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Office of Research & Sponsored Programs

Submission Approval

Internal Review and Approval for Submission of Grants and Contracts

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) is the university's authoritative agent for the submission of proposals and acceptance of awards for sponsored projects on behalf of the University of Northern Iowa. The authorizing signature of the RSP Grants and Contracts Administrator, or his/her designees, certifies that commitments made on grants, contracts and agreements can be honored, verifies the accuracy of information provided on grant proposals or contract agreements, and ensures that all sponsored agreements conform to government regulations, agency guidelines, and University policies. In order to fulfill this responsibility and to help UNI prepare the best and most competitive proposals, all sponsored project proposals for grants, contracts, and agreements must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs before submission to the external sponsor.

RSP review and approval is required for all proposals, applications, concept papers, contracts, and subcontracts, hereinafter referred to collectively as “proposals,” whether public or private sponsors, requesting funds and/or committing University resources (e.g. personnel, space, funds, equipment and facility use, etc.). This also includes all pre-proposals or letters upon which a grantor may base a decision to fund, and governmental scholarship and fellowship applications, which if awarded, will be paid to the university (not directly to the individual). 

RSP review and approval is required regardless of whether UNI is the lead organization submitting directly to a funder or  a subcontractor or collaborator, and regardless of the method of proposal transmission to the sponsor, e.g. via e-mail, paper copy or electronic submission. Even when a sponsor’s electronic system gives Principal Investigators/Project Directors (PIs/PDs) the authority to submit, RSP approval is first required. Likewise, proposals that do not require an institutional signature still must be approved by RSP before the PI/PD submits the proposal to the sponsor.

Proposals Not Subject to RSP Review and Approval

Typically, the University of Northern Iowa serves as the legal recipient of grants and contracts. However, two exceptions are grants or contracts awarded directly to individuals and grants managed by the UNI Foundation. These types of proposals are not managed by RSP and are not subject to the RSP review and approval requirement.

Grants or Contracts to Individuals: Proposals for external funding such as fellowships and scholarships in which the individual, rather than the university, is the legal recipient are exempt from the RSP review and approval process. Faculty and staff should contact RSP for assistance in determining whether UNI or an individual is the legal recipient.

Grants Managed by the UNI Foundation: University Policy 9.02 – Grants and Gifts provides criteria for determining which unit provides submission assistance and financial oversight according to the type and source of funding. The UNI Foundation generally manages non-governmental funding, providing no provisions as outlined in Policy 9.02 are present. Faculty and staff should consult with either RSP or UNI Foundation staff for assistance and submission procedures.

The RSP PreAward staff serves faculty and staff by facilitating applications for external funding. To do so, RSP requires a comprehensive pre-submission review of all proposals to ensure complete and accurate applications and compliance with sponsor and university policies. The proposal review process includes PI/PDs notifying RSP of their intentions to apply to an external sponsor, RSP review of all proposal materials, internal routing and approval, and proposal submission.

At times RSP may request changes that will bring a proposal into compliance with guidelines and policies, and/or suggest changes that will enhance a proposal’s competitiveness. When the proposal is complete and all approvals have been secured, RSP provides institutional endorsement of the proposal and either submits the proposal or authorizes the PI/PD to submit the proposal to the sponsor.

When UNI is a Subrecipient on a Grant or Contract

When UNI PI/PDs collaborate with external partners, UNI is most likely a subrecipient in another institution's or organization’s project. UNI’s portion of the proposed project and budget are treated as proposals to an external sponsor.  Subrecipient proposal must go through the standard proposal review and approval prior to submission of UNI’s final materials to the lead organization. In such cases, the “submission date” for the internal review process is the date UNI materials are due to the lead organization.

After RSP approval, PreAward staff will prepare a standard subcontract proposal endorsement letter authorizing the lead organization to include UNI in their proposal.

When UNI is the Lead Applicant on a Collaborative Proposal

When UNI is the lead applicant of a collaborative proposal where one or more institutions or organizations will receive subaward funds, UNI PI/PDs must obtain an indication of approval to participate in the proposal and project from each organization’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) or a designee, an office such a sponsored programs office or research office. The approval may come as a signed letter of endorsement and should include a measure of the organization’s staff time and effort, and the amount of any subaward funds. An endorsement letter template is available.

Per UNI’s internal deadlines for proposal review, outlined below, all collaborator materials must be received no less than 7 full working days prior to the submission date of the full proposal.

Several federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, formally recognize collaborative proposals as a distinct type of application with unique submission requirements and processes. PI/PDs should check with RSP when considering any type of collaborative proposal.

Proposals to Limited Submission Competitions

Sponsors may restrict the number of proposals allowed to be submitted to a specific funding opportunity by the university or by the PI/PD. These are referred to as “limited submission” opportunities. RSP monitors UNI applications to limited submission opportunities in order to ensure equitable selection of proposals to be put forth on behalf of the university, and to prevent potential disqualification of UNI proposals due to more than one application being submitted. PI/PDs are responsible for notifying RSP PreAward staff as early as possible if they are considering submitting a proposal to a limited submission competition. In some instances, internal competitions will be held to select the UNI proposal(s) to be submitted.

Faculty and staff should refer to RSP’s Guidelines for Limited Submission Competitions for specific guidance and a list of limited submission competitions to which UNI commonly applies.  

Steps for RSP Proposal Review

RSP can provide the highest level of service to faculty and staff when adequate lead time is given to review and approve a proposal prior to submission. RSP staff must frequently review and submit many different proposals with similar deadlines. To most efficiently manage proposal activity, RSP uses the following internal deadlines for all proposals:

1. Notify RSP PreAward staff of Intent to Submit - no less than 12 working days prior to submission due date.

2. Principal Investigator/Project Director (PI/PD) will review and discuss the submission together, by phone or in person.

3. Budget Review - PI/PD submits required budget materials by email to PreAward staff by 9:00 AM no less than 7 full working days prior to their submission date. 

4. Routing of electronic Proposal Routing & Approval Form. 

5. Final File Review - no less than 2 full working days prior to submission due date.

6. RSP Approval and Proposal Submission, according to funder guidelines.

Proposals submitted to RSP after the internal deadlines will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis. Priority is given to those proposals that have been submitted on time and are complete. The PI/PD assumes the risk that late or incomplete proposals may not be submitted, or may be submitted without adequate review. Such a proposal may be withdrawn from funding consideration should it contain errors that would preclude UNI’s acceptance of an award.