Grants, research agreements, and sponsored award documents are legal instruments that bind parties to the stated terms; therefore, staff and faculty must follow state and federal laws, as well as Vanderbilt University Medical Center's policies and regulations, when preparing, accepting, signing, and executing these documents.
Both new and continuing proposals must be processed through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) for formal Medical Center approval and signature prior to submission to external sponsors. OSP manages and assists throughout the lifecycle of the award, from the pre-award stage through to closeout. OSP also serves as the administrative voice during negotiation and acceptance of grant and award modifications.
OSP has a dedicated pre-award team that works with both department administrators and principal investigators in the genesis and submission of proposals to external sponsors. The proposal serves as the primary document upon which the Medical Center and sponsor agree to provide the funds, facilities, and services necessary for the performance of the research, training, and/or development. As such, grants are made to the institution, not the principal investigator. Institutional involvement and approval is mandatory to verify the obligation of the principal investigator to perform services, the Medical Center to provide facilities and services, and the sponsor to provide financial support.
Creating a Proposal
Once the potential project and sponsor have been identified, the proposal must be drafted for submission. Commonly requested items include the following:
- Face page: contains information about the proposal
- Scope of Work/Statement of Work: specifies goals, methodologies, PI responsibilities, and specific aims
- Budget: lists direct costs (salaries, fringe benefits, equipment, supplies, travel, and subcontracts) and indirect costs
- Budget Justification
- Other Support
It is essential that the proposal be written in accordance with the instructions provided by the program announcement or sponsor guidelines. OSP recommends that faculty and staff always consult the proposal or award documents first.
The final step in the proposal preparation process is the completion and routing of a Coeus proposal record through various areas within VUMC. By internally routing through Coeus, administrators secure the necessary VUMC approvals.
The guidance below provides the information required to successfully route and receive internal approval for grant proposals.
Coeus Proposal Development Guidelines
Background - both federal and non-federal external sponsors require various compliance reviews and certifications for all applicants. There are many unique levels of review and approval for grant proposals submitted through Coeus. It is essential that all individuals exercising a proposal review or approval role have adequate information upon which to evaluate grant proposals for their area of responsibility. At every review level, the person approving a proposal in Coeus is assuring the next reviewer that all previous requirements have been met.
Purpose - streamlined and central proposal development seeks to foster internal consistency and accuracy in the review and approval of grant proposals and subaward proposals for the support of research projects, training projects, and other sponsored projects.
All proposals (both VUMC proposals and subaward proposals in which VUMC is the prime awardee or the subrecipient; progress reports; and continuations) must be entered into Coeus and routed to receive internal review and approval.
The Coeus Proposal Development must be completed before review and approval by OSP and consists of data elements found under the following:
- Proposal Tab
- Organization Tab
- Mailing Tab (deadline date should be the sponsor's due date*)
- Investigator Tab
- Key Person Tab (if applicable)
- Special Review Tab (if applicable)
- Science Code Tab**
- Other Tab (only as required on NASA applications)
A PI Assurance is required for all proposals, and an application-specific conflict-of-interest (COI) certification is required for all U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and National Science Foundation (NSF) applications for support. These certifications are collected through VUMC's grants and contracts workflow tool, PEER.
A complete copy of the sponsor-issued Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Application (RFA), or solicitation announcement should be attached to the Coeus proposal for non-Grants.gov proposals in a narrative attachment called "Sponsor Guidelines."
*Note: at this time VUMC does not use the "Science Code" tab
**Any deviation between the sponsor's due date and a later date of submission must include an explanation in the Notepad
The Coeus Proposal Development must be completed prior to routing for approvals (see above).
In addition to a complete Proposal Development, Grants.gov submissions must include a detailed, line-item Coeus budget, regardless of individual sponsor requirements (i.e. an NIH modular budget).
Narratives/Placeholders, as required by the sponsor and/or Vanderbilt University Medical Center, must be created within Coeus. These may include documents that may not be sent to the sponsor but are required to accomplish a complete internal review, such as collaborator letters-of-intent, negotiated indirect costs documents, budgets, etc.
For review and approval processes, applicants should include the following items:
- Summary of proposed research in the sponsor-approved format (one-page summaries are required by some sponsors, inclusive of a scope-of-work (SOW), specific aims, and/or abstract, as requested)
- Detailed budget and budget justification narrative
- Incoming subaward proposals (subs to VUMC) should include a letter-of-intent (LOI), detailed budget, budget justification, and a scope-of-work (SOW)
- Outgoing subaward proposals included in a VUMC proposal (subs from VUMC) should include a letter-of-intent (LOI), detailed budget, budget justification, and a scope-of-work (SOW) from the subawardee
As with Grants.gov submissions, narratives/placeholders, as required by the sponsor and/or Vanderbilt University Medical Center, must be created within Coeus. These may include documents that may not be sent to the sponsor but are required to accomplish a complete internal review, such as collaborator letters-of-intent, negotiated indirect cost documents, budgets, etc.
In addition to the complete Proposal Development, the following items must be attached to the Coeus proposal when circulated for approval:
- Summary of proposed research (can be the one-page summary required by some sponsors) or the entire research program narrative, if available
- Final budget to be submitted to the sponsor in the required sponsor-dictated format (budget may not be changed after institutional approval is given)
- Budget justification narrative
- All sponsor documents (letters, application packages, forms, certifications, etc.) that require an institutional signature
- Any additional materials deemed relevant to the project
- In addition to the format-compliant final budget, a Coeus budget must be included. At minimum, there must be separate line items for direct costs and indirect costs. The Coeus budget should include the following items, where applicable:
- Other patient care and/or patient renumeration costs
- For non-federal submissions, a narrative placeholder must be created in order to upload a document stating the sponsor requirements and guidelines for submission. Use the narrative entitled "Sponsor Guidelines" for this purpose.
- In addition, include a narrative placeholder for the completed application package (for example, the FastLane submission package for NSF). Use the narrative entitled "Sponsor Documentation" for this purpose.