in the success of the investigator. If facilities and resources outside of NIU will be used to carry out the project, describe those facilities in a separate section of the document. Your RDS can provide template/sample documents and language to support the development of this statement.

Equipment. Briefly describe major items of equipment (e.g., computer cluster, electron microscope, centrifuge, etc.) available for the project, together with their location and pertinent capabilities, if appropriate. Only include equipment that will be necessary to conduct the project being proposed. If equipment outside of NIU will be employed for the project, describe it in a separate section of the document.

NSF

Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources. This section is intended to demonstrate that you already have adequate organizational resources available to perform the proposed work. List only those things that are directly relevant to the proposal. If you are requesting one or more items of equipment in the proposal, do not list them in this section. Instead, describe them in the project description, and provide a brief description of how they will supplement or interface with the existing equipment listed here.