Proposal FAQs


Who is eligible to serve as Principal Investigator?

  • Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI): Any person professionally qualified to conduct the project determined by the submitting college, center, school, or unit, and for whom the submitting component will assume full responsibility consistent with other obligations it assumes when transmitting the proposal. This person must be an employee or maintain a privileged status with MSU during the project period.
  • Each proposal requesting external funding becomes a legal document binding MSU to fulfill the conditions specified in the proposal. It is the PD/PI’s responsibility to ensure the proposal, in addition to the programmatic aspects of the project, complies with MSU’s policies, missions, and obligations.
  • When submitting a proposal, it is submitted by MSU, not an individual. When an award is received, it is received by MSU.

How do I route a proposal?

  • All proposals should be routed through Office of Sponsored Projects using the OSP Internal Approval Sheet. The form should be completed in full and reviewed and signed by your appropriate departmental administrator and the appropriate dean's office. Once signed, please forward the proposal to Office of Sponsored Project to the attention of the appropriate Grants & Contracts Administrator for review and official university signature.
  • A OSP Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) is required when:
    • A new proposal is submitted to a Sponsor.
    • A revised proposal is submitted to a Sponsor that includes budget or cost sharing changes. Does not apply to technical modifications.
    • A continuation proposal is submitted to a Sponsor - even if the additional years' funds were requested in the original proposal. The key here is the word "submitted." If the PI must submit a budget and request for continued funding, we assign a new proposal number.
    • Additional funds are received that were not requested in the original proposal.
    • An award is received in OSP and no proposal exists.

Who copies and mails the proposals?

Most proposals are now submitted electronically. However, Office of Sponsored Projects provides the service of copying and mailing your proposal when required. In return, all that we ask is that the proposal be provided to our office at least three business days in advance of the deadline to ensure that we have time to review, copy, and mail.

How do I route a proposal when Mississippi State University is the sub recipient?

Proposals where Mississippi State University is the sub recipient should be treated the same as if we were processing the prime proposal. The institution that is processing the prime proposal will request that the Office of Sponsored Projects review and approve our portion of the proposal.

What forms are required by the university in order to submit a proposal?

  • Any sponsor forms related to the proposal submission - cover pages, budget pages, representations and certifications, statement of work, etc.- are required. Additionally, the university utilizes the Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) to obtain information about your project. You should submit the IAS and route it to your department head and dean; when they have signed, the proposal will route to Office of Sponsored Projects.
  • Each proposal requesting external funding becomes a legal document binding MSU to fulfill the conditions specified in the proposal. It is the PD/PI’s responsibility to ensure the proposal, in addition to the programmatic aspects of the project, complies with MSU’s policies, missions, and obligations.

How do I obtain an Internal Approval Sheet (IAS)?

The Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) is available on the OSP website FORMS page.

Who can help me develop my proposal budget?

Your departmental administrator or budget manager can usually assist you with developing your budget. Office of Sponsored Projects will review your budget for any necessary adjustments. Office of Research and Economic Development also offers Proposal Development Services to units that do not have a departmental administrator or budget manager to assist in their home units.

Who can help me interpret the proposal guidelines?

Office of Sponsored Projects can assist you with interpreting proposal guidelines.

Does Office of Sponsored Projects need my complete application before signing?

Yes, OSP will require a complete copy of your proposal application prior to signing.

When does Office of Sponsored Projects need my completed application?

A minimum of 3 working days prior to the deadline receipt date for the proposal, per MSU Policy 70.01 - The originator of the proposal shall prepare an Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) and obtain the approval signatures of the Department Head and the Dean/Director of the appropriate unit. A final copy of the proposal and a completed IAS should be forwarded to Office of Sponsored Projects a minimum of 3 working days prior to the deadline receipt date for the proposal.

Which proposals need to be processed through Office of Sponsored Projects?

Any proposal that requires an authorized university signature and involves a project that commits university resources, proposes deliverables (technical report, financial report, etc.), requires a budget, involves a subaward, involves human subjects, animal subjects, radiation, or biohazards. Contact the OSP office at (662) 325-7404 if you have questions about whether your proposal should be submitted through OSP.

What are fringe benefits?

Fringe benefits are retirement and health insurance benefits associated with salaries. Medicaid and workers compensation are also included in fringe benefits. More details can be found here.

How do I get credit for my proposal or award?

Each person key to the proposal should assign a percentage of credit to their academic home department when completing the Internal Approval Sheet (IAS), available on the FORMS page.

What department should I put on the IAS for the credit percentage?

  • Each person key to the proposal should assign a percentage of credit to their academic home department.
  • On proposals which run through a center, credit should be assigned to the individual’s academic home department.

What is the difference between credit and effort?

  • Credit – The percentage of credit for all investigators must total 100%. The percentage of credit is used to capture sponsored project activity at the investigator level. In considering the percentage of credit to be allocated to each investigator, the following factors should be considered:
    • The overall responsibility of each investigator for the activities included in the proposal.
    • The expenses in the budget reserved for the activities of each investigator (student support, equipment, materials and supplies, etc).
    • The effort to be expended by each investigator.
  • Effort – The amount of time, usually expressed as a percentage of the total, a faculty member or other employee spends on a project. Effort is certified and documented.

How do I know which fund type to choose on the IAS?

  • Restricted Funds are used to account for activities that are restricted by donors or other outside agencies as to the specific purpose for which they can be used.
  • Fund Type Options:
    • 30 - On-Campus Restricted
    • 31 - College of Veterinary Medicine Restricted
    • 32 - MS Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Restricted
    • 33 - Forestry and Wildlife Research Center Restricted
    • 34 - MSU Extension Service Restricted
    • 36 - On-Campus Restricted - Continued

How do I register in

PIs do not need to register with, however if you are submitting an NIH proposal through, you will need to be registered in eRA Commons. If you are not already registered in ERA Commons, please complete and send the NIH Commons Request form (available on the FORMS page) to your OSP Grants & Contracts Administrator. Office of Sponsored Projects is registered in and will submit your proposal applications for you.

What needs to be included in a post-doc mentoring plan?

Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a supplementary document, a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals.The mentoring plan must describe the mentoring that will be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project, regardless of whether they reside at the submitting organization, any subrecipient organization, or at any organization participating in a simultaneously submitted collaborative project. 

What are the definitions of Project Director (PD)/Principal Investigator (PI), Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), and Key Personnel?

  • Project Director/Principal Investigator – Typically, a faculty member who submitted a proposal that was accepted and funded by an external sponsor, also referred to as the project director. The PI has primary responsibility for technical compliance, completion of programmatic work, and fiscal stewardship of sponsor funds.
  • Co-Principal Investigator – one investigator sharing equal responsibility for the direction of the research program.
  • Key Personnel – Individuals who participate in the scientific development or execution of the project. Should contribute in a substantive way to the research.

What are Third Party commitments?

A "Third Party" is any individual that is not an MSU employee or any entity that is considered a non-MSU organization. A Third Party commitment is any cash or in-kind contribution made by a Third Party to a sponsored project.

How do I submit a collaborative proposal?

Submission of Collaborative Proposals varies depending on the sponsor. Below are instructions from both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

  • For collaborative proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation, the following guidelines apply:
  • A collaborative proposal is one in which investigators from two or more organizations wish to collaborate on a unified research project. Collaborative proposals may be submitted to NSF in one of two methods:
    • A) As a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested (with subawards administered by the lead organization); or
    • B) By simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award.
  • In either case, the lead organization’s proposal must contain all of the requisite sections as a single package to be provided to reviewers (that will happen automatically when procedures below are followed).
  • All collaborative proposals must clearly describe the roles to be played by the other organizations, specify the managerial arrangements, and explain the advantages of the multi-organizational effort within the Project Description. PIs are strongly encouraged to contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer prior to submission of a collaborative proposal.
    • Submission of a collaborative proposal from one organization
    • The single proposal method allows investigators from two or more organizations who have developed an integrated research project to submit a single, focused proposal. A single investigator bears primary responsibility for the administration of the grant and discussions with NSF, and, at the discretion of the organizations involved, investigators from any of the participating organizations may be designated as co-PIs. Please note, however, that if awarded, a single award would be made to the submitting organization, with any collaborators listed as subawards.
    • If a proposed subaward includes funding to support postdoctoral researchers, the mentoring activities to be provided for such individuals must be incorporated in the supplemental mentoring plan outlined in GPG Chapter II.C.2j.
    • By submission of the proposal, the organization has determined that the proposed activity is administratively manageable. NSF may request a revised proposal, however, if it considers that the project is so complex that it will be too difficult to review or administer as presented. (See GPG Chapter II.C.2g.(vi)(e)for additional instructions on preparation of this type of proposal.)
    • Submission of a collaborative proposal from multiple organizations
    • In many instances, simultaneous submission of proposals that contain the same Project Description from each organization might be appropriate. For these proposals, the project title must begin with the words "Collaborative Research:”. The lead organization's submission will include a Cover Sheet, Project Summary, Project Description, References Cited, Biographical Sketches, Budgets and Budget Justification, Current and Pending support, and Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources for their organization. If applicable, the lead organization’s submission also must include a supplemental mentoring plan that must not exceed one page, and that addresses the mentoring activities to be provided for all postdoctoral researchers supported under the entire collaborative project. See GPG Chapter II.C.2.j for additional guidance on mentoring and data management plan requirements for collaborative proposals. Non-lead organization submissions will include all of the above for their organization except the project summary, project description, and references cited which are the same for all collaborating organizations. FastLane, NSF’s proposal portal, will combine the proposal submission for printing or electronic viewing.
      • To submit the collaborative proposal, the following process must be completed:
      • a. Each non-lead organization must assign their proposal a proposal PIN. This proposal PIN and the temporary proposal ID generated by FastLane when the non-lead proposal is created must be provided to the lead organization before the lead organization submits its proposal to NSF through FastLane.
      • b. The lead organization must then enter each non-lead organization(s) proposal PIN and temporary proposal ID into the FastLane lead proposal by using the "Link Collaborative Proposals" option found on the FastLane "Form Preparation" screen. Given that such separately submitted proposals constitute a “single” proposal submission to NSF, it is imperative that the proposals be submitted within a reasonable timeframe to one another.
      • c. All components of the collaborative proposal must meet any established deadline, and failure to do so may result in the entire collaborative proposal being returned without review.
    • For collaborative proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the following guidelines apply:
      • Determine the expertise needed for your research study team (individuals, collaborating organizations, resources, etc.). Most scientific work requires collaboration among researchers, and NIH is dedicated to fostering such relationships.
      • Letters of commitment in your application should clearly spell out the roles of the collaborators. The grant application should contain a signed letter from each collaborator to the applicant that lists the contribution he or she intends to make and his or her commitment to the work. These letters are often the primary assurance the reviewers have that this work will in fact be done.
      • For consultants, letters should include rate/charge for consulting services.
        • If you are planning to use the multiple-PI model, then take the following into consideration:
        • a. The format, peer review and administration of applications submitted under the multiple-PI model do have some significant differences from the traditional single-PI model. Therefore, it is essential to consider all aspects of the funding mechanism? before submitting an application, regardless of the type of research proposal to be submitted.
        • b. All applicants proposing team science efforts are strongly encouraged to contact their NIH program officials at the earliest possible date to discuss the appropriateness of the multiple-PI model for the support of their research.

What is a Letter of Commitment?

A letter of commitment outlines the University’s in-kind services and/or cash contributions and is a binding document with legal consequences if any specified terms and conditions are broken. It requires the signature of an authorized signatory of the university.