Collaborative Proposals

When a project involves investigators from two or more organizations, a collaborative proposal is submitted to the funding agency. For a collaborative project, submission of the proposal to the funding agency must be coordinated by the organization designated as the lead institution.

The usual method for submitting a collaborative proposal is for the lead institution to prepare one proposal that includes the collaborating organization as a subcontractor or subgrantee. The terms "subcontractor," "subrecipient," "subgrantee," and "lower tier recipient" are often used interchangeably. If an award results from the proposal, a single grant or contract is awarded to the lead organization, and the lead organization in turn, issues a subaward agreement to the collaborator. The subaward agreement will contain terms and conditions required by the lead institution as well as relevant terms and conditions of the funding agency. Most federal agencies prefer this method since it makes one organization solely responsible to the agency for administration of and reporting on the project.

A second method for submitting a collaborative proposal, one that is often used by the National Science Foundation, involves simultaneous proposal submissions from the collaborating organizations. If the project is selected for funding, separate grants are awarded to each organization, and each organization is responsible for administering its own funding. It is expected that the lead institution will work with the collaborators to coordinate reports and publications.

Single proposal submission with subawards

The lead organization is responsible for formulating and submitting the complete proposal to the funding agency. A section should be included in the project narrative that describes the role(s) of the collaborator(s). The lead organization must collect the following items from the collaborator(s) for inclusion in the proposal:

  • A cover sheet (usually the funding agency's cover form) signed by the collaborator's principal investigator and authorized organizational representative. Collection of the fully-signed cover sheet is important because by signing this form, the collaborator makes a number of assurances and certifications that are required of a recipient of Federal funds. In addition, the signature of the authorized organizational representative indicates that appropriate officials of the collaborator have reviewed the proposal and have committed the organization to participating in the project.
  • Assurances/Certifications if the funding agency has forms containing these separate from the cover sheet
  • A budget (preferably on the funding agency's budget form) for each project year and a cumulative, including the collaborator's indirect costs.
  • A current curriculum vitae for each of the collaborator's principal personnel.
  • A list of current and pending support for each of the collaborator's principal personnel.
  • A scope of work describing the role and tasks to be conducted by the collaborator. This should be included in the main project narrative. If an award results from the proposal, the collaborator's scope of work will be attached as an exhibit to the subaward agreement.
  • The National Institutes of Health require, in addition to the items above, a completed checklist page containing the collaborator's indirect cost calculations and a letter of collaboration signed by the principal investigators and authorized organizational representatives of the lead and collaborating organization(s). The letter must include the following statement: "The appropriate programmatic and administrative personnel of each institution involved in this grant application are aware of the NIH consortium grant policy and are prepared to establish the necessary inter-institutional agreement(s) consistent with that policy." Specific instructions are included in a document called "NIH Grants Policy Statement" issued by NIH located at and available from SPA.

Simultaneous proposal submissions to the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has established procedures for simultaneous submission of proposals by hardcopy and electronically by FastLane. The project title must begin with the words: "Collaborative Research:" 

The lead organization prepares in FastLane the complete proposal including all required forms for that organization (cover sheet, budgets and justification, current and pending support, facilities description, and biosketches) and the project summary, project description, and references cited. Each collaborator prepares in FastLane its own cover sheet, budget and justification, current and pending forms, facilities description, and biosketches. The collaborators do not include the project summary, project description, or references cited.

Before the lead organization transmits the proposal to NSF, each collaborator provides the FastLane Temporary Proposal ID number of their own proposal to the lead organization. The lead organization enters in the main proposal the Temporary Proposal ID number for each collaborator using the "Link Collaborative Proposals" function located on the "Form Preparation" screen. Once this has been accomplished, the lead organization and each collaborator may transmit their proposals to NSF.

Submission of a Proposal to Multiple Sponsors

If a proposal is going to be submitted to multiple sponsors, it must be disclosed in the proposal document. Many federal sponsors have procedures for disclosing submissions to other sponsors, such as through a current and pending support form or other mechanisms. If a sponsor requires a Current and Pending Support Form or similar form, include the other sponsors being submitted to as "pending" in the list. Listed below are some other sponsor-specific guidelines to consider.

National Science Foundation: On the NSF Cover Page, "Yes" must be checked under "Is This Proposal Being Submitted to Another Federal Agency?" Also, the acronym(s) of the other sponsors must be listed in the box. Note that NSF only wants the name of other federal sponsors listed in this section. Any non-federal sponsors should be listed in the Current and Pending Support section.

NASA: Any other sponsors being submitted to should be included on the Current and Pending Support Form.

NIH: Any other sponsors being submitted to should be included on the PHS 398/2590 Other Support Form.