Proposal Preparation Questions

1) How do I prepare a proposal?

To ensure proposals are prepared consistent with the sponsor’s expectations and requirements, please read the funding announcement, proposal preparation instructions and/or sponsor’s policies. These documents contain requirements that, if not adhered to, can result in the disqualification of your proposal … even when your science is stellar.  A proposal is comprised of many sections – some scientific, administrative and financial. RA encourages faculty to work with their departmental personnel identifying what support is available, who will take the lead and what timeframe is needed to ensure the proposal is prepared, submitted and approved well in advance of the sponsor deadline.

As an example, the proposal budget is prepared in draft form by the PI with assistance from his/her department’s staff. We must ensure appropriate salary, effort, fringe benefits, supplies, travel, equipment and Facilities and Administrative costs are budgeted appropriately. PIs can consult with other faculty members, department heads, and RA personnel about any questions or concerns they may have. Costs included in a proposal must be allowable according to the Uniform Guidance, sponsor, funding announcement and university policies.

2) Should my department administrator or I contact the Sponsor?

As you prepare a proposal, if a question arises, please check with your departmental administrator and RA Point of Contact. Collectively, we may be able to resolve the issue.  If guidance is needed from the sponsor during the proposal preparation process, we must refer to the funding announcement.  Some funding announcements will refer you to a sponsor point of contact who is well versed with the funding announcement and/or sponsor requirements.

PLEASE NOTE:  As an award is being negotiation and/or the award is being managed, communications related to financial and administrative matters will be made by Research Administration (RA). RA representatives are the Authorized Institutional Official who handles negotiations, award acceptance, and related award management concerns.  PI/departmental personnel should not communicate with our sponsors in these areas.

Sponsor contact for all programmatic issues will be the responsibility of the Principal Investigator or his/her designee. If programmatic issues require renegotiation of the award, or financial changes to the award, the Principal Investigator will notify RA as appropriate. RA will manage those negotiations.

 3) Where can I find key information regarding negotiations?

UM has authorized RA personnel to negotiate sponsored matters on behalf of the PI and the institution.  RA personnel are well versed in UM contractual expectations and negotiates/executes all sponsored agreements. RA will consult with and involve the PI as appropriate related to scientific and technical matters. RA will keep the PI informed as negotiation occurs. If PI/department are approached in regards to negotiation or execution, they should refer the individual to Research Administration.

 4) Where can I get help in writing my proposal?

The University of Miami provides various grant writing resources, including:

In addition, you can find valuable information about grant writing and the peer review process on the All About NIH Grants webpage 

5) Who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (P.I.) on a proposal?

To determine PI eligibility, there are two aspects to consider:

  1. Each sponsor and the associated funding announcement can contain requirements on who is eligible to act as a Principal Investigator.  The requirements could pertain to employment, education, citizenship, experience, etc.  Those considering being a PI for a proposal should read the sponsor and funding announcement requirements to ensure they meet these requirements.

  2. In addition, to serve as a Principal Investigator, the individual must meet UM’s requirements as stipulated in our PI Eligibility Policy.

  3. Non-Full Time Faculty require a memo of support from the Chair/Dean addressing the following:
    • Why the individual can/should submit the proposal
    • How the individual is qualified to perform the scope
    • What the department will do to support the individual (provide office/lab, supplies and equipment during the life of the project)
    • The proposal must be submitted 10 days in advance of the final application

6) Can there be more than one Principal Investigator (P.I.) on a proposal?

To determine if there can be more than one Principal Investigator on a proposal, please review the funding announcements for the sponsor’s requirements.  Most sponsors acknowledge a single Principal Investigator responsible for oversight of each proposal. However, the National Institutes of Health does allow for Multiple PIs on some proposals. This model is for investigators seeking support for projects or activities that require a team science approach. This option is targeted specifically to those projects that do not fit the single-PD/PI model, and therefore is intended to supplement and not replace the traditional single PD/PI model. 

7) What are F&A costs (Indirect Costs, IDC, etc.), fringe benefit rates, and institutional information?

Facilities & Administrative Costs (sometimes called Indirect Costs, Overhead or Administrative Costs) represent actual costs incurred by the University in support of sponsored activities that cannot be identified readily and specifically to a project.  UM negotiates with a federal, cognizant agency to determine our F&A Rates. Our rates vary by campus and project type. Please see our F&A Rate Agreement.

F&A includes the cost of departmental and central administrative support, building and equipment use, library services, etc. F&A Costs cover expenses related to maintaining buildings, utilities and administration which are shared across the university, and which vary by campus and by location within campus.

Fringe Benefits are costs incurred by the university on behalf of its employees. All salaries and wages paid by the university, except those paid to student employees, will be assessed fringe benefits at the currently effective fringe benefit rates for the correct funding source. Institutional information refers to UM's Federal Tax ID number, FWA number, CAGE code, etc. The current F & A Rates, Fringe Benefit rates and institutional information can be found at UM Rates and Information.

8) Can I request funds for secretarial salary on a proposal to a Federal Agency?

Administrative salaries should normally be treated as F&A (indirect) costs, but at times may be appropriate as direct charges if certain conditions are met (2 CFR 200.413):

  • Integral to a project or activity
  • Individual(s) involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity
  • Costs are included in proposal budget and awarded by sponsor or have prior written approval from sponsor
  • Costs are not also recovered as indirect costs

If administrative salaries were not included in proposal submission and funds awarded by the sponsor, you will need prior approval from the federal or federal flow through sponsor before you allocate administrative
salary expenditures to the award. 

9) Can I include rent expense as a direct cost on my sponsored project?

As a recipient of federal awards, the University of Miami (UM) is subject to federal guidelines, including the Uniform Guidance (UG), codified in 2 CFR 200. The UG covers administrative, cost, and audit requirements, including specifics on the allowability and treatment of cost and calculating and obtaining a federally approved Facilities and Administration (F&A) cost rate agreement.

As required by the UG, facility (building and utility) cost is considered an indirect cost and included in the F&A rate calculation. Building and utility cost for all three campuses and rent for most non UM owned facilities are incorporated in the F&A rate which are reimbursed to UM through the F&A cost charged to sponsored projects.

As a budgeting methodology, the medical campus allocates the facilities and utilities cost to its department. While the campus refers to this as rent, it is an internal allocation and should not be confused with rent expense and cannot be charged to sponsored projects.

 UM is required to treat all costs consistently as either a direct or indirect cost, and as stated before, these costs are already accounted for as indirect costs. At times, although rarely, the university may conduct research at an off-campus facility that requires us to enter into a lease agreement for space to carry out this project. Only under these circumstances can rent cost be charged directly to a sponsored project.