Skip Navigation

Proposal Submission

Proposal Submission Process

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

Obtaining Accounts

There are many different proposal submission portals used by various agencies, and which system you use depends on the agency and the solicitation. Many solicitations refer to a need for registration and System for Award Management (SAM) registration. Normally, proposals are submitted using OU’s organizational registration, so PIs do not create their own. You can obtain a registration if you are submitting a fellowship paid directly to you or if you are simply researching solicitations. For other systems, we recommend you contact your PDS to discuss whether ORS has an account or if the PI should create one.

If you need assistance with creating any of the accounts below, click on the appropriate link.

For NASA, visit their website to create an account. They will send ORS an email to affiliate the account. If you already have a NASA account, go into your profile, change the organization to OU, and ORS will receive a request to confirm the affiliation.

If you have questions about an account for a new award or award modification, contact your Awards Administration specialist (SPC). If the account in question has already been established for an ongoing award, then contact Research Financial Services (ReFS) at

University Pre-Award Process

Submitting a proposal/receiving an award is a two-step process.

Step 1: Proposal Submission (contact is Proposal Services specialist – PS)

  • Info Sheet submission at concept/preliminary/NLO/LOI/white paper stage (this starts OU's proposal process)
  • Special certifications and forms (including subcontract documents and cost share validation)
  • Budget development
  • Internal routing for permission to submit full proposal (or certain preliminary ones)
  • Gathering proposal submission items and completing sponsor application
  • Proposal Submission by ORS or the PI (if the sponsor only allows PI submission); updates or corrections immediately following submission

Step 2: Proposal Award (contact is Award Administration specialist– AA)

  • For most items after submission has processed to the sponsor for review
  • Revisions
  • Negotiations, compliance approvals (Legal, OTC, Export Controls, IRB, IACUC), certifications, and institutional signatures
  • Fully executed award to PI and Research Financial Services (ReFS); (ReFS enters the award in PeopleSoft and notifies the PI when the account is open.)
  • Modifications, Supplements, No Cost Extensions (NCE) through the life of the award.

Award accounts cannot be set up if step 1 is not done prior to step 2. Delaying or bypassing step 1 usually results in a delay of award and negotiation actions.

A renewal of an agreement or a resubmission of a proposal may be considered a new proposal in our processes (especially if new funds are being received and/or a new account is needed).

After steps 1 and 2 of the Pre-award process are completed, the award is transferred to Research Financial Services which monitors expenditures and reports, assists with audits, assists with subcontract monitoring, and ensures compliance with the requirements for award closeout. If you are not sure who to contact, email or visit their website at

How does an investigator know who is helping them on a proposal or award/who to ask for help?

When you submit the infosheet, a Proposal Services specialist (PS) will contact you. Normally it will be a designated person, but deadlines, vacation, or other issues may mean a different person will be assigned when an information sheet is processed. If you have a question for your PS or AA, you will find contact information for the person assigned to your area: Breakdown on PDS/SPC service. If you are unsure who to contact, general inquiries may be sent to If you have an issue or concern, you are always welcome to contact the Director of Pre-award Services or the Executive Director.

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 the Research Services 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 Services specialist (PS) in the Office of Research Services who assists 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. Information sheets are required on all external funding submissions for sponsored research or activities at the preliminary state (however that is termed — LOI, SOI, Concept, ROM, etc.).

The information sheet should indicate the web address for the guidelines, project period, any indirect cost (IDC) limitations, project credit splits for PI and Co-PIs (OU Norman personnel only), 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 PS 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 and Commercialization for any patent or other intellectual property issues and, depending on how questions are answered, may drive contact from Export Controls or other offices.

ORS recommends that you submit the info sheet at least two weeks prior to the deadline; if subcontracts, cost share, or complex proposals are involved, the infosheet should be submitted at least three weeks prior to the deadline. The PI should submit the info sheet as soon as they think they might submit a proposal. However, OU does not have a hard deadline for when one must be submitted. If you submit an info sheet less than a week or two prior to the deadline, you may receive limited support from your PS (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. This could also cause delays in your colleagues’ proposals, which may already be 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 Services specialist (PS) 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 PS 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 regardless of sponsor requirements. The PS specialist can meet with the PI to help develop a draft budget or they can work 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 Controls 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 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) and 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 most pre-proposals, which include budget information) 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 required to certify/approve the proposal.

At a minimum, the PI must provide the PSS 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 PSS 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 PSS will generate any certifications or assurances required by the guidelines. If OU is requested to be a subcontracting partner, the PSS will initiate the official commitment letter or subrecipient forms required by the lead organization.

Permission to officially submit the proposal to an external organization 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 PS contact work together to ensure any required agency forms and certifications are completed. If the proposal is being submitted electronically, the PI and PS contact 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 PS will assist (when possible) in completing the sponsor’s budget forms.

The PI and PS specialist 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 use more than one system. It is important to make sure system registrations are completed several days or weeks before deadlines (see the section above on obtaining registrations).

If ORS is doing the submission, it is incumbent on the PI to provide submission-ready files in a timely manner. In alignment with best practices of several peer institutions, ORS is implementing a new proposal submission policy where all final proposal documents must be submitted to ORS at least three business days prior to the sponsor submission deadline. If all final proposal documents are submitted to ORS before that deadline, we will review these documents, ensuring proper formatting and compliance before submission. However, if the proposal documents are received later than three business days prior to the submission deadline, we will submit/upload them without a review or compliance checkShould there be any rejection due to non-conformity/non-compliance, or if inconsistencies with the University's policies arise if there is a notification of award, the responsibility to resolve these issues will rest with the PI and their respective Department or College. This includes resolving any financial discrepancies with the budget.

If the PI is doing the submission, the PS specialist will inform the PI as soon as possible when they are cleared to submit and will provide ORS-signed forms/certifications, if applicable.

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. 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 PS specialist or the Award Administration specialist (AA), especially if it involves any administrative matters. If the proposal is selected for funding, the AA specialist will facilitate the award negotiation process. Once a departmental account number has been established, Research Financial Services (ReFS) 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 through either the PS or AA specialist. The PI will be notified if the revised budget must be processed and re-routed for university approval. If a re-route 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. (Also see the budget menu item on the Research Services website.)

Approval to Submit a Proposal

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 a fee for service (through an approved cost center) or 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). 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