Create a timeline to keep a proposal on track and set a meeting agenda
The Research Development group (RD) in any organization is mainly tasked with helping scientists and scientific groups attain their research goals by attracting funding and increasing institutional competitiveness.
Most research institutions, including universities, use RD groups to help them strategically apply for funding so that applications sent to the appropriate grant agencies and funds are distributed in an efficient manner. RD is particularly critical for institutions and faculty looking to apply to large grants. The types of grants that are considered “large” varies from institution to institution, and may be defined by the potential award size (e.g., >$1M per year in direct costs) or the complexity of the proposal (e.g., the proposal requires multiple components like cores and research projects).
When RD participates in the development of a large grant, they often handle the project management aspects of the proposal, including coordinating the efforts of all the necessary team members (PIs, key personnel, university leaders, staff, and grants administration). This job simulation focuses on the proposal development plan, a key project management aspect of large grant proposal development.
The Large Grant Proposal Development Process
RD groups may become involved in development of a large grant proposal in several ways. In many cases, a PI who has already identified a potential funding opportunity reaches out to RD for support. Alternatively, an individual such as the Vice Chancellor of Research may contact RD and ask them to find and coordinate a research group that would be competitive for a particular funding opportunity. If RD is called in to help early in the proposal development process, the process for the RD professional may look like this:
You are an intern in the RD office at a top-tier research institution.
Prepare a proposal development plan, including a timeline and potential meeting topics.
Your RD team is tasked with helping a multi-department team of cancer scientists prepare a proposal to apply for the NIH’s National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Program Project Award (PAR-18-290). The lead PI of the group contacted the RD office relatively early in the process (4 months before the submission deadline) so your team will be able to assist in organizing and developing the proposal strategy at every step.
Dr. Pala and Dr. Martinez have agreed to be multiple PIs on the proposal and have decided that their proposal will include the following components: Administrative Core, Clinical Core, and three Research Projects. Dr. Pala will serve as Contact PI and lead the Administrative Core, and Dr. Martinez will lead Research Project 1. They have recruited the following additional researchers (called key personnel) to lead the remaining components: Dr. Levine (Clinical Core), Dr. Ross (Research Project 2), and Dr. Star (Research Project 3).
In this case, the application deadline is May 25, 2018 and your group was contacted to help prepare the proposal on January 4, 2018.
Task 1: Develop a timeline
Create a project management timeline and development plan for a large grant proposal application. A development plan delineates the parts of the grant that need to be completed and serves as a timeline by which grant components need to be completed. This is Step 3 of the Process described above.
Use the required sections from the RFA PAR-18-290 to decide what are the major project tasks and milestones for preparing the grant proposal. Organize them in chronological order, budgeting more time for critical and/or more time-consuming sections that may require meetings for approval. Create a table that includes both broad and specific project goals, members of the team responsible/involved in accomplishing the goal, and a deadline for each goal. Aim for at least 10 and no more than 20 milestones/tasks.
Here are the broad categories of the content in this type of proposal:
Workflow of the documents typically goes as follows:
It is important that the project management timeline is completed in partnership with the grants administration office and the faculty involved in order to decide when drafts of each component need to be completed. RD professionals also determine at what points additional data or science sharing is needed. If the timeline was developed without consulting the PI, and the PI is not on board with the timeline, the rest of the faculty may not adhere to it.
For additional timeline information, check out the general resources for this job simulation.
Once you have completed the task, check out this example of a timeline PM development form from UCSF’s RD Office.
Task 2: Suggest meeting topics
This team has decided to meet the first and third Thursdays of the month for one hour beginning in mid-January. Using your timeline as a guide, suggest 1-2 discussion topics for key meetings throughout the proposal development process.
Use a table format to create this schedule and add it to your project management timeline. Include the topic and date or date estimate.
A project management timeline can be a word document with tables or an excel sheet.
The deliverable should containing the following information:
- List of researchers involved – Include names and roles (Lead PI, Core PI, etc..)
- RFA # and submission deadline
- Table with at least two columns listing the components and timeline from Task 1 The final recipients of these deliverables would be the PI and research team involved in preparing the proposal. Make sure that any technical writing is precise and all writing is clear, concise, and self-explanatory.
- Table with at least two columns listing meeting topics and dates from Task 2
A grad student or postdoc intern may be provided with example documents and/or templates to use. Review the proposed timeline with your supervisor to determine completeness (deadlines for all components of the tasks) and feasibility (adequate time between draft deadlines so that revisions can be made) before the timeline is presented to the research team. The research team then fill out the component details.
Skills used to perform this task:
Skills used in the Research Development field:
Additional tasks in Research Development:
A professional in the field of Research Development may also perform these tasks:
Learn more about Research Development from the National Organization of Research Development Professionals – NORDP.
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Simulation author – Linet Mera, PhD
Simulation vetted by RD professionals at UCSF