Administrative Review and Approval for Pre-Proposals

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible University Office Sponsored Programs Administration
Responsible Officer(s) Assistant VP for Research and Sponsored Programs
Contact Person Dara Little
Primary Audience Faculty
Date Submitted to Policy Library Committee 03-04-2022
Status Active
Policy Category/Categories Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts


To expedite the pre-proposal submission process.

Reason for Policy

Sponsors may require that applicants submit a pre-proposal (aka Letters of Intent, White Papers, Concept Papers, Pre-Applications, etc.) for review prior to submitting a full competitive proposal. The pre-proposal typically includes a summary of the project, list of personnel, and budget amount. If selected, the Principal Investigator then submits a more formal or full proposal.

NIU is committed to the pursuit of increasing the research, scholarship, and artistry enterprise. One way this occurs is through the submission of pre-proposals to external sponsors. SPA process supports the need for Principal Investigators to submit pre-proposals as expeditiously as possible to solicit interest in their respective programs. This policy identifies when the Principal Investigator may submit their pre-proposal directly to the sponsor and when it must come through Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) for review and approval before submission. 

Intended Audience

  • Deans
  • Senior Administration – Vice Provosts, Associate Deans
  • Directors, Department Heads, Division Heads
  • Faculty and Staff
  • Departmental/Divisional Business Administrators
  • Sponsored Programs Administration Personnel
  • Research Compliance Personnel


When a sponsor requires the submission of a pre-proposal, the Principal Investigator (PI) may need to submit the pre-proposal through the Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) proposal routing system for review and approval. InfoEd is SPA’s proposal routing system.

Pre-Proposals that Need SPA Review and Approval

SPA will review and approve pre-proposals through the proposal routing system when any of the following are required:

  1. The pre-proposal includes a detailed line-item budget that cannot be altered when submitting the full proposal, or
  2. The pre-proposal requires a firm commitment of NIU cost-sharing/matching that cannot be altered when submitting the full proposal
  3. The sponsor’s system requires submission of the pre-proposal by SPA (for example, some NSF pre-proposals are required to be submitted by SPA).

These pre-proposals will follow normal SPA policy for Administrative Review and Approval of Proposals.

Pre-Proposals that Do Not Need SPA Review and Approval

  1. Pre-proposals that do not require any of the items listed under number 1 above may be submitted to the sponsor without receiving SPA review through SPA’s proposal routing system. When submitting the pre-proposal to the sponsor via e-mail, the PI should copy the appropriate SPA Proposal Coordinator. If submission is not through email, a copy of the pre-proposal should be emailed to the Proposal Coordinator, after it has been submitted to the sponsor.

    For pre-proposals submitted without SPA review and approval, it is recommended that the PI check with their department/unit to verify any review process they may have prior to submitting the pre-proposal to the sponsor.

  2. Facilities and Administrative Rate (i.e., F&A, Indirect Cost, or Overhead)

    It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure that the pre-proposal budget includes proper F&A. PIs must include the correct NIU Federally Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate in pre-proposals unless the solicitation expressly states differently. Any deviation from the Federally Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate must have prior approval of the Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs prior to submission.

    If the appropriate F&A rate is not included in the pre-proposal budget (including preliminary cost share budgets), Sponsored Programs Administration will include the F&A at full proposal submission, even if it affects and lowers the total direct costs for the project or requires a change in scope.

    Only the Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnership or Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs are authorized to negotiate the F&A rate. Any negotiations done by the PI or anyone besides those authorized will not be honored and may result in the full proposal not being submitted to the sponsor.

Limited Number of Pre-Proposals

If the Program Announcement (PA) or Request for Proposal (RFP) limits the number of pre-proposal submissions from an institution, the PI is required to contact the Director of Funding Development to indicate their interest.

The Director will review the guidelines and arrange an appropriate internal review process as applicable with the Office of The Vice President for Research. This selection process could take several weeks or more. Submit early and allow ample time for this process.

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