Proposal Development - Process Overview
The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs is tasked with assisting researchers with all parts of sponsored program development and administration. The first step in any sponsored program begins with the researcher's idea: an idea for research or creative works that needs resources of any sort that may be obtained from an entity or person outside of Lehman College. With the idea in mind, the researcher searches for potential funding sources, identifying solicitations for applications that she believes would be a good match intellectually and financially with the content and scope of her research needs. Once potential sponsors and solicitations are identified, the next step is to touch base with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the department chair (and maybe divisional dean) to get started with the application process. In academia, not only are most grants and contracts awarded to the institution rather than the individual, but many projects require resources committed from the institution such as the researcher's time and effort, equipment, space, or the infrastructure to hire staff and students. The result of this is that the institution must be involved in the development and submission of any research proposal.
In addition to a description of the project, sponsors generally request information about the institution, researcher(s), requested budget, and other sponsored program support that the researcher may have as part of the proposal. The format of these items along with any restrictions in what can be included in the project and in the budget varies widely from sponsor to sponsor.
In most cases, the institutional involvement will be limited to any assistance the researcher needs in developing a budget, identifying the correct information and forms for the application, and a final review and signature before submission. At Lehman College, final approval of each proposal before submission requires approval by the individual researcher leading the project, the researcher's department chair, dean, Vice President for Business, Vice President for Facilities, and Vice President for Information Technology, as well as the Director of Research and Sponsored Programs. This set of approvals is required to allow maximum communication on the administrative side of the College, so that when the research is funded all parties are aware of any institutional commitments that are needed to ensure the project's success.
Once the proposal is approved at Lehman College, it may be submitted to the sponsor by following any sponsor-specific submission requirements identified in the solicitation for applications or sponsor documentation. It is increasingly common for sponsors to require online submission with approval of the appropriate authorized official from Lehman College.
Upon review, the sponsor will make a decision whether or not to fund the proposal, and will notify Lehman College or the researcher. When the sponsor notifies the researcher, the researcher must bring all information to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs in order for the agreement to be authorized and for an account to be set up. If the project is not funded, the sponsor will often provide feedback to the researcher on why their proposal was not selected, and may or may not suggest that the researcher revise and resubmit the application. If the project is selected for funding, the sponsor will enter into a contractual agreement with the Research Foundation of CUNY on behalf of Lehman College to provide funds to cover the scope of work outlined in the proposal within a specific time period. Generally, these contracts will also include the requirement for Lehman College to report on the financial and academic progress of the project at least annually.
The Research Foundation of CUNY (RF) is a non-profit organization formed specifically to handle the contractual and financial aspects of sponsored program (grant and contract) awards for each of the schools in the City University of New York. Awards are not considered approved or signed without approval of the authorized official at Lehman College and legal and fiscal review by the staff of the Research Foundation.
Once the award documents are approved and signed, the Research Foundation will create a financial account detailing the approved expense categories for the award. This account is similar to a checking account from which the researcher can pay staff and students and purchase materials and supplies as needed within the period of performance awarded by the sponsor. All expenses charged to the sponsored program account must support the specific project funded by the sponsor. In accordance with federal law, each sponsored program is given a separate account. As part of their financial oversight responsibility, the Research Foundation checks every expense request to make sure that it is allocable, allowable, and reasonable for the project as required by federal law and CUNY policies. The Research Foundation web site contains a wealth of information about the federal and CUNY policies and practices that affect sponsored program spending.
The Research Foundation also has other fiscal responsibilities for each project. These include assisting the researcher with financial reporting, the required financial auditing of the project, and with all aspects of spending funds on a sponsored project. As the employer of all staff and students that researchers hire, the RF also provides extensive resources for human resource issues.
At the end of the project, the sponsor requires some version of a final report that covers the expenditure of funds and the results of the project. For research, results may be the confirmation or denial of expected results to an experiment; the publication of studies, art, or music; or simply the written assurance from the researcher that the project progressed. For sponsored programs that support training, programs, or the availability of resources the reporting may be based on services rendered or tangible deliverables. If the project has been successful and the sponsor feels that the project has been well run, the researcher has a higher chance of receiving additional and increased funding in the future from the same and other sponsors.