Date: July 19, 2019
From: Randy H. Katz, Vice Chancellor for Research
To: Faculty; Postdocs; Staff
Subject: Update on Berkeley's Sponsored Projects Office - Institutional Proposal Review Model


Dear Campus Community:

The following message is to faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and staff who plan to submit proposals to non-profit and/or government sponsors through Berkeley’s Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) on or after September 1, 2019.

Loss of SPO staff positions in recent years due to campus budget cuts has caused significant delays in negotiating and setting up awards for campus PIs. The VCR has determined that a new approach to SPO proposal review is now needed to allow SPO staff more time for award negotiation and set up so that campus PIs will be able to access their awarded funds sooner. 

To accomplish this goal, as of September 1, 2019, SPO will move to the Institutional Proposal Review Model (IPRM), a proposal review model used successfully by UC Irvine’s central pre-award office since 2014. Under this model, SPO Contract and Grant Officers (CGOs) will review proposals only for "institutional issues" that could create financial, audit, and/or policy risks for the University.  CGOs will no longer review the technical or administrative sections of proposals for compliance with sponsor’s requirements. This will increase the time CGOs have to negotiate and set up awards.

In preparation for this change, a review of Berkeley’s current proposal review and submission process was undertaken by the Vice Chancellor for Administration and the Vice Chancellor for Research. This review included collecting data on typical proposal errors; obtaining feedback on the proposed proposal review model from PIs in SPO’s User’s Network (SUN) and the Committee on Research (COR) as well as the Regional Associate Deans. Campus RAs also were invited to provide feedback on this model.

Results of this review revealed that the following changes must occur before the Institutional Proposal Review Model is implemented at Berkeley:

  • Every PI must take the lead in the development of their proposals. This includes being responsive to the sponsor’s proposal requirements for both the technical and administrative sections of the proposal.
  • If a PI wants a BRS RA to assist with proposal review and the development of the administrative section of the proposal, it is critical that the BRS RA be given the time needed to provide this assistance.
  • Validation software (now available for federal proposals created in Workspace, ASSIST, FastLane, and Research.gov) must be used when available to find and correct critical submission errors before the proposal is submitted to SPO for institutional review.

The following revised proposal development and review procedures are designed to achieve these goals and will apply to all proposals with submission or target deadlines after September 1, 2019 processed through SPO:

1. PIs should develop and submit a proposal with a final administrative section and a draft technical section to their assigned BRS RA no later than seven (7) working days before the sponsor’s deadline.

The BRS RA then will review and assist with the administrative components of all proposals submitted by this internal deadline and use sponsor validation software (when available) to help the PI identify/correct any submission errors prior to submission to SPO. The PI will be responsible for preparing all required elements of the technical section of the proposal according to the guidelines from the sponsor. The BRS RAs will not be reviewing the technical sections of the proposal.

Proposals submitted to the BRS RA less than seven (7) working days before the sponsor’s deadline will be submitted by the BRS RA to SPO "as is."

Note: Departments and units not currently receiving research administrative services from Berkeley Regional Services may impose the same or different internal proposal review deadlines. See FAQ #3 below for additional guidance.

2. SPO should receive all proposals in Phoebe with a draft technical section and a final administrative section no later than four (4) working days prior to the sponsor’s or target deadline. (This is a day later than required under current VCR policy.)

SPO then will conduct a review of the institutional elements of on-time proposals and check for submission errors using sponsor validation software (when available).  SPO will no longer review the technical and administrative sections of the proposal for compliance with sponsor requirements. SPO’s comments addressing any identified institutional issues will be provided to the PI and BRS RA within two (2) working days.

Proposals submitted to SPO after the four (4) day internal submission deadline will be processed as "late" proposals as specified under the current VCR policy.

3. As required under the current VCR policy, the final version of the proposal (with final technical section and final administrative section) should be submitted to SPO no later than eight (8) business hours before the sponsor’s (or target) deadline.

SPO then will recheck the proposal to ensure SPO’s previous institutional comments have been addressed and identify any remaining submission errors using sponsor validation software (when available.)  Proposals with institutional issues and/or submission errors will be referred back to the PI and the BRS RA for correction. SPO will submit the proposal to the sponsor after all institutional issues and/or submission errors have been addressed.

Proposals submitted to SPO after the eight (8) hour internal submission deadline will be treated as "late" proposals and processed as specified under the current VCR policy.

We believe these modifications will enable PIs, RAs, and CGOs on the Berkeley campus to work together more effectively to support Berkeley’s research enterprise. If you have any questions or comments about how these new procedures will be implemented with your region, SPO’s role in the proposal review process, and/or the FAQs provided, please use this Google Feedback Form.

Best regards,

Marc Fisher
Vice Chancellor for Administration

Randy Howard Katz
Vice Chancellor for Research

FAQs

Q1: Can you provide an overview of how the proposal submission process will work?

Yes. Please see FAQ #1 here: ;
https://spo.berkeley.edu/procedures/institutionalreview.html#faqs

Q2: What happens if a proposal does not meet the seven (7) day internal BRS RA deadline described above?

BRS RAs cannot guarantee that a proposal will be reviewed. Such proposals will be submitted to SPO at the 4 day deadline "as-is."  The PI will be solely responsible for ensuring that the draft technical and final administrative sections of the proposal adhere to the sponsor’s guidelines.

Q3: What if my department/unit is not served by Berkeley Regional Services; will the BRS and SPO internal deadlines apply to my proposals?

Departments and units not currently receiving research administrative services from Berkeley Regional Services may impose the same or different internal proposal review deadlines and processes. PIs in these units are encouraged to identify the department/unit’s requirements for proposal review before undertaking a proposal that will be submitted through SPO. Note that SPO’s internal deadlines and institutional review process will be the same for all proposals submitted through SPO.

Q4: What happens if a proposal is submitted by the BRS RA to SPO "as is" by the four (4) day deadline?

SPO will return the proposal to the PI and the BRS RA without review if the proposal does not contain a draft technical section and a final administrative section with sufficient information for an institutional review. If the proposal is accepted for review by SPO, SPO will review the institutional elements of the proposal and check for submission errors using sponsor validation software (when available).  SPO’s comments addressing any identified institutional issues will be provided to the PI and BRS RA within two working days. SPO will not review the administrative or technical sections of the proposal for compliance with sponsor requirements.

Q5: What happens if a proposal is approved as a "late" proposal by the VCR?

A proposal will be considered "late" if a draft technical section and a final administrative section is not submitted to SPO at least four (4) days before the sponsor’s deadline or if the final version of the proposal is not submitted to SPO at least eight (8) business hours before the sponsor’s deadline.

SPO will follow current VCR policy related to "late" proposals:  Late proposals will be reviewed for institutional issues only and submitted to the sponsor "as is" but only after any institutional issues have been corrected and after all other proposals due on the same day are submitted. Submission errors for late proposals will be addressed by SPO only if time permits.

Q6: Do the internal deadlines for BRS and SPO apply to all proposals submitted through SPO?

PIs should contact the BRS RA and SPO CGO assigned to their unit at least three weeks before the proposal is due to discuss alternative review/submission procedures and timelines for proposals with any of the following characteristics:

a. The proposal guidelines indicate that submission of the proposal will commit the University to specific award terms and conditions.

b. The proposal includes direct costs of over $10M per year or the RFP/RFA notes other requirements requiring UCOP review (e.g. publication approval, citizenship restrictions).

c. The proposal requirements are significantly complex and/or involve multiple institutions and/or involve multi- or inter-disciplinary efforts.

Q7: Can a PI submit a proposal to SPO earlier than the internal deadlines listed to accommodate the PI’s schedule?

Yes. This new model will allow SPO to provide comments addressing any identified institutional issues within two working days after the proposal is received in acceptable form by SPO. SPO will approve/submit the proposal to the sponsor after receiving the final version of the proposal with no remaining institutional issues or submission errors.


source: 7/19/2019 CALmessages: Update on Berkeley's Sponsored Projects Office - Institutional Proposal Review Model