Proposal Development

ORPA plays a key role in proposal development, whether you are planning a new project or seeking to continue a prior award. Our grant and contract administration team offers detail-oriented guidance and support, with insight into the preparation of budgets, compliance with sponsor and University guidelines, and the submission of complete proposals. The best way to position your project for success is to submit all required documentation as early as possible. Princeton ERA's multi-prong approach permits the researcher to continue to develop the project narrative while the balance of the proposal sections are "locked-down" for review and approval by ORPA.  Please note that ORPA requires a final proposal to be routed for approval through Princeton ERA a minimum of five business days before the sponsor deadline to permit the best opportunity for review and guidance.   

Proposal Considerations

PI Eligibility

The University sets guidelines regarding who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) on a Sponsored Research Project. Visit the Dean for Research website for complete details.

Princeton ERA Proposal Submission System

ORPA uses a centralized proposal submission system, known as Princeton ERA, to route proposals for internal, and where available, external sponsor approval. Complete project documents, including your Statement of Work, PI certification, Subrecipient Collaboration forms, etc., must be uploaded to the system to initiate review by your ORPA grant and contract administrator.

Additionally, many sponsors require that documentation be submitted via their proprietary system. Visit our Sponsors page to learn more.


Gift vs. Grant

At times, it may be difficult to discern if a sponsor award is a gift or a grant. This is complicated by the fact that some sponsors use the words gift and grant interchangeably. Presence of the following indicates that the award is most likely a grant if

  • The sponsor requires financial or technical reporting;
  • The project includes specific deliverables; or
  • The award contains terms and conditions.

If you are unsure, reach out to your Departmental Contact for assistance.


In certain cases, portions of a sponsored research project may be conducted by an organization or researcher not affiliated with Princeton. These are considered subawards, which should be fully documented as part of your proposal and should include formal documentation of commitment from the partnering institution.

At this stage, the ORPA Grant and Contract Administration team is your primary point of contact. Please contact them if you have any questions regarding the required documentation from a collaborator.

Non-Funded Agreements

Non-funded agreements are contractual obligations that do not include funding. These may include the following:

  • Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs)
  • Data access agreements
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Memoranda of understanding

Similar to a funded proposal, these kinds of agreements are reviewed and submitted by ORPA through the Princeton ERA Agreements module.

NIH Biosketch and Other Support

Background - NOT-OD-21-073 and NOT-OD-21-110

The National Institutes of Health issued notices NOT-OD-21-073 (March 12, 2021) and  NOT-OD-21-110 (April 28, 2021) which communicate significant changes to guidance relating to:

  • Biographical Sketches
  • Other Support
  • Just-in-Time (JIT) Requests
  • Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs)

Beginning on May 25, 2021, the NIH is encouraging applicants and recipients to adopt use the updated Biosketch and Other Support format pages in all submissions, including proposals, JIT requests and RPPRs.  It is important to note that during the transition to the new forms and processes (i.e., between late May 2021 and late January 2022), NIH has stated that it will not withdraw/reject applications that do not observe the above-referenced changes, though it is Princeton's understanding that NIH has reserved the option to follow up on materials submitted to enforce the changes. Currently, the extent to which the NIH will do this is unclear. 

Based on feedback from the national research community, the NIH will not make these changes a requirement until January 25, 2022, however the NIH has stated that failure to follow the appropriate formats on or after January 25, 2022 may cause the withdrawal of applications from, or delay consideration of funding.  

NIH continues to promise clarifications and FAQs (Biosketch FAQ, Other Support FAQ) that will help applicants and awardees implement these changes over the next several months.

The extent to which these kinds of changes will be adopted by other federal sponsors is presently unclear.

Updates regarding these changes will be shared as the NIH and federal guidance becomes clearer and as Princeton continues to refine our institutional plan to implement the guidance.

The Office of the Dean of the Faculty (DOF) and the Dean for Research (DFR) offices (including ORPA and RIA) will work with researchers and staff  to guide them on these changes as well as help respond to any NIH requests for additional information after proposals, JIT requests and RPPR progress reports submitted on or after May 25, 2021.  

Please contact your ORPA GCA if any questions arise.

Additionally, on May 18, 2021 the NIH released notice NOT-OD-21-122 announcing the creation a new email inbox for inquiries related to changes to the Biographical Sketch and Other Support format page.  This email is



The NIH Biosketch Guidance applies to ALL senior/key personnel and other significant contributors.  All researchers in these roles must submit a biographical sketch at the time of proposal submission. 

Please review the related FAQ's frequently as they are consistently updated by the NIH.

Format changes include:

  • Section A - Personal Statement has been updated to require:
    • Briefly describe why you are well-suited for your role(s) in this project. Relevant factors may include: aspects of your training; your previous experimental work on this specific topic or related topics; your technical expertise; your collaborators or scientific environment; and/or your past performance in this or related fields, including ongoing and completed research projects from the past three years that you want to draw attention to (previously known as research support).
  • Section B - 'Positions and Honors' has been renamed 'Positions, Scientific Appointments, and Honors'.
    • List in reverse chronological order all positions and scientific appointments both domestic and foreign, including affiliations with foreign entities or governments. This includes titled academic, professional, or institutional appointments whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).  For individuals who are not currently located at the applicant organization, include the expected position at the applicant organization and the expected start date.  High school students and undergraduates may include any previous positions.
  • Section D  - 'Scholastic Performance' has been updated:
    • to remove ‘Research Support’. Section D is solely present on the fellowship version of the Biosketch, and no longer includes research support, only Scholastic Performance

Please note, applicants and recipients remain responsible for disclosing all research endeavors regardless of the version of the forms used. Therefore, if applicants and recipients choose not to use the updated format pages before they are required, applicants and recipients must still capture all the necessary information.



Other Support

The NIH Other Support format includes all resources made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value and regardless of whether they are based at the institution the researcher identifies for the current grant.

Please review the related FAQs frequently as they are consistently updated by the NIH.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Resources and/or financial support from all foreign and domestic entities, that are available to the researcher.
    • This includes but is not limited to, financial support for laboratory personnel, and provision of high-value materials that are not freely available (e.g., biologics, chemical, model systems, technology, etc.).
    • Institutional resources, such as core facilities or shared equipment that are made broadly available, should not be included in Other Support, but rather listed under Facilities and Other Resources.
  • Consulting agreements, when the PD/PI or other senior/key personnel will be conducting research as part of the consulting activities.
    • Non-research consulting activities are not Other Support.
  • In-kind contributions, e.g. office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, or employees or students supported by an outside source.
    • If the time commitment or dollar value of the in-kind contribution is not readily ascertainable, the recipient must provide reasonable estimates.

Other Support does not include training awards, prizes, or gifts.

  • Gifts are resources provided where there is no expectation of anything (e.g. time, services, specific research activities, money, etc.) in return.
  • An item or service given with the expectation of an associated time commitment is not a gift and is instead an in-kind contribution and must be reported as Other Support.

Other Support information is requested for:

  • All individuals designated in an application as senior/key personnel, except
    • Program Directors, training faculty, and other individuals involved in the oversight of training grants
    • Individuals categorized as Other Significant Contributors (individuals who have committed to contribute to the scientific development or execution of the project, but are not committing any specified measurable effort (i.e., person months) to the project.  Individuals with measurable effort may not be listed as Other Significant Contributors (OSCs). Consultants should be included if they meet this definition.)
  • All senior/key personnel, excluding consultants, in progress reports when there has been a change in active other support, except
    • Program Directors, training faculty, and other individuals involved in the oversight of training grants

Updated Requirements for Recipients:

  • Supporting documentation, which includes copies of contracts, grants or any other agreement specific to senior/key personnel foreign appointments and/or employment with a foreign institution for all foreign activities and resources that are reported in Other Support. If the contracts, grants or other agreements are not in English, recipients must provide translated copies.  The costs for translation cannot be considered a direct cost for the project.
  • Note that all senior/key personnel on an award are subject to these new requirements, not just the PI, co-PIs or co-Is.  It is important for all researchers to retain and have readily available copies of their contracts, MOUs, agreements, and/or appointment/affiliation documents with any foreign company or institution, including foreign universities. 
  • Other support must include the disclosure of support completed within the past three years.
  • A specific requirement that individual researchers personally certify the accuracy of their Other Support information on the Other Support document.  This is separate from the general assurance signoff in Princeton ERA.
Post Application Submission - Immediate Notification Requirements

The NIH updated guidance requires mandatory immediate notification of undisclosed Other Support.

When a recipient organization discovers that a PI or other Senior/Key personnel on an active NIH grant failed to disclose Other Support information outside of Just-in-Time or the RPPR, as applicable, the recipient must submit updated Other Support to the NIH Grants Management Specialist named in the Notice of Award as soon as it becomes known.

This requirement underscores the need for PIs to submit the relevant administrative documents to ORPA in time for meaningful institutional reviews, which will help limit risk to researchers and the University.

Budget Preparation


A strategic, accurate budget is a cornerstone of any sponsored research proposal. As you develop it with your PI, it should be created in full consideration of the sponsor’s requirements, as well as Princeton’s internal guidelines.

The budget is a financial representation of the detailed statement of work. It must be entered into our proposal management system (Princeton ERA) as part of the proposal development process. This budget module automatically calculates F & A (overhead) and fringe-benefit rates, assuring the budget captures the required additions.

The budget is reviewed by ORPA for compliance with University and Sponsor guidelines when the full proposal is routed for approval.

Uniform Guidance and Direct Costs

Direct costs must belong specifically to a project, and be identifiable with a high degree of accuracy. 


Uniform Guidance Cost Principles state that all direct costs must be

  • Allowable: Adheres to sponsor terms and University policy.
  • Allocable: Directly benefits the project.
  • Reasonable: Is prudent for the project at hand.
  • Consistent: Is treated in the same manner as like expenses.


The University’s Direct and Indirect Charging Policy outlines items that may be allocated as a direct cost.

Salaries, Stipends, and Tuition
  • Salaries and associated fringe benefits for faculty and research staff
  • Salaries and associated fringe benefits for postdocs
  • Stipend for graduate and undergraduate students
  • Graduate student tuition
Materials and Equipment
  • Capital equipment (a unit cost of more than $5,000)
  • Materials and supplies
Other Expenses
  • Publication costs
  • Foreign and/or domestic travel
  • Consultants
  • Subawards to other institutions
  • Cost sharing, when required as part of the budget
  • Participant support: Stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia, or training projects. Guidelines vary by sponsor and program.
Facilities & Administrative Costs (Indirect Costs)

Facilities and Administrative costs—also known as F&A, indirect, or overhead costs—are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity.

Examples of F&A costs include

  • Depreciation and interest costs associated with the University’s physical plant.
  • Operating and maintenance expenses, such as utility, security, and custodial costs.
  • Common administrative functions, such as payroll and purchasing.

Because it is impractical to account separately for such costs, F&A costs are normally not charged directly to sponsored agreements.


Princeton has a federally negotiated indirect-cost rate agreement for on- and off-campus activities. This rate, which can be found on the Institutional Information page, should be included in all budgets, as applicable. 

Based on sponsor specifications, the base for indirect costs may calculated using modified or total direct costs.

Modified total direct costs (MTDC)

This base is used when the sponsor accepts the University’s federally negotiated rate. This rate is applied to all budget line items, except equipment, tuition, and subawards beyond the first $25,000 (for each subaward). Princeton permits the use of 50% tuition when our federally negotiated rate is used in a budget.

Total direct costs (TDC)

This base is used when the sponsor does not accept the University’s federally negotiated rate. The indirect cost rate permitted by the Sponsor is applied to all budget line items with no exclusions. Full tuition rates should be used in this instance.


If significant portions of project work will occur off campus, please review the University’s Off Campus F&A Rate Policy for more details to confirm whether the off campus rate can be utilized.

Additional Proposal Requirements

SciENcv and ORCID

The Princeton University Library has online resources available for the implementation and maintenance of SciENcv and ORCID records.  

External resources

NSF Information on Biosketch and Current and Pending Support - in effect beginning October 5, 2020.

Data Management

The Princeton University Library and Office of Information Technology (OIT) provide resources to help researchers plan, organize, and preserve research data. They have collected information on grant proposal requirements, data file formats, and metadata formats into helpful online resources. For more information, also visit the Research Data Management website.

Library staff are available to review and provide feedback on any data management plan. Please contact the e-Science Library team at for assistance.

Compliance: Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals, Conflict of Interest, Export Controls and More

Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals and Biosafety

Certain proposals require special compliance reviews. Typically, human subjects, animal subjects, and biosafety reviews by the appropriate committees do not need to be finalized at the time of the submission of the proposal. However, they must be fully approved by the applicable committee before a project can begin.  Additional information on these topics can be found on the Research Integrity and Assurance website.

Conflict of Interest

Princeton's Conflict of Interest policies require every researcher to complete an annual conflict of interest disclosure.  It also requires this disclosure be updated as required throughout the year when changes occur.  Please review the Conflict of Interest page on Research Integrity and Assurance's website for more details.

Export Controls

Some proposals include interactions with foreign entities or travel to locations outside of the United States.  The Export Controls page on this website provide a comprehensive review of related topics.  Please take a look to find out more.