Guidelines to proposal writing at UWL

Getting Started

Proposal Assistance

Preliminary Inquiry

Informal Proposal

Proposal Content and Budget

Forms and University Procedures

Post Award Information

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There are various funding sources and types of funding for different activities. While federal departments and agencies are prominent sources of support, alternative sources - such as private and corporate foundations, state governmental agencies, and private industry - should not be overlooked. To explore these potential funding sources, you need to begin the process of converting your initial idea into a clear and reasonably detailed project design.  Consider developing a concept paper to outline your project.

To make your project attractive to a prospective funding source, it is important to demonstrate that you are offering a significant response to a current problem of interest to that source. The goal is to propose a clear, thought-out project with measurable outcomes in a specific area of need.

Evaluate your idea as objectively as possible in terms of its contribution as a response to this problem. The evaluation process may require:

  • reading and citing authoritative sources in the problem area,
  • conversation or correspondence with leading figures in the area,
  • familiarizing yourself with ongoing funded activities in the area, and
  • considering the relevance of your idea in light of other approaches.

You should always be open to the possibility of re-focusing the project design as a result of this evaluation.

Keep in mind that most proposals are reviewed by a panel of peer reviewers and the program officer. While they consider the merit of each application, they will also assess:

  • the significance, originality, and potentially transformative nature of the proposed research,
  • the adequacy of the methodology,
  • the qualifications and experience of the investigator(s),
  • the suitability of the facilities, and
  • the appropriateness of the budget requested.


Staff in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs can help you in a number of ways as you develop a competitive extramural proposal. They are informed about the process of proposal and budget development, agency interests and priorities, and UWL's institutional procedures for proposal submission. They are also familiar with agency procedures and requirements and can assist in matching your project with the sources that are most likely to fund it.  You are encouraged to contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs as soon as you have a project idea.

Obviously, not every proposal is funded the first time. As a matter of fact, the probabilities of successful funding tend to double with re-submissions. Certain agencies expect to see proposals, especially from new investigators, three or four times before they are actually funded. Many successful proposals are funded after multiple submissions. Proposal revisions and re-submissions, therefore, are to be expected. In most cases, the results of proposal reviews are either provided automatically by the agency or can be requested by the principal investigator/project director (PI/PD).

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It is recommended that preliminary contact be made with potential extramural funding sources in order to determine whether they are willing to consider a formal grant application. A well-written two or three page preliminary proposal, or concept paper, submitted to an agency can inform you of the agency's potential interest in the proposal and will save time for both you and the agency - especially if the proposal is clearly not suitable for formal submission.  In addition, the preparation of the formal document is much simpler if a preliminary proposal has been prepared carefully. This process may result in agency assistance for designing the proposal to meet their priorities without distorting your original intentions. Finally, the agency staff may be able to suggest other agencies or private foundations that may have an interest in your proposed project.

The preliminary inquiry should, if possible, demonstrate that the investigator is acquainted with the work and purpose of the particular organization being approached. An effective prospectus will point out the significance of the project and will discuss the objectives of your particular research, how you plan to reach these objectives, and how long it will take you to do so. Although a detailed budget is not necessary, there should be an overall cost estimate including appropriate UWL fringe benefits and indirect costs.  Please see "Frequently Requested Information".

Other information that should be included is the following: Who will benefit? Who cares about the outcomes? What difference will it make if the project is not funded? How is your approach unique, inventive, or transformative?

A preliminary proposal should give enough indication of step-by-step planning to show that the project has been thought through and that pitfalls have been anticipated. It will demonstrate the writer's grasp of the subject and his/her capabilities to undertake the project. It should be emphasized that this is a preliminary inquiry, not a formal proposal, and that the investigator will send further details if the agency wishes.

Since the preliminary inquiry is an informal, direct communication between the PI/PD and the extramural agency, it is not routed through university channels with a transmittal form and does not require any university endorsement. However, an informational copy of the preliminary proposal and agency correspondence should be sent to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs so that they can aid you in locating appropriate funding sources. It is important that PIs/PDs do not commit university resources without the explicit consent of their cognizant department chair/unit director, dean/division director, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

In general, private foundations are interested in innovative projects that are:

  • relevant to pressing national or regional problems,
  • relevant to new methods in education,
  • capable of being continued after a specified funding period without further assistance from the foundation, and
  • incapable of being initially funded by governmental agencies or the investigator's own institution.

The initial letter of inquiry and brief preliminary proposal should highlight whichever of these characteristics best fit the project at hand.

Further suggestions on both the appropriateness and the preparation of a preliminary proposal may be obtained from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

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A written description of the project - called an informal proposal or prospectus - should be developed in order to identify:

  • the problem that the project addresses and its importance, and
  • the need for this particular project as a significant response to the problem.

Even if you have not yet developed an informal proposal, it is a good idea to become acquainted with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (, 608.785.8007, 243 Graff Main Hall). This office can provide you with helpful information and suggestions for your project early in the planning stages, and the more they know about you and your proposed research, the more help they can offer.

An informal description of the project's intent is valuable as a first step in defining the project. It is also very useful in eliciting feedback and constructive criticism from your colleagues, and it will help the Office of Research Sponsored Programs to suggest and/or identify appropriate extramural funding sources. Finally, it is an important vehicle for direct preliminary contact with potential funding sources.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has compiled information regarding funding sources, such as UWL-funded grants, federal agencies, private and corporate foundations, UW System sources, Wisconsin state agencies, and funding databases that can be accessed by prospective PIs/PDs.

An informal proposal is useful for two reasons: it allows you the opportunity to concentrate on the main features of a project and provides the backbone of information requested in a final proposal by most funding agencies. It is also strongly recommended that the proposal author(s) ask one (or more) colleague(s) to provide critique on the informal proposal.

Description of Project

A project description states exactly what you intend to do. Very often this includes a statement of the problem, a statement of the need, or both. Make sure the statement of need is consistent with the project objectives and methodology.

Project Goals

Project goals are generalized statements about proposed accomplishments of the project. "General" is not intended to mean imprecise or vague but rather broad-based.

Project Objectives

Project objectives are statements of precise outcomes, which can be measured to determine actual accomplishments.

Implications of the Project

Implications of the project are reasons why you want to do the work and what the value of the project will be. Even if you want to be tentative about these areas at this point, you should consider possible results or impact. The agency wants to know why it should invest in your project, although exact results cannot be predicted at this stage.

Plan of Action, Project Design, Methodology

The plan of action is a narrative description of the order of events for approaching the problem and the methodology for gathering and using the information. Specifically, you need to describe actual program activities, personnel utilization, and data compilation.

Proposed Time Frame for the Project

Provide a reasonable starting and ending time for the project. For multi-year projects, supply a year-by-year breakdown and indicate what can be accomplished at the end of each year. An agency might be interested in funding for the first year, for example, but not for the following years.

Budget and Personnel

All budget considerations in the proposal development process should be discussed with the Research and Sponsored Programs Officer (608.785.8007 or Facilities and administrative (indirect) costs, fringe benefit rates, stipends, and salaries should be consistent with current university rates and policies. University travel regulations and allowances must be reflected in the budget.

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While there is no "one size fits all" approach for developing a perfect proposal, there are some general principles that can help you prepare an effective document that will strongly state your case in seeking extramural funding.

The format of a particular proposal document will depend on the requirements of the sponsor to whom you are applying. Most federal agencies have application forms or very specific guidelines, while other sponsors may be less specific. Most agencies also have very specific page limits, which must be adhered to.

Consider the nature of the potential funding source as you begin to write. The approach to a general purpose foundation will differ from that to a discipline specific federal agency. In the former, you need to start with a more general needs statement to establish the importance of your whole area of interest relative to other large areas of need. In the latter, you can go directly to the specific need for your project.

Your informal proposal and/or preliminary inquiry document will serve as an outline in drafting a fuller, more complete document. Funding agency (or collegial) reactions to the informal proposal should provide assistance in developing your final proposal.

While the typical sections of a full proposal and proposal budget are provided below, the PI/PD must review specific requirements of the funding agency.

Title Page

  • Name and address of sponsor to whom the proposal is being submitted
  • Name of the applicant or organization - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
  • Place of performance
  • Title of proposed project
  • Total funds requested (For multi-year proposals, it is helpful to show both the total request and the request for the first year.)
  • Name and title of the PI/PD and co-investigators as necessary
  • Name and title of authorizing UWL official - Melissa Nielsen, Director, Research & Sponsored Programs


The title of a proposal is very important. A proposal title should describe the proposed project, express the end result of the project, and be short and easy to remember.


While an abstract is not required by all funding agencies, it is a highly effective means of presenting a project to a reviewer or review board. Typically, an abstract is no longer than 200 to 250 words. It is a brief exposition which summarizes the objectives and significance of the project, the procedures to be followed in carrying it out, and the plans for evaluating the results. Unless specifically required, facts given on the title page need not be repeated in the abstract.


If extensive introductory remarks are appropriate to "set the stage" for the specific proposal, you should devote a separate section to them. However, if only a brief introduction is necessary, it should be included as the introductory paragraph of the next section.

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Description of the Proposed Project

The description of the proposed project is an expansion of the abstract and constitutes the heart and soul of the proposal. It is a full and detailed explanation of the PI's proposed research plan and should include:

  • A detailed description of the work to be undertaken;
  • Its relation to both the present state of knowledge in the field and to comparable work known to be in progress elsewhere; and
  • Justification that the proposed research is timely and critical. This section should include a clearly stated, detailed discussion of the methodology, goals, and objectives of the research.


References should be selected carefully, and generally only those that are discussed in the proposal should be included. A reviewer will be interested in assessing the relevance of the listed references to the proposed project.

Proposal Budget

The budget is one of the key elements in any proposal because it outlines your project in fiscal terms and is often used by reviewers to form an impression of how the project will be organized.

You are urged to arrange for early discussions on your budget with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. If you submit a proposal with an unrealistic budget to an agency, it becomes very difficult to come back later with a larger budget. The UWL budget helper spreadsheet provides a good starting point for budget development.

* Cost Sharing

Funding agencies may or may not require UWL to demonstrate its participation in the total costs of any project supported by a research grant. In determining how UWL will share in the cost of a project, specific funding agency guidelines should be followed, as allowable types and requirements vary widely. The PI should also take into account that cost-sharing must be auditable. Contingent upon funder guidelines and UWL approval, cost sharing may consist of cash and/or in-kind contributions. The commitment for cost sharing must be submitted in writing to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which may be an email communication from the dean/division director or their authorizing signature on the Grant/Contract Transmittal Form. See the UWL cost sharing guide for additional information.

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* Salaries and Wages

List professional personnel first, staff second, and part-time workers third. Professional and staff salary figures should include a percentage of effort figure to reflect the estimated amount of time each person will devote to the proposed project. In the case of part-time, nonprofessional personnel, the number of hours may be used in the estimate. Student help should be included in this category. Consultants should not be included here but rather in a separate category. Care should be taken to anticipate and provide for annual merit and promotional rate increases. It is recommended that a project budget include a 3% salary/wage increase per year to cover cost of living and promotional pay increases.

Generally, departmental secretarial and administrative support personnel are not included, but any individual specifically assigned to a project should be listed at the appropriate level of participation.

Depending on the nature of an individual's proposed work, and a sponsor's guidelines, it may be appropriate to request summer salary support, partial release from university duties, or overload payment to complete the work. Any compensation for UWL personnel paid by grants or contracts is subject to the applicable sponsor regulations, State of Wisconsin and UW System policies, and UWL policies (e.g., UWL Policy on Overload Payments). Consult with ORSP for guidance on allowable project effort and compensation.

* Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits, expressed as a percentage of salary, include such items as Social Security, state retirement programs, health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Fringe benefits must be included in all grant and contract budgets unless they are specifically excluded or restricted by the funding agency, in which case they must be covered by an alternate source (often a PI's college/division). Fringe benefit rates vary according to the personnel classification. When developing a budget, the extramural fringe benefit rates established by the UW System must be used. Multiple year proposals should include an increase for future fringe benefit costs of 5% per year.

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* Indirect Costs/Overhead

Indirect costs are real costs associated with the completion of a funded project. Extramural proposals must request indirect costs from the agency to cover expenditures such as administrative costs, maintenance of physical facilities, and utilities that are not readily identified with a specific project. This is mandated by the UW System Board of Regents, and the actual rate is negotiated for UWL by the federal government. In undertaking any funded project, whether or not it is sponsored by the federal government, UWL must recover two components of costs - those directly attributable to the specific project and those incurred for the general support and management of the project. Indirect costs are real costs. They provide reimbursements for expenses incurred in conducting or supporting the project. Funds paid to UWL for indirect costs of a sponsored project are reimbursement to use for expenditures actually incurred.

For non-federal grants/contracts, the PI/PD should include the applicable non-federal indirect cost rate  unless the sponsor has specific, universally applied policies restricting indirect costs. Documentation of the sponsor's policy is required to request approval for the use of an alternate rate. Consult ORSP for further information.

For federal grants/contracts, the basic regulations for ascertaining the costs of federally sponsored projects at educational institutions are set forth in federal regulations. Annually, the UW System presents its expenditures in these categories and evidence regarding the proportion of these costs incurred as a result of its total research effort. This information is audited by representatives of the DHHS Audit Agency (the cognizant audit agency for the UW System), and the allowable rates of reimbursement are then established. Rates are calculated as a percentage of a project's modified total direct costs (MTDC).

An electronic copy of UWL's federal indirect cost rate agreement is available online.

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* Facilities and Equipment

If available facilities and equipment are to be utilized, they should be described and emphasized. If additional facilities and equipment are to be procured using funds to be made available under your proposal, they should be described in detail, as should any contribution UWL is expected to make. Financial information related to facilities and equipment should be briefly noted here and detailed in the budget section.

* Permanent Equipment

Permanent capital equipment is defined as non-expendable, tangible equipment costing $5,000 or more per unit. The cost of shipping, installation, and fabrication should be included in the cost of the equipment. Whenever possible, the PI/PD should specify the name, model number, and manufacturer of the equipment.

Permanent equipment is broken into two categories: special purpose and general purpose. The type of equipment most often purchased under grants or contracts is designated special purpose equipment because it is necessary to the research and is generally not available within or of general use to UWL. Justification for such equipment should be provided in the proposal.

General purpose equipment includes items such as office furniture, dictation/transcription machines, personal computers, etc. The purchase of general purpose equipment is allowed by some federal agencies when it is primarily or exclusively used in the conduct of scientific research.

Generally, title to equipment purchased with grant funds is allowed to remain at UWL. However, the specific conditions of each grant or contract will govern.

* Expendable Equipment and Supplies

Any equipment needed for your specific research project and which costs less than $5,000 should be listed under expendable equipment and supplies. Identify as specifically as possible the types of equipment or supplies needed. For example, this itemization should include laboratory supplies, office supplies, chemicals, glassware, and electronic supplies.

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* Personnel

Brief biographical sketches, including publications, of the PI/PD and the senior professional personnel involved should be included. Sponsors generally have specific requirements for the content and format of key personnel's biographical sketches. If support personnel and students who will work on the project are already in the employ of UWL, they may be listed. If not, the positions to be filled should be described along with an indication of the academic level or job classification desired. Naming a person in a grant application does not commit the institution to employment of that person and does not satisfy the requirement of open recruitment.

The following categories of personnel are often needed.

  • Principal investigator (PI)/program director (PD) (and, in some cases, co-PI/PDs)
  • Other key personnel
  • Research or project assistants (e.g., undergraduate or graduate students engaged in research training under the proposed grant)
  • Academic staff
  • University staff (e.g., clerical staff)
  • Student employees

* Publication Costs

Publication costs are the expenses of preparing and publishing the results of the research conducted under the grant, including costs of reports, reprints, page charges, or other journal costs and necessary illustrations. Such costs do not normally include support of book or monograph publication.

* Travel Costs

Travel costs should specify type (conducting research or attending a meeting) and category (domestic or international travel) since different types of approval may be required. Within each category, list:

  • Name of traveler, destination, and reason for trip
  • Round-trip commercial coach airfare (allowances for air travel will not normally exceed round-trip economy airfare)
  • Number of days and per diem or estimated living expenses
  • Other expenses, such as ground transportation or conference registration fees

The purpose of each trip should be discussed in the body of the technical proposal. Expenditures for travel must be budgeted in accordance with university and State of Wisconsin travel regulations.

If international travel is anticipated, the proposal should give relevant information and justification. If no provision for international travel was included in the original proposal, approval must be obtained from the funding agency and/or UWL (as appropriate) prior to the commitment of grant funds for such purposes.

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* Tuition, Fees, and Institutional Allowances

Training grants provide for payment of tuition, segregated fees, and/or institutional allowances for trainees. When such provisions exist, they must be fully utilized. Also, be sure to allow for anticipated increases in these costs. Under UW System policies, training grants must equal or exceed tuition and fee costs per student; if a given grant or contract fails to do so, the difference will be charged to the individual students.

* Consultants

Consultants are defined as external experts (not employed by the UW System) who work on a project for a limited duration and scope. In a proposal, a consultant must be identified by name and/or by their specialty; the number of person-days of consulting and their daily rate should also be specified. Federal funding agencies ask that PI/PDs:

  • Hire consultants only when the services are necessary and cannot be provided by paying direct salaries to a current employee of the proposed project;
  • Engage in an objective selection process designed to secure the most qualified individual; and
  • Ensure these persons provide a "necessary and unique contribution" to the project.

Eligibility of individuals holding local, state, or federal positions to serve as paid consultants must be determined in advance. Employees within the UW System cannot serve within the system as paid consultants nor can employees of a federal agency unless they are on leave status. UW System employees can, however, serve as staff members on a project, in which case the appropriate fringe benefit rates should be included in the budget. Each UW campus has its own prescribed fringe benefit rates. Project personnel should work with their respective campus's sponsored programs office for budget and proposal development.

Where the costs of consultants are borne in whole or in part as direct costs by federal projects, the consultation must be documented by an invoice from the consultant. Any of the following information not shown on the invoice must be shown in a memorandum or other document signed by an organizational official: the name of the consulting firm or individual; social security number and home address of individual consultant; the nature of the services rendered and their relevance to the grant supported activities, if not otherwise apparent from the nature of the services; the period of the service; the basis for calculating the fee paid (e.g., rate per day, hours worked, or rate per unit of service rendered); and the amount paid.

* Miscellaneous

Where supporting funding agency regulations permit, the budget should include appropriate amounts for costs such as freight charges, equipment maintenance and rental, service contracts or charges, and reference books specifically related to the project. Generally, sponsors do not allow for costs categorized as "miscellaneous" without an itemized justification of estimated expenses.

* Subawards

Subawards should appear as a line item reflecting the total subaward amount in the proposal budget with reference to an attached subrecipient's formal, detailed budget. PIs should document the reasons for choosing a particular subrecipient over others.

* Space and Extended Use of University Facilities

Expenditures necessary for construction, remodeling, or rental of space and facilities should be explained in detail. The basis for this entry will be the estimates you receive from UWL's space management, remodeling, or planning and construction representative. If off-campus rental facilities are approved by UWL, the budget should include rent, utilities, custodial care, and other costs which may be incurred.

* Current & Pending Support

The proposal should summarize all current extramural support and other pending applications of the PI(s), including the application under development. This information should include sources of support, project titles, periods, and budget amounts.

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Grant/Contract Transmittal Form

All proposals for extramural or UW System/WiSys funding must be accompanied by a UWL Grant/Contract Transmittal Form. The form assures that appropriate officials review and approve each proposal in accordance with university, sponsor, and other applicable policies and regulations. It also provides the basic UWL record of the processing transaction.

Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI)

To ensure compliance with federal regulations, before submission, all applications for federal funding require all PIs and co-PI to complete a significant financial interest (SFI) disclosure form.

If applying to a Public Health Service (PHS) agency (e.g., NIH), there is an additional FCOI training and assessment requirement for all investigators. As defined by PHS, investigators may extend beyond a project's PIs and co-PIs to include students, subrecipients, consultants, and/or other collaborators. Refer to the Determination of Investigator Status Checklist for help determining who may constitute an investigator on a particular project. There are also FCOI requirements for external collaborators named in PHS agency applications. Refer to the UWL FCOI policy website for further information. 

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

All PIs submitting a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or US Department of Agriculture (USDA) with students engaged in the project must complete an RCR Student Training Plan Form before submission. Theform outlines the PI's plan for fulfilling student training obligations. Students engaged in NSF or USDA funded projects, whether paid or unpaid, are required to receive training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). The UWL RCR Policy for Federal Agencies details the specific training requirements for each agency and provides information on how to access online RCR training modules. 

On-Campus Deadlines

The PI/PD should allow sufficient time for on-campus review, processing, and approval of proposals. The UWL Grant Submission Timeline & Checklist outlines the minimum required deadlines for routing materials to an applicant's department chair/unit director, college dean/division director, and the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs.

Review and Approval

Each proposal for extramural support must be approved by the department chair or unit director, the college dean or division director, and the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs before it is submitted to the funding agency. Proposals that involve more than one department/unit, school or college/division, or UW System campus must be reviewed by appropriate officials of each. Proposals that involve animal use; toxic, infectious, or carcinogenic/mutagenic material; recombinant DNA technology; or human subjects or tissue must be approved by the appropriate university compliance committees.

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Principal Investigator/Project Director

The terms "Principal Investigator" (PI) and "Project Director" (PD) are often used interchangeably to designate an individual who has the responsibility for seeing that proposals are submitted and that sponsored projects are carried out in compliance with the terms, conditions, and policies of both the funding agency and UWL, including the submission of all required narrative and technical reports.

A project is generally conceived of and carried out by the PI/PD, who manages the funds entrusted to them to meet the project goals. As the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of a project, the PI/PD must be alert to both university and funding agency requirements.

Department Chair or Unit Director

The department chairperson or unit director shall:

  • review the proposal to assure that faculty and staff time commitments are reasonable and compatible with department workloads, present and planned;
  • determine that the percentages of time and the salaries are accurate; and
  • agree that the space, facility, and service requirements are within the department's present capability if not specifically provided for in the proposal.

College Dean or Division Director

The college dean or division director shall review the proposal for completeness and to confirm that:

  • space, services, and support requirements have been adequately provided for;
  • responsibility will be accepted for assuring the availability of cost sharing promised in the proposal; and
  • the project budget, salary rates, job titles, classifications, and committed effort are reasonable and appropriate.

In addition, it should be ascertained to what degree this proposal will commit the college or school to long-term support of project personnel or to a program which may evolve from the project.

Director of Research & Sponsored Programs

Under a policy revision passed by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, the chancellor or their designee(s) can enter into grant and contract arrangements on behalf of the institution. As the chancellor's designated representative, the Director of Research & Sponsored Programs shall review the proposal for compatibility with the appropriate university plans, policies, and regulations as well as for conformity with agency requirements and policies.

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Acceptance of the Award

After a proposal has been approved for support and an award is granted, official notification is usually sent from the funding agency to the chancellor's office or the designee and the PI/PD. In all cases, official acceptance of funds is required. In the case of grants and contracts, the chancellor or their designee provides the official signature of acceptance. When a grant award becomes official, the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs formally acknowledges it and forwards a letter to the post award grant accountant, who assigns the UWL account number and administers post award financial activities.

Administrative Responsibilities

The PI/PD, operating within the policies of UWL and assisted by appropriate university administrative offices and officials, is responsible for the day-to-day administration and direction of an approved project. The PI/PD will be furnished a copy of the grant or contract document for reference. In order to effectively discharge their primary responsibility, the PI/PD should be cognizant of all contract or grant provisions and give special attention to those pertaining to budget limitations, patents/inventions and copyrights, safety and security, research compliance, and required reports.

It is expected that the PI/PD will maintain close liaison with the cognizant dean/division director, Office of Research & Sponsored Programs, and grant accountant in order to apprise them of developments requiring deviation from the initial budget or from other terms and conditions of the approved grant or contract. They must be furnished copies of, and in most cases countersign, all administrative correspondence between the PI/PD and the sponsor.


A separate accounting report is established for each UWL grant or contract account number, and all financial transactions, such as budget receipts, encumbrances, payments, and balances, will be recorded on this ledger. The PI/PD is expected to keep sufficient records in his/her own department to control all expenditures, including budget items (e.g., travel) which may not be exceeded without sponsor approval. Some grants require supplementary records, and these are defined in the grant or contract document or in published agency regulations. The grant accountant should be consulted to determine current and accurate funds remaining for budget line items.

Budget Modification

Supporting agencies have specific requirements for and restrictions on deviation from the approved project budget. The PI/PD is responsible for complying with such regulations. See UWL's Post Award Modifications guidelines for the types of budget modifications requiring prior university and agency approval, and for the required on-campus documentation, review, and approval processes.

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Carryover of Funding

Sponsoring agencies and organizations have different rules regarding funds that are unspent at the end of a budget period in a multi-year grant. PIs/PDs should find out what their sponsor requires so as not to jeopardize the use of these funds. Generally, a formal request must be submitted to the sponsor, via the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs, with an explanation of why the residual exists and how it will be used during the next budget period.

No-Cost Extension

Requests to extend the award termination date without additional funds (no-cost extension) should be sent to the sponsor through the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs. See UWL's Post Award Modifications guidelines for the required on-campus documentation, review, and approval processes. Note that sponsors have deadlines required for submitting no-cost extension requests; PIs/PDs are responsible for following those requirements and UWL's required timeline.

Supplemental Funds

Requests for supplemental funds should be treated as a mini-proposal. A budget showing how the funds will be spent and an explanation of why they are needed and relevant to the research must be included in the request. Before the request can be submitted to the sponsor, a UWL Grant/Contract Transmittal Form must be routed to document review and approval by the appropriate department chair/unit director, college dean/division director, and Office of Research & Sponsored Programs.

Project Changes

A number of post award modifications require a sponsor's prior approval before carrying out, such as:

  • Budget modifications when total funding previously awarded is reduced or increased, significant revisions are needed (i.e., those requiring a sponsor's prior approval), or funds are reallocated from participant support
  • No-cost extensions when additional time is needed to meet a project’s objectives with no additional funding 
  • Award transfers from or to another institution
  • Changes to project’s PI, scope, objectives, or personnel effort 
  • Other modifications requiring a sponsor’s prior approval

Refer to the UWL Post Award Modifications guidelines for information about the required documentation, timelines, and review & approval processes for each modification type.

Care should be taken to charge the project for all approved expenses incurred. The fact that this may require additional paperwork (e.g., a separate order to Central Stores or a vendor) is no reason to avoid the practice and thus load the regular department budget or other extramural projects with inappropriate or unnecessary charges.

Purchasing Procedures

All regular university purchasing policies must be followed when purchasing with grant monies. If you are unaware of purchasing procedures, check with your department chair/unit director, college dean/division director, purchasing department, your department administrative support, or the grant accountant.


The PI/PD is responsible for complying with all technical and scholarly report requirements and filing deadlines as specified by the sponsor and/or UWL. When required by the sponsoring agency, auditable financial reports will be prepared by the grant accountant in conjunction with the PI/PD.

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Salaries and wages must be administered in accordance with state and university personnel and compensation rules and regulations. PI/PDs should be familiar with the faculty, academic staff, and university staff rules and regulations, current policies for employees-in-training and student hourly help, and federal work study procedures. Contact Human Resources for details on personnel policies and hiring. Federal grants require compliance with federal anti-discrimination statutes.


The state and UW System travel regulations govern reimbursement for travel performed with project funds. UW TravelWise  should be consulted for current policies and rates for travel costs such as airfare, car rental, mileage reimbursement lodging, and meals & incidentals.


Permanent equipment purchased from project funds is owned by either UWL or the sponsor, depending upon the terms of the grant or contract. In either case, the PI/PD is responsible for such equipment and must account for all items periodically and at the close of the project. Equipment purchased with extramural funds must be entered into the UWL inventory system.

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Changes in Research Plan

Major changes in the research plan that constitute a redirection of the statement of work included in the original proposal must be discussed in advance with and approved by the sponsor. Before submission of such a proposal to the sponsor, a Post Award Modifications Form with required documentation must be routed for institutional review and approval. Refer to the UWL Post Award Modifications guidelines for the required timeline, documentation, and processes.

Changes in PI/PD

Whenever an individual is unable to continue serving as a PI/PD on an extramural project, university and sponsor approval is required before a new PI/PD can be designated. Refer to the UWL Post Award Modifications guidelines for the required timeline, documentation, and processes.

Transfer of Grant to Another Institution

When a PI/PD is terminating their association with UWL and requests a transfer of their extramural support to another university, specific approval must be obtained from both UWL  administration and the sponsor. Refer to the UWL Post Award Modifications guidelines for the required timeline, documentation, and processes.

Program Income

Federal regulations require that UWL report to the sponsor any program income related to projects funded in whole or in part with federal funds. It is therefore important that income generated from the sale of goods and/or services be re-deposited to the source of funds paying the costs of the sale. These regulations also require prior agency approval before expending income generated from grant/contract activities. Sales and income is a complex area that should be discussed with UWL Business Office if extramural funds are involved.

Time and Effort Certification

Under federal guidelines, appointment letters, payroll records, etc., are not sufficient documentation to certify expended effort on an externally funded project: often a separate document, the Time and Effort Certification Form, signed and dated by the individual having first-hand knowledge of 100% of the employee's activities, both sponsored and non-sponsored, is required. These forms are sent to PI/PDs after every payroll period--monthly for faculty and academic staff and bi-monthly for university staff.

Restrictions of Publication and Proprietary Information

It is the policy of UWL that the results of research shall be fully communicated; accordingly, UWL does not engage in classified research and will not agree to grant or contract provisions that restrict the right of a UWL employee to publish, release, or otherwise share findings derived from the sponsored activities. UWL does recognize that some research may require access to proprietary data. As a consequence, it will permit the sponsor of the research an opportunity to review materials prior to publication and to request changes in order to protect proprietary data. The final decision on whether to publish, however, remains with the researcher; the right of review by the sponsor does not contain a corresponding right of approval. In addition, this review period is not to exceed 90 days.

Although UWL will agree to receive proprietary information and will exercise best efforts to maintain the confidentiality of this information, it insists such proprietary information be restricted to that which is absolutely necessary for the research. It must be clearly marked as "proprietary" at the time it is received by UWL. Proposed exceptions to this policy, including the negotiation of contracts or agreements covering classified research in the national interest, must be approved by the cognizant dean or director and the chancellor or their designee.

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