Sponsored Projects Office (SPO)

MSC09 5220
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Physical Location:
1650 University Blvd NE
Second Floor, Suite 2200

Phone: (505) 272-6264
Fax: (505) 272-0159

Q & A

The following are tips on submitting proposals from Stacy Bigbie - Associate Director, Sponsored Projects.  These are tips that have been gleaned from decades of submitting proposals, and are good things to keep in mind when writing your proposal.  The top three tips are:

  • Ask lots of questions -- we are here to help you!
  • Check this website frequently for policy updates.
  • Comply, comply, comply!

See below for additional tips from Stacy...

Using Supplies As a Direct Cost

OMB A-21 J.31.a states "Costs incurred for materials, supplies and fabricated parts necessary to carry out a sponsored agreement are allowable."

OMB A-21 J.31.c states "Only materials and supplies actually used for the performance of a sponsored agreement may be charged as direct cost."

If using supplies that directly support a grant, you must distinguish in the budget justification how it will specifically support the scope of work. This is what separates it from F&A for general purpose supplies.


What not to do:

1 Box of #2 pencils – Justification: To write with.

(This example would be classified as ‘general purpose’ and not allowed as a direct charge. The Government would tell you that this should be treated as part of F&A.)
OMB A-21 F.6.b.(3) states "Items such as office supplies, postage, local telephone costs, and memberships shall normally be treated as F&A costs."

What will be allowable:

1 Box of #2 pencils – Justification: Pencils will be passed out to the study participants when they complete the bubble sheet questionnaires that will be completed in the Aim #3 study regarding surveying teenagers on why they prefer texting to talking on the phone. The #2 pencils are an integral part of this research and must be used with the bubble sheets, and will only be used to further the aims of this grant.

Find The Correct Study Section

Use the Cover Letter to Indicate to NIH Which Study Section would be Best to Review Your Grant Application

Wondering which NIH Institute or Study Section to suggest for your NIH application? The "LikeThis" tool could help you.

Principal Investigators, if you are considering which NIH Institute and study section to list as a preference in your cover letter, this tool can help.

LikeThis is available as a link in eRA Commons once you log in.

You can enter scientific text from your grant application (the data remains confidential) to find similar grants, including the name of the NIH funding Institute as well as a list of the study sections where these were reviewed.

Alternatively, you can access your previously funded or unfunded grants from the ‘My Applications’ tab to find similarly funded grants.

Steps for locating Institute and Study Section in similar grants, using LikeThis:

  1. Log in to eRA Commons: https://commons.era.nih.gov/commons/
  2. From the home page, click on the link for LikeThis (under Additional Links on the right side of the screen.)
  3. Click on the ‘LikeThis’ graphic to enter the system.
  4. You will see two tabs: My Scientific Text or My Applications.
  5. On the Scientific Text tab, enter a title in Proposed Project Title. This field is optional.
  6. Enter or paste scientific text into the Scientific Description/Scientific Aims text box.
  7. Click Submit.
  8. The system displays a listing of similar funded projects and publications, as well as scientific terms, on separate tabs.

If you want to locate similar grants using your own applications or grants:

On the My Applications tab, locate the application for which you want to view similar funded projects and publications. Select the LikeThis link in the corresponding LikeThis column. Applications from fiscal year 2007 onwards appear on the list.

Note that this is a sampling of the possibilities with this tool. To find out more, go to the Overview, User Guide and FAQs.

Computing Devices

Computing Devices – A computing device is a supply if it does not meet the equipment capitalization threshold of $5,000.
Materials and Supplies – For computing devices, charging as a direct cost is allowable for devices that are essential and allocable, but not solely dedicated, to the performance of a Federal Award.

Budget Justification Example - COMPUTER:
$2000 will be needed for a desk top computer, monitor and printer, which will be essential for the new Program Manager to perform key grant functions, including scheduling, data management and project tracking for this grant. The desk top printer is essential, to ensure confidentiality of printed core statistics on subjects.

Key to justification, the justification allocates it to a specific person and task and describes why it is essential to the grant.

This Definition Affects Part E: Cost Principles, in the Uniform Guidance

Questions and answers regarding starting a proposal.

How Do I Start Preparing a Proposal?

A successful proposal starts with a thorough understanding of the needs, interests, and requirements of the sponsor. Be sure to use the current guidelines and forms (See our Links to Funding Agencies page). If you have any questions after reading the sponsor's guidelines, our Sponsored Projects Office staff will be happy to assist you.

What Is The Difference Between a Grant And a Contract?

A grant provides for the transfer of the sponsor's money (and/or property or services) to a recipient in order to accomplish a public purpose. The idea for the work originates with the recipient or performer and no substantial involvement is anticipated between the sponsor and the recipient. The performer defines the details and retains scientific freedom. A contract is a procurement mechanism for the purpose of acquiring services and/or property for the direct benefit or use of the sponsor. Typically, the idea for a contract originates with the sponsor. A cooperative agreement is somewhere along a spectrum between a grant and a contract. The idea may originate with the recipient; however, substantial involvement with the sponsor is anticipated.

What Is The Difference Between a Grant And a Gift?

UPDATED: 1/17/2017

A gift, donation, or charitable contribution requires nothing in return. It does not require a Financial Report or return of unspent funds. Gifts to not involve cost reimbursement. Gifts never come from Federal or State funds. The source a gift often requests a Charitable Donation Form for their tax accounting purposes. The UNM Foundation, a 501(c)3 non profit corporation owned by the Regents of the University of New Mexico, manages gifts. Additional information can be found here. The Foundation's Fund Establishment Form can be found here.

What Is The Difference Between Cost Reimbursement, Fixed Price, and Fee for Service?

There are a number of ways that sponsors may choose to fund projects - a number of different ways that a sponsor may be billed. Cost Reimbursement provides for reimbursement of actual costs incurred, plus some agreed upon reimbursement of the indirect costs of facilities and administration (F&A). This method is commonly used in situations such as basic research where the cost of project is difficult to predict. Under a Cost Reimbursement agreement, the recipient has little incentive to minimize costs, so the sponsor typically imposes tight controls over expenses, such as detailed financial reporting. When costs can be estimated reasonably accurately, fixed price may be a more convenient method.  Under a fixed price agreement, the sponsor pays a specified price for work that has been specified in the agreement.  Under a fixed price contract, the sponsor makes regular payments on a schedule.  A fee for service agreement provides for specified payment(s) for specified deliverable(s) and is useful when a particular service is provided multiple times such as in clinical trials or other clinical services.  Fee for service and fixed price projects may be easier to administer because the sponsor does not typically require detailed financial reporting, but care must be taken to negotiate a price that covers the full cost of providing the work, including F&A costs.

What Do I Need To Know About Negotiating With a Sponsor?

PIs, chairpersons, deans, directors, and other faculty or staff are not authorized to enter into agreements or contracts, except as designated in UNM Business Policies and Procedures Manual (UNM BPPM), Policy 2010 - Contract Signature Authority and Review. Since a proposal is an offer to perform research,  services, etc., in exchange for institutional review and approval, care should be taken when dealing with potential sponsors so they do not mistake preliminary discussions for institutional commitments. In preliminary proposals or discussions with a prospective sponsor regarding the budget, remember to consider F&A costs and the costs of employee fringe benefits. These are real costs that need to be included in the budget.

Who Is Eligible To Serve As a Principal Investigator On a Proposal?

In the School of Medicine, only faculty members can serve as PIs on sponsored projects. Any exceptions need to be approved by SOM Office of Research. Outside of the School of Medicine, anyone may serve as PI on a sponsored project, with Their Dean's Approval. Click here for additional information on who can be a PI.

What Are The PI's Responsibilities?

The principal investigator is responsible for adhering to the sponsor's terms and conditions and UNM policies and procedures, completing the technical requirements of the project, and handling the day-to-day administration of the project as proposed to the sponsor.

Can There Be More Than One Principal Investigator On a Proposal?

A single member of the faculty is designated as the lead PI. Some agencies do not recognize more than one Principal Investigator, but Co-PIs are permitted by many funding agencies. Recently, the NIH has piloted a multi-PI program for collaborations among different institutions. A single person, however, assumes the responsibilities of the PI, even when some of those responsibilities are delegated to a Co-PI.

What Agencies Fall Under Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS)?

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • Administration on Aging
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Questions and answers regarding submitting a proposal.

What Approvals Are Required For Proposal Submission?

Approvals from the PI’s Department, Division Chair or designee will be required when a record is routed through the Click system. In the rare  case that institutional support is a part of the proposal, either 1.) a Cost Share Commitment Form must be signed by the PI's departmental accountant, the PI's Department or  division Chair, and the Vice Chancellor for Research , or  2.) an Institutional Commitment letter signed by the Chancellor, before bringing the proposal  to Pre-Award.

What Other Approvals Might Be Required?

For projects involving human subjects, contact the Human Research Review Committee. For projects involving animal subjects, see The Office of Animal research Ethics, Care, and Compliance (OARECC). For projects involving recombinant DNA, see the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). For projects involving  export control, see the HSC Export Control Office.  The Financial Services Division (FSD) has the authority to sign agreements for sponsored  projects. The Vice Chancellor For Research has authority to sign  material transfer agreements and confidentiality agreements.  A designated authority for other types of agreements between UNM and outside entities can be found in the UNM BPPM, Policy 2010.

What Do I Need To Send To Pre-Award?

All information on the proposal will be uploaded into the Click system.

Upload a copy of the complete proposal, a copy of the sponsor request for proposal, funding opportunity announcement,  or application instructions (or URL) into the Click record

If the project involves a contract, upload a copy of the contract and sponsor contact information into Click.

If the project is a research project and/or involves humans or  animals, Conflict of Interest records will be created automatically in the Click system.

If the project is a clinical trial, also upload a copy of the protocol into Click

If the project involves Veteran  Administration personnel or facilities, also upload a copy of the relevant VAMOU.

If the project is a sub-award of federal funds from UNMHSC to a sub-awardee, upload a copy of the sub-awardee's federally negotiated rate agreement (or link).

If the project involves cost sharing, send signed Cost Share Commitment Form(s).

When Do I Need To Submit The Proposal to Pre-Award?

The proposal and other materials must clear the "Department Review" state and move to the "SPO Review" state in Click no less than 5 business days prior to the last day that the sponsor will accept proposals (the sponsor's deadline). For electronic proposals to NIH, the proposal and other materials must clear "Department Review" state no less than 10 business days prior to the last day that NIH will accept proposals (the NIH deadline).

Why does Pre-Award Need So Much Time?

With any contract or grant, UNMHSC and the PI are exposed to risk associated with an obligation to comply with federal and state laws and regulations as well as the terms and conditions of the sponsor. Pre-Award is responsible for minimizing this risk to UNMHSC and the PI by negotiating reasonable terms and conditions.

In addition to minimizing risk, Pre-Award can assist the PI by catching errors, thereby improving the quality of the proposal. Furthermore, Pre-Award is usually in the process of reviewing many proposals simultaneously for the same deadline. In addition to proposal review and contract negotiation, Pre-Award is also responsible for processing awards and assisting department staff.

Pre-Award proposal review includes, at a minimum, the following activities:

  • Review Click record and COI forms- obtain clarification and correction as needed.
  • Review sponsor's proposed terms and conditions.
  • Compare proposal to sponsor's guidelines (content and format)
  • Review budget details (calculations, F&A rates, cost-sharing)
  • Record potential compliance issues (e.g., human/animal subjects, health and safety)
  • Ensure that any representations or certifications that the sponsor requires are attached.
  • Contact, advise, and support PI regarding errors, unusual risks, and other issues to be addressed.

Can I Start Work On The Project Before The Funds Are Awarded?

The PI may request permission to spend a specified amount of money during a specified period against a contract or grant account prior to the receipt of an executed award by submitting a Request to Spend Funds Form.

What If I Am Late With My Proposal?

Late proposals may be expedited with a waiver from the Vice Chancellor for Research. For instructions regarding requesting a waiver, see our Late Submission Waivers policy. When a late proposal is expedited, PIs who submitted their proposals on time may have to wait while the late proposal is reviewed. In any case, the technical part of the proposal may be updated during the Pre-Award review process.

Who Needs To Sign a COI Form?

If the project is a research project and/or involves humans or animals, COI records must be completed in Click by each individual who may affect the project design, conduct, data analysis, or data interpretation.

Why Do COI Records Need to be Completed At The Time a Proposal Is Submitted?

Not only is this procedure a requirement of some sponsor agencies, it allows ample time for the Conflict of Interest Committee to review potential conflicts and develop plans to manage them before the award is received.

What Is a PI Org Code?

The PI org code is a six digit code assigned to the PI by the department. The first three digits match the department org code and the fourth digit is typically a letter.  Using the correct PI org code ensures that the correct PI's name appears in reports regarding proposals and awards.

How Do Proposals And Awards Get Reported To The School of Medicine Faculty Activity Database (FAD)?

Your Click record is the sole source of this information, so be sure to list all or your Co-PIs there. Pre-Award sends a Quarterly feed to the FAD.

What Is A Request For Just-In-Time Information?


This is a standard notice and request for information from all principal investigators with grant applications receiving an impact score of 40 or less (regardless of the IC's payline) which reflects NIH's current tightened paylines and new impact scoring system.  This notice is a request for Just-In-Time (JIT) information.  NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) have varying paylines and funding strategies that determine which grants will be funded.

If a decision is made to fund this application, the assigned IC will need the following information PRIOR to making an award.

  • Current Other Support:  Provide active support information for all individuals designated in an application as senior/key personnel -- those devoting measurable effort to a project.  Other support includes all financial resources, whether Federal, non-Federal, commercial or institutional, available in direct support of an individual's research endeavors, including but not limited to research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and/or institutional awards.  Training awards, prizes or gifts are not included.  There is no form page for providing other support, although sample format pages are available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/othersupport.doc and http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/othersupport.pdf. Note that effort devoted to projects must be measured in person-months.
    • For all senior/key personnel, provide details on how you would adjust any budgetary, scientific, or effort overlap if this application is funded.
    • For Career Development Award applications, information on all active support for the candidate, sponsor(s), co-sponsor(s), and key personnel may be requested by the awarding component prior to award.
  • Certifications:
    • IACUC Approval Date:  If the proposed project involves research using live vertebrate animals, the verification date of IACUC approval along with any IACUC-imposed changes must be submitted.  Pending or out-of-date approvals are not acceptable.
    • IRB Approval Date:  If the proposed project involves human subjects research, the certification date of IRB review and approval must be submitted.  Pending or out-of-date approvals are not acceptable.

How Do I Request A Timeline Extension For My Proposal?

For submitting proposals to Pre-Award administration less than 5 work days before the funding agencies deadline (or 10 work days for NIH electronic submissions)

  • The PI must formally request a waiver from the decision-maker, Dr. Richard Larson, SOM Associate Dean for Research, (or the College of Pharmacy (COP)/College of Nursing (CON) Dean, as appropriate).  The Pre-Award team member will not request the waiver on behalf of the PI.  The waiver must be in writing (or via e-mail) from the PI (or Chair), and must state the REASON why the timeline could not be adhered to.  Include the name of the sponsor and the proposed dollar amount and number of years or funding.
  • The decision-maker will separately contact the Pre-Award staff member who will provide their given workload, overtime availability, and information regarding the complexity of the type of proposal, etc.
  • The decision-maker will make a decision based the above criteria, and communicate it back to all parties.  The Pre-Award staff may not proceed until approval is given by the Office of Research, CON/COP Dean.
  • To have Dr. Larson paged in an emergency, call the Office of Research at 272-6950.  In an emergency for CON or COP, please contact the COP Dean's office at 272-3241 or the CON Dean's office at 272-6284.

Questions and answers regarding proposal budgets.

How Do I Estimate Salaries And Fringe Benefits?

Salaries and fringe benefits increase over time.  For your convenience, a worksheet is provided with instructions.  Fringe benefits may be calculated in two different ways; the worksheet uses Method #2.  Whichever method is selected must be used throughout the entire proposed budget.  If the amount estimated for salaries and fringe benefits does not prove to cover actual expenses incurred, it will be necessary to re-budget during the project.  Note that some sponsors set a maximum annual salary above which they will not reimburse.

How Do I Estimate Patient Care Costs?

Patient care costs include the costs of routine and ancillary services provided by hospitals to individuals, including patients and volunteers, participating in research programs. “Routine services” include the regular room services, minor medical and surgical supplies, and the use of equipment and facilities for which a separate charge is not customarily made. “Ancillary services” are those special services for which charges are customarily made in addition to routine services, e.g. x-ray, operating room, laboratory, pharmacy, blood bank, and pathology.

The following costs are not classified as patient care costs:

  • items of personal expense reimbursement, such as patient travel
  • consulting physician fees
  • any other direct payments to individuals, including inpatients, outpatients, subjects, volunteers, and donors.

Such costs should be included in other categories of the budget.

What Is F&A And How Do I Calculate It?

Facilities and Administration (F&A) costs are actual costs that UNM HSC incurs that are not easily attributable to a specific project.  Facility costs include utilities, maintenance, custodial costs, non-capital improvements, interest expense, library costs, building depreciation, and equipment depreciation. Administrative costs include student services, financial management and business services, and departmental administration.  Costs that are readily attributable to a specific project are called Direct Costs.  See UNM Business Policies and Procedures Manual, Policy #2425 – Recovery of Facilities and Administrative Costs.

To enable UNM HSC to pay F&A costs, each sponsor is required to reimburse F&A expenses as a percentage of the Direct Cost of a project.  A set of F&A rates have been negotiated by UNM with federal and New Mexico state agencies.  As the federal government is our most important sponsor, non-governmental sponsors are not offered a lower rate.  At UNM HSC, our actual cost of F&A is over 54%.

The F&A Rate Base refers to the costs to which the rate is applied.  Federal sponsors will not pay F&A costs on certain items, so the Base - called Modified Direct Total Cost - is the Total Direct Cost minus the costs of excluded items.  For all other sponsors, the Base is Total Direct Cost.  The amount of F&A cost is calculated as the Base multiplied by the F&A Rate.  The Total Cost of a project is calculated as the Direct Cost plus the F&A cost.

What Kinds of Costs Are Excluded When Calculating Modified Total Direct Costs?

When calculating Modified Total Direct Costs, the cost of patient care, IRB fees, student tuition must be excluded.  Equipment or computer hardware that costs over $5000 must be excluded.  In addition, the cost of sub-awards must be excluded after the first $25,000.  That is, only the first $25,000 of a sub-award is included in the Base.  For reference, the excluded categories of costs are colored yellow on the Award Budget Sheet.

What If The Sponsor Will Not Pay Full F&A?

Not-for-profit foundations may have written guidelines that state they will not pay F&A costs or that they will pay only a reduced amount, and some federal agencies have special programs that mandate reduced F&A rates. For example, US Department of Education training grants allow only 8% of the modified total direct costs, and National Science Foundation REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) supplements allow only 25% of the student stipend amount. Projects with New Mexico state and local governments have traditionally been at a reduced rate.  In order to submit a proposal with less than the full F&A rate, written approval is required.  Send a request for waiver of F&A for signature to the Vice Chancellor for Research, HSC and include the signed request with your submission to Pre-Award.

Are There Limits On The Kinds Of Items For Which a Federal Agency Will Reimburse?

Federal agencies reimburse “allowable” expenses incurred by the project.  To be “allowable,” the cost must be: Reasonable (a prudent business person would have purchased this item and paid this price), Allocable (it can be assigned to the project on some reasonable basis), and Consistently Treated (similar costs are handled the same way within the project and across projects).  General purpose supplies, equipment, and computers that are not directly allocable to the project are not direct costs and may be allowable as an F&A cost.  If allocable, allowable direct costs may include material and supplies, equipment, travel, communications, publications, animal care costs, human subjects costs, shop charges, maintenance/service contracts, photographic services, rental/lease of facilities, and construction/renovation costs.  If you have a specific question regarding a particular expense, your Post-Award Fiscal Monitor will be happy to assist you.

Can I Request Administrative or Clerical Salaries?

Direct charging of these costs may be appropriate only if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity;
  • Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity;
  • Such costs are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the federal awarding agency; and
  • The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

Budget Justification Example – Admin Salaries:
Barney Fife, Admin Assistant II, 3 CM. Mr. Fife is responsible for the monthly mailing of survey cards to the study subjects, following up, then entering the data into the master database. This is an essential & integral task under this study, and it is a time consuming task, but accumulation of 500 New Mexico participant opinions is critical to Aim 2. This portion of Mr. Fife’s effort is not part of general administrative costs in UNM’s F&A Rate Agreement.

Key to Justification is to demonstrate all four elements: Integral, Specific, Explicit in Budget, Not F&A

Can I Request Food Or Alcohol On a Proposal To a Federal Agency?

Yes, but only in rare cases when directly required to conduct the project.  Alcohol and tobacco expenses may be justified for research about the effects of such substances, but probably not otherwise.  Any request for food made to a federal agency must include a detailed justification.

What Is Cost Sharing?

Cost sharing is the portion of the cost of a project that is not funded by the sponsor.  Other terms for cost sharing are matching funds, institutional commitment, or in-kind contributions.  A cost sharing commitment is often met with employee services valued at regular pay plus fringe benefits, but may also be met with cash (unrestricted accounts), third party contributions, un-recovered F&A costs, services or property valued with applicable cost principles, volunteer services, donated supplies at reasonable and fair market value.  In any case, federal accounting requirements state that all such costs must be allowable and documented.  Proposals with cost sharing must include a completed Cost Share Commitment form along with the Proposal Data Sheet. The form lists the specific sources of funding for the cost sharing and must be signed by the authorized signature for each account being committed.

What Is Program Income?

Program income is income received as a result of conducting the sponsored project.  Examples include conference fees, sale of materials such as videos, books, proceedings, and software.  Most contract and grant awards have regulations or guidelines related to the treatment of program income.  Federal agencies allow recipients to retain and use program income to further the project objectives by either adding to the award or deducting from the costs charged to the sponsor.  Typically program income will be additive until $25,000 is earned then deductive thereafter.  There is no obligation to the federal government for program income earned after the end of the project, such as from license fees and royalties.

Questions and answers regarding no-cost extensions.

How Do I Initiate a No-Cost Extension?

Either request it through workflow, or ask your pre-award representative.