Research FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions below are those that are frequently asked of personnel in the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs (OSRP).

Faculty/staff are encouraged to send or share their questions with personnel in the OSRP, so questions with broad applicability can be included in this FAQ Fact Sheet.

The information in this fact sheet is organized under the following headings. Choosing one of the headings will take you directly to that portion of this FAQ Fact Sheet.

External Funding Opportunities

For a detailed listing, visit the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs - Funding Opportunities webpage.

Internal Funding Sources

Visit the Center for Faculty Excellence's webpage. 

Proposal Budgets

Where can I get assistance in preparing a budget for a proposal?

Contact your department head and/or your Grants Development Specialist in the OSRP.

Is there someone that will check my budget to ensure that it is correct?

Yes. Your Grants Development Specialist in OSRP must review all proposal budgets before applications are submitted to the appropriate agency, foundation or organization.

What is the fringe benefit rate that should be used?

For up-to-date fringe benefit rates check the information provided on the OSRP webpage.

What is the budgeted amount for graduate student tuition?

Tuition is based on the number of course credit hours a student is registered for in a semester. A full-time graduate student must take a minimum of 9 hours of graduate coursework. A chart is available with the current tuition and mandatory fee information.

What is F&A?

Cost involved in conducting a sponsored project/research is categorized as direct and indirect (currently known as Facilities and Administrative, F&A) costs. Direct costs are defined as "those costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy." F&A costs are "those that are incurred for common or joint objectives" and are those costs that would be too costly and burdensome to include as itemized budget categories on projects. F&A costs are real expenses and should not be considered a tax or a windfall for the university or college. "Facilities" is defined as depreciation and use allowances, interest on debt associated with certain buildings, equipment and capital improvements, operation and maintenance expenses, and library expenses. "Administrative" is defined as general administration and general expenses (electricity and water), departmental and college administration, sponsored administration, and all other types of expenditures not listed specifically under one of the subcategories of Facilities. Therefore, F&A cost are recovered as a percent of the direct costs of the project. The F&A cost rates are determined through a long, detailed audit of space use in the University in conjunction with auditors from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If F&A costs are not recovered, then the project/research must either be reduced in scope and size or paid for from another budget source; in other words, the project must be subsidized. If the project is to be subsidized then another budget within the University must be cut or revenue must be generated from some other sources. Think of not recovering F&A cost in this way. If you submit a proposal without including the portion of your salary necessary for you to conduct the project and the proposal is funded, then your salary is not covered by the agency but is an expense to the University. The funding agency or foundation gets the project subsidized by Southeastern because Southeastern pays your salary while you conduct the sponsored project. The same is true for F&A costs; when no F&A cost is recovered or when only a portion of the F&A cost is recovered (referred to in this case as waived F&A), the University has the choice to subsidize the project (cover the F&A cost). The funds to subsidize the project, i.e., to cover cost incurred indirectly, have to come from some other budget source.

In summary, F&A costs are real expenses. If they are not recovered from the sponsoring agency, the scope of the project must be curtailed or funds must be supplied from some other source to cover the F&A costs. For more information on direct and F&A (indirect) costs see OMB Circular A-21.

What is the F&A rate at Southeastern?

The F&A rate at Southeastern is currently 31.8% of Modified Total Direct Costs.  The Modified Total Direct Costs base excludes equipment, stipends, and contracts in excess of $25,000.  For example, a $100,000 budget that includes $10,000 equipment and $15,000 student stipends would apply F&A to only $75,000 ($100,000 - $25,000).  Contact OSRP for assistance in applying F&A.

What are F&A eligible costs?

Not all categories or items in a budget are eligible for F&A assessment. Some items that are not F&A eligible costs include equipment and stipends/tuition. In the case of subcontracts only the first $25,000 is subject to F&A costs. As noted in the above question, Southeastern has approval to collect F&A on Modified Total Direct Costs.

Am I required to include F&A costs in my proposal?

Yes.  However, some agencies and foundations do not allow full F&A recovery and may limit F&A recovery to a specific percentage of the allowable costs, or in some cases they may not allow F&A recovery. Southeastern abides by the written policy of agencies and foundations regarding F&A recovery.

What is cost share?

Cost share refers to any budget item where 100% of the cost is not included in the proposal application, e.g., personnel salaries, and some or all of the cost is shared (supported) by the college or university. For example, if a PI indicates that 20% of his/her time will be committed to a project but does not request salary support from the sponsoring agency, then the college will provide (share) all 20% of the PI's salary for conducting the project. If a PI indicates that 20% of his/her time will be committed to a project and requests 10% salary support from the sponsoring agency, then the college will provide (share) the remaining 10% of the PI's salary for conducting the project. Cost share must be approved by the department head/supervisor, academic dean/vice president, and the Provost. PI's are urged to include salary for conducting the project in proposals unless the agency, foundation, or company has a written policy forbidding the inclusion of investigator salaries. 

What are matching funds?

Dollars supplied by the institution to match the dollars supplied by the sponsoring agency are considered matching funds. Matching funds are required by some agencies and foundations or for specific types of projects supported by an agency or foundation. Each agency, foundation and program can have specific matching fund requirements. For example, the matching fund requirement may be one institutional dollar for every one agency dollar of support. In other cases there may be a requirement of one institutional dollar for every two or three agency dollars of support. Matching dollars can be real dollars that the institution has to provide or may be "in kind" dollars such as not charging the agency for personnel salaries. Matching funds should not be included in a proposal where the agency or foundation does not require a match commitment.

What is considered contractual cost in a budget?

Generally speaking, contractual costs are for services rendered by a non-Southeastern employee. For example, having samples analyzed at a laboratory external to Southeastern would be a contractual cost. Other contractual costs would be repairs to equipment or instruments, and purchasing software. Because contractual costs can be confusing, it is best if PIs provide budgets and budget explanations to their Grants Development Specialist well in advance of submission deadlines so the costs can be reviewed.


Proposal Preparation

Who in the University should I contact to assist in preparing a proposal application for submission?

Contact your Grants Development Specialist in the OSRP.

Should I inform the OSRP of my proposal submission plans?

Yes. This is critical to planning the workload and flow in the OSRP. The earlier a PI notifies Sponsored Research that he/she will be submitting a proposal and the due date, the better we can plan our efforts to assist the PI.

What portion of the proposal application is the PI responsible for preparing?

The PI is responsible for the body of the proposal application, i.e., proposed narrative and other required components as determined by the soliciting agency. The OSRP will complete all required form pages and boiler plate pages; however, the PI will be responsible for supplying the information to complete these required pages. Budgets should be proposed as early in the process as possible and submitted to OSRP for review.

Can I get writing assistance or training?

The University does not have a grant writer. Periodically on-site training sessions and workshops are planned for University faculty/staff to enhance proposal writing skills.


Submitting Proposals

How much lead time is needed to have a proposal processed through the OSRP?

OSRP always works to meet all deadlines even with late notification of a submission or late receipt of the proposal to the OSRP office. It is imperative that the PI confirm the deadline for submission is a "postmarked by date" or "received by date." For submission of hardcopy proposals (via USPS, UPS, or FedEx, not electronic submission), completed proposal applications can be given proper care and attention if the proposal is in the OSRP three working days prior to "postmarked by date" deadline and four working days prior to "received by date" deadline. Proposals submitted to the OSRP with less lead time than requested will be processed. However, there is less chance of detecting and correcting errors when adequate time is not allowed. Refer to question below regarding submission to determine timeline for submission through OSRP.

What is is the worldwide website for submitting proposals in an electronic format to several funding agencies. Southeastern OSRP requires that any proposal being submitted via be received by the OSRP a minimum of three working days prior to the agency submission deadline.

Do I need to register in

No, the University is registered. Individual PIs do not have to register.

Should pre-proposals and letters/ notices of intent be submitted to the OSRP?

Yes. Please contact your Grants Development Specialist for agency specific guidance.

Who has signature authority for the University regarding proposals and awards (grants and contracts)?

The Director of Sponsored Research and Programs is the authorized signatory for the University.

What should I do when I receive an award document (grant, contract, etc.) for signature?

All awards should be routed to the OSRP. The Director of OSRP reviews the contract and will have University counsel review the contract for legal purposes, if necessary. If changes are required, the PI will be contacted. Otherwise appropriate University signatures will be obtained.

What should I do with a confidentiality agreement?

The University cannot assure confidentiality of an agreement between a faculty/staff member and an agency, foundation, or business. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the faculty/staff to sign a confidentiality agreement and the University to co-sign. The Director of Sponsored Research and Programs signs the agreement on behalf of the University. However, before signing a confidentiality agreement it is advisable to allow the OSRP to review the agreement. Additionally, standard confidentiality agreements are available online. A confidentiality agreement signed by appropriate parties must be on file before work commences.

If an agency or foundation requires electronic submission of a proposal, can the PI submit the proposal directly to the agency or foundation?

All proposal submissions must be processed through the OSRP. The PI may be allowed to upload the application on the agency or foundation's electronic site, but final authorization of the submission occurs in the OSRP. Proposals to foundations that are submitted directly to the foundation must be processed through OSRP, and it is preferred that OSRP personnel also submit the proposal.

What is eRA commons?

eRA commons is a program for tracking a proposal submitted to NIH and tracking any action related to the proposal application package.

Do I need to register in eRA commons?

If you plan to submit a proposal to NIH you must register in the eRA commons. To register, contact the OSRP. Once OSRP has sent your information to NIH, you will be prompted to complete the registration process through e-mail instructions.



How will I know if my proposal is funded?

Agencies differ in how they inform a PI regarding the outcome of a proposal submission. In some instances an "unofficial" phone call is made or an e-mail is received that notifies the PI that an award is pending. In some of these cases additional paperwork may be required before the project is officially awarded. In all cases, awards are not official until the OSRP has received notification of award and funding.

Is there anything else that must be done or completed before a proposal can be officially awarded?

Yes, the PI must complete the applicable paperwork for IACUC, IRB, hazardous materials, and radioisotope usage (regulatory compliance issues) and have approval from applicable committees before a proposal is officially awarded and work is allowed to commence.

How do I track project expenditures?

The PeopleSoft Financials module at Southeastern allows PIs to track expenditures and view budget item balances on a "real time" basis. All PIs are required to complete the mandatory PeopleSoft Financial training and assessment to receive access to this information. For additional information, see