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Proposal Development

We’re Here to Help

Writing a grant proposal can be a daunting task.  The Sponsored Projects Office is your partner in all aspects of the proposal development and submission.

Whether you are new to grant writing or a seasoned pro, SPO is here to help you by ensuring that your proposal meets all funder and university guidelines and requirements. 

Contact us early

The sooner you let us know about an intent to apply, the better we can serve you. Please complete the Intent to Apply Form.

We can review the RFP with you, complete forms, connect you with other resources on campus, etc.  SPO requires that all grant sections are received 5 days prior to deadline so that we can review for completeness and compliance, provide feedback and make suggestions. 

NOTE:  The use of human embryonic stem cell /derivative in research or teaching is prohibited at Santa Clara University

Principal Investigator

For each sponsored project, one investigator is typically designated as the Principal Investigator. The Principal Investigator has absolute responsibility for the overall conduct of the sponsored project including all financial, administrative, and compliance aspects of the project. Other individuals with significant involvement may be listed as Co-Principal Investigator. Guidelines for Principal and Co-Principal Investigators eligibility are listed in the accordion drop-down below
National Science Foundation (NSF)
National Institutes for Health NIH)

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Foundation Proposals




Eligible as a Principle Investigator

Eligible as a Principle Investigator with approval

Eligible as a Co-Principle Investigator

Not Eligible as a Principle Investigator or as a Co-Principle Investigator

Tenured and tenure track faculty





Non-tenure track faculty with an academic year appointment including senior lecturers, renewable term lecturers, academic year adjunct faculty, and research professors





Quarterly part-time faculty





Administrative or academic staff in a continuing position





Staff in a fixed term position





Postdoctoral fellow





Graduate student





Undergraduate student





Non-University employee





*Researchers affiliated with other institutions may serve as Co-Principle Investigators.

A non-tenure track faculty member with an academic year appointment and an administrative or academic staff member in a continuing position may be an eligible Principal Investigator with the approval of the appropriate Dean or Vice President and the Associate Provost for Research and Faculty Affairs. Approval may be granted for individual or multiple projects with the following conditions are met:

  • the proposed project is consistent with current job responsibilities and competencies as well as available resources including time allocation; and
  • the proposed project will make a critical contribution to the goals of the College, School or Division.

If there are multiple investigators, then a tenured or tenure-track faculty member or staff member in a continuing position should serve as the Principle Investigator and other faculty or staff members should be Co-Principle Investigators.

Questions regarding Principal Investigator eligibility should be directed to the Associate Provost for Research and Faculty Affairs.

All sponsored projects are subject to Financial Conflict of Interest disclosureClick here to find more information about Financial Conflict of Interest at SCU.

Most federal grants, including NSF and NIH, now require a data management plan.  The Library has a number of resources available to assist in this process, including a guide for writing the plan and resources for data storage and management.

Developing a Budget and Understanding Allowable Costs for your Research


For sponsored projects, faculty salaries will be determined following standard policies for most federal awards unless 1) sponsor terms and condition restrict salary levels, 2) a funding limit imposed by the sponsor results in the need to use quarterly part time rates for course releases, or 3) an exception is approved by the Associate Provost for Research Initiatives.

For summer salary, faculty salaries will be calculated as 1/9 of the annual salary and mandated benefits for each month of summer salary unless otherwise limited by the terms and conditions of a sponsor.

During the academic year, one course release will be calculated as 10% of the annual salary and full benefits unless otherwise limited by the terms and conditions of a sponsor.One course release is based on a standard quarter course of 5 units.The salary equivalent for a release for a semester, course of less than 5 units or more than 5 units would be determined by multiplying 10% of the annual salary and benefits by an appropriate factor (1.5 for a semester course, 0.6 for a 3-unit course, 0.4 for a 2-unit course, and 0.2 for a 1 unit course). {Note: in the College one standard course is typically 4 or 5 units.}All course release requests must be approved by the responsible Chair and Dean prior to submission.

The cost reimbursement to the University is for the time and effort of the faculty member on the sponsored project. Using a simple quarterly part-time replacement rate does not accurately compensate the University for time and effort on a sponsored project.Using 10% of salary and benefits (1 month of time and effort) for a course equivalent provides more reasonable compensation to the University for sponsored projects.


Partner organizations can be included in a proposal to enhance the quality and success of the project.How they are included in a budget depends upon certain characteristics.How they are defined also impacts whether or not there are indirect costs calculated on the line item.This may vary by funder.

There are four ways to include other organizations: subaward, subcontract, consultant or vendor.These relationships have specific meanings that are tied to federal regulations, including funding agencies and the IRS.Definitions and characteristics of each type of relationship are presented below:

A subaward is an agreement to an eligible subrecipient made under a grant or cooperative agreement to carry out a portion of the project.The subawardee's key person my be a co-author on publications or may seek patent protection for inventions.Characteristics include:

·Conduct of specific scope of work

·Involvement in programmatic decision making

·Use of funds for carrying out a program (rather than providing goods or service)

·Adherence to programmatic compliance requirements

A subcontract is similar to the above but is made under a contract rather than a grant or cooperative agreement. It has the same characteristics as a subaward.

A consultant is a person or company retained to provide professional advice or services on a project for a fee.Since a consultant is hired to provide a service, all intellectual property or copyrighted materials belong to SCU.Characteristics include:

·A person or company who pursues this line of business and is an expert in the area

·Payment for time at an hourly or fixed rate

A vendor is a provider of goods or services that are required for the conduct of the project.Characteristics include:

·Provision of goods or services are within normal business operations

·Provision of similar goods or services to other purchasers

·Goods or services provided are ancillary to the project

·No requirements for monitoring or reporting to prime awardee.

How do you know if your charges are allowable under your sponsored agreement?

Under federal cost principles (OMB Circular A-21), in order for a cost to be charged to a sponsored agreement, it must be:

  • Reasonable: Would a "prudent person" judge this to be a reasonable expense to this sponsored project?
  • Allocable: Can the goods or services be shown to benefit this sponsored project?
  • Consistent with institutional costing practices: Are costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances treated consistently (either as a Direct Cost or as a Facilities & Administrative Cost)?
  • Allowable: Are the costs permitted for reimbursement under the terms of the award set forth by the sponsor?

It is SCU's policy to apply the federal cost principle to all sponsored projects, regardless of funding type.


Direct Cost

Normal Treatment

Salaries, Wages, and Benefits:

  • Faculty
  • Graduate Students
  • Undergraduate Students
  • Technical Staff
  • Administrative & Clerical Staff

Personnel costs are allowable as a direct cost to a sponsored project to the extent supported by actual effort performed on the project and approved in the award budget. Periodic effort certifications will be used to document the actual effort performed. An individual's base salary must be used to compute the cost charged to a sponsored agreement.

Please note that faculty may not receive more than their regular annual salary as a result of participation in sponsored projects during the academic year. A faculty member on a 9-month contract may be paid summer salary (supplemental pay over and above the 9-month academic year salary) for effort contributed to a sponsored project during the 3-month summer period. See Faculty Salaries to see how faculty salary is computed for sponsored projects during the academic year and summer.

Administrative and clerical costs are generally recovered through indirect costs and are, therefore, unallowable.



Business Meals and Meeting Costs/Entertainment Costs

Generally unallowable, unless specifically approved by sponsor.


Scientific: Allowable when necessary for and will be used primarily or exclusively for the project(s) to which the costs will be charged.


General purpose (desks, computers, file cabinets, etc): Unallowable unless specifically approved by funder in agreement. If a computer or other supplies are needed specifically for a project and will be dedicated solely to the project, it may be allowable.

Materials & Supplies

Project Supplies: Allowable so long as can be identified as "exclusively for the support of" the sponsor d project.

General Office Supplies: anything that could likely be used for purposes other than the specific sponsored project are unallowable (e.g., staplers, pens, etc.).

If a computer or other supplies are needed specifically for a project and will be dedicated solely to the project, it may be allowable.

Memberships (scientific or professional societies)

Unallowable unless specifically approved by funder.


Allowable if project requires large mailings.

Professional Services (Consultants)

Generally allowable. Check sponsor guidelines for details.

Publications (books, subscriptions)

Unallowable unless approved by funder.

Scholarships and Student Aid

Generally unallowable.

Subrecipient Costs

A subrecipient agreement is established when programmatic effort under a sponsored agreement is to be carried out by another institution. Although most sponsors generally allow such arrangements, they need to be specified in the approved proposal. Transferring programmatic effort to another institution after the award has been issued generally requires prior approval by the sponsor.

Telephone/Internet Charges

Local Telephone (including monthly instrument charges) and costs of internet connections: Unallowable

Long Distance Telephone: Allowable if specifically tied to the sponsored project.


Allowable if specifically benefitting the project.

Foreign Travel using federal funds: US Flag Carrier rules apply. May require sponsor prior approval.

*Information adapted for use from "Sponsored Research Administration: A Guide to Effective Strategies and Recommended Practices," co-published by the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) and Atlantic Information Services, Inc. (AIS), 2011.