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Checklist for Putting Together a New Proposal


We at the RAO understand that whether you're a newcomer or a long-time veteran to sponsored research, starting the application process for a new proposal can be daunting.  To help you and your team get organized and moving forward as quickly as possible, we've assembled a step-by-step new proposal checklist below. Following this checklist carefully is the best way to ensure your proposal will be reviewed, approved and submitted on deadline! 

Please also see Commonly Requested Documentation for links to information and documents commonly requested by sponsors.

Contact Charlene Arzigian or Martha Goldberg if you would like further clarification on any of the steps outlined below. 


1.  Gather all available information about the opportunity from the Sponsor:

  • Is there an official Request For Proposal (RFP) or Program Announcement (PA) provided by the Sponsor? 
  • Does the Sponsor provide a statement of their allowable overhead rates?
  • Are there any other stated guidelines to be aware of?

2.  Confirm whether any actions have already been taken around the opportunity:

  • Have there been any conversations or agreements between HKS faculty or staff and the Sponsor that would affect the next steps taken with this proposal?
  • Is this a limited submission proposal? If yes, approval is needed from the Vice Provost for Research (coordinated by RAO)
  • How did the Principal Investigator/Center learn of this oppportunity?

3.  Determine the project due date(s). 

  • Is it a firm sponsor due date or is the due date flexible?
  • If it is a firm sponsor deadline, make sure to allow enough time for internal HKS review before the 5-day review clock starts at OSP.

4.  Determine who will oversee the project:

  • Who is the Principal Investigator (PI)?
  • Who is the PI Liaison? (i.e., the staff person coordinating the application)
  • Has your Center's Executive Director been informed and/or consulted about the new proposal?
  • Has your Center's Financial Manager approved the budget?

5.  Check the HKS Submission Guidelines to create a realistic submission timeline.

6.  Consider factors that could lengthen the proposal review process and delay your submission timeline:

  • Does project have Human Subjects? Will it need FCOPP review (pdf)?
  • Will the project need the Provost's Review?  If yes, the review (coordinated by the RAO) will add to the proposal review time.
  • Is the faculty member a first time PI? If so, s/he will need to sign a Participation Agreement.
  • Is this a new Sponsor for Harvard?  If yes, new Sponsor approval (coordinated by the RAO) will add to the proposal review time.

7.  Contact Charlene Arzigian or Martha Goldberg about the planned proposal:

  • Discuss project and current status.
  • Discuss due date and a proposal submission timeline.

8.  Prepare your Internal Budget:

  • Refer to our budget template for guidance on how to create a basic internal budget.
  • Refer to our salary template for guidance on how to calculate salary and benefits, including information on the sponsored awards vacation time policy.
  • Determine current fringe rates.
  • Include a Budget Narrative. A budget narrative is best practice even if not required by the sponsor. 

9.  Do you have a budget overhead shortfall?

  • If the Sponsor pays less than the 20% overhead required by HKS, you must determine how the shortfall will be covered.  Visit the above link for instructions on addressing an overhead shortfall. 

10.  Gather all required documentation and information. (see Commonly Requested Documentation for links to information and documents commonly requested by sponsors.)

11.  Post the proposal in GMAS.

  • Prepare a request in GMAS and upload all documents into the repository for that project.
  • Then email the RAO that you have done this. 
  • Make sure to clearly label all documents with the date and a description without leaving any spaces. For example: Jones_Knight_Narrative_101111. As we work together to make sure that all the documents are in order, the revisions will be renamed and the date revised until we are ready to label them as final.
  • If you have an overhead shortfall the RAO will document the overhead shortfall compensation method by issuing a receipt based on discussions of how the shortfall will be covered.
  • After the usual review period, when the center and the RAO agree that the proposal is ready to send to OSP, then the RAO will hit lock and route.
  • Emails will be generated by GMAS alerting all those who need to sign. The RAO will be following the signatures and will communicate with the centers to make sure the process is followed correctly. The electronic signature should only be a technicality, meaning that the PI, Center Director and Financial Manager have already seen and reviewed the proposal and are in agreement that it should be submitted. The signature notification is not to be used to alert anyone to review the proposal. Once we hit lock and route, the process to make substantial changes is time consuming and requires resubmitting the entire project.

12.  Once the RAO has locked and routed your proposal, OSP will begin their review. The RAO or OSP may get in touch with you during this time with any questions or suggested edits to your submission.

13.  OSP will notify the RAO and center that the proposal has been submitted.

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