Planning a proposal
Proposal Development Policy
When preparing a proposal, the PI should consider first whether their proposed work meets the Definition of Research and also note the following prohibitions:
- Tobacco funding - Acceptance or solicitation of research funding from tobacco industries (as defined in Cancer Research UK’s Code of Practice on Tobacco Funding) is not permitted.
- Classified research and classified materials - key points from the College’s policy statement are as follows:
- Research and/or consultancy (UK and Overseas) subject to a security classification above ‘Official Sensitive’ is not permitted to be undertaken by College staff on any College campus.
- No materials, documents nor information in any form, that is subject to a security classification above ‘Official Sensitive’ or equivalent classifications from overseas Governments, shall be generated or stored on any College campus
- Research that may involve or generate materials, methods or knowledge that could be misused for unethical purposes may not be entered into without fully documented risk assessment and appropriate referral / escalation e.g. materials and technologies that could be used for criminal, terrorist or unethical military purposes, including weapons production, operation or dissemination.
The Proposal Development Policy ROP-06 [pdf] provides a brief overview of the principles governing the development of research funding proposals and the majority of proposals will follow a standard application process.
Developing the Science Case
Each project should have one nominated Principal Investigator (PI) in line with the College’s Investigator Eligibility Policy who is responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and overall management of the research. This includes developing the science case, assigning roles within the project and determining the resources required to deliver the proposed work such as the following:
- Co-Investigators (Co-Is) assist the PI in the management and leadership of the research. Co-Is are normally expected to meet the same eligibility criteria as the PI and should be able to take over from the PI if required.
- Research Co-Investigators – usually postdoctoral researchers, clincal fellows or equivalent role who make a substantial intellectual contribution to the development of the proposal but are not eligible to be a PI or Co-I in their own right. Not all Funders will recognise the category of Research Co-Investigator, so their inclusion in proposals may be restricted
- Non-Staff costs – other resources necessary to undertake the project including consumables, equipment, facilities, travel and costs related to the support of dissemination activities if eligible.
If awarded the PI is also responsible for intellectual leadership of the research project, as well as the overall scientific and financial management of the research in line with the funder’s terms and conditions and the College's policies and procedures.
The Role of the Academic Department
The department is considered the primary owner of the pre-submission stages of proposal development and can support the PI and research team in developing and honing the science case prior to submission. Some departments may offer a peer review or equivalent informal process to independently assess a proposal’s scientific credentials.
The Head of Department (or their delegated representative) is responsible for approving all proposals on behalf of the Department. This first-stage approval confirms that elements such as the science case, proposed cost and price of the research, capacity and infrastructure implications and any additional requirements have been considered and that the proposed research will be supported by the department. To facilitate this process, PIs should discuss forthcoming proposal requirements with the relevant administrative officer in their department in advance of submission and leave sufficient time to facilitate any local committee or other assessment processes. Once department approval is given, the proposal must then be passed to the relevant College officer for institutional authorisation before the proposal is submitted to the funder.
Where a proposal is particularly complex and requires extended consultation or approval, a Bid Manager (this can be, but is not necessarily, the PI) should be designated to co-ordinate the submission process to ensure a properly scoped, costed, priced and authorised research proposal.
The Role of Faculty Research Services and Faculty Contracts
Faculty Research Services and Faculty Contracts teams provide operational support and expert advice and guidance on Pre-Award processes and funder terms and conditions. Institutional authority to submit research proposals or execute research agreements on behalf of the College is delegated to authorised members of these teams.
They act as the interface between the College and its funders for contractual and financial matters. Faculty Research Services and Faculty Contracts will only provide institutional authorisation to submit a research proposal or execute a research agreement when they are satisfied that relevant internal approvals have been secured (including Head of Department approval) and that the financial and contractual terms of the proposal or agreement are acceptable to the College.
The Role of the Research Office
The Research Office is a central department which promotes professional standards and consistency in research administration across the College to ensure institutional governance responsibilities and obligations are met. It is responsible for the policies and frameworks which underpin research funding management and within which the Faculty Research Services and Faculty Contracts teams operate.
Exceptions to the Standard Application Process
Whilst the majority of proposals follow a standard application or contract negotiation process, some factors may add potential complexity. These will require further consideration which may delay institutional authorisation.
Before starting the application process, it is important to refer to the guidance for managing non-standard application processes and check if any of these criteria apply.
Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Funding calls with restrictions or institutional quotas
- Internally managed funding calls
- Funding calls with foreign currency budgets
- Projects requiring an institutional contribution, commitment or statement of support
- Projects involving external organisations (UK and overseas)
- Projects requiring capital investment
- Projects requiring ethical approval (including non-healthcare research)
- Projects or relationships considered unethical, reputationally risky or politically sensitive