University of Delaware

Getting Started in Research at UD
If you've never applied for research funding as a UD investigator, you've come to the right place. We have developed a list of commonly asked questions, below, that will guide you through the basic steps to locate funding opportunities, developing a proposal, keywords and other related information.

Remember, it takes time and effort to develop a successful proposal — in fact, proposal success rates average 20–33%, depending on the field. Funding agencies reject half the proposals they receive because the applicant did not follow instructions or the proposal did not match the funding program.

However, the rewards for garnering research funding can be great, enabling you to explore new frontiers, instruct your students in the conduct of research, and yield new discoveries and knowledge of benefit to society. After you receive your first award please return to the UD Research Office site for information on managing your award, protecting your results, and sharing your findings with the public.

Additional training resources.

Commonly Asked QuestionsClick on the questions below to learn the answer.

(1) Am I eligible to serve as a principal investigator (PI) on a research proposal?""

Please review PI Eligibility information here.

(2) What is a conflict of interest and do I have a conflict?""

As defined in the University of Delaware's Policies and Procedures Manual, "a conflict of interest occurs when there is a divergence between an individual's private interests and his or her professional obligations such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the individual's professional actions or decisions are influenced by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise. A conflict of interest depends on the situation, and not on the character or actions of the individual.” For further information on confict of interest click here.

(3) Where can I find Funding Opportunities?""

An excellent way to identify potential sponsors is to network with faculty, industry representatives, and government agency personnel. Funding opportunities for sponsored research are available to UD-eligible principal investigators from a variety of federal and state agencies and private foundations. Information on limited submission opportunities, General University Research (GUR) grants and UD Research Foundation (UDRF) grants are also available on the Funding Opportunities page.

Another excellent tool for identifying potential funding opportunities is the Community of Science database, which is available to UD employees through a paid subscription from UD's Morris Library. Library staff periodically offers workshops on effective use of the database.

(4) What should a researcher do before submitting for funding? Or I've found a funding opportunity that is the right match for my research. What are my next steps?""

Familiarize yourself with UD's Responsible Conduct of Research. Compliance with UD's code of conduct, policies, and procedures is critical. If human subject or animal subjects or will be using hazards materials, for example, would be used in your research project, you must abide by specific policies and complete specific forms and reviews as part of the proposal application. You'll find links to all of UD's policies and procedures and required forms here.

Allow enough time to develop the proposal and meet the agency's funding deadline. Competitive applications often reflect the input of multiple colleagues, and large, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional projects require a great deal of advance planning even before writing the proposal can begin. Keep in mind that the Research Office needs a minimum of 72 hoursthree business days prior to the agency deadline — to process your proposal or it will not be submitted to the sponsor.

Submit keywords through the Employee Demographic Data (EDD) form prior to submitting a proposal. The Proposal Key Word are used to track proposals by subject category (for example: disease, avian, solar) and to link multiple science codes to projects. These identifiers are important for reporting both internally and externally by science categories. Please see your department administrator for assistance with the EDD.

Know if "cost-sharing" is required by the funding agency. "Cost-sharing" refers to the University's commitment of funds, equipment, or services toward the project, beyond the funding that would be provided by the agency. Typical examples include equipment, personnel effort, and tuition. If cost-sharing is required, you need to find out if your dean would approve this cost before proceeding.

Notify your departmental research administrator of your proposal plans. This individual works in partnership with a Contract and Grant Administrator in the UD Research Office. You can locate your department's research administrator on our Staff Directory Web page. This individual can help you learn the ropes by assisting you in the completion of required forms and in answering questions about cost rates and other details related to the development of your budget. If your proposal is for a federal grant and will need to be submitted via, this individual can help answer your registration questions.

Find a faculty mentor. A junior faculty is encouraged to seek a faculty mentor. Some departments assign a mentor to a new faculty member. A senior faculty can guide a proposal process, from writing to submission.

(5) How do I develop a competitive proposal?""

You need to have good, innovative ideas, an understanding of the funding agency's mission and goals, and pay careful attention to the theme and requirements specified in the funding announcement. A good proposal should be compelling, understandable, well-organized, grammatically correct, exhibit correct spelling, and it must meet the due date, formatting, and length requirements specified in the agency's guidelines.

If you've carefully read the agency's funding announcement and have specific questions about a proposal idea, consult the program officer at the funding agency for advice or clarification.

Most proposals contain common elements, such as the following:

1. A project summary that should clearly articulate the significance and innovation of the research and its expected outcomes
2. A project description that details the goals of the project and how you will accomplish them, often including how you will evaluate the project and disseminate the research to various public audiences to meet "broader impacts" requirements
3.References cited
4. A budget that is in line with the award range of the funding program along with a detailed budget justification that has been developed in compliance with UD's current rates (see the "Proposal Tools and Data" sidebar on this Web page);
Biographical sketches of the project team, and
5. Letters of commitment/support from appropriate administrators and partnering institutions

Please note:

To request a letter of support from the UD Research Office, the Provost, or President, please follow this procedure:
1. Draft the letter of support
2. E-mail the letter to your Contract and Grant Administrator in the Research Office. To locate the correct staff member, see the Department Administrator directory in the Staff Directory

If changes to the letter are required, you will be notified.
The Research Office will shepherd the letter and proposal to the appropriate UD administrator for signature and provide a copy to you for your files.

If your proposal requires an evaluation component, an excellent resource to consult on campus is the UD Education Research and Development Center. If your proposal requires "Broader Impacts" in informal public education and outreach, contact the Research Communications Initiative in the UD Office of Public Relations for advice. The office participates in selected proposals and also is aware of other units on campus who are involved in public education and outreach that may be available to assist you.

As you draft your proposal, make sure to cross-reference your content with key themes and requirements indicated in the funding announcement. Ask colleagues with experience writing winning proposals to read your draft and provide constructive criticism. You might also ask to serve on an upcoming proposal review panel for a particular agency to gain further insight into how proposals are evaluated.

Developing competitive research proposals is hard work, but the rewards can be great in terms of future discoveries. It's important not to be discouraged if your proposal is not funded, but to learn from the experience and prepare for the next opportunity.

(6) The solicitation requires that my proposal be submitted electronically. How do I obtain access to various electronic submission site (example: Fastlane, ERA Commons, NSPIRE, etc)?""


If you are intending to submit a proposal to NSF you will need access to Fastlane. Please send an email request to your Contract and Grant Administrator with the PI's name, birth date, type of degree and the year it was received so the new PI can be added to FASTLANE. Please note Fastlane will provide the PI with a NSF login number that will become part of their personal logon process.


If you intend to submit a proposal to NIH, please send an email request to your Contract and Grant Administrator (CGA) ( ) to create ”User Name”. You will need to provide the following information:

PI's name, birth date, any previous NIH user names and if the PI has had any previous NIH grants, we will need the grant number. Please note the Research Office will establish the User Name but eRA Commons will provide the PI with a password.


If you intend to submit a NASA proposal you will need to register with NSPIRE. This registration will create a request at the Research Office to allow the new user to be affiliated with the University of Delaware.


The University of Delaware is registered in Individuals cannot register to submit proposals on behalf of the University. Only your Contract and Grant Administrators in the Research Office can submit proposals as the Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) for the University of Delaware.

(7) How do I route a proposal approval form for signatures?""

Any time a new proposal is submitted to a sponsor, or an increase in the funding or University resources occurs (in the case of a re-budget or renewal) a Proposal Approval Form must be routed. In the case of a renewal where the resources are less than expected, or there is NO change, a form NEED NOT be routed.
A proposal record must be created in UD Peoplesoft Grants system to originate the form. Work with your department administrator to create the record and submit the proposal for routing.

(8) I found a solicitation that limits the number of proposals that can be submitted. What is the UD Research Office proceedures on Limited Submission Proposals?""

Many federal agencies and foundations offer grants, awards, and fellowships that limit the number of applications that can come from one institution. In order to increase the chances of UD succeeding in such "limited submission opportunity" applications, UD Research Office has established procedures for reviewing pre-proposals for such competitions in a timely fashion.

(9) Do pre-proposals require UD Research Office approval?""

Any time the University is obligating resources or requesting funds, the UD Research Office must be included in the submission. A Pre-proposal to a sponsor must go through the UD Research Office routing for approval and official submission through institutional signatures.

(10) I am preparing a letter of intent, does it have to be signed by the Research Office?""

Letters of Intent (LOI) that do not address funding amount or UD commitments (ie; time commitments/match etc.) do not require signature of the Research Office (unless required by sponsor). However, the Research Office should be copied on the LOI. Typically, the purpose of this type of intent is for sponsor to determine the amount of man hours required for review process. Keep in mind that it is helpful to notify your Contract and Grant Administrator when you become aware of any proposal submissions so they can better serve the needs of the faculty.

(11) Who at University of Delaware signs as the authorized representative for proposal applications?""

Authorized Representative
Proposed First Year Total
Contract and Grant Specialist

Up to $250,000

Assistant Director, Pre Award
Up to $500,000
Assistant Vice President, Research Administration

Up to $1,000,000

Cordell M. Overby, Associate Vice President, Research & Regulatory Affairs

Up to $1,000,000

Domenico Grasso, University Provost

Over $1,000,000

Dennis Assanis, President

Over $2,000,000

(12) What basic information should be on the SF424 for a proposal submission?""

Sample Application for Federal Assistance SF 424 (RandR) Form
The Standard Proposal Information will provide you important key elements related to the University. (example: DUNS number, Tax Identification Number/TIN, CAGE code, etc.).

(13) What are the important points I should know when preparing an NIH application?""

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions for Electronic Research Administrations, Question 3.

(14) Where do I find more information about NIH application procedures?""
(15) Where can I find the NSF application guidelines?""

Please access the NSF application guide here: NSF Application Guide

(16) Where do I find information regarding sponsor guidelines?""

Please review the Grants Management Guide for further information.

(17) How do I construct a budget?""

The attached spreadsheet is a guide to assist you in building a budget for your proposal. Download Excel file.