Proposals are written by the principal investigator (PI), assisted by his or her departmental resources. BARA provides assistance with obtaining and interpreting agency guidelines, providing all administrative data such as rates and assurance dates, and by reviewing the completed proposal.
In general, a proposal consists of: (a) a narrative or technical section, (b) agency specified forms (c) budget, and (d) budget explanation. The narrative or technical section should be a clear and concise explanation of the planned research including specific goals and methodologies. The budget is the best estimate of support needed to perform the research proposed. It should detail and justify each category of cost with supporting detail.
Most federal and many private agencies provide application forms and guidelines. A proposal could be eliminated if the agency’s instructions are not precisely followed. In cases where instructions are not provided, the following basic format is suggested:
- Cover page
- Certifications and Representations (as required by agency)
- Abstract containing a brief overview (approximately one page) of the proposed research including goals and methods
- Introduction which identifies the subject of the proposal and the need for the research
- Statement of work which outlines the precise goals and methodologies
- Budget estimates for each category of cost and supporting detail
- Appendix, including biographical documentation for key personnel and other supporting documents as appropriate.
Budgets generally contain itemized direct costs, and Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, and are submitted on required agency forms. Budget estimates should outline all costs for a given project. The following is a general budget format:
Direct costs are the expenses directly associated with a specific research project. The sponsor is expected to provide for all proposed direct costs, which may include:
- Salaries and Wages: List all personnel to be involved, along with a percentage of effort or calendar months devoted to the project per year. On federally funded projects, administrative salaries are generally unallowable. If they are to be included, it is essential that sufficient justification for clerical and administrative staff be provided. Consult your Sponsored Projects Officer (SPO) for further guidance.
- Budgeting Faculty Salaries above the National Institutes of Health Salary Cap
Per guidance issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) January 20, 2011, salaries on all awards initially issued on or after December 23, 2011 are capped at Executive Level II rates ($179,700). Approved proposals submitted with salaries in excess of this rate will be adjusted downward at award.
Because awards will be adjusted downward if salaries are budgeted above the cap, proposal budgets should not include any salary in excess of the Executive Level II rate. Salaries for all investigators above the salary cap should be budgeted at the cap. This will eliminate a situation in which total costs are adjusted downward to account for the salary cap. (NIH, January 20, 2011)
- Fringe Benefits: Varying fringe benefit rates are associated with different personnel categories. See Standard Proposal Information Sheet (link to proposal information sheet) for current fringe benefit rates.
- Materials and Supplies: These items are normally expendable with a useful life of less than one year. It is unacceptable to include general office supplies in the budget. Provide details for all materials and supplies required.
- Capital Equipment: Capital equipment must be directly related to the proposed research, have a useful life of more than one year, and cost in excess of $5,000. Identify the piece of equipment including the model number, manufacturer, and name of the vendor, in the budget explanation. General purpose equipment (non-dedicated equipment) is generally not allowed. Consult agency regulations or call your SPO for more specific information.
- Travel: Describe separately domestic and foreign travel associated with the project. Provide a breakdown of costs according to destination, reason for travel, number of travelers, number of trips, etc. When appropriate, use Federal Travel Regulations (FTRs) as a guideline to allowable travel costs. The following links are provided:
- Review the proposal announcement for any restrictions.
- Consultants: Identify the names of consultants, specialty, daily rate, and justification for their use.
- Printing and Publication Costs: Estimate the number of pages, page charges, and name(s) of journal(s).
- Subawards: List the names of all subawardees. Also submit a letter of intent from the subawardee (signed by an authorized representative) along with a detailed cost estimate and current rate agreement. If the subawardees’ work is not described in detail in Johns Hopkins’s proposal, have the subawardee submit a separate statement of work. Refer to the “Subawards” section in this guide for specific guidelines and procedures.
- Alterations and/or Renovations: Itemize the requirements and costs. Any such proposed activity must be approved by the Vice Dean for Science and Research prior to submission of the proposal. Alteration may be defined as a change that does not affect the basic character or structure of the thing it is applied to. Renovation may be defined as the effort to bring something, such as a building, back to a former better state by means of repairs, redecoration, or remodeling.
Data Management Plan (DMP)
An increasing number of funders, such as the National Science Foundation, require proposals to include data management or sharing plans. JHU Data Management Services is available to assist investigators to efficiently develop plans that are tailored to investigator’s specific research and guidelines required by the funders.
There is no charge for this service. Investigators should contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org a few weeks prior to the proposal due date. A representative of the team will meet and work with the investigator to ensure that the proposal’s data management plan addresses all relevant and required topics. . The team will use a questionnaire tool intended to guide discussion about such issues as research data storage, preservation, and sharing with others.
Funders increasingly give merit to projects with publically accessible data, but preparing data for sharing can be resource intensive. Investigators may choose to publish their research data through the JHU Data Archive, which provides web-based sharing and facilitates data citation for a fee of 2% total direct costs. JHU DMS assists with preparations for data archiving and access. Data are archived for five years following the completion of a project, with the option for an extension.
Investigators choosing not to use the team’s archiving services for data should consider the cost involved in managing and sharing the data, both during and after the completion of the project, and budget accordingly.
Post Doc Surcharge
The Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering of the Johns Hopkins University have collaborated to improve benefits for Homewood postdoctoral fellows. To implement this improvement, a Postdoctoral Surcharge has been created to cover the cost of these improvements which are in the areas of health insurance, and the services of the Office of Work, Life and Engagement.
A surcharge of four and a half percent (4.5%) will be placed on all salary and stipends paid to Post Docs beginning with the pay periods after January 1, 2011. The surcharge will be posted to a GL Code (Homewood Post Doctoral Fee). It will take F&A and will replace the charge currently posted for Post Doc Health insurance.
Other Direct Costs: Includes direct costs not specifically described by the general headings above, such as 20% tuition, and health insurance fees for graduate students on research grants.
Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A)
Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs (previously known as Indirect Costs) are the expenses incurred for general University operations while conducting the research project; e.g., administrative costs, and building use and maintenance. F & A costs are calculated as a percentage of direct costs and the F&A rate is set by the Federal Government. Click here for rate agreement information.
JHU and APL Relationship
- JHU as the Prime Contractor. The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD (APL) have separate and distinct accounting, estimating and purchasing systems. Due to the fact that APL is a Division within JHU structure, they may not be proposed as a Subcontractor, but may be proposed as a separate division of JHU and shown under the “Other Direct Costs” category of the proposal budget. When JHU is proposing APL as an Other Direct Cost, APL may apply their standard costing mechanisms, including all indirect charges. However, JHU may not apply an additional F&A burden and must exclude the APL cost from the MTDC base.
- APL as the Prime Contractor. When APL is proposing JHU support within one of their proposals, JHU may use their normal charges, including full F&A costs in their proposal. APL, however, may not put an additional burden on JHU’s charges.
In most instances, the proposal submission of a Statement of Work and Budget by either party will ultimately be part of a “Work Agreement” including appropriate terms and conditions, which will be issued by the Prime party if the proposal results in an award.
On- vs. Off-Campus
Based on the planned activity and statement of work, determine if the project qualifies for an off campus rate. In order for a project to be considered off campus, the following qualifications must be met:
- The PI will be away from his or her campus facilities (i.e. office and laboratory) for a minimum of three consecutive months;
- The PI’s on campus facilities will be made available for use by other faculty and/or students during the PI’s absence; and
- The PI will be performing work in accordance with the statement of work of the proposed and funded project while at the off-campus location.
These qualifications are a fiscal determination based upon space utilization and are not simply a definition of where some of the project work is being performed.
Off Campus Allocation Policies in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
The use of the off campus F&A rate must be reviewed and approved by the Vice Dean for Science and Research and will be considered on a case by case basis. All requests must be forwarded to the Vice Dean for Science and Research in advance of the proposal submission to expedite finalization of proposal document. Requests for an off-campus F&A rate for costs associated with any Federal grant should be made with the following policies in mind:
Salary and fringe benefits paid to the investigator from the grant during the period he/she is away will be subject to the off-campus F&A rate. All other direct costs are subject to the full F&A rate. Subawards do not qualify as an off campus activity.
Some agencies require that the University share a percentage of the research costs. Cost sharing represents a financial commitment to a research project. Whenever the full costs of a project are not recovered (direct or F & A), the University is, in fact, sharing a percentage of the research costs and it is considered cost sharing. University cost sharing should not be included in a proposal unless it is stated in the program announcement as a requirement for the proposal.
All cost sharing must have written approval of the KSAS Vice Dean for Research prior to a proposal being submitted. Cost sharing may take the form of outright, in-kind or matching.
- Outright cost sharing generally constitutes a cash contribution coming from University sources.
- Matching usually refers to a third-party cash contribution through gifts or grants specifically earmarked for participation on a project.
- In-kind contributions may include University or third-party contributions of efforts, services or goods.
All types of cost sharing must be accounted for, even if only mentioned in the proposal text and not specified in the budget.
Mandatory Versus Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing
There are two types of cost sharing that must be documented and tracked:
- Mandatory cost sharing is required by sponsor as a condition of obtaining an award. It must be included or a proposal will receive no consideration by the sponsor.
- Voluntary Committed cost sharing represents resources offered by the university (documented and quantified in the proposal) when it is not a specific sponsor requirement. It becomes a binding commitment which the university must provide as part of the performance of the sponsored agreement. This includes a PI’s effort with no salary being requested. This type of cost sharing is normally not approved by KSAS.
- Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Sharing is not proposed or budgeted for in a sponsored agreement. It generally occurs when faculty members or senior researchers donate additional time above that proposed to the sponsor or agreed to as part of the award. Voluntary uncommitted cost sharing must be reported in the Effort Reporting System.
To be acceptable as cost sharing, expenditure must:
- Be verifiable from the official University records;
- Not be used as cost sharing for any other sponsored program;
- Be necessary and reasonable for proper and efficient accomplishment of the project;
- Be allowable under the University governing cost principles and policies (OMB Circular A-21) and Johns Hopkins University Charging of Departmental Administrative Costs Policy;
- Be incurred during the effective dates of the award; and
- Not be paid by the Federal Government under another sponsored project.
JHU’s Cost Sharing Policy: https://apps.finance.jhu.edu/policyapp/displayEntry.do?entryId=01&entryType=PL&guideId=CSH&deptAbbr=SP
JHU’s Cost Sharing Procedure: https://apps.finance.jhu.edu/policyapp/displayEntry.do?entryId=01&entryType=PR&guideId=CSH&deptAbbr=SP
JHU enters into Non-Disclosure Agreements with Companies or other entities, when the activity of the parties involves provision or exchange of sensitive or proprietary data or technology. The agreement may be either unilateral or bilateral.
The Unilateral Universal Non-Disclosure Agreement is used when only one party is disclosing the confidential information.
- Unilateral Non-Disclosure Agreement - (pdf Format)
- Unilateral Non-Disclosure Agreement - (doc Format)
The Bilateral Universal Non-Disclosure Agreement is used when both parties are disclosing confidential information to each other.
All Non-Disclosure Agreements must be signed by the Vice Dean for Science and Research.
PROPOSAL SUBMISSION – OTHER DATA
The University must provide sponsors with certain assurances regarding every research project. These assurances generally involve areas of potential physical, psychological, financial or legal liability that the researcher, the sponsor, and/or the University may be subject to during the course of the research project and beyond.
In order for the affected parties to minimize potential liability, the federal government and the University require that certain approvals be obtained before a proposal is actually submitted. "Approvals" in this sense involve the conduct of an examination by unaffected, technically qualified individuals of those specific elements of the research proposal that pose potential risks. The examination of these risks is based, for the most part, upon federal and/or University regulations specific to the elements being examined.
Any research proposal that uses vertebrate animals, or tissue derived therefrom, must have the animal "protocol" approved by the University. This refers to the specific methodologies that describe how the animals will be used and maintained. Research involving animals must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Information on the University’s animal care and use program can be found at http://web.jhu.edu/animalcare.The Public Health Service (PHS) policy on the care and use of laboratory animals, with which the University is compliant, is available through the Office of Animal Laboratory Welfare (OLAW) at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/olaw.htm.
The Johns Hopkins University is committed to protecting the rights and welfare of individuals participating as subjects in research; therefore, all human subjects research conducted under the auspices of the University must be evaluated by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that the rights and welfare of participants are fully protected. A researcher is considered to be engaged in human subjects research and therefore needs IRB approval if they obtain either 1) data through intervening or interacting with a living person OR 2) identifiable, private information about a living person. In general, if the research involves coded private information, data, or specimens, the research is considered to involve human subjects.
The Homewood Institutional Review Board (HIRB) is responsible for reviewing and approving social, behavioral, and educational research conducted by KSAS faculty or students that involves human subjects. If the research involves clinical trials or medical procedures, Homewood investigators should contact the HIRB before submission as they will likely need to submit to the School of Medicine IRB. All investigators or research team members working on a human subjects project must complete online training in the protection of human research participants through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (www.citiprogram.org).
For more information, please view the Homewood Institutional Review Board’s website located at http://web.jhu.edu/Homewood-IRB
Infectious Agents or Other Biohazardous Materials
The University must examine and approve the handling, storage and disposal of any materials in this category. These approvals are obtained by contacting the Biosafety Division of the Office of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) at http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hse/biosafety.htm
The handling, use, storage and security of these materials must be registered with the Biosafety Division of HSE.
See http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hse/radiation_safety/ for further information.
Research involving the use or manipulation of recombinant DNA must be registered with the Biosafety Office in order to maintain compliance with institutional and federal regulations. This is the link to the Recombinant DNA Registration form. http://www4.od.nih.gov/oba/rac/guidelines_02/nih_guidelines_apr_02.htm.
Alterations, Renovations, or Additional Electrical or Steam Service
Any modification of laboratory or office space must be approved by the department chairperson and the Vice Dean for Science and Research before any information is conveyed to a potential sponsor.
Conflict of Interest
Conflict of Interest exists when external commitments or financial relationships of University employees threaten, impair, or cause the perception of impairment of the employee’s professional judgment in conducting, analyzing, or reporting research, or impede an employee's ability to capably perform the duties of their University position. To minimize the likelihood of such conflicts and to protect the integrity of the research, institution, and individual, KSAS has developed a Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Conflict of Interest of which every employee pursuing external activities with income potential must abide. The policy can be found at: http://www.wse.jhu.edu/include/content/pdf/adr/WSE_coc_coi_last.pdf
Certifications and Representations
Due to Federal mandate, the University must often certify that it conducts its activities in a manner that does not violate specific federal laws or regulations associated with the obligations of entities that receive federal funds. These assurances to the federal sponsors constitute "promises" on the part of the University that it understands the sum and substance of the regulation, and that it will do its best to behave in accordance with such regulations. The documents which convey our assurances in these matters are called "certifications and representations."
Most agencies have a published form which covers a general set of certifications regarding non-discriminatory employment practices, accuracy of cost and pricing data, employer identification number, and other similar items of information. The more highly visible certifications are the "special certifications." Among these assurances are those attesting that the University is a Drug Free Workplace; that Johns Hopkins has not experienced Debarment or Suspension in previous federal grants or contracts; that the University does not attempt Lobbying in order to attract research funding; and that equipment purchases are not duplicative (Equipment Certification). Because certification requirements are constantly changing, the Sponsored Projects office monitors federal requirements in these areas. Whenever there are questions about required certifications and representations, please direct them to the Sponsored Projects Office.