Pre-Award Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find grant opportunities (also called Calls for Proposals or RFPs)?
Sign up on for a daily or weekly notice of federal grant opportunities. You can also find other funding opportunities on our website here.

Who can serve as a Principal Investigator (PI)?
All faculty (tenured, tenure-track, research and clinical) are eligible to be Principal Investigators. Others requesting to submit proposals as the principal investigator please see the SPS website for more information.

When do I contact Pre-Award if I am interested in submitting a proposal?
The Principal Investigator (PI) should contact Pre-Award as soon as a funding opportunity is identified or a potential sponsor requests an estimate of expenses or a draft budget. This is the point at which you would complete the Proposal Worksheet to get started.

Which proposal documents must Pre-Award review?
Pre-Award must review all documents submitted to the sponsor, solicitation or program announcement, and subcontracts.

How long will it take to process my proposal documents?
Due to the complexity of some proposals, sponsor deadlines, and the possibility of collaborating institutions’ and/or subcontracts’ internal deadlines, this time frame can vary greatly. It is extremely important to contact Pre-Award as soon as you know you will be submitting a proposal. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least two weeks to process a proposal and longer for those with subcontracts and/or cost share.

How long does SPS need to review my final proposal?
The length of time depends on your proposal and on the number of other proposals pending at the time yours is received by SPS. SPS staff review proposals as expeditiously as possible, generally prioritizing by due date and then in the order they are received. Often there are several proposals to be submitted for a particular deadline, which makes it especially important to provide materials well in advance. Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist to develop a timeline for document completion. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you require an expedited turnaround time, contact SPS and we will do our best to help you meet the deadline.

My project involves human subjects, how do I proceed?

My project involves animal subjects, how do I proceed?

My project involves the use of biohazard substances, how do I proceed?

What are direct costs?
Direct costs are the costs required to conduct the project. These costs can be easily identified within a particular project with a high degree of accuracy.

Where can I find information on typical expenses in a budget?
Pre-Award has compiled a list of typical expenses charged to research projects. For travel costs, please use the federal per diem rates as a guide posted at the General Services Administration website.

What are participant costs?
Participant support costs are not routinely allowed on research projects, but can be charged if the project includes an education or outreach component and you receive prior agency approval. Participant support costs include items such as stipends, subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants (not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects. These costs cannot include the speaker's expenses or the University's expenses of hosting the workshop. If they were not included in the proposal, then agency approval will be required to transfer funds into the participant support cost lines. Likewise, agency approval may be required to transfer funds out of the participant support cost lines.

What are indirect costs?
Indirect costs, or facilities and administrative costs, (F&A), are the costs to the University to house a faculty member's project. F&A cannot be readily identified with a particular sponsored project but are essential to the conduct of a project. Examples of the facilities component of the indirect cost rate are utilities, depreciation, and use allowances. Some examples of the administrative component include Payroll, Accounts Payable, Purchasing, Sponsored Accounting, Sponsored Programs, and Alumni & University Relations.

What is the difference between a Grant, Cooperative Agreement, and Federal Contract?

What is Purdue’s Indirect Cost Rate (F&A)? What budget items are exempt from indirect cost?
Click here for Purdue Rates and Numbers.

Sponsored Program Services (SPS) reviews all proposal budget categories to determine if indirect costs should be charged. Items that must be excluded from indirect costs are:

  1. equipment with a unit cost greater than $5,000;
  2. grad fee remits;
  3. participant training costs;
  4. the portion of each subaward that exceeds $25,000;
  5. off-campus space rental costs.

What do I do if I have a Subcontract?
Please inform your specialist of contact name and information of subcontract as documents are required prior to proposal submission

What is FastLane/
FastLane is the National Science Foundation's electronic proposal and award system. It is the point of entry for submission of proposals, revised budgets, supplements, transfers, and requests for no-cost extensions.  We currently submit to NSF using either Fastlane or, but per NSF guidance Fastlane is expected to be phased out completely by late 2022.

How can I obtain access to NSF FastLane?
Please email your relevant SPS administrator using the template provided.

What is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) salary cap?
The NIH salary cap is the highest amount of direct salary that a faculty member can charge to a grant. The amount is tied to the category of Executive Level I of the Federal Executive Level Pay Scale. This amount is subject to change. Salary rates by year can be found at the following website: If a faculty member's salary is higher than the NIH cap, the proposal budget should reflect the actual base salary. Therefore, should the cap be increased, the University is permitted to recover salary at the higher rate.

What is Cost Sharing?
Cost sharing represents that portion of the total project costs of a sponsored project borne by the university or other third parties, rather than by the sponsor. In awarding research grants, some sponsors, notably a few agencies of the federal government, require cost share to be included. This means that a portion of the costs of the project must be reimbursed from other funds. Per 2 CFR 200, federal funds may not be used as cost sharing. All sources of cost sharing must be identified and approval obtained from the person with authority over the expenditure of those funds. All cost share commitments must be allowable, applicable, and auditable. Some examples of cost sharing are: academic faculty effort; purchases of equipment, supplies, and materials necessary for the conduct of a project; third party contributions, either cash or in-kind. It is the PI’s responsibility to discuss cost share commitments with their department head, college, and EVPRP.

What is an allowable cost?
Allowable costs must be reasonable and allocable. A cost is reasonable if the amount paid is consistent with the amount that a prudent person under similar circumstances would pay. A cost is allocable if

  1. it was incurred solely to advance the work of the project;
  2. if it benefits the project in general in portions that can be reasonably approximated; or
  3. if it is necessary to the project.

Do Preliminary Proposals/White papers need to be routed through SPS?
The answer is yes or no depending on whether or not the sponsor requires a budget and/or a signature. SPS Pre-proposal Policy will help you determine if your white paper/pre-proposal requires Pre-Award involvement.


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