Proposal Preparation and Submission

Page Updated: Monday, May 15, 2023 4:59:32 PM CDT

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) is the office authorized to submit proposals for extramural support on behalf of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. All proposals must be routed through WISPER and approved by RSP prior to submission. An authorized representative must sign any document requiring an official signature.

We request all proposals be routed through your Dean’s Office to RSP five days prior to the due date to allow sufficient time for review and approval.

Read Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Steve Ackerman’s blog post on the importance of timely proposal submission

The Proposal Team at RSP is comprised of five members who work together to facilitate the submission of research proposals from across campus. In reviewing the proposals, each team member is responsible for ensuring that the application falls within Sponsor, Federal, State and University policies. Information regarding the process of proposal preparation and submission is below.

If you have questions, please contact your Dean's Office or a member of the Proposal Team.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are Frequently Asked Questions regarding proposal preparation and submission.

What are RSP's business hours? RSP's business hours are 7:45am - 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. All proposal submissions to sponsors will be made during these hours.

Who should I contact if I have a proposal question? Please contact your Dean's Office or anyone on the Proposal Team if you have questions about proposal submissions. Contact information is listed above.

Which proposals need to be processed though RSP? All sponsored project proposals require approval from an authorized official, RSP, prior to submission to the sponsor.

Can I, as the PI, submit to the sponsor directly if no signatures or approval is required? Yes, however, all proposals to external funding agencies must be reviewed and approved by RSP before they can be submitted to the sponsor, regardless of whether or not the sponsor requires an authorized signature.

Can a proposal be submitted when I am absent from the office? If the PI must be absent during a proposal submission, it is expected that the PI approve as much of the final submission as possible prior to the planned absence. It is critically important that someone from the department be available for the entire proposal submission in case there are issues that must be addressed.

What do I need on a WISPER record? We expect the record to contain at minimum the funding announcement, a scope of work, budget and budget justification. We would prefer that the PI/department upload a copy of the full proposal document on the Attachments tab. Also, please include any relevant proposal submission instructions on the General tab; be as specific as possible.

Finding Funding

Investigators have the responsibility of finding external sources to fund their research/public service projects. They may ask their departmental administrators to assist them in finding this funding. Once investigators have found a funding opportunity, they should notify their department research administrators who will assist in preparing and routing an application/proposal to be submitted to the sponsor.

RSP has created the Finding Funding page to help campus find appropriate funding sources.

Budget Development

Building a budget is one of the most important pieces of putting together a proposal. It takes time and effort to put together a budget that will work for you. RSP has created a standard budget spreadsheet, a 424 R&R budget spreadsheet, and an NIH budget spreadsheet. RSP has also collected a variety of tools and links to assist you in your budget development.

Please use our Budget Development Tools page, which contains helpful spreadsheets and tools.

Required Approvals

Before a proposal is submitted, the PI must demonstrate that the proposal is compliant with Sponsor, Federal, State, and University regulations. If there are questions regarding the compliance questions contact the appropriate compliance office for more information.

Proposals must be reviewed and approved (as indicated by an approval or signature in WISPER) by:

  • The Principal Investigator
  • The Department (Not every Division requires Departmental approval. Please check with your Department and Division)
  • The Dean or Director (or designated College/School Research Administrator)
  • RSP (i.e. Authorized Official)

The following additional reviews and approvals are required before your proposal is submitted to RSP via WISPER:

  • If the principal investigator is an academic staff member, follow the procedures outlined in "Limited or Permanent Principal Investigator Status for Academic Staff" policy.
  • If proposals involve the resources of more than one department, school, or college (including university cost sharing) the proposal must be reviewed by appropriate officials of each unit (use an approval in WISPER).
    • Click here for more information on required approvals for cross-campus research.
  • Proposal budgets must incorporate indirect costs in accordance with UW's Official F&A Rate Agreement, unless an exception applies. If a waiver of indirect cost rates is desired, a letter requesting the waiver and justification must be uploaded to WISPER and an Approval sent to your Dean, Director or College/School Research Administrator as indicated above. Waiver requests must be reviewed by the Director of RSP.
  • If a PI is applying to a funding announcement that includes a limit to the number of applications our institution can submit, please obtain approval from the OVCRGE and include the approval on the WISPER record. More information can be found on their website.
WISPER Record Routing and Approval

For best business practice, we expect that the WISPER record will contain the funding announcement, scope of work, budget and budget justification. This allows all parties to conduct a thorough review. Please include the final proposal that will be submitted to the sponsor.

If you are submitting to a foreign sponsor in foreign currency, please include the currency conversion used at the time the US Dollar budget was created.

If you are submitting a proposal with an F&A rate other than our stepped research rate (example: Instruction, Public Service or Off-Campus), please attach a justification for the use. This helps your Dean’s Office and RSP conduct a proper review by the deadline.

If you have legal documents or documents needing significant processing time (Representations and Certifications, subrecipient forms or questionnaires), please send an approval to RSP while the record is in Status 1 to allow lead time for RSP to work on the documents. The record will still need to be routed, as usual, prior to the deadline.

Submit as far ahead of the deadline as possible. We request all proposals be routed to RSP five days prior to the due date to allow sufficient time for review and approval.

Research and Sponsored Programs closes at 4:30pm. If you must submit the day of the deadline, especially late in the day, please call the proposal team and speak with someone on the phone. The Proposal Team will do everything possible to get the proposal to the sponsor on time. However, as the amount of time for processing is reduced, the chance for insurmountable obstacles increases.

For more information, please contact your Dean's Office.

Click here for information on "How do I..." request an award in advance, route a supplement, request a no-cost extension, and more.

Sponsor Specific Information

Sponsors primarily accept applications via electronic submission. Most sponsors require an Authorized Official to submit the application; some sponsors may allow the Principal Investigator to submit the final RSP approved application.

If you are working on a proposal in a system that is new to you, or you are unfamiliar with the proposal preparation process, please call someone on the Proposal Team. We are always happy to work with you ahead of time to ensure that the proposal is completed correctly and submitted on time.

Sponsors may (including some that allow the PI to submit applications) have terms and conditions or other information that should be reviewed and submitted by an authorized official (RSP). Please consult with RSP if you are unsure about whether RSP should review and/or submit information.

RSP has also created specific guidelines for a few sponsors or systems.

Requests for Additional Information and JIT

After the proposal is submitted, the sponsor may have questions or require additional information before making an award. Some sponsors call this a Just-In-Time (JIT) request. Certain sponsors, such as the National Institutes of Health, only accept JIT responses from an authorized official, that is, RSP.

Automated emailed JIT requests from NIH do not need to be acted upon. If the PI receives an automated JIT request, the PI and department may begin pulling together information if they believe a request will be forthcoming from the NIH GMS. When the NIH GMS issues a JIT request, follow the instructions below.

When RSP receives these requests, we will upload a copy of the request to the WISPER record and then send an approval to the campus contact to complete the request. When the request has been completed, the campus contact will upload the information as instructed, and RSP will submit the materials to the sponsor.

If the department or PI receives a request for information other than scientific information, please notify the SPO owner of the WISPER record (located on the SPO Action tab) when the request is ready to be submitted. There may be times when additional Division approval will be necessary, such as a revised budget that changes the total dollar amount of the request.

Requests for additional information and JIT may contain a request for the PI to submit other support and approvals for clearances like IRB and IACUC.

IACUC and IRB approvals: Unless the animal or human subject work is starting after the start date of the project, RSP needs to see documentation that this specific project has been approved or determined congruent against the approved protocol. The congruency letter must be uploaded in the Attachments tab or the project must be listed in PLuS.

Below are a list of references that you may find helpful in completing these requests.

Contact the Proposal Team

For any questions on the above information or if you need immediate assistance please contact any member of the proposal team:

For more information on the function of the proposal team, please click here.