Working with Sponsored Research

The initiative to apply for external funding to support research, creative activity, and related academic pursuits belongs to individual faculty members or eligible staff who wish to lead projects as principal investigators, program directors, fellowship recipients, or collaborators. The academic dean’s office firmly supports these initiatives, offering general funding information, specific preproposal intelligence, and highly customized proposal assistance to help applicants secure external funding.

The primary responsibility to assist, review, approve, and transmit proposals that are addressed directly or via collaborators to public funding agencies resides in the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR). OSR also receives and negotiates external awards and subawards and follows up with post-award support from initiation through project closeout, in concert with grants accounting staff in the Finance Office and administrative coordinators in academic departments and programs. OSR is led by the Director of Sponsored Research, Dean Gerstein,

Proposal Assistance

What kind of proposal assistance is available from OSR?

OSR offers a range of research development services meant to facilitate and enhance the quality and viability of external proposals and their compliance with funding agency requirements and procedures. These services, offered in concert with the grants accounting staff in the Finance Office, are available to support all eligible Pomona faculty and staff applicants whether or not OSR is required to formally approve the specific grant or fellowship application.

The fundamental OSR approach is an individualized coaching model that considers and adapts to the experience, ambitions, and proposal schedule of each applicant, drawing on a large and growing library of reference materials, periodic workshops and general communications, and a network of expert advisors.

The available services include (but are not limited to) the following elements:

  • investigating structured funding opportunities to find the subset of sponsors and programs most likely to fit well with the prospective applicant’s interests, eligibility, and project plans; this is both in response to specific requests and through ongoing surveillance of new and continuing agency solicitations
  • searching the databases of targeted granting agencies to find pertinent active awards, extract available information about them, and help assess their characteristics
  • offering prospective applicants tailored trainings, strategic guidance, and orientation toward the funding environment
  • facilitating direct communication with program staff at sponsoring agencies
  • assisting applicants in shaping substantive and budgetary parameters of their projects to advance their research objectives while fitting the express and implied preferences of peer reviewers and program officers at the selected sponsors
  • providing appropriate templates, models, and examples of successful proposal components
  • coaching applicants—aka developmental editing—to configure and build proposals that are clear, persuasive, self-consistent, realistic, and fully compliant with a sponsor’s proposal specifications
  • expediting applicant communications with collaborating organizations
  • supporting applicants in meeting special provisions such as agency registration, institutional or departmental accommodations, assurances, commitments, cost-sharing, etc.
  • submitting proposals to agencies through online portals or other media
  • guiding applicants in interpreting and making constructive use of agency review comments and assessments
  • negotiating the details of imminent awards

How much lead time does OSR require?

In the interest of accommodating the many circumstances that arise in proposal development, the OSR does not have a one-size-fits-all schedule requirement.

We do ask that applicants interested in applying for grants or fellowships signal their interest early, preferably two to six months in advance of expected submission dates, so that OSR can begin generating suitable support plans and resources to help the applicant schedule and prepare effectively. It takes time to investigate program opportunities, draft an early summary or abstract, communicate with expert staff at the agency—which most agencies encourage and welcome—and with other subject matter experts, configure responses to feedback, work with collaborators, develop a clear and persuasive project narrative, and assemble and integrate ancillary materials. Proposals with an ample period of preparation are more likely to result in awards.

Shorter-than-optimal lead times are sometimes unavoidable, and short notice does not preclude or prejudice OSR support. But short lead times reduce the extent to which an applicant can take full advantage of OSR’s services. With very short notice, OSR and the budget office may not be able to exercise the due diligence needed to assure that a proposal complies with external sponsor requirements. In extreme cases this may result in a proposal being returned without review, blocked from submission, or OSR may not be able to provide institutional approval.

What are “limited submission” opportunities?

Some funding opportunities sharply limit the number of applications an institution may submit or authorize in a given cycle, which is usually an annual deadline. For example, the NEH Summer Stipends program permits only two proposals per institution per cycle, and the NSF Major Research Instrumentation program permits only two proposals per institution at the funding level that Pomona faculty applicants generally request. Funding solicitations that entail these types of restrictions are called “limited submission” opportunities, and always require some form of direct affirmation that submitted proposals have been approved by the College.

Where a limited submission opportunity has previously drawn or seems likely to draw sufficient levels of interest at Pomona, the dean’s office will send to eligible faculty a timely and well-specified internal call for expressions of intent or abbreviated proposals, and the faculty Research Committee will generally serve as an internal review panel to vet internal proposal materials and authorize which applications may go forward. The internal deadlines and notifications will provide sufficient time to assist the applicant and enable completion of the external proposal. When no internal call has been issued, priority will be decided on the basis of first come, first served.

What are the public funding sources?

Federal Agencies

The major external funding sources in many areas of academic and creative activities are mission agencies of the US federal government. All these agencies issue a revolving suite of specific solicitations for proposals for competitively awarded grants or fellowships, a single very broad annual or periodic solicitation of proposals, or both kinds. The main pathway for submitting these proposals is online portals such as the fedralwide or an agency-specific portal like the NSF, or NIH eRA Commons. Nearly all agencies use a common proposal framework that includes required and optional proposal elements, and standardized federalwide templates for budgeting, face sheets, and certain other documents.

In recent years, federal support for Pomona faculty has come primarily from a small subset of the agencies that provide federal support for academic research projects, infrastructure, and training, including:

Each of these agencies—and others such as the Fulbright Scholar programs at the Department of State and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy--provides a plethora of online information about their grant and fellowship programs, including program descriptions and solicitations, staff directories, application guidance, and in most cases searchable databases of core information about current and past awards. The OSR staff have experience and facility with all of these portals and application processes. OSR is pleased to provide pertinent information, assist in exploring the websites, and provide hands-on help in navigating the contact, upload, and submission processes.

Nonfederal Agencies

Several agencies in the State of California offer funding for research, creative activities, and community engagement that correlate with the work of Pomona units such as the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, the Benton Museum of Art, and performing arts programs. In many cases the state serves as an intermediary in disbursing federal funds or engages county offices as intermediaries for state funds.

Many foreign and international public-sector organizations (for example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; European Commission; and UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office) require that project applications come from lead organizations in specific eligible states or must apply as cross-national collaborative teams. In addition, some federal agencies have bilateral agreements (US-Ireland, US-Japan, etc.) that fund such teams. In other cases, U.S. agencies accept and will support non-US organizations as collaborators.

OSR staff in many cases have facility and familiarity with key agencies and programs at the state and international level. Regardless of the initial level of experience, OSR is poised to work with faculty in seeking suitable matches and developing applications to public funding sources at any level for which faculty or staff are eligible.

Specialized Research Support

Some applications or agencies require that OSR provide assurances regarding institutional controls or activities in a variety of specialized research support areas, which are covered elsewhere in this web portal. Faculty and staff in the academic dean’s office but separate from OSR lead these specialized research support and institutional activities, which include:

Some agencies or programs do not expect the College involvement in their grants or fellowships, preferring to work exclusively with individual applicants. Other agencies require College involvement, and still others consider College involvement optional at the applicant’s discretion.

The sponsored research office may provide assistance under any of these circumstances by advising our applicant or communicating with the agency. When the funding agency requires or the applicant desires that the College administer funds, house activities, or provide institutional assurances, accommodations, or specific support such as cost-sharing or student research assistants, then the proposal must be institutionally reviewed and approved in advance of submission. The locus of institutional review and approval depends on where the external funds originate.

The Office of Foundation Relations in the advancement department covers proposals to private sources of funding, such as philanthropic foundations and professional societies. For further information on Foundation Relations services and procedures, please contact the Senior Director of Foundation Relations and Strategic Initiatives, Martina Ebert,