The Award Lifecycle

Developing Collaborations

Once you have refined the research question or problem that you intend to address, it may become clear that collaboration with another person or organization is necessary or beneficial to the project.  Research questions and social problems have become increasingly complex, and thus require equally complex approaches, often requiring a collaborative effort. Funding agencies recognize and have responded to this shift (meaning collaborative projects are often more attractive to sponsors).

Research question / social need / problem to be addressed

Proposed scope of work

Project structure / resource needs (including collaboration requirements)

Once a determination is made that collaboration is necessary or beneficial, it is important to sort out what type of collaboration is required. Collaboration exists on a continuum, from simply needing another entity to provide a specific and narrowly defined service (e.g., lab analyses) to fully sharing the development and execution of the project with another entity. Where a collaborative effort falls on this continuum and the purpose it serves drives how it is structured.

 SubcontractorConsultantFaculty ExpertVendor
Does this person work at NIU? No No Yes No
Is this person offering services within the normal work day and his/her typical job description? Yes No   Yes
Does this person provide the same services to many different purchasers? No Yes   Yes
Has some responsibility for programmatic decision-making? Yes No No No
Primarily offers projects Advice or expert services Advice or expert services Parts or ongoing services
Operates in a competitive environment?    


Must adhere to federal compliance requirements Yes Yes Yes No
Performance measures Whether or not the objectives of the program are met  



The structure of a collaborative relationship determines how it is budgeted, what the internal administrative requirements are, and how it is presented in the proposal to the sponsor.

Your Research Development Specialist can help you to determine how a collaborative relationship should be structured, set up the correct administrative arrangements and budget the collaboration appropriately, and in some cases may be able to suggest collaborators.