The Office of Proposal Development (OPD) is part of the Office of Research Development and Infrastructure under the direction of Phyllis McBride, PhD. OPD provides support to faculty researchers in conceptualizing, developing, and writing proposals to federal agencies and other entities to seek funding for research projects.
What types of proposal development services are available to faculty?
The Office of Proposal Development offers an extensive array of services to faculty across all ranks and all disciplines, and we tailor our services to the needs of each individual faculty team or faculty member. We work with faculty who are developing large, collaborative, multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional proposals, as well as with faculty who are preparing small or even individual-investigator proposals. For faculty who are working on large proposals, we can provide comprehensive project management; conduct background research on sponsors’ missions and programmatic priorities; help brainstorm and devise persuasive proposal strategies; and integrate material written by multiple team members to ensure that proposals are written in a single and consistent voice. We also vet, edit, and format these large proposals, as well as smaller and individual-investigator proposals, and if needed, we can assist in gathering supporting documents. Some of our other services include helping faculty identify funding opportunities and providing training in proposal development and proposal writing.
I have a project idea, but need help in identifying well-suited funding mechanisms to apply for. In what ways could OPD help with this? How do I find out about upcoming funding opportunities?
The Office of Research, in partnership with the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations and the Office of Academic Affairs, has purchased a funding opportunity database called Pivot, and will be rolling out this database in the fall semester. Pivot is an intuitive database that serves as a single point of access for funding opportunities around the globe, including upcoming opportunities from all federal agencies, foundations, and corporations, thereby making the search for funding opportunities much more efficient; researchers will no longer have to search through multiple funding opportunity databases to find appropriate funding opportunities. Instead, researchers can set up a research query and create a news digest that will include funding opportunities in their research area. As time allows, the Office of Proposal Development can also assist faculty with their funding opportunity searches. Stay tuned – more to come!
I have a proposal deadline coming up. How do I request proposal assistance, and how much advance notice is needed? What does the process look like?
Faculty can request proposal assistance in a couple of ways. We prefer that faculty complete a very short online request for proposal assistance form, which can be found at research.rice.edu/opd/proposal-assistance-request. This online form asks for very basic information about the principal investigator (name, contact information, etc.), and the program to which the PI is applying (link to funding opportunity announcement, due date, etc.), and gives the PI the opportunity to indicate the kinds of proposal development services that are needed. We respond to requests quickly; when we do, we arrange a time for one of our Proposal Development Specialists to talk with the faculty member to learn a bit more about their proposal, determine their proposal development needs, and establish a proposal production schedule to ensure that their proposal is completed smoothly and in a timely manner. Faculty seeking assistance can also contact the Office of Proposal Development directly.
In our experience, we’ve noticed that faculty who start working on their proposals early tend to have more success; therefore, we encourage faculty to request assistance as soon as they know they will be writing a proposal (even if the due date is months away). The earlier faculty request assistance, the more services we can provide them, and the more iterations of their drafts we can review for them to ensure that their proposal is as compelling and competitive as possible.
What are limited submissions, and how do I apply for a limited submission opportunity?
When a sponsor limits the number of applications that an institution can submit, the opportunity is referred to as a limited submission opportunity. Sponsors often limit the number of applications for programs that are very popular or that require very large, complex proposals. The first step in applying is indicating interest; if more than the allowed number of faculty or teams express interest, we hold an internal competition. For these competitions, faculty submit a short preproposal and a set of biographical sketches. These materials are evaluated by an internal review committee, which selects the preproposals that they deem to be the most competitive to go forward. When the selected teams go forward with their preproposal or full proposal to the sponsor, the Office of Proposal Development can assist them by providing project management and vetting and editing services for the proposal. In the fall semester, our current limited submission system will be replaced with a new limited submission system known as InfoReady Review; this new system should enable us to capture more limited submission opportunities for our faculty to apply to.
What types of training opportunities are provided by OPD, and when do they occur during the academic year?
Each year, the Office of Proposal Development offers a variety of training opportunities. Our one-day proposal writing seminar, generally offered just before the start of each fall and spring semester, give attendees a high-level overview of the entire proposal development and proposal writing process. Our semester-long proposal writing workshops, which begin just after each fall and spring semester have started, are hands-on workshops designed to give faculty an opportunity to draft a proposal to a sponsor of their choosing and to get feedback on that proposal from an Office of Proposal Development staff member and from their peers in their workshop group. Each summer, we offer an NSF CAREER Award workshop for faculty who are targeting that program; as in the semester-long proposal writing workshops, participants receive feedback from an Office of Proposal Development staff member and from their peers in the workshop group. We offer additional training opportunities upon request.