Develop Proposals

There are many steps to developing a research project and preparing a proposal for submission. Office of Sponsored Projects aims to provide and identify services and resources to aid the researcher’s efforts in developing and preparing a project or proposal. As the authorizing agent for the university, Office of Sponsored Projects has three primary functions during the proposal stage:

  1. Review solicitations/funding announcements for specific proposal and budget preparation instructions;
  2. Review budgets and proposals according to Mississippi State University and sponsor guidelines;
  3. Submit proposals to external sponsors.
All proposals for external sponsorship prepared by Mississippi State University Principal Investigators must be submitted through Office of Sponsored Projects.

Finding Funding

Finding funding for your potential project can take a bit of time and perseverance. Fortunately, many resources are available to assist you in this search, and a few of those are listed in this section.

  • Office of Research and Economic Development:
    • Provides guidance to Mississippi State University’s Research Community on opportunities and capabilities for development of research and works diligently to support faculty with their funding proposals. Contact Dr. Teresa Gammill with questions, or visit the website.
  • Fuller Weekly Grant Opportunities:
    • Opportunities for Federal funding provides up to date listing with links for program announcements. An MSU log in is required for access.
  • Foundation Center
    • The Foundation Center is a leading source of information on philanthropy, fundraising, and grant programs. Find information about grant makers using keyword search.
  • Limited Submissions:
    • External funding agencies often limit the number of proposal submissions that a university may submit. This information is always provided in the agency announcement. To make sure that MSU provides an equal opportunity to all researchers pertaining to a limited submission, it is necessary that a process is in place. All limited submissions are required to go through the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) before being submitted to Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP). Dr. Teresa Gammill handles limited submissions and will send an ORED approval number for that particular project. This approval number should be included on the IAS.
  • Grants Resource Center (GRC) GrantSearch:
    • This database includes information on federal as well as foundation funding and can be searched by academic categories, academic subjects, activities, funding sponsors, or text. You will need a login to access this site.
  • Find what has been funded:

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Time Line for Proposal Submissions

    Once you determine a potential sponsor for your project, you’ll want to develop a plan to be sure you are on track for proposal submission by the sponsor’s deadline. Even if you are not entirely certain you wish to submit the proposal, please go ahead and notify your OSP Grants & Contracts Administrator and your departmental budget manager, so each can make plans to assist you along the way. In order to ensure timely submission, we recommend the following timeline:
  • 10 Days Prior to Submission Deadline
    • Send RFP or funding announcement to OSP for review
  • 5 Days Prior to Submission Deadline
    • Send budget and budget justification to OSP for review
    • Begin routing Internal Approval Sheet (IAS)
  • 3 Days Prior to Submission Deadline
    • Send final proposal to OSP for review and submission
  • Note: The final proposal consists of a signed Internal Approval Sheet and the all components of the proposal in the final format that will be submitted to the sponsor.

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Proposal Development Resources

Typically, your department and/or college will have a departmental research administrator who will assist you with the administrative aspects of your proposal. It is important that you find out what resources are available to you at the department/college level to support you with your proposal submission so you can focus the majority of your efforts on the technical and creative aspects of your proposal.

Recognizing that not all faculty members have departmental support for proposal development, OSP is also available to provide this support to faculty in those departments. The OSP team can assist you with understanding the sponsor’s guidelines, creating your proposal budget, completing sponsor forms and proposal packages, or performing other administrative tasks related to your proposals.

If you fall into this category and would like to take advantage of these services, please contact the OSP office well in advance of your proposal due date. These Proposal Development Services do not take the place of working with your regular OSP Grants & Contracts Administrator. Once OSP has helped you with the basic steps of proposal preparation, you will still follow the normal proposal submission procedures, including any applicable deadlines for submission to your department, division, and OSP.

In addition to the resources described above, Mississippi State University Grants and Research Subject Specialist, Dr. Deborah Lee, is a great resource for research funding sources; grant writing techniques; electronic journals; and other sources related to the identification and writing of research grants and other types of funding.

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Because the University is subject to federal cost accounting standards, as well as to university and sponsor guidelines, all budgets must be prepared in collaboration with and approved by Office of Sponsored Projects before being submitted to sponsors.

    Getting Started:
  • Read the RFP (Request for Proposal) for the budget criteria. Often included are limits on the types of expenses, spending caps on certain expenses, and overall funding limits.
  • Identify all of the costs that are necessary and reasonable to complete the work described in your proposal.
  • The best strategy is to request a reasonable amount of money to do the work, not more and not less.
    The test of allowability for costs on a federal grant project according to OMB Circular A-21:
  • Costs must be reasonable
  • Costs must be allocable to sponsor agreements under the principles and methods provided in OMB Circular A-21.
  • Costs must be given consistent treatment through application of those generally accepted accounting principles appropriate to the circumstances
  • Costs must conform to any limitation or exclusion set forth in these principles or in the sponsored agreement as to types or amounts of cost items.
OMB Circular A-21
OMB Circular A-110

    Developing Your Budget
    • Personnel
      Labor is calculated on a percentage of effort basis.

      Administrative staff should not normally be charged to a project, as their support for research projects is calculated into MSU’s indirect base. The Person-Month Calculator can help you calculate labor.

    • Fringe Benefits
      Non-wage compensation provided to employees in addition to their normal wages or salaries. At MSU this includes Social Security, Medicare, State Retirement, State Health Insurance, Term Life Insurance, Flex Spending Fee, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers Compensation.

      Current Fringe Rates

      Fringe Calculator

    • Equipment
      Only items costing $5,000 (with exceptions, see Receiving & Property Control website) or more per unit cost should be listed here, cost estimates must include sales tax and shipping. Identify equipment with its corresponding cost.
    • Travel
      Inflation suggested at 4 - 7% per year but not mandatory. Include only travel for MSU employees as Consultant, Participant or Honorarium Travel will post as a contractual expense. Always provide justification of travel expenses, and be sure to check the MSU Travel web site for current information on reimbursement rates.
    • Participant Costs
      The National Science Foundation defines Participant Support Costs as direct costs for items such as 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.
    • Materials and Supplies
      Costs incurred for materials, supplies and fabricated parts necessary to carry out a sponsored agreement are allowable. Only materials and supplies actually used for the performance of a sponsored agreement may be charged as direct costs.
    • Publication Costs
      Publications Costs include the costs of printing, distribution, promotion, mailing and general handling. Publication costs also include page charges in professional publications.
    • Consortium Agreements/Sub Contracts
      In the proposal budget the total cost of the subaward, including F&A costs, is shown as a single line item. This total becomes part of the project’s direct costs. A description of what is included in the subaward total, at the same level of detail as the proposal budget, should be provided. Remember when budgeting for subawards that MSU is only allowed to collect F&A on the first $25,000 of each subaward, regardless of the number of years in the period of performance.

      Click Information about Subawards

    • Consultant Services
      The term consultant refers to an individual or organization hired to provide services of an advisory nature. A consultant may be hired when the necessary expertise is not available within the university community. A Mississippi State University employee cannot serve or be paid as a consultant on sponsored projects.

      Definition of Subaward vs. Vendor

    • Graduate Student Tuition and Insurance
      Proposal budgets that include graduate student stipends must also include tuition and insurance (if applicable) for the same time frame. Graduate Student Tuition and Insurance Rate Chart will give you the appropriate rates to be used on your proposal.
  • INDIRECT COSTS (Facilities & Administrative):
    Indirect Costs are negotiated every four years through an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. This agreement states that Mississippi State University uses a Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) base to determine the Indirect Costs. Facilities and Administrative Cost Rate Agreement
  • Budget Templates
    The following are some Budget Templates and Budget Justification samples to help you get started:

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Cost Share

Cost Sharing is a phrase used to indicate when more than one sponsor share in costs associated with a project. The most common relationship is external sponsors providing most of the funds and for the University providing the remainder of the necessary funds to carry out a project. Matching is a form of cost sharing that generally defines a specific ratio of sponsor and University dollars. This type of cost share is usually an eligibility requirement stated in the RFP (request for proposals) and usually, but not always, provided from institutional resources. Cost sharing and matching are nearly synonymous and are often used interchangeably.

Cost sharing commitments are binding and must be documented just like any other expenditure. For this reason cost share should be included in a proposal ONLY when specifically required by the sponsor. Cost sharing in excess of the amount required is strongly discouraged and should be questioned at the departmental/college level. All proposed cost share must be listed on the Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) and approved by the departmental chair, college dean and sometimes vice president depending on who is committing the cost share.

For more information please see MSU Cost Share Policy (80.13) as well as the Cost Share Roles and Responsibilities Matrix.

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Proposal Attachments

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Proposal Submissions Systems

There are a number of programs used by sponsors for proposal submission. The program guidelines for your proposal should designate the appropriate method of submission for your proposal. A few of the most common submission systems are listed below.

  • is an E-Government initiative operating under the governance of the Office of Management and Budget. Under the President's Management Agenda, the office was chartered to deliver a system that provides a centralized location for grant seekers to find and apply for federal funding opportunities. Today, the system houses information on over 1,000 grant programs and vets grant applications for 26 federal grant-making agencies.

    Signing Officials from applicant organizations do need a account. Only individuals with legal signing authority - the Signing Official - can register their organization in Mississippi State University is already registered in
  • Cayuse 424

    Cayuse 424 is an electronic research administration system that serves as a proposal development tool and submission portal to If the proposal is required to be submitted through, most likely Cayuse 424 can be used instead. Cayuse 424 is a convenient, user-friendly interface that provides auto-filling of university and faculty profiles, and interactive error checking as the proposal is developed.
  • Fastlane

    Fastlane is the National Science Foundation (NSF) online website through which they conduct their relationship to researchers and potential researchers, reviewers, and research administrators and their organizations. FastLane covers the full range of transactions between a research organization, its researchers, and NSF. Some of these transactions are:
    • Preparing a letter of intent
    • Submit nominations and letters of reference
    • Preparing, updating and submitting a proposal
    • Submitting post award notifications
    Signing Officials and Principal Investigators from applicant organizations do need a Fastlane account, as do other people who may be assisting in the process of grant application submission to NSF. Only individuals with legal signing authority - the Signing Official - can register their organization in Fastlane. Mississippi State University is already registered in Fastlane.

    Office of Sponsored Projects can register the Principal Investigator by creating an account with the PI authority role. In order to request that OSP register you in Fastlane, you must complete the NSF Fastlane Registration Form and return it to your OSP Grants & Contracts Administrator.

    Fastlane also provides guidance on How to Create a Proposal.
  • eRA Commons

    eRA Commons is an online interface for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services where signing officials, principal investigators, trainees and post-docs at institutions/organizations the tools necessary for electronic processing of research grants. Signing Officials and Principal Investigators from applicant organizations do need an eRA Commons account, as do other people who may be assisting in the process of grant application submission to NIH. Only individuals with legal signing authority - the Signing Official - can register their organization in Commons. Mississippi State University is already registered in eRA Commons.

    Office of Sponsored Projects can register the Principal Investigator by creating an account with the PI authority role. In order to request that OSP register you in eRA Commons, you must complete the NIH eRA Commons Registration Form and return it to your Grants & Contracts Administrator.
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    The Office of Research Compliance serves the MSU community while engaging in research through compliance and ethical practices in order to protect the University, researchers, and research subjects. MSU is committed to ensuring that all research adheres to federal, state and university policy. The Office of Research Compliance offers training and support to faculty, students and staff in regulatory requirements for research. Some of these areas as well as the responsibilities at the proposal stage are listed below.

    • Human Subjects

      Any project involving Human Subjects must have IRB approval. This approval is not necessary at the time of proposal submission. However, the Internal Approval Sheet must be marked for Human Subjects in the Special Review Checklist section and the approval from IRB (Institutional Review Board) must be marked as “pending”. Approval is needed from the Office of Research Compliance before the project award can be made.

      More information regarding Human Subjects can be found on the Office of Research Compliance site.
    • Animal Care & Use

      Animal Care and Use approval is not required at the time of proposal submission. However, the Internal Approval Sheet must be marked for Vertebrate Animal Use in the Special Review Checklist section and the approval from IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) must be marked as “pending”. Approval is needed from the Office of Research Compliance before the project award can be made.

      More information regarding Animal Care and Use can be found on the Office of Research Compliance site.
    • Biosafety

      Approval for Biosafety is not needed at the time of proposal submission. All proposals with Biosafety concerns must have an Internal Approval Sheet marked accordingly for “Biohazardous Materials Generated or Used” in the Special Review Checklist section, and receive the approval number from the Institutional Biosafety Committee before the project award can be made.

      More information regarding Biosafety can be found on the Office of Research Compliance site.
    • Financial Conflict of Interest

      The Financial Conflict of Interest form must be filled out when the Principal Investigator or any Key Personnel has a financial conflict of interest with the sponsor or subcontracts according to these guidelines.

      The FCOI form must be filed annually.

      In addition, all investigators working on research funded, directly or indirectly, by the Public Health Service (PHS), or proposed for such funding, must complete training in Financial Conflict of Interest at least every four years. Training options are offered via live and online options. The PI and all key personnel must have completed the course and be on file with the Office of Research Compliance before submission of any PHS related grant. For more information about Financial Conflict of Interest training, visit

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    Sometimes a pre-proposal is submitted prior to submission of a full proposal. Pre-proposals (also referred to as informal proposals, letter proposals, mini-proposals, preliminary proposals, pre-applications, concept papers, or white papers) are brief descriptions of research plans, which may or may not include an estimate or brief budget. These pre-proposals may be submitted to sponsors per their program guidelines, or may be investigator-initiated to determine the interest of a particular sponsor in funding a proposed project. These submissions generally occur prior to the submission of a formal proposal.

    In many cases a pre-proposal can be submitted directly to the sponsor without going through Office of Sponsored Projects. A pre-proposal should be routed through OSP, along with an Internal Approval Sheet (IAS) in cases where:

    1. A detailed budget is submitted with the pre-proposal,
    2. MSU is committing cost share or matching on the project,
    3. The sponsor requires the Authorized Organizational Representative’s signature,
    4. The sponsor requires submission through a portal or system via which only OSP can submit, or
    5. Institutional certifications or assurances are required.

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