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Proposal Development Unit

Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development 

(Available for proposals ≥$1,000,000)
  • Consultation on proposal strategy
  • Project team meeting facilitation to clarify project goals, implementation plans, & budgets
  • Management of proposal schedule & communications
  • Identification of additional faculty expertise & resources
  • Planning & writing non-technical portions of the proposal
  • Institutional data acquisition
  • Proposal editing & formatting
  • Budget/justification preparation (including coordination of subcontract budgets) & submission for college research office approval
  • Advice on cost sharing agreements
  • Collection & formatting of CVs, current & pending support forms, & other information required from each participating researcher
  • Drafting of letters of support/commitment for NCSU & partner organization officials
  • Preparation of PINS,, NSF FastLane, etc.
  • Site visit preparation & proposal workshop logistics

Looking for PDU assistance on your next proposal? Fill out the Form at
N=43, to date
N=43, to date

Navigating the IRB Approval Process

By: Deb Paxton, IRB Director and Associate Research Integrity Officer

The Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB) is a central compliance office and committee that facilitates the ethical use of human subjects in research. If you are performing research with human subjects, you will need to obtain approval documentation from the IRB. 

The IRB office is here to help! 
We recognize that the only people who can actually conduct research in an ethical manner are the researchers themselves, so it is our goal to educate and facilitate researchers in the ethical and compliant conduct of research with human subjects. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need help or have questions about IRB issues.

Every institution that receives federal funds for research with human subjects must have an IRB in place to receive those funds, and institutions that receive federal funds must have an agreement (called an assurance) with the federal government stating that the institution will comply with federal regulations regarding the protection of human subjects in research. These regulations are found at 45 CFR 46, are written to uphold three basic principles (see below) for working ethically with human subjects, and provide specific criteria that the IRB must find in order to approve a project.

The IRB must perform prior review of all research with human subject, including unfunded projects. For most funded research, IRB approval is not necessary at the proposal stage, but the study sponsor will require it before making an award. If you are applying for research funding, make sure to review the solicitation for IRB requirements. However, regardless of the source of funding, you must acquire IRB approval for a project prior to beginning any interaction with human subjects.

Getting Started
In order to begin IRB approval, the research team will create an IRB application consisting of an electronic form asking detailed questions about the research and planned research activities, as well as any documents that the study will use with human subjects. The faculty member in charge of the research will then review the application and submit it to the IRB office. The IRB office will then prepare the application for IRB review by performing a preliminary review of the application, making sure the information it includes is clear, consistent, and complete. 

IRB review consists of evaluating the research plan to determine if the federally-mandated criteria for approval are present. The intent of the federally-mandated criteria is to uphold three basic principles for working ethically with human subjects:

  1. Beneficence – The net of research should be good. The IRB must assess the risks and benefits of the research, make sure that risks are minimized, and must determine that the risks from the research are adequately balanced by expected benefits;
  2. Justice – Targeting a specific population for participation due to ease of access is unacceptable. The IRB must find that subject selection and recruitment is fair and equitable, and that there is a scientific justification for any targeting of specific groups for participation; and
  3. Respect for Persons – The autonomy of people must be respected by making research participation voluntary and obtaining informed consent from prospective research subjects prior to involving them in research. 
When the IRB is able to find that the study meets all the federal criteria for approval, we will send an approval notice to researchers via email. At that point, researchers may begin research activities with human subjects. If researchers need to modify, in any way, research procedures described in the IRB documents, the IRB must review those changes before researchers implement them. Depending on characteristics of the research, the approval may have an expiration date by which approval must be renewed if the research continues.

Researchers can make the IRB review process more efficient by:
  • Providing clear and complete information about their study,
  • Including information about all study activities that involve human subjects or data obtained from human subjects,
  • Being vigilant against inconsistencies in the application as a whole,
  • Carefully creating informed consent documents that clearly explain to prospective participants all the expected activities of the research,
  • Carefully choosing words to avoid miscommunication, and
  • Allowing enough time for review to accommodate questions and feedback from the IRB office and IRB committee (the standard turnaround time for review is about four to six weeks).
For more information about the IRB process, please contact Debra Paxton at (919) 515-4514 or

ERC Solicitation Expected in Spring 2017

In advance of NSF releasing its 2017 call for proposals for the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program, the PDU has compiled information on currently-funded ERCs to ensure proposed ERC’s do not overlap with existing Centers.
NSF’s Engineering Research Centers are interdisciplinary centers where universities and industry collaborate to create engineered systems that will transform current processes, product lines, and/or industries. These centers provide a way for industry to work alongside faculty and graduate students to resolve complex engineering challenges and create innovate ways to transform current engineered systems. There are currently four major technology focus areas for ERC’s: Advanced Manufacturing; Microelectronics, Sensing, and Information Technology; Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure; and Biotechnology and Health Care. The following list does not include previously-funded centers.
Current Advanced Manufacturing ERC’s
SynBERC, led by the University of California at Berkley, standardizing biological components to design and build integrated biological systems;
NASCENT, led by The University of Texas at Austin, developing machines, materials and models required to produce nanomanufacturing systems to enable as-yet-unimagined nanoscale mobile computing;
C-SOPS, led by Rutgers University, developing the science and engineering methods for designing, scaling, optimizing and controlling dosage form design and relevant manufacturing processes;
CCEFP, led by the University of Minnesota, addressing the technical barriers associated with increasing the energy efficiency of fluid power components and systems; and
CBiRC, led by Iowa State University, developing the tools, components and materials needed to transform carbohydrate feedstocks into biobased chemicals.
Current Microelectronics, Sensing, and Information Technology ERC’s
TANMS, led by the University of California, Los Angeles, engineering a revolution in miniature electromagnetic electronics through development of a new class of nanoscale multiferroic materials;
MIRTHE, led by Princeton University, developing technologies and engineered systems based on mid-infrared trace-gas spectroscopy that will provide unprecedented optical and chemical sensing capabilities;
CIAN, led by the University of Arizona, working to realize manufacturable optoelectronic technologies to create transformative communication networks; and
POETS, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working to improve the power density of next generation electro-thermal systems by integrating traditionally separate research efforts in mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering.
Current Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure ERC’s
NEWT, led by Rice University, applying nanotechnology to develop transformative and off-grid water treatment systems that both protect human lives and support sustainable economic development;
CBBG, led by Arizona State University, focusing on ecologically friendly, cost-effective solutions that are inspired by nature for the development and rehabilitation of resilient and sustainable civil infrastructure systems;
QESST, also led by Arizona State University, transforming the existing electricity generation system, making it sustainable, ubiquitous, and multifunctional by developing photovoltaic and quantum energy converters that fundamentally alter how energy is generated;
LESA, led by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, developing smart lighting systems with adaptive and controllable properties to change the way society uses lighting;
FREEDM, led by NC State, building a network of distributed energy resources that intelligently manages power using secure communications and advanced power electronics;
CURENT, led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, creating a nation-wide or continent-wide transmission grid that is fully monitored and dynamically controlled in real-time; and
ReNUWIt, led by Stanford University, building safe, sustainable urban water infrastructures enabled by technological advances in natural and engineered systems, and informed by a deeper understanding of institutional frameworks
Current Biotechnology and Health Care ERC’s
ASSIST, led by NC State, developing and employing nano-enabled energy harvesting, energy storage, nanodevices and sensors to create innovative battery-free, body-powered, and wearable health monitoring systems;
RMB, led by NC A&T State University, transforming current medical and surgical treatments by creating "smart" implants to improve treatments for orthopedic, craniofacial, neural and cardiovascular ailments; and
CSNE, led by the University of Washington, creating a closed-loop co-adaptive bi-directional brain-computer interface that would be able to record and stimulate the central nervous system to encourage neuroplasticity, promote recovery and restore sensorimotor function.
For more information on any of the currently-funded ERC’s, click on the center names above or visit

Potential Funding Opportunities of Interest

The Advisory Council to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) approved three proposals for new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) at the public portion of their meeting on January 27,  2017. The FOAs address innovation in graduate education and new means of collaboration.

The first proposal was the development and issuance of a new Program Announcement (PA) for a National Research Service Award Institutional Predoctoral Research Training Grant that would be specific to NIGMS. The new PA will encourage the recruitment and retention of a diverse cohort of scientists whose training will focus on acquisition of technical and professional skills and the responsible, ethical conduct of research. NIGMS plans to publish the FOA in September 2017, with the first round of applications due in May 2018 and the first awards expected in July 2019. 

The second proposal was a Collaborative Program Grant supporting a team science approach to addressing complex research questions and mentoring new scientists. The grant will utilize the RM1 award mechanism (“research project with a complex structure”) and will support research projects broader in scope than those typically funded for individual investigators (e.g., through R01 awards). The program will require three to six principle investigators whose diverse but complementary areas of expertise are crucial to the success of the project. The FOA for the Collaborative Program Grant Initiative should be published in April 2017 with the first round of awards to follow in April 2018.

Finally, the Council endorsed a collaborative program between NIGMS and the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study innovation in the biomedical research enterprise. The Initiative to Support Research on the Science of Science and Innovation Policy will build on and replace the extant NIGMS Scientific Workforce Analysis and Modeling program. Applications will be reviewed by NSF first and subsequently by NIGMS.

Did You Know?

New NSF Policies and Procedure Guide: The National Science Foundation (NSF) published new proposal guidelines entitled the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) in October of last year. Proposals submitted or due after January 30, 2017 are subject to these new policies and procedures. The guide merges both the former Grant Proposal Guide and the Award and Administration Guide to create one comprehensive guide for NSF proposal submission. Changes in proposal guidelines include changes to Collaborator and Other Affiliations Information, enhanced cost sharing coverage, new clauses for projects involving human subjects and the use of vertebrate animals, the inclusion of a standard Organizational Environmental Impacts Checklist, and the addition of two new proposal types, among others. To view the new PAPPG, visit NSF’s website.

NSF’s 2016 Fall Grants Conference: The National Science Foundation held its annual Fall Grants Conference November 14-15, 2016. Presentation topics included award management, computer and information science and engineering, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, NSF’s merit review process, proposal preparation, post award monitoring and compliance, and the types of available NSF funding opportunities. To view the conference presentations, visit NSF’s website here. Or if you'd like to watch a recording of the conference webcast, click here.

Proposals that Could Influence the New Administration’s Budget: Most of the current information about what will happen to science and technology funding under the Trump administration comes from pieces of leaked materials and assumptions. At this point, there are no guarantees on what will come to pass in the next budget, but it is possible to look at what may influence the new administration’s spending preferences. An article from the American Association for the Advancement of Science examines budget proposals from the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee that may provide clues to these preferences and the approaching future of science and technology research. To read the AAAS examination of these proposals and their potential effect on the upcoming budget, click here.

NSF’s CAREER Program: NSF’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers support for early-career faculty seeking to build strong foundations for research and education in their respective fields. Those interested in submitting a CAREER proposal are invited to attend a three-session workshop covering key aspects of proposal development. Workshop sessions will be held at the Talley Student Union from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 8, 22 and 29.

The CAREER Workshop is open to all NC State faculty and will be coordinated by the Proposal Development Unit (Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development), College of Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and College of Textiles. Click here to register for the 2017 CAREER Workshop. Space is filling up fast, so be sure to register soon if you are interested in attending this informative workshop! If you have questions, or for more information, please contact Matt Hooker ( or Alexia Kelley (

NSF Piloting Streamlined Proposal Budget Process: NSF has started to pilot a streamlined proposal budget process for a few of its solicitations. For select programs participating in the streamlined proposal budget process, proposers will submit a zero proposed budget in the NSF Budget format during the initial proposal submission stage. Since the senior personnel listed on the Cover Sheet are prepopulated on the budget, they will need to be removed from Section A of the budget for the purposes of submitting a streamlined proposal budget. To do this, proposers should:
  • Navigate to the Budget Section;
  • Click "Funds" (or "Add a Year", if appropriate, then click "Funds");
  • Delete the Senior Personnel from Budget Section A (by clicking on "Add/Remove Senior Personnel") and then click "Save"; and
  • Click to the Bottom of Page, click "Calculate" and "Save" and "Go Back."

The budget justification should not provide itemized dollar amounts per budget category; rather it should provide sufficient narrative detail for program officers and reviewers to determine that resources are essential, adequate, and appropriate to support the project being proposed. Information must be provided for any of the requested items listed below:

  • Person-months of Senior Personnel (such as 1 month, 2 months, etc.);
  • Number of anticipated postdoctoral scholars, graduate or undergraduate students, administrative and clerical staff, and a brief overview of their respective roles;
  • Equipment purchases, including estimated cost; 
  • Number of domestic and foreign trips anticipated, their necessity for the project, as well as the number of travelers and the location of the trip, if available; 
  • Number of project participants;
  • Pertinent materials and supplies, consultant services, etc.; or
  • Any subawards, to whom, and a brief description of the work to be performed.

If a proposal is recommended for award, a full budget and budget justification will be requested by NSF. In those cases, amounts must be included in all appropriate budget categories, including indirect costs and any other items not discussed in the original budget justification.

The solicitation will clearly indicate the need to follow the above process if​ the streamlined proposal budget process applies to that particular solicitation. 

NSF's Merit Review Process Determines Which Research has the Greatest Potential: NSF receives tens of thousands of proposals every year, but is only able to support a fraction of this proposed research. So how does NSF determine which research has the greatest potential to promote the progress of science? Watch the NSF video below on Merit Review to find out. 
NSF's merit review process determines which research has the greatest potential
PDU Staff and Contact Information
Pradip Pramanik
Room 252
Matthew Hooker
Assistant Director
Room 218
Reenah Schaffer
Proposal Developer
Room 219
Derek Gatlin
Proposal Developer
Room 220

Patrick Crowley, Jr.
Res. Proposal Spec.
Room 221
Michelle Frick
Res. Proposal Spec.
Room 213C
Melanie Neff
Project Assistant
Room 213D

Poulton Innovation Center, 1021 Main Campus Drive Raleigh, NC 27606
Copyright © 2017 Proposal Development Unit, All rights reserved.

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