External Sponsored Funding: Proposal Development and Submission

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All applications for external funding must be reviewed and approved by Lehigh’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) prior to submission. This section provides an overview of why, when, and how.

What is essential?

Proposals to sponsors commonly commit both the University and the investigators. For Federal agencies in particular, the University is required to vouch for information provided by investigators. Accordingly, all applications must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs prior to submission to the sponsor. In some circumstances, non-federal sponsors use their own submission portals where only the PI can submit. In this case, the PI must still obtain ORSP review and approval prior to submission. The endorsement of a University official indicates the University's commitment to the project per our understanding, at the time of the proposal, of the sponsor’s terms and expectations.

In order to submit proposals for external funding, you must be eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) per Lehigh’s PI Eligibility Policy. Each individual responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of research is required to complete a Sponsored Program Proposal-Based Disclosure in accord with the University’s policy on Financial Conflict of Interest related to Research and Sponsored Programs. Prior to your first proposal submission, each PI must also complete the review of this Research Essentials Handbook and certify completion utilizing this online form. Additional documentation may be required at the time of submission according to the sponsor and the nature of the project.

Why it’s Important

Proposal submission, acceptance of awards, and conduct of research at the University are governed by applicable federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to research (including both sponsored and unsponsored), University policies, and the sponsor terms and conditions. If an application is funded, the award is made to the University, not the submitting PI. The University is responsible for ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions of the award as well as with federal and state law and regulations, University policies, and the University’s tax-exempt, non-profit status.

In addition to fulfilling University obligations to the sponsor that pertain to the proposal itself, steps taken at the time of proposal review lay the groundwork for properly managing the award when the proposal is successful.

Missteps can have serious consequences for the PI, the University, colleagues, and other stakeholders. If a proposal is not submitted through ORSP, there is a risk the University may not be able to accept an award when offered.

How to Comply

Notify ORSP as soon as you’ve decided to submit a proposal to an external sponsor, using the Intent to Submit form. Remember that processes vary by sponsor, and what the sponsor requires can vary by individual program. All materials needing to be submitted to the sponsor should be complete and provided to ORSP at least five business days prior to the sponsor’s due date. After that, ORSP’s service level is reduced and successful submission to the sponsor may be at risk. Please see our proposal submission policy for details.

Keep in mind that some proposals, such as those involving the federal SBIR/STTR program, projects sponsored by commercial / for-profit entities, and programs with technology transfer elements, carry additional requirements and often take longer to develop and review.

In addition to the core focus of describing the proposed work and its importance, be sure to devote sufficient time to develop all other aspects of the proposal, including a budget sufficient to complete the scope of work, subcontract proposals, stewardship and dissemination (“data management”) plans, and required documentation of your resources and other professional activities. Remember that the PI is required to have reviewed all of these, and that by submitting a proposal both the PI and the University are attesting to the accuracy and completeness of all information provided, and are promising to fulfill all commitments if an award is received.