Principal Investigator's Guide - Section 1


As part of its activities as a major research institution, New York University provides services to the academic community in support of research, training and related activities carried out with funding from outside the University. The central office providing these services for all schools and units exclusive of the Medical Center is the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), which is part of the Office of the Provost. OSP has designed this GUIDE to assist in preparing and submitting proposals to external sources. A separate manual describes the procedures of the Medical Center.

All information in this GUIDE is current as of the date of publication, but is subject to change. Potential proposers are therefore urged to contact OSP for updated information as proposals are developed.

What OSP Does

OSP is responsible for institutional approval and submission of proposals on behalf of the University. OSP is staffed by Projects Officers knowledgeable about funding opportunities in a wide range of academic disciplines and experienced in working with external sponsors. They will help proposers to identify appropriate sponsors, interpret guidelines, develop budgets, and fulfill application requirements. They review proposals for consistency with institutional and sponsor guidelines and requirements, act as liaison between investigators and sponsors in the negotiation of awards and provide guidance to investigators in managing funded projects.

OSP also serves as the University's research compliance office by identifying regulatory requirements, negotiating federal assurances and staffing institutional review committees, developing institutional policy and procedures for the protection of human subjects, conflict of interest and misconduct in science, and supporting the University's obligations under its Assurance covering the use of animals in research, along with other requirements imposed by federal, state and local regulatory agencies.

To keep the University community informed, OSP maintains an NYU website and publishes a Deadline Calendar of other upcoming funded opportunities, as well as an Awards Listing to assist potential proposers in identifying faculty members working in compatible areas of interest, and detailed announcements of specific program opportunities. Sponsor guidelines, application materials, and general guides to proposal development are available in the OSP library, which is open to NYU faculty and administrators. From time to time OSP also conducts workshops for faculty investigators and local research administrators and participates in classroom instruction on research-related policy for students.

OSP staff may be reached at 212-998-2121 or


What Is a Sponsored Program?

A sponsored program is a research, training, instructional, or related project supported by external funds that are received by the University on behalf of a member of the University community, and for which the University is accountable. Such funds are provided as a result of a formal communication with the sponsor such as a letter, application or other written proposal signed and submitted by an authorized University official through OSP.

A sponsored program will normally have one or more of the following additional characteristics:

  • The sponsor has published guidelines, applications, and/or procedures for requesting support.
  • The use of funds awarded is restricted to support for a particular project or line of scholarly or scientific inquiry.
  • The award includes specifications for project performance and/or outcome.
  • The award provides for the disposition of rights in data, inventions, and/or other intellectual property.
  • The sponsor requires, as a condition of the award, programmatic, technical, and/or financial reports, which are subject to external audit.

Examples of externally provided support not included in this category are:

  • gifts or bequests to the University.
  • student financial aid.
  • support for student projects, unless institutional submission is required.

What Is a Proposal?

For the purposes of this Guide, a proposal is a formal statement of a project for which external support is sought. While a proposal can take several forms, as discussed below, in general it will:

  • be initiated from a disciplinary or educational perspective;
  • be characterized by a statement of need or purpose with a finite set of goals or objectives;
  • include the development of a product, such as a technical report; and
  • request a specific sum of money, usually with a detailed budget, for accomplishing the project.

There are many types of proposals. These include the following:

  • Letters of intent, white papers, and other forms of preliminary proposals provide at most an overview of the proposed work. Many sponsors do not require detailed budgets or workplans at this stage, but may use these initial descriptions as the basis for decisions on whether to solicit a full proposal.
  • New proposals provide a full description of the proposed work, including detailed budget and project plans, information on personnel, and appendices if required.
  • Continuation and renewal proposals request support for ongoing funded work. Continuations request support for the next year of a funding cycle already approved by the sponsor, e.g., for the third year of a five-year award. Renewals request additional support after a funding cycle has been completed, e.g., for an additional five years.
  • Supplemental proposals request additional funding for work under way, e.g., for inclusion of undergraduates in a laboratory-based research project.
  • Revisions of elements of proposals and/or budgets respond to requests by prospective sponsors prior to making a funding decision.
  • Transfers of proposals or awards occur when a faculty member with active funding changes institutional affiliation. Certain sponsors require action by both the forwarding and new institutions and the faculty member in order to effect a transfer.

Who May Submit a Sponsored Program Proposal?

Sponsored program proposals are submitted by OSP on behalf of the University for the individual(s) who will have primary responsibility for the project, should an award be made. The individual with primary responsibility for the project is called the principal investigator (PI) or project director. A PI must have a full-time, regular faculty appointment in a University school or college, or an appointment with the honorific title of Research Professor, Research Associate Professor or Research Assistant Professor.

Clinical Professors may serve as PIs on training grants only. For research or evaluation grants, clinical professors must apply for PI status (see next paragraph).

Exceptions to this policy may be made to allow Code 103 Professional Research Personnel to submit proposals for sponsored projects. Using procedures established for faculty appointments, the department recommends the appointment to the Dean or Director of the school or unit. This request, accompanied by a curriculum vita and letters of recommendation, is then forwarded to OSP by the Dean or Director. After review, OSP submits the request to the Office of the Provost. For more information, consult the Code 103 Policy Addendum, available from school and departmental administrators or from OSP.

Requests for PI status should be submitted with sufficient time to allow a decision in advance of a sponsor's deadline.

Exceptions to the policy on PI status cannot be made for those with the status of Visiting Faculty or Instructor.

Institutional vs. Individual Proposal Submission

With certain exceptions, submitting proposals to external sponsors, public or private, is an institutional rather than individual function. That is, the University, rather than the PI, acts as the official applicant and legally has responsibility for the performance and administration of any funded project resulting from the proposal. In practice, however, the PI has responsibility for the appropriate conduct and fiscal management of the project.

For institutionally-submitted proposals, certain internal approvals (institutional authorizations) must be formally secured before the proposal may be submitted to the sponsor. Prior institutional review is also required for the use of animals or human subjects in research, the use of chemicals or biohazardous agents, and potential conflicts of interest.

Proposals are reviewed and authorized using New York University’s proposal preparation and approval system, Cayuse SP. A PI certifies the proposal content, and the department head and Dean or Director (or designee) each authorize the proposal for submission. Only then may the proposal be submitted to the external sponsor.

Under certain circumstances, a PI may submit a proposal independently, as for specific fellowship programs. PIs should carefully check sponsor guidelines to ensure that no University clearances or commitments are required for submission. If unsure about submission procedures, PIs should consult their OSP Projects Officer for assistance.

Other Important Offices

Other offices at the University, in addition to OSP, will be of assistance in the development and submission of proposals for sponsored projects. Some have University-wide responsibility; some are specific to individual schools or units. There are local research administration offices in several schools including the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Steinhardt School, the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and others.

For assistance with Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) applications contact udar.corps& Part of the Office of University Development and Alumni Relations, this office can assist PI in identifying private foundations whose area of funding interest may match the PI's. They can also provide guidance on approaching a given foundation since most foundations prefer to deal formally with the university as an entity rather than with individual faculty members.

For links to other important central research support offices, see Resources and Support Offices.