FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What’s the first thing to do to get a proposal started?
[ List of Questions ]

Have an idea! Once you have an idea, research interest or project, the next step is to
organize your thoughts into a more formal structure so that it can be understood by
others. Writing out one’s thoughts always helps to clarify and to “see’ things more
clearly. Also, a preliminary draft of a concept paper can help others understand your
thoughts and have something concrete to start working with. In addition, it’s always a
good idea to think of the significance of the project or idea, of its intellectual merit(s),
and/ or how this idea impacts and contributes to transform or to solve a problem. This
will help develop a solid justification for the project. With this in hand, ERO (External
Resources Office) can help you identify an agency that fits your idea and can continue to
work with you throughout the steps that follow.

Also, it goes without saying, having enthusiasm, passion, and commitment help get a
proposal moving along

2. Who writes the proposal?
[ List of Questions ]

The bottom-line answer is: the proponent(s), but with the assistance of the grant writer.
The degree of assistance / participation of the grant writer will depend upon the
proponent. Writing a proposal is typically accomplished by two types of writers,
following their own particular style and level of confidence and proficiency in developing
a document of this nature.

Novice Writers- Novice proposal writers have a lot of thoughts / great ideas, but
typically when the come to ERO, they have not written them out, Therefore this first
meeting is usually dedicated to discussing or talking out loud, or even drawing /
illustrating the idea or concept in mind. This is a valid and important step in helping a
proponent start writing a proposal. Even though the proponent is the expert in the area
and is the only one that can logically and intelligently write about matters to a given field,
the grant writer (ERO) can assist the proponent by jotting down, capturing the thoughts
in a coherent and structured manner, coaching and weaving together the text generated so
that the sections required are created. These initial meetings and discussion sessions take
by the hand –guide and assist a novice proponent through the writing stages of a
proposal. It is important to add that these sessions also help a novice proposal writer to
understand the guides, formats, and requisites of each of the different agencies.

Experienced Writers- Typically, experienced writers bring to the External Resources
Office (ERO) a draft of a concept paper/ outline or, at times, even a document that is
fairly well advanced in its development with some of the mayor components: goals,
objectives, and activities already shaping up. At this point, the grant writer (ERO)
provides the proponent/ writer with some suggestions and technical input to ensure that
the document effectively addresses the agency’s and program’s goals and requirements as
stipulated in the guide. In other words, the proponent writes the proposal, but with the
benefit of being coached, receiving feedback, and obtaining writing suggestions on what
has been or is being developed to maximize the probability of obtaining an award.

3. Who has to approve your proposal intention/ design?
[ List of Questions ]

Since proposal submissions are institutional matters with commitments and responsibilities
attached, it is necessary for administrators to be aware of what may impact the institution.
It is their charge to check for duplicity of projects, conflicts, and/ or of availability of funds,
space, personnel, etc to which the institution will be subject to during the duration of the
proposal and probably a number of years thereafter. Therefore, Deans (Administrative,
Academic, and Student Affairs), the Planning Office, and the Finance Office must be
notified. To do so, the proponent will fill out the document – Notification of Intention and
. This document ensures that offices are duly informed and that there is a
preliminary approval or “green light” “to proceed with the development of the proposal.

4. What is typically included in Direct Costs?
[ List of Questions ]

Direct Costs are those expenditures that are required and necessary to carry out the
activities delineated in the proposal and to ensure the successful accomplishment of the
goals so that the expected outcomes are attained. Some of them are: salaries, fringe
benefits, consultant services, travel, material/ supplies and equipment (directly required),
communications costs (directly required). Note: Direct costs or F&A (indirect) will be
judged on a case-by-case basis.

5. What are Indirect Costs?
[ List of Questions ]

A proposal must present an itemized budget breakdown. The costs involved can be
categorized in two ways: as direct costs or as indirect costs. Indirect costs are referred to
officially by the federal government as facilities and administrative (F&A) costs. The
following link can be useful in obtaining a detail definition and discussion regarding
indirect costs.


Whether we call them indirect costs or F&A -- these costs are REAL COSTS. The
University is absolutely dependent upon the recovery of F&A costs in order to maintain
the infrastructure necessary to support the sponsored projects. Therefore, it is important
that the proposal present the amount, logical and fair, of what the expenditures of the
project will be.

Some indirect costs typically claimed are: (F) facilities: space, depreciation of
building(s), equipment, electricity, air-conditioning, maintenance, library, telephone
service, etc, (A) administrative: general administration, departmental administration,
sponsored programs administration, service of accounting staff, etc.

6. Who determines Indirect Costs?
[ List of Questions ]

Indirect costs may be (a) calculated by the proponent and ERO (following institutional
specifications), (b) established and specified by the funding agency in its guidelines, or
(c) negotiated in a fixed agreement that has been previously established. Currently, the
UPR system has a fixed negotiated indirect cost agreement. For UPRA it is 26% for
research and 8% for service proposals.

Note¹: If evidence of this negotiation is requested by the agency, a copy of the agreement
letter must accompany the proposal.

Note²: If an agency specifies an amount less than UPR’s negotiated agreement (26%), the
difference between the allowed amount and the full amount can be treated as an in-kind

Source: ("1998 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Guide for Indirect Cost Rate
Determination, Cost Principles and Procedures for Nonprofit Organizations Required by
OMB Circular A-122,").

7. What are “In- Kind” funds?
[ List of Questions ]

In-kind funds or payment are those made in the form of goods or services, rather than

In-Kind Cost Sharing

Items to consider:

  1. Space
    a. Office
    b. Lab
    c. Meeting rooms
    d. Courts ( basketball – tennis)
  2. Library
    a. Sources
    b. Databases
  3. Utilities
    a. Electricity
    b. Water
  4. Facilities
    a. Telephone service
    b. Security
    c. Vehicles ( car – bus)
  5. IT Tools/ Support
    a. Internet
    b. Intranet
    c. Smartboards
    d. Platforms
    e. Technical Expertise
  6. Materials and Supplies
  7. Administrative Support
    a. Invoicing
    b. Purchasing
    c. Accounts Payable
    d. Office assistant(s)
  8. Volunteer Work / hours

    Note: If a sponsor/ agency specifies an amount less than UPR’s negotiated agreement
    (26%), the difference between the allowed amount and the full amount is treated as an inkind contribution. Note: This amount can be substantial in a large scale project.

8. What is SPOC?
[ List of Questions ]

The acronym SPOC stands for Single Point of Contact (Junta de Planificación de PR). By
law, this government agency must be informed of and have the opportunity to examine
proposals created and submitted to agencies. In this manner, the government (Junta de
Planificación) can oversee that the initiatives set forth throughout the island are aligned
with and support the goals and the economic developed sought by the government.

Note: Certain funding agencies may request that the SPOC number be stated in the
transmittal papers of the proposal when it is submitted. This means that the proponent
must have solicited a SPOC number in advance. Some agencies that may require this
number at the time of submission are: DOT, EPA, HUD. Check the guide for this

Note: Blank requesting Congressional District = Puerto Rico or in grants.gov = 00

9. Does a PI/ PD have to fill out a SPOC document (Junta de Planificación de PR)?
[ List of Questions ]

Yes. There are two applications to be filled out.

a. The JP390 is filled out before the proposal is sent out. The SPOC will assign a
number which is part of the required documentation a proposal must have on file. It
is important to mention that some federal agencies request the SPOC number at the
time the proposal is submitted.

Some of the agencies that may require this number at the time of submission are: DOT,
EPA, HUD. Check the guide for instructions.

b. The JP394 is the second SPOC document filled out. This document is filled out once
a response is received from the funding agency. It informs the “Junta de
Planificación” of the determination (Approved or Denied) made by the agency to
which the proposal was submitted.

Note: It is important that the PI/ PD submit to ERO a copy of the number assigned once
s/he receives the formal notification. This number will be attached to the document on

10. What is an IRB (Institutional Review Board) and when does it intervene?
[ List of Questions ]

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) known in Spanish as “Junta de Revision
Institucional;” is an independent board, registered with the Department of Health and
Human Services
(specifically Office for Human Research Protections), which is
empowered with the charge and duty to approve, require modifications in planned
research prior to approval, or to disapprove research in which human subjects may be
involved. An IRB performs critical oversight functions for research conducted on human
subjects that are scientific, ethical, and regulatory. In addition, the IRB promotes the
discussion of ethical, regulatory and policy concerns with human subjects in research in
order to develop awareness and understanding.

11. Why is a Letter of Intention requested?
[ List of Questions ]

A letter of intention may serve two purposes: (a) for the agency to have an idea of the
number of proponents that plan / have the intention of applying and/ or (b) for screening
and identifying the most attractive / novel proposals and those most aligned to the goals
of the program/ agency.

Note: A letter of intention must have institutional approval.

12. Does a Letter of Intention need institutional approval?
[ List of Questions ]

Yes. Since a letter of intention is seen as a semi-formal agreement, it is important to show
that there is institutional awareness, institutional buy-in, and a commitment to what is
proposed and planned.

13. Which are the compliance issues investigators must be aware of?
[ List of Questions ]

The following list presents compliance issues that may be required at the time of
submitting a proposal. Many funding agencies are requiring that institutions comply with
a variety of ethical and compliance concerns in order to receive federal funds. These
issues are also examined at the time of an audit. Even though all of these compliance
issues are important and of interest to researchers, the specific compliance requisites that
may be required by a given funding agency or program may vary depending upon the
agency and the nature of the project proposed.

Ethical & Research Compliance

IRB (Institutional Review Board)

Animal Care and Use

Export Control

Environmental/ Chemical Safety

Research Integrity

Research Misconduct / Whistleblower Policy

Conflict of Interest

Intellectual Property / Patents

Note: Institutional policies related to Ethical & Research compliance are available at
ERO. Also, check links provided on the web page for the electronic version.

14. Once I receive the “Face Award Sheet” / “Award Notification”, what do I do?
[ List of Questions ]

The PI/PD must hand over a copy to the Finance / Accounting Office(s) so that they can
proceed to create the account that will receive the funds that have been allocated. In
addition, the PI/ PD must ensure that ERO also has a copy of the Face Award Sheet on