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Writing and Submitting Grant Proposals

Required Approvals and Timing of Submissions

A proposal seeking grant funding formally is a request to a funding agency from Vanderbilt University (rather than from the professor or student who will serve as principal investigator).  The proposal must be approved and submitted on behalf of the University by the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs. Prior to approval by the Director, the proposal and its budget must be approved by the chair of the department and the associate dean of the school of each investigator listed in the proposal.

Review and approval of the submission is accomplished online using VU's proposal processing system "Coeus." Proposals to non-Federal agencies and to Federal agencies for humanities and arts generally are uploaded to the Coeus system as pdf attachments that accompany the basic information about the proposal and its budget that must be entered into the system. Proposals to Federal agencies that provide support for science generally require entry of the complete budget into the Coeus system's budget module, accompanied by the budget justification. Moreover, proposals to Health and Human Services agencies generally require entry of very detailed information about the proposal and its investigators in addition to the complete specification of the budget and its justification. Investigators should consult with their departmental representative in the Division of Sponsored Research early in their proposal development to determine exactly what will be required for the approval and submission process.

Entering data into the Coeus system requires a significant investment of time (particularly for novices), and the process of obtaining all necessary approvals typically requires three to four days.  Hence, it is essential that you complete your proposal at least four to five days prior to its submission deadline.  (Editing narrative portions of the proposal can continue after the Coeus approval process has begun, but the budget and its justification can not be changed without canceling the process and starting the approval process all over.)


Sources of Additional Information

Office of Sponsored Programs

The OSP web site provides a treasure trove of information, including

  • Links to search engines for funding opportunities,
  • Links to Federal funding opportunities,
  • Instructions for using Coeus,
  • Institutional information that is required on most applications
    (e.g. VU institutional i.d. numbers, DUNS number) ,
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) rates, fringe benefit rates, NIH salary cap information,
  • Links to eRA,, and all Federal funding agencies.

Office of Contract and Grants Accounting
The OCGA web site contains information needed for development of budgets, including:

  • Fringe benefit rates,
  • Facility and Administrative (a.k.a. "indirect") cost rates,
  • FAQs about what costs are allowable / not allowable on Federal grants.

Grant Opportunities in Humanities and Social Sciences
A listing of fellowship and grant opportunities, primarily for faculty and students in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


On Writing Proposals While One Already has Grant Support

Employees and students generally are not permitted to charge salary to grants or contracts for time spent writing proposals. Any effort during the summer by faculty (on academic-year appointments) spent writing proposals must either be charged to a non-grant source of funds or must be uncompensated effort. Postdoctoral scholars, research faculty or staff, and any others supported 100% throughout the year via grants or contracts may not spend time writing proposals during time they are being paid to work on a grant or contract. This prohibition also applies to graduate students generally, but it does not apply to postdoctoral scholars and graduate students supported by federal training-grant stipends that require no specific service in return for that support.


Financial Support For Writing Grant Proposals

The College of Arts and Science provides limited salary support for its faculty's and postdoctoral scholars' effort spent writing proposals. See the links below for details.