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Proposal Preparation Frequently Asked Questions

How are you different from the Office of Development?

The Sponsored Research Services offic and the Office of Development work together very closely to assure that there is no duplication of effort. By way of a simplistic explanation, Sponsored Research Services serves as a supportive infrastructure in the procurement of competitive, restricted grants. In addition, greater than 80 percent of our activity is with federal agencies and New York State agencies. The Office of Development works primarily with individual donors, corporations, alumni, and foundations to solicit funding.

The possible duplication comes in the event that a faculty or staff member is seeking funds from a foundation or corporation that is through a competitive process. This situation is handled on a case-by-case basis to determine which department is going to be the most effective at ensuring success of the application. Typically, if there is an application process, with a deadline and the proposal will be peer reviewed, it will fall in the purview of Sponsored Research Services.

If you don't know what to do, contact your college development officer or contact SRS at 475-7985 or research@rit.edu.

I don't want to go through all of the RIT "red-tape." What is wrong with simply pursuing funding on my own?

This is a bad idea for a number of reasons. First, we are all one institution and we all need to work together. Approaching an agency or a foundation with one voice is the most effective way to proceed. In fact, some agencies will allow only one application per institution. If SRS or the Office of Development don't know that you are submitting an application both could be jeopardized, as could the reputation of RIT.

Secondly, if an award is made to you as an individual there are some issues you need to be aware of. First, all of the liability has shifted to you at that point. Secondly, all of the award management has shifted to you. This can be extremely cumbersome and involves contract negotiation, budgeting, and keeping track of when your reports are due to name a few. Concentrating on all of this can diminish your time and effectiveness on the project. In addition, you may be too closely connected with the project to effectively negotiate a mutually beneficial contract. Too often people are so excited to have gotten an award they will agree to just about anything. This can be very, very bad. Third, you will need to claim this award on your income tax if it is granted to you as an individual. Perhaps most importantly, many agencies will not make awards to individuals.

The business side of grants can be very daunting if you don't have experience with grants. Because of this, foundations, companies, and government agencies prefer to work with grant administrators. It makes the process much more effective, and they want you to concentrate on the project.

One final point is that the internal review process at RIT may seem cumbersome if you are not familiar with it. It is really very simple, flexible, logical, and beneficial. Sponsored Research Services will guide you through the internal process of the Institute, as well as any process that your college or division may have.

Will you write the grant for me?

The simple answer is no. In our experience, having another person put your ideas into words is not effective, is not as successful, is totally transparent to the reviewer, and can lead to confusion. You are the best person to express your ideas.

SRS can assist you with the narrative. This may include blocking off long periods of time to sit with you and help you write, give you ideas on how to put words around your ideas, provide you with an outline to work from, gather information for you, format the proposal so that it looks good, and generally help you in any way with the narrative.

Time can be a very real constraint. Keep in mind that most grants are written in a few marathon writing session that seem painful at the time, but are not bad in hindsight.

What is the first step?

Contact SRS. However you are comfortable: e-mail, phone, stop by our office in the Slaughter Building (CIMS); just be in contact. Tell us your idea. You may be surprised what we can do for you and how exciting writing a grant can be.

Why would I want to write a grant in the first place?

This is a very valid question. We are at a teaching institution and the perception is that focusing a great deal of time and effort on a 50/50 shot at grant will produce very little gain even if it is successful.

The very simple response is that writing a grant empowers you to take a risk or conduct an innovative project. Grants also provide students with new and exciting learning experiences. They also can help the community or allow you to conduct research that interests you. A grant will enable you to do something cutting- edge that you would otherwise not have been able to do.

In addition, most of the grants RIT faculty and staff apply for are peer-reviewed by experts in a particular discipline. Success in this arena enhances the reputation of the institution, and it enhances your reputation in the field.

I've never gotten a grant before and/or I don't have a lot of experience. Is this going to hurt my chances?

It depends on many factors. If you are pursing funding for a $20 million dollar a year national research center . . . yes. However, there are numerous grant competitions that are focused on new professionals and young faculty, and SRS can help guide you to these. In addition, there are many competitions that are looking for new people with new ideas. The best predictor is the merit of your proposal.

Occasionally, unsuccessful proposals receive glowing reviews that have also stated, "if only the person had more experience." When you are first starting out, this need for experience may be frustrating, but SRS will do its best to predict this situation in particular competitions. There are usually several alternatives. One is to partner with a more seasoned faculty member or administrator. Pursuing a grant aside, this presents a nice opportunity for both people. Another option is to pursue sources of funding specifically targeted to beginning faculty. This may involve breaking a big project up into several smaller project, and you will have to decide if you are willing to do this.