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Proposal Submission

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Proposal Submission Process

This section provides an overview of the proposal submission process at OU and information on obtaining registrations and approval to submit a proposal.

Office of Research Services Support for PIs

Here is a simple breakdown of the support provided by the Office of Research Services (ORS) and a short synopsis.

ORS is divided into two sections:

Pre-Award Services – may be involved with your proposal from the funding search through the award receipt

Post Award Financial Services – is involved after award receipt until the award is closed out

Pre-Award Services consists of three sections:

Research Information Services (RIS) assists with funding announcements, training, and monitoring several compliance items such as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). RIS serves all PIs.

Proposal Services has Proposal Development Specialists (PDS) that assist with budget development, guideline interpretation, proposal submission, and obtaining some sponsor forms/certifications. The PDS serve primarily by alphabet (last name of PI) and some centers. There is also administrative support to assist with the internal routing process.

Award Administration has Sponsored Programs Coordinators (SPC) who do all negotiations and coordination with sponsors for any proposals considered for funding and establish the award account once all compliance items and agreements are in place. During the submission stage they monitor terms and conditions (if present in the solicitation) and re-check commitments and budgets. The SPC serve based primarily by alphabet.

Breakdown on PDS/SPC service

Post Award Financial Services consists of Post Award Financial Coordinators (PAFC) who monitor expenditures and reports, assist with audits, assist with subcontract monitoring, and ensure the requirements for award closeout are complied with. PAFC primarily serve based on what college or department the financial reports flow through (best contact is to ask your SPC).

The 7 Steps of the Proposal Submission Process

The Principal Investigator (PI) identifies a source of possible funds. Some assistance may be obtained through announcements and other funding opportunities provided by Research Information Services. See the Funding Opportunities information on this website.

When the PI has identified a potential sponsor for a project and has determined that he or she is interested in submitting a proposal, the first step should be the submission of a Proposal Information Sheet. The information sheet allows for the assignment of the Proposal Development Specialist (PDS) with ORS who will assist the PI throughout the proposal submission process, adds the proposal to our calendar, starts guideline and submission system research, and prioritizes the handling of the proposal.

The information sheet should indicate the web address for the guidelines, project period, any IDC limitations, project credit splits for PI and Co-PIs, plus other answers to common questions that will be needed for the creation of the proposal routing forms (as much information as the PI can provide). NOTE: The data from the Information Sheet (such as PIs/Co-PIs or credit splits, title, dates, etc.) may be updated as the proposal is developed—do not hold an information sheet until the final proposal is ready to submit or route. Early submission will allow the PDS and PI to work together to resolve any issues that may potentially delay the internal routing and ultimately the submission of the proposal.

Submission of the Information Sheet results in the first review by the Office of Technology Development for any patent or other intellectual property issues and, depending on how questions are answered, may drive contact from Export Control or other offices.

The PI should submit the info sheet as soon as they think they might submit a proposal. However, OU does not have a deadline for when one must be submitted. If you submit an info sheet with less than a week to two weeks prior to the deadline, you may receive limited support from your PDS (and if it is same or next day, we may not be able to add it to the queue). We may also not have time to review guidance for submission requirements or help resolve issues such as cost share or rate questions. You also cause delays in your colleagues’ proposals who are already in process, possibly in their final stages. While ORS will make reasonable attempts to ensure all proposals are submitted, should there be a deadline conflict (two or more proposals with submission materials to load and the same deadline), the priority for the order of work is usually determined by the date the info sheet was submitted.

After you submit the info sheet, you will be contacted by a Proposal Development Specialist (PDS) from the ORS. They will review the guidelines, send a budget template, and start working with the PI to resolve any issues/requirements for the proposal submission. If special letters or forms are required, the PDS will assist with those or let the PI know which ones they can assist with and which ones are the PI’s responsibility. These forms/internal requirements also include conflict of interest and some compliance items such as biohazards clearance.

The budget must be on OU’s internal form. The PDS can meet with the PI to help develop a draft budget or they can do it together via email/phone calls. If a proposal involves cost share, additional time is usually needed for the PI to develop a cost share package, especially if third party or VPRP cost share is expected. ORS does not accept budgets prepared by other offices or organizations; only the one prepared by the OU ORS and the OU PI (or their designate) is the official budget.

If the project will involve compliance issues such as Recombinant DNA & Biohazard Safety, Human Subjects research, Animal research, the use of Radioisotopes, or Export Control issues, the PI may need to obtain approval letters from appropriate departments prior to the routing and/or submission of the proposal.

When the sponsor limits the number of nominations or proposals that can be submitted from an institution or research unit, the PI should contact Limited Submission Competitions before proceeding with proposal development so the proposals authorized for submission from the Norman campus can be selected.

Development of the content for the proposal submission is something most PIs will be working on before the funding search is finalized and the info sheet submitted. This work usually continues while the proposal routing is going on (or after routing) until the submission occurs. The PI should review the specific solicitation and general sponsor guidelines for formatting and other required submission item information. Additional assistance may be found in the Proposal Development Section of this website.

Flow of Routing

All proposals and pre-proposals, which include budget information or a total cost estimate, must be routed through the university for review and approval prior to submission. Any exceptions to the routing process must be determined by the appropriate Office of Research Services (ORS) official.

Routing usually takes between one and four days but depends on availability of the personnel who are on the proposal to certify.

At a minimum, the PI must provide the PDS with an abstract or statement of work, a detailed budget, budget justification, any required signature pages, documentation of any cost sharing, and any other pertinent information needed to complete the proposal routing forms. If a subcontract with another organization is proposed, the subrecipient’s official commitment letter agreeing to participate and stating the requested budget amount, along with a statement of work, detailed budget, and budget justification must be provided before the routing process can begin.

The PDS is responsible for reviewing the budget for current and appropriate rates and salary amounts, verifying the credit splits, entering cost sharing commitments, generating the routing document, and compiling the routing package. The PDS will generate any certifications or assurances required by the guidelines. If OU is requested to be a subcontracting partner, the PDS will initiate the official commitment letter or subrecipient forms required by the lead organization.

Internal permission to submit the proposal is obtained via the routing process. The routing package is reviewed and approved by the following personnel:

the principal investigator and co-principal investigators*, who assume responsibility for the intellectual quality of the work, the reports required, and the expenditures other than those earmarked for the department, school, or college, while also assuring that he/she is in compliance with all applicable academic requirements         

the budget unit head and dean of the college**, who confirm that the budget and academic unit and college requirements are satisfied

ORS, who assumes responsibility for seeing that the university administrative requirements are satisfied

Other university officials (due to compliance items, center involvement, credit distribution) who certify their agreement to the information listed in the routing package.

* Each faculty member (PI/Co-PIs) or other university members (staff or administration) participating in the project must sign the routing sheets regardless of project status or compensation earned.

** Departments, schools, and colleges are expected to review proposals when they are routed through their offices. By signing off on the proposal routing form, the department, school, and college indicate that the proposed project has their approval.

Note: The routing process is not completed until the Sponsored Programs Coordinator in the ORS has signed the proposal. Submissions made prior to approval from ORS are not officially approved and may be administratively withdrawn if the submission is found to be non-compliant with university or agency requirements. If you have submitted a proposal without ORS review, notify us immediately so we can work with you to route your proposal for the necessary approvals after the fact.

Prior to submission, the PI and PDS work together to ensure any required agency forms and certifications are completed. If the proposal is being submitted electronically, the PI and PDS will need to determine who will submit the proposal and make sure the necessary registrations are established. If the budget for the routing is not able to be used for the submission, the PDS will assist (when possible) in completing the sponsor’s budget forms.

The PI and PDS work together for the submission to be made by the stated deadline. Different sponsors may require different electronic systems for submission; there are a few that still require paper and/or email copies, and some do a mix of systems. It is important to make sure system registrations are done several days or weeks before deadlines (see section below on obtaining registrations).

If ORS is doing the submission, it is incumbent on the PI to provide submission-ready files in a timely manner. Due to the volume of proposals and complexity of submission systems, be aware that conflicts and issues can occur. If the PI is doing the submission, the PDS will inform the PI as soon as possible when they are cleared to submit and will provide ORS applicable signed forms.

Note: if the deadline is after 5 p.m. local, special authorization must be obtained for the PDS to work after ORS is closed. ORS is also closed when the university is closed.

If the proposal is to be mailed by ORS, the complete mailing address must be provided by the PI or clearly stated in the agency guidelines. Note that express carriers require a complete street address and will not deliver to a post office box. The home budget unit of the PI will be charged for any express courier service used for submission. (If the PI prefers to mail, ORS can still provide the mailing label.) Due to the volume of proposals received and the uncertainties of the postal service, proposals that are to be sent via U.S. mail and which require a postmark by a specific date should be received by the ORS with enough lead time for copying and packaging prior to the postmark date. Faculty submitting proposals with a receipt date should also take into consideration weekends and holidays and the effect they may have on delivery time.

After Submission

After the submission, the proposal is called a ‘pending proposal.' If the program officer or sponsor contacts the PI, the PI should inform or relay the contact to either their PDS or the Sponsor Programs Coordinator (SPC), especially if it involves any administrative matters. If the proposal is selected for funding, the SPC will facilitate the award negotiation process. Once a departmental account number has been established, Post Award Financial Services (PAFS) personnel will assist with the financial oversight for the life of the project.

Budget Revision

Whenever any change is to be made in the budget of a pending proposal that has already been submitted to a sponsoring agency, ORS must be notified. The appropriate SPC will notify the PI if the revised budget must be processed and rerouted for university approval. If a reroute is necessary, the revised budget, justification, and any accompanying change in the scope of work must be processed with the same signatures as the original proposal to ensure that all parties who signed the original are aware of any changes which might affect the original approval.

Submit Proposal Information Sheet


There are many different accounts that could be in question depending on the agencies you wish to submit proposals to. If you need assistance with these accounts, select the appropriate link: NSF, Ecommons, or OKGrants. For NASA accounts, start on their website and then they send OU an email to affiliate the account. If you already have a NASA account, go into your profile and change the organization and then OU will receive a request to confirm the affiliation. Many solicitations refer to a need for registration and System for Award Management (SAM) registration – normally proposals are submitted using OU’s registration, so PIs don’t create their own. You can obtain a registration if you are submitting a fellowship paid directly to you or to aid in researching solicitations. For other systems we recommend that you contact your PDS (insert link) to discuss if ORS has an account or if the PI should create one.


The approval or authorization for any OU persons to submit a proposal for external funding is obtained by coordinating with ORS and completing the internal routing process. The only exceptions are if it is a fee for service (through an approved cost center), a gift with no strings attached such as reports, briefings, or conditions on how the funds must be spent (those go through the OU Foundation), or if it is primarily limited to training/instruction support (those go through Outreach Sponsored Programs). If the PI elects to have funds paid directly to them, they should not be using any university assets and are completely liable for any tax or legal implications.

OU policy on Internal Routing