OPAS Proposal Review Tips

OPAS proposal review – frequently covered topics:

In addition to following the guidelines established by sponsors like NSF and NIH, Principal Investigators and proposal developers must also follow UMass Amherst’s internal policies and guidance. Below are some tips to help make complying with institutional policies and guidance easier:

  • Begin planning early. Check in with pre-award support staff in your department or college for help. Areas of campus lacking pre-award support can request help from R&E proposal development specialists.
  • Subcontracts – There are a number of documents required when proposals include subcontracts, in addition to the documents required by the sponsor. Use the list below as a basic checklist to ensure you have requested everything necessary from your subcontracting institution:
    • Sub-recipient Commitment Form – The Sub-recipient Commitment Form should be complete and signed by an authorizing official at the subcontracting institution. Be sure the subcontractor either attaches or provides web links to all of the documents requested in the Sub-recipient Form including updated Rate and Fringe Agreements as well as a copy of their most recent audit. 
    • Statement of Work
    • Detailed Budget & Justification
    • Letter of Intent (for NIH proposals)
  • Consultants – When a proposal involves a consultant, the consultant’s rate and number of hours to be worked should be specified in the proposal according to the sponsor’s guidelines. In addition, if the consultant’s letter of support is written on their home institution’s letterhead, UMass Amherst seeks confirmation the consultant will not use their home institution’s resources to complete their consulting work. This may be included in the letter of support, uploaded to the Attachments section of Kuali, or provided in a separate email directly to the OPAS reviewer.
  • Minimum Effort – It is important for faculty and staff to review the minimum effort policy. The minimum amount of effort committed to a specific federally sponsored research project may be no less than 1% of the employee’s current appointment – for an academic appointment that amounts to 0.09 months and for a calendar year appointment, 0.12 months. Beyond this minimum, the amount of effort committed to a sponsored project is left to the PI, based on a best estimate of the actual effort required to meet the goals and outcomes of the proposed project. This policy applies to all ‘key personnel.’ Minimum effort is not required on grants from non-Federal sources, unless mandated by that sponsor. For more information and certain exceptions, please see the entire policy and FAQ.
  • Faculty Academic Year Cost Share – When academic year faculty salary and fringe is contributed as mandatory cost share, the Faculty Academic Year Salary Cost Share Approval form must be completed and uploaded to the Internal folder within the Attachments section of Kuali. It is important that the faculty member requesting approval include their academic year effort on all sponsored projects (whether as a direct cost or cost share) for each period. Both the dean and the department head must sign off on the form as well. The form should then be uploaded to Kuali.
  • Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals, and other Compliance items (Biological Substances, Radioactive Materials, rDNA, Carcinogenic Substances) – It is important that faculty and staff proposing research involving Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals, and other compliance items appropriately tag the proposal demonstrating the inclusion of these compliance items both on the relevant sponsor forms and within the Questionnaire and Compliance sections in Kuali.

Please note that this article highlights some of the common oversights regarding institutional practices, policies, and guidance and should not be considered an exhaustive list.

As always, the Office of Pre-Award Services (OPAS) staff is available to assist with any questions or concerns you may have throughout the proposal development and review process.