Consider the following before preparing a proposal for submission and refer to the HMS Sponsored Submission Deadline Policy. If you have any questions, contact your ORA pre-award officer as soon as possible. 

Before Preparing a Proposal

  • Proposals from HMS-affiliated institutions

    Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty whose primary employer and/or research location is one of HMS’s affiliated institutions should route their proposals through their home institution’s research administration/sponsored programs office for review and submission.  For funding opportunities that require submission by a degree-granting institution only, affiliate faculty or their administrators should contact Caitlin McCarty, ORA Pre-Award Team, as soon as possible.    

  • Is it sponsored?

    To determine whether a proposal or award is sponsored, and thus should be routed to ORA for review and authorization, consider the following:

    • Source of funding - A sponsored award is funded by an external (non-Harvard) source. Types of external sponsors include federal, state and local government, foundation, foreign/international, and industry.
    • Type of award - Most sponsored awards can be classified into one of three categories: grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. Some grants may be classified as gifts, and as such would be managed outside of ORA and GMAS. There are several factors involved in determining whether an award should be classified as a sponsored grant or a gift. For help with the grant vs. gift determination, please review the policy and contact your ORA grants & contracts officer.

    NOTE: All sponsored proposals must be reviewed and authorized by ORA prior to submission, even if they don’t require a signature and/or may be submitted directly by the PI.


  • Does the sponsor require institutional support?

    Agencies sponsoring major projects, such as center grants, sometimes require the submitting institution to show support for the project by offering to contribute in some way, termed “Institutional Support.” The support is detailed in a letter attached to the proposal, but it is not considered to be part of the project budget. Institutional support expenses are not added to the research base when calculating the indirect cost (IDC)/facilities and administration (F&A) rate. This differs from “cost sharing,” which is defined as direct expenses for a sponsored project that are borne by the institution rather than the sponsor. Please review the sponsor requirements for institutional support and make sure the appropriate department- and/or school-level approvals are in place for the offered support.


  • Does the proposal require additional review or advance notification?

    • Provostial Review - Some projects may pose management challenges and/or reputational risk to Harvard. If a proposal or project meets any one of the Provost’s criteria for review, it requires approval by Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost (OVPR) before it is submitted to the sponsor.
    • NIH policy on the acceptance for review of unsolicited applications that request $500,000 or more in direct costs (DC) in any one year – this policy states that applicants must seek agreement to accept assignment from NIH Institute/Center staff at least 6 weeks prior to the submission of any application meeting or exceeding the $500k DC limit.


Preparing a Proposal (Budget Guidelines)

  • Personnel Effort

    • Budgeted effort for personnel on a project should be commensurate with the levels of effort required (per each individual’s specified duties) to perform the proposed work.
    • Per the “Minimum Effort Threshold” section of the HMS/HSDM Policy for PI-eligible Faculty Effort on Sponsored Awards, all Principal Investigators (PIs) and other key personnel on awards must charge effort on grants.  Effort below 1% is not allowed.*
  • Salaries

    • Use the individual’s full institutional base salary (IBS), multiplied by their effort, to calculate their requested salary on the proposal budget.  The only exception to this is for sponsors who have published limits on requested salary levels, such as HHS federal agencies (see list below) and certain non-federal, not for profit sponsors.  Always check the sponsor’s or funding announcement’s guidelines.
    • The Health & Human Service (HHS) salary cap is based on the Executive Level II of the Federal Executive pay scale and applies to applications to HHS agencies, including, but not limited to:
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) 
    • Center for Disease Control (CDC)
    • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
    • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

    Other federal, non-HHS, agencies may also impose salary limits.  Always check the sponsor’s or funding announcement’s guidelines.


  • Fringe

    Use the HMS/HSDM fringe rates applicable to the period of performance.  Or, in cases where the fringe rates have not yet been posted for the proposed award period, use the latest posted fringe rates.  Fringe rates are posted on the OSP website and in our federal rate agreement.


  • Indirect Costs

    Apply the appropriate indirect cost (IDC) rate for the sponsor type, per the HMS Sponsored Awards Budgeting Policy and the IDC rate published in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), where applicable. Rates for federal awards are set by our current rate agreement negotiated with the federal government.  The applicable federal rate is based on a combination of the activity of the award and its location:

    • On Campus Research;
    • Off Campus Research; or
    • Other Sponsored Activities (OSA)

    Calculate the indirect costs using the applicable IDC basis, either total direct costs or modified total direct costs (TDC/MTDC).  Federal awards always use an MTDC cost basis (see our rate agreement for exclusions from the base). *If a sponsor does not allow for budgeting PI salary on the budget, please notify your ORA pre-award officer to discuss options as soon as possible, prior to finalizing the proposal.


  • Inclusion of Subawards

    When a new or renewal application includes a subaward, follow the sponsor’s or funding opportunity’s/solicitation’s instructions for what documentation is required from the subawardee institution (subrecipient).  At a minimum, the Office of Research Administration (ORA) requires following documentation from the subrecipient:

    • Statement of Intent (SOI) - provide our version (see Forms for individual school's version). If the subcontract institution uses its own form page, review to ensure all requested information is provided.
    • Statement of Work (SOW)
    • Detailed Budget and Justification (per sponsor requirements)