Contacting Sponsor Agencies at the Proposal Stage
Contacting a potential sponsor may be necessary and is often considered a best practice in the early stages of developing a proposal.
Reasons to contact the sponsor during the proposal preparation include:
- Assessment of the level of enthusiasm the sponsor has for the proposed area of research
- Questions of suitability or alignment with the agency priorities
- Advice on study section, focus, topic or research area for best fit for a proposed project
- Uncertainty regarding compliance with the requirements described in the call for proposal (for example, page limits or sections)
- Questions about the technical requirements that are not addressed in the call for proposal
- Budget questions or clarification, including possible award minimum/maximums, whether or not a particular budget item can be funded, limitations in Facilities & Administration (F&A) cost reimbursement, and cost sharing/institutional commitment recommendations or requirements.
As a general rule, investigators are encouraged to reach out to the sponsor directly with questions related to the scientific content of the proposal. Additional information designed for contacting program officers at federal agencies is available in the Guide for Investigators: Contacting the Program Officer. In addition to working with their Local Research Administrator (LRA), it is recommended that investigators coordinate with Corporate & Foundation Relations (CFR) when applying to foundation and other private opportunities.
The investigator’s assigned LRA takes point in analyzing the call for proposals and other available sponsor information to find answers to non-scientific questions. The LRA initiates contact with the sponsor when necessary and, if additional expertise is needed or the answer from the sponsor is not forthcoming, engages their central Pre-Award official. If the Research Development staff is involved in the proposal, the staff will work with the LRA to decide the best course of action for resolving the outstanding questions and can take point in contacting the sponsor with matters that are not related to the preparation of the budget.
Often, CFR has ongoing relationships with non-federal sponsors. In these instances, the LRA and their CFR representative will determine responsibilities regarding the engagement with the sponsor to ensure a single point of contact from Tufts University.
In cases where, after reading the call for proposals and reviewing the sponsor website, clarity is needed on the application of the F&A rates, the LRA (in coordination with Research Development staff/CFR when applicable) must contact the OVPR Pre-Award office before initiating contact with the sponsor. Additionally, Pre-Award is the only office that is authorized to negotiate F&A with sponsors. An internal approval process is in place at the schools and centers for proposals where the sponsor limits F&A recovery (see Policy on F&A Costs on Sponsored Awards).