Best Practices for Principal Investigators During the Proposal Preparation Process

What do OPAS Pre-Award Research Administrators do?
OPAS proposal development administrators (DEV) provide administrative support to help Principal Investigators (PIs) develop grant proposal budgets. They also provide guidance on solicitation requirements, sponsor guidelines, and university policies and procedures. Once the proposal has been routed for internal approvals, it is assigned to an OPAS reviewer. The OPAS developer will work with the reviewer and PI to correct any errors or missing information.

OPAS reviewers (REV) carefully vet proposals after they have been approved by PIs, department chairs, and deans prior to submission to the sponsor. They will review the proposal for compliance with sponsor guidelines and UMass policies and procedures. The OPAS reviewer alerts the PI and proposal development administrator to any issues or concerns that arise during the review and help to ensure a successful submission to the sponsor.

  1. Getting Started
    • Find out who can help – start with your department or college, then if needed, request OPAS proposal development support via the online form.
    • Ask for help early – six to eight weeks out for a standard proposal, more for complex proposals. Last minute requests should be avoided whenever possible.
    • Keep in mind that research administrators are experts in their areas. They are there to help with the administrative details and requirements that you may not be aware of.
    • Understand and communicate the compliance aspects of your project, such as human subjects, vertebrate animals, export controls, etc. There may be additional forms or notifications that must be completed at the proposal stage.
    • Agree on a timeline for completing proposal components with the OPAS developer. Communicate any needed changes to the timeline as soon as possible.
  2. Scope and Budget Preparation
    • Discuss project scope and budget right at the beginning.
    • Finalize the budget at least a week before submission to OPAS review.
    • Keep last minute additions and changes to a minimum, as these can delay routing.
    • The budget and budget justification must be final at routing.
  3. Subaward documents
    • Line up partners four weeks or more prior to the due date.
    • Let the department or OPAS DEV administrator coordinate receiving documentation from any subawardees/subcontractors; put them in touch with counterparts at partner institutions.
    • Approved subaward documents are required at routing.
  4. Science and Background documents
    • Background documents such as biographical sketches, current and pending, equipment and facilities, etc. can be prepared in advance.
    • The university allows science documents (generally the project description or scope of work, summary or abstract, and bibliography or references cited documents) to be reasonably good and reviewable drafts at routing.
  5. Sponsor Forms and Portal
    • The OPAS DEV administrator can usually help with completing forms, attaching or uploading documents, and entering institutional information. They may need you to share access to the sponsor application portal to help.
    • The OPAS reviewer will always need access in order to review the application.
  6. Administrative Review and Submission
    • Understand the Five-Day Submission Policy.
    • The OPAS reviewers’ job is to help you submit a successful proposal that the sponsor will evaluate based on the science without the distraction of any administrative errors. Some errors can cause a proposal to be returned without review.
    • Stay calm and stay in touch. Your prompt feedback is often required during the five-day review period.
    • Every proposal is an opportunity to learn, even when not awarded. Best of luck!