Initial Development of the Research Idea
Sponsored research projects stem from research ideas. The process of producing a proposal for a research project begins with having a research idea/goal(s), then setting objectives for reaching the goal(s) and coming up with methods to carry out the objectives. Given the projects are externally funded, project structures, ideas and objectives must also abide by the opportunity’s sponsor guidelines and overarching goals. As the Principal Investigator (PI), you should consider the below questions during the inception phase.
- What do you want to achieve with your research or idea?
- Why do you want to do it? What is its significance, and how is it fulfilling a need?
- How is the project important for you/your organization and community?
- What you and/or others have already done?
- How are you going to do it? What are the suggested methods or theories of change to achieve the project goal??
- Who is going to benefit from it? (target population/beneficiaries)
- What are the expected outcomes and impacts of the project?
- Plans for its long-term sustainability, if applicable?
AUC's Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) can assist with the conceptualization of the research idea and the development process of the proposal. Additionally, we can work with the PIs on the budget, indicating who will be responsible for resourcing different cost components (i.e., the sponsor, the University, and other parties). Direct and indirect costs should be detailed, and any AUC policies pertaining to the budget should be explained.
Read more about the Indirect Cost and Fringe Benefit Rates in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Identifying Sources of Research Funding
A critical aspect of the proposal development process is matching research goals with appropriate sources of funding. Potential funding sources can include international organizations, government agencies, foundations, and corporations.
AUC's Office of Sponsored Programs assists in identifying applicable and eligible external funding opportunities. OSP regularly searches databases and announces research funding opportunities to faculty according to areas of interest. Additionally, OSP assists PIs in reviewing sponsor announcements, application guidelines, and instructions for proposal submission.
We have also created a simple funding search form that will inform the OSP team of your research needs/project field of interest, which will assist our search for relevant funding sources that match your specific needs and eligibility and share them with you.
Contacting Potential Sponsors
Once there is a clear research goal, and a potential specific sponsor has been identified, the next step would be to contact the potential sponsor and discuss the research idea. This interaction can help the PI and OSP further discuss the sponsor’s objectives and consequently construct an appealing and winning proposal. AUC faculty are encouraged to alert OSP about informal meetings and conversations with donors prior to discussing budget matters to ensure the funding conditions are compliant with AUC policies. Contacts with potential sponsors should be coordinated with AUC's Office of Sponsored Programs. In some cases, the University’s approval is needed before making initial contact.