Administrative Review and Approval for 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
Staff
Date Submitted to Policy Library Committee 03-04-2022
Status Active
Last Review Date 03-04-2022
Policy Category/Categories Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts

Purpose

To help Principal Investigators plan for accurate and on-time proposal submission.

Reason for Policy

NIU is committed to the pursuit of increasing the research, scholarship, and artistry enterprise. To maximize the chances that sponsored proposals are successfully selected for award, it is vital that the university continue to submit the highest quality proposals to our sponsors. Last-minute proposal submissions can lead to insufficient time to conduct a proper review before submission to the sponsor. Proposals that do not receive a thorough review can include costly errors, be rejected without review, and jeopardize NIU’s reputation with our sponsors. 

Additionally, the electronic submission processes sponsors use for proposals require that Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) register for, access, and learn myriad sponsor web systems and portals. This requires ample time to prepare and upload documents, respond to system errors and validation checks, and potentially resubmit a corrected proposal before the published deadline. Sponsors are not sympathetic to circumstances that lead to late submissions.

The goal of SPA Pre-Award is to ensure that all proposals are submitted accurately and on time. SPA Proposal Coordinators work on many proposals simultaneously, often for the same deadline. They are also working with Principal Investigators on other time-sensitive pre-award actions such as sponsor-requested budget revisions and just-in-time requests for new awards. Constantly responding to last-minute submissions interrupts SPA’s work on other proposals and reduces staff ability to provide a thorough review and on-time submission for all NIU proposals and pre-award actions.

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

Policy

All proposals for external funding must receive approval by Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) prior to submission to the sponsor. All proposals include those where NIU is the lead institution submitting to the sponsor and those where NIU is a collaborator (e.g., subcontractor or subrecipient) on another organization’s proposal.

All proposals are reviewed and submitted in SPA on a First in/First out basis.

Proposals submitted without SPA approval may be administratively withdrawn or the offer of funding (award) may be declined if the submission is found to be non-compliant with University, Federal, State, or sponsor policies.

Northern Illinois University reserves the right to withdraw any proposal or refuse acceptance of any award that does not comply with this policy.

Roles and Responsibilities

The Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs (AVP) has overall responsibility for this policy.

The Associate Director for Pre-Award oversees implementation of this policy.

SPA staff are responsible for reviewing proposals for administrative compliance with University, Federal, State, and sponsor policies.

The Principal Investigator is responsible for adhering to the timelines in this policy, working with their department and college to secure necessary budget, space, or other approvals, and confirming the accuracy of the information presented in their proposal.

The Department Chair, Center Director, and/or Dean attests to the academic purposes of the proposed project and its appropriateness in terms of budget, committed effort, space, and equipment.

The SPA Associate Director, Assistant Director, and Senior Proposal Coordinators are authorized to approve proposals for sponsored programs.

Deadlines

Notice of Intent to Submit (with a PI request for budgeting and other assistance): Thirty (30) business days

Investigators must notify their Proposal Coordinator of their intent to submit a proposal at least 30 business days before the sponsor deadline.

  • SPA will endeavor to assist Principal Investigators with preparation of the budget and other non-technical components (e.g., current and pending) when this timeline is met.
  • SPA will strive to acknowledge receipt of the Investigator’s intent to submit a proposal within twenty-four (24) business hours.
  • The Proposal Coordinator and Investigator will agree to timelines up front and be responsive to each other to ensure the proposal meets additional submission timelines set forth in this guidance.
  • Investigators will identify a contact person if they will be in the field or otherwise unavailable for SPA questions.
  • Investigators will keep SPA informed of any changes in submission plans or when beginning budget discussions with other organizations.

Notice of Intent to Submit (with no PI request for budgeting or other assistance): Fifteen (15) business days

Investigators who choose to prepare their own budgets and all other proposal components must submit their detailed budget, budget justification, and scope of work in final draft form to their Proposal Coordinator at least 15 business days before the sponsor deadline. This provides the Coordinator with approximately one working week to review the budget and work with Investigators to make any changes before beginning the internal review process in InfoEd.

A scope of work is necessary for SPA to review the budget for compliance (e.g., location of work for F&A rate confirmation purposes). When NIU is a subrecipient, SPA needs only a short summary explaining NIU’s scope of work. A copy of the full proposal in this case is not necessary.   

The internal review process will begin at least ten (10) business days before the sponsor deadline for all proposals. At minimum, the internal review needs:

  1. Final budget and budget justification – unless approved by SPA, no changes will be made once internal review begins.
  2. Final cost share commitments – this enables all units committing cost share to review and approve commitments.
  3. Draft proposal narrative or other scope of work.

Submission of Final Proposal Components: Five (5) business days

The Proposal Coordinator must have all final non-budget proposal components required by the program announcement/solicitation at least 5 business days before the sponsor deadline. At this point the Coordinator will begin preparing documents for uploading into sponsor systems. This timeline is also applicable to hard copy mailings. SPA makes no guarantees of an accurate or on-time submission when this deadline is not met.

Late Submissions

Proposal Coordinators will automatically refer any notice of proposal received less than fifteen (15) business days before the deadline to the Associate Director for Pre-Award to determine if SPA can submit, and the level of support and review that SPA will provide.

Investigators are encouraged to contact the Associate Director directly to discuss these situations.

Proposal Coordinators will automatically refer any proposal notice received less than five (5) business days before the deadline to the Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs (AVP) and the appropriate Associate Dean or Division Head. The AVP and College/Division will evaluate the proposal and determine if the proposal should proceed.

Investigators are encouraged to contact the AVP and Associate Dean or Division Head directly to discuss these situations.

SPA will automatically deem these “high risk” proposals and they will not receive a compliance review.

SPA will not assist or submit proposals received less than two (2) business days before the deadline. Any exceptions to this must be approved by the Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships (VPR).

SPA will automatically deem these “high risk” proposals and they will not receive a compliance review should the VPR approve submission.

Special Considerations

  • Proposal submissions take precedent over other pre-award actions. This means that Proposal Coordinators must often back one another up during peak submission periods, time off, etc. Other sponsor requests and participation in project planning meetings will be prioritized based on proposal volume. 
  • These timelines also apply to proposals without firm deadlines but for which Investigators have a target submission date in mind. These are generally industry-sponsored programs and other sponsors with flexible submission periods.
  • Bear in mind that the inclusion of, or participation in a project as, a subrecipient, can add to the preparation and timelines for submitting a proposal given the need to manage multiple institutional deadlines.  
  • In cases when SPA agrees to submit a high risk proposal when deadlines are not met, SPA reserves the right to withdraw the proposal from sponsor consideration or require the PI to make changes to the project or budget prior to accepting the award. This may delay the PIs access to grant funds.  
  • When submission is not possible due to university closures for inclement weather or other catastrophic events, SPA will make reasonable efforts to submit proposals and/or assist Investigators to contact sponsors regarding deadline extensions.
  • Proposals are submitted during standard university business hours (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM Central Time Monday through Friday excluding holidays). SPA will not guarantee submission of proposals outside of such hours unless alternative arrangements have been made. This is regardless of the stated sponsor deadline time.
  • Departments and Colleges/Divisions may have their own internal notification and review deadlines that may be more limited than SPA’s.
  • SPA observes standard university closures. Investigators are strongly encouraged to plan accordingly, particularly for extended closures such as winter break.

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