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Proposal and Budget Preparation

Pre-proposal Preparation (Concept Paper Preparation and links to template files)
Proposal and Budget Preparation (Components of proposals and budgets)
Tips on Writing Proposals

AUB's Institutional Profile (specific information about AUB often required for research application forms)

Pre-Proposal Preparation (Concept Paper or Letter of Intent)
The principal investigator may either choose to have the OGC initiate informal contact with a representative of a sponsor agency to explore funding support on his/her behalf or choose to do it independently, however, no commitments binding the University may be made until a proposal has been internally reviewed, processed and approved by the various AUB administrative offices.

Sometimes funding agencies require a letter of intent or a concept paper prior to the submission of a full proposal. Concept papers or letters of intent are usually short, one to five pages document describing the proposed program or project. If funding agencies do not provide their own format, it usually includes a cover sheet, a program narrative and a preliminary budget. Below please find some website links that describe the components and tips for writing a concept paper:

Writing a Concept Paper
Tips for writing a concept paper

If an informal proposal, or letter of intent or concept paper is sent it is important for the faculty member to inform OGC and to refrain from making any commitments until the formal project proposal has received University review and approval.

Proposal and Budget Preparation
While the writing and preparation of the proposal is the sole responsibility of the Principal Investigator, the Office of Grants and Contracts can assist and advise on proposal structure and format as well as budgeting, interpreting sponsor's application guidelines, and offering suggestions. Faculty members are encouraged to consult with OGC at any time during the proposal preparation phase. It is important for investigators to follow the sponsor's instructions when preparing proposals and budgets. OGC can help in the proposal preparation by clarifying sponsor's submission procedures and interpreting University policies related to sponsored projects.

It is important for faculty members to discuss their proposal at an early stage with the department Chairs in order to insure that the planned project and its activities are consistent with departmental objectives as well as insure the availability of necessary resources (office space, laboratories etc…). This may also require discussions with the Dean of the faculty, and, if the project is interdisciplinary, with other department Chairs and Deans.

Proposal Format and Content: The requirements of content and format of proposals differ noticeably from one sponsoring agency to another. While some may provide their own application forms to be filled, and others may request on-line submission of proposals, others will accept a proposal in any format as long as it features the necessary information, and does not contradict their conditions. Whatever the format, the proposal and the budget are the documents which will be evaluated by the sponsor to determine whether or not proposed projects merit funding.

The principal investigator is responsible for the technical content of the proposal and its compatibility with his/her other professional responsibilities. It should be noted that if the proposal is funded the sponsor will expect the implementation of the project as proposed with any deviations requiring prior approval. Generally every proposal should include the following sections:

Cover Page - Unless specified by the funding agency, OGC has a suggested cover page format to be used. It contains the needed information such as: the title of the proposed research, the name of the agency to which the proposal is being submitted, the name of the principal investigator and any co-investigators, with the school and departmental affiliation of each, the date of submission, and a signature box with a place for the principal investigator's signature, and a place for the signature of an authorized University official, (such as the director of OGC).

Frequently, sponsor agencies may request certain specific information about the University, such as: legal name, type of organization, EIN number, contractor identification number (DUNS), Federal Wide Assurance (FWA) and others, this can be viewed on OGC's website under AUB's Institutional Profile.

Executive Summary/Abstract - The Executive Summary or Abstract is a summary of the whole proposal usually no more than 200 to 250 words. It should briefly yet concisely state the importance and objectives of the proposed project as well as the methodology to be used and the project timeline (expected duration). It should be noted that this section is important as it creates the first impression of the proposal.

Statement of Need - This is the section which emphasizes the importance of the project and thus the need to carry out the research. It should summarize the problem, show your familiarity with prior research work on the topic, reinforce your credibility for investigating the problem, and justify why this problem should be researched. The interest of the funding agency could be highlighted subtly in this section.

Project Objectives - This section should describe clearly the general and specific objectives and goals of the research. They must be concrete and logical showing how each objective is a solution to a real problem, and how each objective systematically contributes to achieving the overall goal(s) of the proposed research, and are achievable in a specified time period.

Methodology - This section provides the details of the measures and research procedures to be used indicating how the objectives will be accomplished. The procedures may be written in different ways: by activities tied to specific procedures, by functional categories such as planning, development, and implementation, or by major time blocks. If the text takes up too many pages, and the sponsor agency has limitation on the number of pages, the text can be reduced by using appendices containing tables, figures, graphs and illustrations.

Project Staffing - This section includes the number and qualifications of the research staff to conduct the proposed research, as well as their specific assignments. This can be done by providing the curricula vitae of the professional personnel together with a list of support staff (part or full time) needed to accomplish the project goals. If consultants are needed for the project, this section should describe the need for them. Please see the University policy on consultants.

Evaluation and Dissemination of Findings - Some sponsor agencies may require an account about the means of disseminating the research finding beside the publication of papers in scientific journals. A statement on how this will be done should be included without forgetting the staff and cost needed to accomplish this task. Some may require a plan for evaluation of the success or the progress of project. Evaluations serve to pinpoint what is really happening in your project so that project efficiency can be improved.

Equipment and Facilities – This section should clearly identify the needed facilities and equipment to be purchased and thus need funding, as well as the facilities on campus which are to be made available if the project gets funded. This will avoid the reviewer’s questioning whether or not the needed items to conduct the described research are available.

Budget – The budget must be calculated with reasonable accuracy, and provide details and adequate justification and documentation of the costs. If the costs are underestimated the reviewer might think that the principal investigator is not aware of the complexity of the research and therefore might minimize the chance of funding. On the other hand if the costs are exaggerated (overestimated) the reviewer will also be led to the same conclusion and thus result in project disapproval. For more details on budget preparation see below: Budget Preparation and see: Tips on Writing Proposals.

Biographical Data and References - This data should be submitted with every proposal to show the background, areas of interest, research qualifications, capabilities, and publications and references of the investigator and co-investigators and other key personnel who will be designated to work on the project. The proposal should include a current list of references to relevant literature in the field.

Appendices
- This section includes documents and information which support the proposal such as illustrations, figures, letters of support, tabular data, certifications, consortia agreements, and subcontract data.

For further tips on proposal and budget preparation please see Tips on Writing Proposals.

Budget Preparation
While the proposal states the need for the research, the objectives and tasks, as well as the methodology, the budget section of the proposal should reflect, as accurately as possible, the funding needed to carry out the project. It is reviewed by the sponsor to verify if the costs are reasonable and necessary to carry out the proposed project, and to insure that it complies with the sponsor's instructions and guidelines. Thus a well-prepared budget is one that will provide the sponsor with a complete financial picture of the proposed project, and conforms to the sponsor's instructions and AUB's policies and procedures.

OGC can assist faculty members in the preparation of budgets and using the current indirect cost rates (see below), employee benefit rates, travel per diem rates, research assistant's salary rates, and providing guidance on any special sponsor requirements or restrictions concerning funding. For your convenience OGC has created a budget template for your use in preparing budgets.

Direct and Indirect Costs
The budget can be divided into two parts: 1. direct costs and 2. indirect costs. The sponsor may also require that the University shares the cost of the project (cost sharing).

1. Direct Costs
These costs include such categories as personnel/project staff salaries, fringe benefits, travel, supplies and material, and equipment. Some budgets may need categories for publication costs, documentation, printing, consultants, or subcontracts. It is advised to be as detailed as possible by showing how the costs of each budget category were calculated, or by including a budget justification section.

Personnel/ Project Staff Salaries: Salaries and wages can be calculated by putting the percentage of effort to be spent by each person working directly on the project. This effort should be shown in terms of percentage of full-time effort or in man-months. For individuals paid on an academic year basis, show a breakdown between academic year and summer effort. Employees may not receive compensation at a rate in excess of his/her authorized salary. On proposals which extend more than one year, it is best to include an incremental percentage of 4-5% increase per year for both professional and nonprofessional personnel. This increase can also be applied when calculating tuition fees for Graduate Students.

Fringe Benefits: Employee fringe benefits are the University's share of contributions to social security, medical insurance, retirement, etc. Employee benefit rates are calculated as a percentage of employee salaries and wages. Calculate the employee fringe benefits to full-time academic and non-academic personnel compensation using the current university rates for the fiscal year period. Part-time staff will not be subject to the benefits charges.

Research Assistants (RAs): RAs are on academic appointment; and their appointments cannot be made before the award of a grant. They may be appointed on a part-time or full-time basis, for more information on this please see the Research Assistantships Policy ​under AUB's Policies and Procedures.

Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs): GRAs should be full time students and are allocated by the faculty member by the Chair of the Department. GRAs stipend and tuition support are compensated from internally or externally supported grants. GRAs may not work more than 20 hours per week in this capacity and are not allowed to work outside the University. They will not be entitled to receive other financial aid as long as the GRA is in force. Salaries/stipends for Graduate Research Assistants (i.e., graduate students) should not be budgeted to include employee benefit costs. For more details, see the policy on Graduate Assistantships and Graduate Research​ Assistantships under AUB's Policies and Procedures.

Graduate Assistants (GAs): GAs must be full time students, and are allocated to departments by the Dean of the faculty. Full support of a GA consists of 9-credit units of tuition support plus the GA stipend as set by the University, and may be on full or part time support. For more details, see Graduate Assistantships and Graduate Research Assistantships​ under AUB's Policies and Procedures.

Travel and Per diem: Most sponsors will cover reasonable and necessary travel costs if requested. Many agencies request specific data on each proposed trip, including destination, transportation costs, number of days of travel, and purpose of each trip. On the budget, "Domestic" and "Foreign" travel should be separately identified and budgeted. "Domestic" travel includes trips within Lebanon and could be calculated by using the rates provided by the University Motor Pool Services as follows:
Driver:   LL15,000.00/hour
Vehicle: LL2,000.00/km. for trips up to 50 km. 
               LL 1,000.00/km. for each extra km above 50
For more information on rates for transportation to airport and other services provided by Motor Pool please refer to the following link of the Motor Pool.

For foreign travel, consult the Auxiliary Services Department to get cost of ticketing, please note that on federally funded projects all foreign travel should utilize US carriers whenever possible and regardless of cost or convenience. These costs need to be fully justified in the proposal budget and any exceptions to the "Fly America" requirements must be documented. For calculations of accommodation, meals, and incidental expenses per day refer to the following rates as published by AUB's Comptroller's office:
1. Maximum Daily Allowance Rates for the United States of American or
2. Maximum Daily Allowance Rates for all other countries.

Supplies and Material: A research project will usually consume expendable supplies and minor equipment such as laboratory items, teaching materials, animals, laboratory notebooks, office supplies etc. A reasonable amount should be budgeted for these items.

Equipment: Non expendable equipment is defined by the University as one that has a useful life of one year or more. It is important to budget all the equipment needed for project implementation and to include the estimated freight charges by adding 40% on the cost of the equipment. It is important to list needed items in the budget, and justify the need for the equipment, by doing so will avoid the need to get sponsor approval when ordering equipment because the purchases will be considered approved if your budget is accepted by the sponsor.

2. Indirect Costs
In addition to direct costs, sponsored projects are also charged indirect costs (also called overhead or Facilities and Administration) by applying a percentage rate (the rate established by the University) to the total direct costs of the project. The costs are the project's operating costs and include such costs as payroll and accounting, personnel office, library usage, use of office space or rent, renovation, legal services, general maintenance, depreciation costs, as well as general project administration.

Foundations vary considerably in their policies regarding the allowability of indirect costs on grants, and their application guidelines specify the allowable percentage to be applied on the total direct costs. The general policy of the American University of Beirut is to charge indirect costs on sponsored research projects and programs. For information on the indirect cost rates applied as well exceptions made when the sponsor guidelines forbid the application of indirect costs please refer to the policy on indirect costs.

Cost Sharing: Sponsors sometimes may require sharing the costs of the project. This can be done by contributing partial personnel costs, space, volunteer time, or other costs towards the total project expenses. University contributions in terms of personnel effort and the associated employee benefit costs, and other direct and indirect costs calculated on these expenses at the approved University indirect cost rate can be shown. Also any difference between indirect costs at the sponsor-limited rate and the University's negotiated rate can also be used as cost-sharing.

Budget proposals listing cost-sharing should explain how the cost-sharing commitments will be met. Cost-share commitments should be discussed with the faculty's department in advance of the proposal submission deadline since cost-sharing included in a proposal either in the budget or in the narrative of the proposal is a binding commitment if the project is funded, and the University will be held accountable for all cost sharing efforts proposed. Thus any proposed cost sharing should be approved by the chairperson, director, and or deans of the relevant academic department prior to proposal submission. For more information please see the policy on cost sharing for sponsored research.

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