While RDS cannot work on every project, to the extent possible we aim to provide consultation services to help individual principal investigators build multidisciplinary teams and facilitate proposal preparation. Our priority is to support preparation of large, complex interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research projects, but any strategically important project is welcome. On a time-available basis, RDS can assist with initial strategy development, proposal management plans, technical writing, editing, and proofreading.
Research Development Services works closely with the Office of Sponsored Programs, and department/unit business offices to support UIC faculty and scholars.
For those new to applying for NIH funding, the NIH Grants Process Overview provides a comprehensive overview on the lifecycle of the NIH grant process from identifying funding opportunities through project closeout requirements. Relevant information and instructions for applying to NIH programs can be found in the NIH Application Guide. NSF also provides a comprehensive overview of their funding structure at this link and detailed information on how to apply to NSF programs can be found in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide.
NIH reviews operate on a standard annual cycle. Unless otherwise noted in an funding announcement, standard dates for application submission and review apply. Please note there are two sets of standard dates; AIDS related projects have their own sets of dates. Several NSF programs have moved to an open-deadline format, although some mechanisms supported by those programs continue to be announced with firm deadlines. We encourage you to contact your program officer for specific guidance.
Federal sponsors categorize grants into a standard set of award types that have characteristic requirements, scope, and purpose.
NIH funding mechanisms including Research Grants (R series), Career Development Awards (K series), Research Training and Fellowships (T & F series), Program Project/Center Grants (P series), Resource Grants (various series), and Trans-NIH Programs. Detailed descriptions can be found here.
Similarly, NSF offers a series of funding mechanisms. Examples include ABR, CAREER Awards, Collaborative Grants, Cooperative Agreements, EAGER, LREB, OPUS, RAPID, RAISE, Research Coordination Networks, ROA, and SBIR/STTR. Please see the acronym list in the NSF PAPPG (section C) for more information about these program titles.
Minority Serving Institution Information
UIC consistently ranks among the top ten most diverse national research universities according to U.S. News & World Report (see “Campus Ethnic Diversity at National Universities”) and is a national leader among urban, public higher education institutions in providing access to underrepresented students. UIC has become the major center for Latino education in the Midwest, granting more baccalaureate degrees to and enrolling more Latina/o graduate and professional students than any of the schools in the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Our diversity makes UIC investigators eligible for a number of funding opportunities requiring minimum enrollment by underrepresented groups. However, eligibility requirements differ among sponsors and programs. We encourage you to contact our office for guidance before you prepare a proposal for any project with requirements related to minority participation, and we always recommend you contact your program officer to confirm eligibility for any opportunity that has unique requirements.
“Minority Institution” and “Minority Serving Institution” are commonly used to describe universities that have significant participation by underrepresented groups. However, they are two very different legal terms. UIC is a “Minority Serving Institution” but our enrollment does not meet the criteria for a “Minority Institution.” Under 20 U.S. Code § 1067k, a Minority Institution is an institution of higher education (IHE) whose enrollment of a single minority or a combination of minorities exceeds 50 percent of the total enrollment. This information shall be verified from the data on enrollments in the higher education general information survey (HEGIS) furnished by the institution to the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education. Most other federal agencies rely of the Department of Education definitions. The term “minority” means American Indian, Alaskan Native, Black (not of Hispanic origin), Hispanic (including persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central or South American origin), Pacific Islander or other ethnic group underrepresented in science and engineering.
The Department of Education has confirmed UIC’s eligibility for grants that fall under Title III and Title V programs of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. Title III “helps eligible IHEs to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions.” Title V, the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) Program, “provides grants to assist HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the attainment of, Hispanic students.” UIC is also eligible for a waiver of the non-Federal share matching requirements under the Federal Work Study Program (FWS), the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (FSEOG), and the TRIO Student Support Services Program under Title IV of the HEA, as well as the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program authorized by Title VI of the HEA. The Department of Education letter documenting UIC’s eligibility for Title III and Title V for FY19 can be found here and the FY20 letter is here.
The demographics of UIC’s full time undergraduate enrollment qualify the University for several Department of Education programs aimed at supporting postsecondary diversity. The Office of Diversity and the Office of Institutional Research curate additional data that might be helpful for preparing proposals for opportunities that have a diversity requirement. Basic summary data are available on their websites.
Broader impacts and community engagement
A project’s potential Broader Impacts (BI) are a key review criterion for proposals to the National Science Foundation. The NSF Grant Proposal Guide uses a series of questions to illustrate the Broader Impacts criterion: “How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What are the potential benefits of the proposed activity to society?”
NSF provides examples of Broader Impacts activities:
Advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning, for example, by training graduate students, mentoring postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty, involving undergraduates in research experiences, and participating in the recruitment, training, and professional development of K-12 mathematics and science teachers.
Broaden participation of under-represented groups, for example,by establishing collaborations with students and faculty from institutions and organizations serving women, minorities, and other groups underrepresented in the mathematical sciences.
Enhance infrastructure for research and education, for example, by establishing collaborations with researchers in industry and government laboratories, developing partnerships with international academic institutions and organizations, and building networks of U.S. colleges and universities.
Broaden dissemination to enhance scientific and technological understanding, for example, by presenting results of research and education projects in formats useful to students, scientists and engineers, members of Congress, teachers, and the general public.
Benefits to society may occur, for example, when results of research and education projects are applied to other fields of science and technology to create startup companies, to improve commercial technology, to inform public policy, and to enhance national security.
The National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) has a range of high-quality resources for developing your BI. NABI was founded in 2014 with co-funding from by the Divisions of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and Emerging Frontiers in the Directorate for Biological Sciences and by the Division of Chemistry in the Directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation (MCB-1408736). It is a international network of individuals and organizations working together to build institutional capacity, advance BI, and demonstrate the societal benefits of research by:
- Identifying and curating promising models, practices, and evaluation methods for the BI community;
- Expanding engagement in and supporting the development of high-quality BI activities by educating current and future faculty and researchers on effective BI practices;
- Developing the human resources necessary for sustained growth and increased diversity of the BI community; and
- Promoting cross-institutional collaboration on and dissemination of BI programs, practices, models, materials, and resources.
UIC has a rich tradition of community-engaged research, with a considerable array of programs already in place that align with NSF’s vision for Broader Impacts. Many of these are listed on UIC’s Community Engagement Portal. In addition, the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships (OCEAN-HP) can help you identify community organizations with which to partner on health-related projects.
Beyond UIC, Chicago has a range of potential partners for broader impacts activities:
- After School Matters
- Argonne National Laboratory Education Programs
- Brookfield Zoo
- Chicago Architecture Foundation
- Chicago Botanic Garden
- Chicago Children’s Museum
- Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST)
- Chicago History Museum
- Chicago Public Library
- Chicago Public Schools
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Programs
- Field Museum
- Illinois Holocaust Museum
- Illinois Science Council
- Illinois Science & Technology Coalition
- R&D Stem Learning Exchange
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Morton Arboretum
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Museum of Mexican Art
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Newberry Library
- Peggy Notebart Nature Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
Please contact RDS if you are aware of a program that should be included here.
Many projects benefit from program evaluation, and some solicitations require a formal program evaluation component. The PRAIRIE Group, housed in UIC’s College of Education, has expert evaluators available to collaborate on new projects based on availability and interest. Their experience includes logic modeling, program design, evaluation planning, educational program reviews, program documentation, and evaluation systems development.
Developing a project budget is a pivotal step in the proposal preparation process and can help the investigators think through the resources required at each project milestone. A budget must be a realistic reflection of project needs over time, including support for personnel working on the project commensurate with level of effort expended (salary and wages and fringe benefits), support for travel, materials and supplies, equipment, services required (i.e. computing time, etc), participant support (including stipends, tuition, etc.for trainees), any subawards and all other costs related to the project. All proposed projects requiring use of UIC resources must be reviewed and approved by the University prior to sponsor submission. Please verify the appropriate indirect cost rate to use in the proposal budget.
It is important to align the budget period amounts to activities presented in the proposal to give a realistic view of expenses over the course of the project. Preparing a carefully considered, detailed, yet succinct budget justification that clearly ties costs to activities is critical. We stress the importance of contacting your business manager as early as possible in the proposal development process to ensure that person has time to work with you to prepare an accurate, error-free budget. PIs should recognize any changes to the budget cascade through the rest of the proposal development and submission process, so late-stage changes to the budget will precipitate changes to many other pieces of your grant application.
The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) provides templates, policies and guidance to help you develop your budget. In addition, see both the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide or the NIH Application Guide for specific agency guidelines.
Many sponsors have specific formatting requirements for investigator biosketches. It is important to carefully read each RFA/RFP to determine which project personnel need to submit a biosketch and what format to use. Additional guidelines and information on categories of project personnel required to submit an NSF formatted biosketch, as well as categories of personnel who may provide information highlighting exceptional qualifications which merit consideration in the evaluation of the proposal can be found here.
NIH biosketch templates, as well as instructions for biosketch preparation are available here.
Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) is a new electronic system to help researchers assemble the professional information needed for participation in federally funded research. Developed through a cooperative partnership by the Federal Demonstration Project (FDP) at NIH, this system
- Eliminates the need to repeatedly enter biosketch information
- Reduces the administrative burden associated with federal grant submission and reporting requirements
- Provides access to a researcher-claimed data repository with information on expertise, employment, education, and professional accomplishments
- Allow researchers to describe their scientific contributions in their own language
Create a biosketch formatted for a specific agency through SciENcv here.
Biosketch formats for several other notable sponsors:
- Department of Energy (DOE)
- NASA (see page 12)
- Department of Defense (DoD) (see page 14)
- Institute of Education Sciences (IES – includes NCER, NCES, NCEE and NCSER)
Please contact RDS at firstname.lastname@example.org with any question on other agency requirements.
Data Management Plan
Most federal agencies require a data management plan (NSF, DOE, DOD) or data sharing plan (NIH) with any proposal.
The UIC Library has many excellent resources to support data management on campus, including considerations for developing your data management plan. UIC also subscribes to DMPtool, a service that helps researchers create data management plans that meet institutional and funder requirements.
All NSF grant proposals requesting funding to support postdoctoral researchers are required to include a postdoctoral researcher mentoring plan in the supplementary documents section of the proposal in Fastlane. In no more than one page, the plan must describe the mentoring to be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project, irrespective of organizational affiliation. Plans must be provided if postdocs reside at the submitting organization, any subawardeed organization or any collaborating organization. Examples of mentoring activities include, but are not limited to: career counseling; training in preparation of grant proposals, publications and presentations; guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills; guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas; and training in responsible professional practices. NSF guidelines for mentoring plans can be found in the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG). Mentoring activities are evaluated based on the Broader Impacts review criterion.
NIH proposals for K series awards require mentoring plants – see guidelines here.
UIC has resources for postdocs that can be included in the Postdoc Mentoring Plan. The OVCR houses the UIC Postdoc Association; contact that office for information on support available to UIC postdocs.
Failure to include a mentoring plan in a proposal requesting support for postdoctoral researchers will be returned without review.
Many grant applications require a description of the facilities available to conduct the work, often as a separate document in the proposal package.
A description of your facilities for an NIH or NSF grant proposal should include the following elements:
- Descriptions of laboratories and offices available, including square footage and features such as fume hoods, microscopes, and general lab equipment
- Specialized equipment available in the lab or department
- Computer resources
- Shared facilities available, including how they are managed and any access fees.
Information on shared facilities can be found at the Research Resource Center (RRC) webpages. The RRC, part of the OVCR, compromises 17 cores specializing in various techniques with experienced staff who are able to assist or fully execute your research projects. Detailed descriptions of the the instruments and expertise offered by RRC cores and resources are available here.
Proposal preparation tips
RDS is working to compile a list of investigators who have served on proposal review panels for any sponsor. If you have been a panelist and are willing to share your insights with your UIC peers, please contact RDS@uic.edu with the sponsor, program, date, and mechanisms that you reviewed.
We are also building a portfolio of successful proposals or proposal components. If you have a winning proposal or elements of a proposal that you would be willing to share with your UIC colleagues, please contact RDS@uic.edu. Send the documents together with context including sponsor, program, date, or other relevant information such as if it was a resubmission, if you had an interesting history to the collaborations, etc.
In addition, here are some resources to review as you craft your proposal:
- Porter, Robert. 2011. Crafting a Sales Pitch for Your Grant Proposal. Research Management Review. Volume 18, Issue 2.
- Thinking Like a Grant Reviewer: Know the Score! From Robert Porter, Ph.D., University of Tennessee presented at National Organization of Research Development Professionals National Meeting, 2013
- Falk-Krzesinkisi, HJ and Tobin, SC. How Do I Review Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: A Comparison of Research Grant Proposal Review Criteria Across US Federal Funding Agencies. 2015. The Journal of Research Administration. Volume 46, Issue 2:79-94.