Step 3: Develop My Proposal

Pre-Award Phase


How do I get started?


If you are just getting started in the proposal process, this page provides useful information on developing proposals in general, and more specifically about UC Berkeley processes and policies. There are also many people on campus who can help you navigate the various steps in this process, as noted in the 'How do I get help?’ tab below.

Please keep in mind that campus proposals for grants or contracts to governmental or non-profit sponsors must be submitted through the Sponsored Projects Office (SPO), and proposals for grants or contracts to industry must be submitted through the Industry Alliances Office (IAO). See the UC Berkeley Policy on Requirement to Submit Proposals and to Receive Awards

  • General proposal guidance. Familiarize yourself with the overall proposal preparation process and get guidance on writing a successful proposal from the Berkeley Research Development Office website. CalNet login required.  
  • General Foundation Proposal Guidance: You will find basic steps and guidance for preparing a proposal to a foundation or nonprofit organization from the Foundation Relations and Corporate Philanthropy Team.
  • Understand Your Principal Investigator Eligibility. Check whether you are eligible to submit a proposal by reviewing the VCR’s policy on Principal Investigator status. Individuals who do not have PI status by virtue of their position/appointment may be granted exceptions on an individual or continuing basis. Exceptions require the support of the applicant's Department Chair/Unit Director and cognizant Dean. Requests for Exceptional PI status can be submitted online
How do I review a solicitation or request for proposals?


Many funding agencies and sponsors issue proposal solicitations, which will outline the research topic areas and the formatting and section requirements for the proposal.

The format of solicitations and requests for proposals vary by sponsor type, so you should follow the technical and formatting instructions carefully. Sometimes there are two sets of instructions to follow: the general proposal instructions of the funding agency (such as National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health) as well as the specific instructions in a program solicitation. Agencies may use different terminology for referring to a solicitation for proposals (e.g. solicitation, funding opportunity announcement, call for proposals, request for proposals, solicitation, or broad agency announcement).

There may be different options for funding listed in a solicitation, which will have an impact on the expectations from the research (for example, deliverables versus reports).

  • Cost Reimbursement: Almost all research funding is on a cost reimbursement basis, which means that UC Berkeley is reimbursed/paid for actual costs associated with the project, not a lump sum. The funds can be paid upfront, on a payment schedule, or in arrears. At the end of the project, remaining funds are returned to the funding agency unless otherwise agreed.
  • Fixed Price: The funding agency and principal investigator agree on a specific price for the research project.  If the project needs additional funding, the PI must use discretionary funds to complete the project and submit deliverables; if the project has funds remaining at the end, then the PI can have the remaining balance transferred to a discretionary fund. Solicitations and awards will specify Fixed Price; if it is not specified, it is safe to assume that the award is cost reimbursement.  If you need clarification, contact your Berkeley Regional Services Research Administrator.
What are the most common proposal components?

Common narrative components include: an abstract, statement of objectives, research plan, description of resources, and CV. At a minimum, if proposal components are not specified in a solicitation, the Sponsored Projects and Industry Alliances Offices will require a statement of work, budget, and budget justification.

Guidance specific to common funding types of funders.

Standard institutional information
Most proposals require our standard institutional information, like our legal name, tax ID number, and DUNS number.

Proposal budget basics 

Current and Pending Support
Funding sponsors want to know what other research is going on in your lab.  More recently, there has been increased emphasis on disclosure of foreign activities.

Cost sharing
Some solicitations may require that UC Berkeley share in the cost of the research.  Unless required, you are discouraged from offering cost sharing.

Subrecipients and Subawards
If your project involves another university or entity to perform some of the research, you may need to enter into a subaward agreement once you receive the award.  As you are developing your proposal, be sure to clearly define the subawardee's role in the project. In addition, you will need to ensure that the subaward university or entity is able to provide the necessary documentation in accordance with UC Berkeley's timelines. Your Berkeley Regional Services Research Administrator can help with gathering this documentation.

Other common sections

The Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) provides guidance on writing sections about postdoc mentoring, data management, evaluation, and other common sections.

How do I develop a proposal for a research gift?

Gift proposals should be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, of the work that may be done under the general purposes presented. The gift proposal should describe the intended project or research.

However, the following items should not be included in gift proposals:

  • A strict timeline.
  • Milestone mandates. Gifts should not be associated with mandates to complete a project or milestones by prescribed dates set by the funder.
  • Deliverables, tangible and intangible. In order to avoid all appearance of a quid pro quo, research gifts cannot be given in exchange for any type of deliverables. (Examples of deliverables include technical reports, records, equipment, rights to data, and copyrights.)
  • Commitments to share or deliver intellectual property. For work performed at UC Berkeley, ownership of intellectual property is governed by applicable UC policies as they relate to UC employees, students, and visiting scholars. More information about UC intellectual property policies can be found here.
  • Subawards. Subawards cannot be made from a gift, and a portion of the gift cannot be sent to entities or collaborators at other institutions. In order to qualify as charitable contributions, gifts to UC Berkeley must be spent at UC Berkeley to further our educational, research, and scientific purposes.


Gift proposals should not have line item budgets. As the funded project progresses, aspects of staffing and budget may change and the manner in which the activity is carried out may evolve. Considerable latitude is allowed in the specific expenditure of funds, as long as the work advances the general goals and objectives outlined in the proposal or discussed with the funder.

Other Considerations

All research gifts are subject to a 10.5% Research Administrative Fee. It is critical to keep this in mind when building a rough budget.

Consider whether a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is necessary for the scope of work (example: sharing of data or other materials). If so, discuss the MTA with the funder in advance. Additional obligations like MTAs cannot be added to the gift agreement post-award or to any ancillary agreements. Gifts can move forward in conjunction with material or data sharing agreements as long as the project is ultimately to benefit the knowledge base in that area, as opposed to directly benefiting the funder. Contact the Industry Alliances Office for assistance with all MTAs. The terms of an MTA have to be carefully vetted to ensure UC Berkeley is not inadvertently offering rights or reports under the MTA, which could be a quid pro quo for the gift.


University Development & Alumni Relations has additional resources to help distinguish a gift proposal from a grant proposal.

UDAR does not consider sponsorship gifts as research gifts. Please reach out to to learn more about the gift sponsorship process.

How do I develop a proposal for a center or institute?


A large collaborative team or center proposal/award can facilitate research that could not be accomplished by a single research group working in isolation; it can spearhead novel research directions and lead to high impact results. Collaborating with a large group of scientists and stakeholders, often across disciplines and institutions, is however not without challenges.

The Berkeley Research Development Office has developed guidance about applying for government funding and can help with your collaborative team or center proposal.

If you are interested in establishing a center or institute with corporate funding, contact the Industry Alliances Office about Industry Alliances Programs or Industry Sponsored Institutes.

How do I write a data management plan?

Many federal and non-profit granting agencies or data providers require a data management plan describing how you will care for data over the course of the research lifecycle. Writing a data management plan enables the researcher to think about data from a holistic perspective, by thinking about questions and scenarios before they arise.

  • What formats will the data be in?
  • Who will be in charge of managing the data?
  • How will you describe the data?
  • What types of software will you use to analyze the data?
  • Where will you store the data during the research process?
  • How will you make the data shareable?

There are tools and checklists to assist you in writing a data management plan, such as the DMPTool. Learn more about data management plans on the Berkeley Research Data Portal.

How do I get help?

There are many people on campus who can help you navigate the various steps in this process.

Berkeley Regional Services
Each faculty member is assigned a Berkeley Regional Services Research Administrator (RA), based on six service regions grouped by schools, colleges, and departments. Your RA provides administrative and management support for research proposals, grants, awards, and contracts throughout the various steps in the lifecycle.

Berkeley Research Development Office
The Berkeley Research Development Office provides Principal Investigators and their teams with strategic, organizational, and editorial assistance on the content and presentation of their proposals. 

Sponsored Projects Office (SPO)
SPO reviews proposals and awards from Federal agencies, non-profit agencies, and other governmental agencies.  SPO's robust website can provide guidance on a wide range of topics (use the google search bar!). You can also find your SPO Contract and Grant Officer by department.

Industry Alliances Office (IAO)
IAO can provide guidance and support for your industry proposals.  IAO negotiators are happy to meet with you and your potential sponsoring company to answer common institutional questions, like how UC Berkeley handles intellectual property.

Foundation Relations and Corporate Philanthropy (FRCP) Office:

FRCP provides Principal Investigators and their teams with strategic, organizational, and editorial assistance on proposals to foundation and other nonprofit funders.

Data-related Resources
The Research Data Management (RDM) Program and the Library Data Services Program assist with developing data management and/or sharing plans. Reach out to either program for assistance.

The Berkeley Research Data Portal is a centralized location for navigating campus data-related services and resources such as finding and protecting data, data use contracts, sharing and publishing data, training and support, and more. The portal points researchers, research staff, and support personnel to the campus offices and data, technologies, tools, and services that can make the research effort a success.

For general help, please reach out to

Where do I find other resources for my proposal?


  • The Research Data Portal is a centralized location for navigating campus data-related services and resources such as finding and protecting data, data use contracts, sharing and publishing data, training and support, and more. The portal points researchers, research staff, and support personnel to the campus offices and data, technologies, tools, and services that can make the research effort a success.
  • Gift, grant, or contract, determining the difference. If you are unsure whether your award is a gift, contract, or grant, see the Vice Chancellor for Research Office guidance for defining and distinguishing the differences. You can also contact the Sponsored Projects Office, which negotiates awards for Federal, State, non-profit, and other governmental entities, or Industry Alliances Office, which negotiates contracts with for-profit sponsors, for help determining whether the funding is a gift, grant, or contract.
  • Research Gifts. To inquire about gifts, consult with University Development and Alumni Relations or your relevant college or department development officer.
  • International activities and agreements. Typically, the Sponsored Projects Office will handle proposals and awards from international governments and nonprofits, and Industry Alliances Office will handle proposals and awards from international companies. The process is generally the same for international sponsors as domestic sponsors (see proposal and award guidance). If your international activity or agreement is complex, see the university guidelines for resources and support.  
  • International memorandums of understanding. If you have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for collaboration with an international partner, you will work with the UC Berkeley Global Engagement Office to finalize and execute the MOU. See the campus MOU guidelines.  
  • Test or service agreements. If you are not performing research and are instead performing a test or service under a contract, contact the Business Contracts and Brand Protection Office (BCBP).  
  • Contract questions. If you are unsure which campus office you should be working with for your contract, see the campus decision tree for contracts.


How can I provide feedback on this website?


We want this Grant Life Cycle webpage to be useful, and we welcome all feedback. Please use this form to provide feedback to our team: Grant Life Cycle feedback form.


Compliance and Integrity

My research uses vertebrate animals.

Office for Animal Care and Use (OACU)

The Office for Animal Care and Use (OACU) oversees the use of live vertebrate animals in research, teaching, and education.

My research may use human subjects.

Office for Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS)

Human subject research review and approval. The Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) must review and approve all faculty, staff, and student research activities involving human subjects, regardless of funding source or whether the activity is funded. The Office for Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS) determines exemptions. 

Policy requires that I submit conflict of interest forms for my research.

Conflict of Interest (COI)

Many funding agencies require disclosures of conflicts of interest in order to demonstrate objectivity in research.  

What is conflict of interest? Conflict of interest is a situation in which an investigator’s outside financial interest(s) or obligation(s), real or perceived, have the potential to bias a research project or cause harm to human subjects participating in a research project.

Financial disclosure requirements. See a comparison of federal, state, and university requirements and policies for disclosing outside financial interests which may bias, or appear to bias, research.

Conflict of Interest Committee. Get additional COI information and resources.

Process for completing COI forms. Your Berkeley Regional Services Research Administrator will provide you the necessary forms during the proposal submission process.  If you need to access the forms directly, you can access them on the Sponsored Projects Office forms page.

My research may have export control requirements or issues.

What is export control?

Export control laws. Federal regulations control the conditions under which certain information, technologies, and commodities can be transmitted overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or to a foreign national on U.S. soil. Export control laws are implemented by the Department of Commerce through Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Department of State through International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Getting help: 

  • Submit an Export Control Service Request Form for assistance with an export control matter. This will ensure that your request/question is noted, time stamped, and tracked. For follow up questions after submitting the form, please contact
  • Contact for assistance with any of the following:
    • Shipping an export control item internationally. Controlled Items are found in two areas:
    • Travel to a federally sanctioned country.
    • Travel internationally with university equipment.
    • Paying individuals based in a sanctioned country.
    • Online instruction of students from sanctioned countries.
    • Collaborating on research with individuals from sanctioned countries.
    • Vetting visitors, partners, and sponsors for restricted entity status.
    • Vetting individuals who could be on a restricted persons list.
    • Sharing technology or technical data to foreign persons on U.S. soil or abroad.
    • Do's and don'ts
    • Frequently asked questions.


My research uses biological materials or controlled substances.

Environment, Health, & Safety (EH&S) guidance and services. Environment, Health, & Safety (EH&S) provides guidance and services to the campus community that promote health, safety, and environmental stewardship, including:

My grant requires Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training.

RCR training. The Responsible Conduct of Research Officer offers classroom courses and online programs for faculty, post-docs, and graduate students, including RCR and RRR (Rigor and Reproducibility in Research) training.

Grants requiring RCR and Rigor and Reproducibility in Research (RRR) written plans. Contact the RCR Program Manager for writing assistance and materials.

How do the University of California Principles of Research affect my research?

The Principles Regarding Rights to Future Research Results in University Agreements with External Parties. The Principles Regarding Rights to Future Research Results in University Agreements with External Parties (pdf) policy establishes the fundamental parameters for negotiating agreements with external parties to address rights and obligations associated with future university research results. This policy applies to any UC agreement with others that addresses future research results, whether that agreement is administratively managed as a contract or grant, a procurement, a sales and services contract, or is in another form.

What Standards of Ethical Conduct apply to my research?

Code of conduct. Pursuit of the University of California mission of teaching, research, and public service requires a shared commitment to the core values of the university as well as a commitment to the ethical conduct of all University activities. In that spirit, the Standards of Ethical Conduct are a statement of our belief in ethical, legal, and professional behavior in all of our dealings inside and outside the university. The UC standards of ethical conduct were adopted by the Regents of the University of California, May 2005.

Where can I find campus guidance related to international activities and agreements?

Foreign influence has become an increasingly relevant and important topic in research awards and proposals. Visit the Research Administration and Compliance office’s International Connections and Foreign Influences website for guidance on foreign influence topics. Other resources include: