Grant writing and proposal development support are provided by several offices at Princeton University to help members of the University research community compete successfully for external funding. Resources and services offered include strategic communications assistance; information about funding agencies, sponsor-specific proposal writing and submission guidelines, and the peer review process; and guidance on the development of specific components that must be included in many research and education proposals, such as management and evaluation plans.
At Princeton, the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) and the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) provide guidance and project management services to support schools, departments, centers and institutes with the development of certain large-dollar and center-level initiatives. Additionally, ORPA assists faculty by reviewing budgets and proposals and submitting applications for all grant proposals. ORPA also provides education on sponsored program management and manages research compliance, including issues that must be resolved prior to proposal submission. The CFR team works with faculty and other campus partners to raise funds in support of the University’s education, research, and scholarship mission. The team takes a proactive approach to identifying, initiating, and managing relationships. That approach recognizes the needs and priorities of corporations and foundations while aligning the strengths of Princeton. CFR focuses on large fundraising opportunities.
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 an online guide. The guide includes information on using DataSpace, a digital repository available at Princeton, as well as a listing of selected research data repositories by subject area. OIT and the Library also make available an online tool (DMPTool) that provides funder-specific guidance for creating data management plans customized for Princeton researchers. For additional support, contact the research data management team to request workshops or one-on-one assistance with creating your data management plans.
The vast majority of Princeton scholars who wish to submit research proposals and grant applications are in ranks automatically qualified to serve as principal investigator. For individuals who are not in these ranks, the University Research Board provides information about making requests for principal investigator status, which is necessary for proposal submission.
Grant writing resources
Whether support is being sought from federal and state agencies, corporations or foundations, many of the same best practices apply to grant writing and proposal development. One of the simplest -- and most powerful -- strategies for success is to read the solicitation carefully and craft the proposal in response to the instructions, making sure to include all requested sections and provide the appropriate level of detail. When applicable, it may be helpful to speak with a program manager at the sponsoring organization early in the proposal development process. Additionally, when possible, it can be quite informative to serve on proposal review panels to learn more about a given sponsor and the peer review process.
In preparing competitive proposals, it may also be helpful to review proposals in your field that have received funding in the past and use them as examples for how to formulate and articulate a successful request.
Developing proposals for corporations and foundations
The Foundation Center -- a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of resources about thousands of foundations, corporate donors and grant-making public charities -- offers a Web-based Proposal Writing Short Course, which is available in several different languages.
Princeton’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations supports the creation and maintenance of ongoing partnerships with many organizations, and researchers are encouraged to contact the office to discuss proposal development for corporate and foundation opportunities.
Developing proposals for government agencies
Princeton has a long history of successful competition for support from federal government agencies, and the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy provide more than 75 percent of the University’s sponsored research funding. Other federal agencies as well as state and local government sources provide additional valuable support to the University research community. Many sponsors provide detailed information about their funding opportunities as well as specific guidelines for the development of proposals. A selection of resources from the University’s primary sponsors is provided here.
National Science Foundation
The essential guide to submitting an NSF proposal is the agency's Grant Proposal Guide, which is updated annually to reflect new NSF requirements as they are implemented and includes information about the agency’s merit review process. Additional information about this process is available at the NSF’s merit review website. The guide comprises the first half of the agency’s Proposal and Award Polices and Procedures Guide, which also features an Award and Administration Guide. NSF also offers a Guide to Proposal Writing that provides more general guidance and advice to proposal writers. The NSF Policy Office website includes a variety of resources on grants and cooperative agreements, including policy information and topical resources about specific proposal components, such as broader impact statements.
Additionally, NSF regularly conducts conferences and workshops on a range of topics, including proposal preparation, the merit review process and special interest programs. Slides from these presentations are available, and a Proposal Preparation 101 presentation given at a 2010 NSF workshop at Princeton may be particularly helpful. Faculty members interested in the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program may find useful information in the agency’s frequently asked questions about the CAREER program, which includes information about proposal and budget preparation and submission.
The National Institutes of Health
The NIH Office of Extramural Research website contains a wealth of information about grants, grants policy, funding opportunities and proposal submission information, including detailed information about the organization’s peer review process. The site also features a compilation of grant writing tip sheets from some of the many NIH institutes as well as a basic guide to proposal writing. One of these institutes -- the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- has created a series of All About Grants tutorials that provides resources for experienced investigators and new investigators alike on all aspects of the NIH grant cycle and proposal development process. While the site is hosted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the resources are applicable to all areas of NIH.
Other NIH institutes offer similarly comprehensive resources. For example, the National Cancer Institute maintains a comprehensive grants page that provides information about a variety of topics, including a Quick Quide for Grant Applications. Similarly, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides a resource page on How to Write a Research Project Grant Application which includes a useful section on Problems and Concerns Commonly Cited by Reviewers.
U.S. Department of Energy
The DOE’s Office of Science maintains a comprehensive Grants & Contracts website, which includes a Grant Application Guide as well as a detailed page on the department’s merit review system. Additionally, the site includes a frequently asked questions resource that answers some common questions about proposal development and submission.
U.S. Department of Defense
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the research and development office for the Department of Defense. DARPA provides information about a number of ongoing research programs in a variety of technical offices, including office-specific information about strategic thrusts and solicitations.