The Award Lifecycle

Submitting a Proposal: The Internal Review Process

Details are provided below to describe the process for routing OSP’s internal proposal forms along with Special considerations and the recommended timeframe for working with OSP on a proposal.

Who Must Sign to Approve Proposal Submission

All proposals submitted for extramural funding must be institutionally reviewed and approved by OSP prior to submission. The following individuals must approve of the proposal and sign NIU’s proposal approval form, the System Tracking and External Project (STEP) form:  

  • Principal Investigator/Co-Principal Investigators
  • Department Chair or Unit Head
  • College or Division
  • Office of Sponsored Projects

When NIU Co-Principal Investigators are identified on a proposal, the appropriate administrators for their unit(s) will also need to approve the proposal.


Routing STEP Forms for Signatures

Routing must begin no later than five (5) business days before the deadline. Obtaining institutional signatures from all units, especially when multiple colleges are involved, can take time. The institutional review process (i.e. internal routing and proposal review) must begin no later than five (5) business days prior to the published sponsor deadline to provide the responsible parties with adequate time to review the proposal and address any questions about the project that may arise.

OSP will assist the PI with preparing the STEP form and obtaining institutional signatures. The following documents must be in final form and ready for routing at least five (5) business days prior to the sponsor deadline.

  • Project budget
  • Budget justification
  • Project narrative
  • Sponsor guidelines (as applicable)
  • Agency forms requiring institutional signature (as applicable)
  • Signed subcontract form and budget (as applicable); and
  • Commitment letters from third-party/non-NIU cost share sources (as applicable).

What if there is less than five days before the deadline to route forms? PIs who notify OSP of a planned proposal submission less than five (5) business days prior to the sponsor deadline may be responsible for obtaining institutional signatures when OSP determines that the proposal may go forward for submission despite late notice to OSP.


Special Considerations

Electronic Proposal Submissions:

For proposals that require electronic submission (e.g. Grants.gov, NSF Fastlane, e-Grants) OSP strongly encourages PIs to have these proposals institutionally reviewed and ready for submission at least two (2) business days prior to the published sponsor deadline as systems can become overloaded a during peak deadline periods. Sponsors are generally inflexible in accepting a late proposal due to technical errors that arise on the day of submission.

Pre-Proposals and Letters of Intent:

Some sponsors require significant detail, such as an itemized budget, to be provided with a pre-proposal or letter of intent. Depending on the level of detail required by the sponsor some Pre-Proposals and Letters of Intent may require institutional review prior to submission. Consult your Research Development Specialist for guidance.

Late Proposal Notice:

If a PI fails to notify OSP of a proposal within the recommended timeframe below or as outlined in the OSP Policy on Submitting Proposals for Extramural Funding and institutional review is not possible before the sponsor deadline, the OSP Director or OSP Assistant Director: Proposal Support may agree to sign and submit the proposal without institutional review in order to meet the sponsor deadline. However, OSP reserves the right to withdraw it from sponsor consideration if it is found not to meet University and sponsor requirements and/or regulations or to make appropriate adjustments/corrections at the award stage.


Recommended timeframe for obtaining approvals for various proposal requests:

Request/ActionDue Prior to Sponsor Deadline
Notify RDS of a pending proposal submission 3 weeks (15 business days)
RDS submits Proposal and STEP form for institutional review 1 week (5 business days)
Institutional review complete 2 days
Tuition Waiver Requests 2-3 weeks
Cost Sharing Requests 2-3 weeks
Course-Buy Out Requests 2-3 weeks

Process for Submitting a Proposal:

  1. Schedule an initial meeting with your Research Development Specialist to work on your proposal and budget. Provide basic information to the RDS to prepare the System Tracking and External Projects (STEP) form (PDF) (e.g., funding agency, program solicitation, project title, project dates) for routing. This form summarizes the application's administrative information and specifies the nature of any University commitment(s) to the project.
  2. Begin to line up institutional project commitments, where necessary. Consult with your Research Development Specialist about any compliance clearances. All cost share commitments must be reflected on the STEP form and must receive approval by the appropriate divisional representatives prior to the submission of the proposal.
  3. Finalize budget, proposal and STEP form at least 5 working days before the submission deadline.
  4. OSP will assist with routing the STEP form to all appropriate individuals. The final signature is by the Office of Sponsored Projects.
  5. OSP submits the proposal or returns it to the PI for submission.