Grant Proposal Preparation FAQs

Do I need to seek approval before submitting a grant proposal?

Faculty must share their proposal information with their department chair and the dean of faculty and obtain the approval of their department chair and the dean of faculty. The email confirmation, proposal, and budget will be submitted to the business affairs office for review. Arlene Chubbuck will submit the proposal to the granting agency.

What is step one in seeking an external grant?

Start early! Nearly all granting agencies have absolute time and date deadlines. Numerous applicants and multi-institutional grants have been rejected for missing deadlines by only a few minutes due to problems out of the applicant’s control – such as computer or network failures.

Second, review the Steps to submitting proposals for external awards that includes the grant submission checklist and timeline for a more comprehensive list of tasks.

Third, complete the HMC Proposal Intake Form and schedule a brief orientation meeting with Arlene (achubbuck@hmc.edu) and Brandon (bice@hmc.edu) to review the application process and to discuss potential issues.

How soon should I send the grant proposal to my Department Chair, the Dean of Faculty, and the Business Affairs Office?

Faculty members are encouraged to begin the proposal review process well in advance for the proposal due date. This will allow for unanticipated delays with the granting agency, submission process, and individuals who may be out of the office on the day the proposal is due. Final drafts of proposals must be provided to the business affairs office, department chair, and dean of faculty at least two weeks prior to the sponsor’s deadline for final internal review and approval to ensure successful on-time submission.

If I am collaborating with another institution, do I need to get approval?

Yes, collaborations are treated in the same manner as a primary proposal submitted by HMC. Please follow the same proposal approval process as you would where HMC is the lead institution.

Is Harvey Mudd College eligible for Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grants through the NSF?

Yes, HMC meets NSFs criteria for being an RUI, and applicants are encouraged to include RUI eligibility information with any NSF submission. Funding research at primarily undergraduate institutions is a priority for NSF and any additional information such as the RUI Impact Statement helps the reviewers better understand the context of what applicants are proposing.

What are person-months and how do I calculate them?

What is the definition of “person months”?
The term “person-months” refers to the effort – amount of time – that PI/coPI(s), and other senior personnel will devote to a specific project. The effort is based on the organization’s regular academic year, summer, or calendar year. For example, if the regular schedule is 9 months and 30% effort will be devoted to the project, a total of 3 months should be listed as academic months. See other approaches below.

How do I calculate the person-months per year committed to the project?
Multiply the percentage of your effort associated with the project times the number of months of your appointment (i.e., 25% of a 9 month academic year appointment equals 2.25 person months {9 x 0.25= 2.25}; 10% of a 12 month calendar appointment equals 1.2 person months {12 x 0.10 = 1.2})

OR, if you know the number of hours, days, or weeks to be devoted to the project, person-months can be obtained by calculating the portion.

For example, working 5 days on a project = 1 week/4 total weeks in a month = 0.25 person months. Since a month includes a working day or two more than four weeks, an alternate way to calculate would be 5 days/22 work days in most months = 0.23 person-months. Simply said

  • Using weeks: multiply number of weeks by 0.23 to get person months (3 weeks x 0.23 = 0.69 person months) OR
  • Using days: multiply number of days by 0.05 to get person months (4 days x 0.05 = 0.20 person months)

How do I calculate summer salary on my proposal?

When supplemental summer salary is allowed by the funding agency (e.g., NSF), it should be calculated at a rate of one-ninth of your annual salary per month of summer salary (and prorated for fractions of a month devoted to summer research). NSF sets a maximum of two-ninths of annual salary for summer salary.

Generally speaking, you should project an estimated 4.0% annual increase when calculating summer salary. This is not a commitment on the part of the College to increase salaries at this level, and indeed salary from grants cannot exceed the actual salary level established by the College.

Example:
Academic Year Salary: $80,000 / 9 months = $8,888.89 Maximum Monthly Summer Salary
Effort during the summer is 2 months: 2 x $8,888.89 = $17,777.78 Total Summer Salary for year one of the grant
Year two of the grant would include a 4% increase: ($17,777.78 x .04) + $17,777.78 = $18,488.89

What is the indirect cost rate (called “Facilities and Administration” by NSF)?

NSF describes indirect costs as those costs which are not readily identifiable with a particular cost objective (e.g., direct organizational activity or project), but nevertheless are necessary for the general operation of an organization. Examples of indirect costs include the salary and related expenses of individuals working in accounting, personnel, purchasing functions, rent, depreciation and utilities. Indirect costs are not normally charged directly to a Federal award, but are allocated equitably to all of the organization’s activities. Indirect costs are generally charged to Federal awards through the development and application of an indirect cost rate (ICR). Please refer to Budgeting Information for Research Grant Proposals for current rates.

I’m looking to hire summer research students to assist with the research. What rate would I use to calculate the expense?

Summer research students are considered fellows instead of employees. They are paid with a research fellowship rate/stipend that varies slightly depending on the student’s class year (senior, junior, etc.). The current maximum for 10 weeks of participation is $5,000 for a senior or new graduate. In your grant proposal, request the maximum amount for each student: $5,000. This assumes participation for the full 10 weeks. If you know in advance that a student will work less than 10 weeks, pro-rate the budget request – for example, $4,000 for 8 weeks (@ $500 a week).

In addition to student stipends, applicants are encouraged to include support for student summer housing in the budget. HMC’s standard rate is $200 per student per week for 10 weeks for each student; totaling $2,000 per student.

How do I calculate student wages, not including summer research student fellows?

All new summer research proposals should include students as fellows under Participant Support (see related FAQ on calculating summer researcher expenses). If additional assistance from an undergraduate student is needed throughout the academic year, you may use this to calculate:
Non-HMC Students: (Hourly rate determined by HR) X (number of hours) X (1.08 fringe)
Enrolled HMC Students: (Hourly rate determined by HR) x (number of hours)
Please note that the fringe rate of 8% covers employer-paid FICA (Social Security and Medicare). These rates have been approved by Human Resources.

I am a sub-awardee on a proposal that was submitted by a prime organization to NSF. For current and pending support, should my organization list the total amount requested for our sub-award, or should we list the total award amount for the overall proposal?

NSF uses the information submitted in the current and pending support section to assess the capacity of the individual to carry out the research as proposed as well as to help assess any potential overlap/duplication with the project being proposed. The total award amount requested or received by the sub-awardee organization must be provided.

Are PIs allowed to provide gift cards as part of their research activities?

The College understands that PIs utilize gift cards as part of their research activities and the College is committed to supporting these activities. PIs can provide gift cards to individuals participating in a research project if the gift card is being provided to incentivize a broad population of students or non-HMC employees and the gift card amounts are minor in amount (e.g. under $25). In these instances, the College does not have a reporting requirement to the IRS if the total amount provided to an individual in a calendar year is less than $600. Therefore, no W-9 is required to be obtained from research participants. It remains the research participant’s responsibility to determine the tax implications based on the facts and circumstances.

Please also coordinate providing adequate security for the research participant gift cards between the purchase and distribution. This should be a locked location with access limited to those responsible for the distribution of the gift cards. We also recommend not keeping additional gift cards on hand by avoiding purchasing more gift cards than are needed for a specific event or timeframe. The College is required to retain supporting documentation for audit review. In addition to the receipt of the purchase of the gift cards, a log should be kept for the distribution of gift cards that indicates the recipient. If confidentiality is required, please let the Business Affairs Office know and we can coordinate an alternative method of documenting the distribution of the gift cards to research participants.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Scott Martin at smartin@hmc.edu.

Who should I consult with if I have questions regarding my proposal budget?

Arlene Chubbuck in the business affairs office can assist faculty with proposal budget questions. You may reach Arlene at 909.607.0352 or by email at achubbuck@hmc.edu. if this is for an NSF grant, you may also refer to the NSF Budget Template.

If I need help writing my proposal, who should I contact?

Faculty write their own proposals, however, there are resources available to assist. Faculty who have previously submitted successful proposals would be a good place to start. Additionally, the dean of faculty can suggest faculty members who would be a good resource for advice.