Submitting a Proposal

It is essential to know the rules of the road for submitting a proposal at Stanford.

Use the PDRF to Route a Proposal

The electronic PDRF (Proposal Development and Routing Form) is used to collect and route all the proposal documents, approvals and waivers necessary for review and endorsement by Stanford University. Department Administrators (RPMs in the School of Medicine) should initiate the PDRF at the beginning of the proposal development process. PIs and administrators are required to use the PDRF which is accessed through the SeRA (Stanford Electronic Research Administration) system. 

Review and Approvals

The Principal Investigator’s review and approval collected in the PDRF provides certifications required by government agencies, and an agreement to comply with Stanford and sponsor policies.

Departmental review and approvals confirm financial commitments made in a proposal, and that stated personnel and facilities are available to carry out the project. Other required special approvals are also documented.

Review and Endorsement

The (IO) Institutional Official reviews the information contained in the PDRF to endorse the proposal. The IO submits the endorsed proposal to the sponsor on behalf of Stanford University.

View PDRF resources

Back to Top

Timeline for Submitting a Proposal

To create a timeline that ensures the proposal is submitted to the sponsor on time, learn about the routing and institutional review procedure and timeframes for your school.

Access Routing & Institutional Review Guides

Keep in mind, reviews do not have to be sequential. If you know a proposal will require a special approval, e.g., an indirect cost waiver or waiver for PIship, initiate those requests as soon as possible. Remember Stanford’s internal deadline is a critical element. Understand what is required by reading the Non School of Medicine and School of Medicine Internal Proposal Deadline Policy and FAQs below.

Suggested Timeline for Proposal Routing

The PI and support staff prepare the proposal in time for routing through department and school channels for approval.

30 days or more to prepare the proposal budget

RMG (Research Management Group) requests a 30-day or more advance notification (School of Medicine only).

Check eProtocol for panel schedule

If the proposal has an extremely high probability of being awarded soon, request a protocol approval by Stanford compliance panels when the research involves human subjects, stem cells, animal subjects, or hazardous substances.

Check PI Eligibility and Exceptions

Request a PI waiver for procedures specific to your school.

Check with your school for time required to request a waiver of F&A costs

The Dean of Research will consider requests for F&A cost waivers in very limited circumstances. The PI should initiate the request for approval first to her department chair and school dean's office. If approval is obtained, the request must be sent to the Dean of Research Office for approval.

For projects administered within the School of Medicine, the request must be sent to the Dean of the School of Medicine through the Research Management Group once it is approved by the PI’s department chair.

10 days prior to sponsor deadline

The PI routes the completed proposal to her school department and dean for review and approval. The proposal must be accompanied by a PDRF (Proposal Development Routing Form). The PI and department and school officers sign and route the PDRF electronically within the SeRA (Stanford Electronic Research Administration) system.

5 days prior to sponsor deadline

The school routes the approved proposal and PDRF to the institutional official. 

By 5:00 PM local time on the sponsor's deadline date

The the IO (Institutional Official- OSR, RMG, OTL) will review, endorse and submit the proposal to the sponsor. It will be submitted via Grants.Gov for federal sponsor

Back to Top

Who is My Preaward IO (Institutional Official)

The IO (Institutional Official) is an individual named by Stanford, who is authorized to act for the institution, and to assume the obligations imposed by federal, state and local laws, regulations, requirements and conditions, as well as Stanford policy that applies to a proposal and award.

The IO reviews, endorses, signs and submits proposals to the sponsor on behalf of Stanford. In signing a proposal and in accepting a corresponding award, this individual certifies that Stanford will comply with the assurances and certifications referenced in the application. 

This individual's signature further certifies that Stanford will be accountable both for appropriate use of funds awarded and performance of the sponsored project activities resulting from the application.

IO Responsibilities by Central Office

OSR (Office of Sponsored Research) 

RMG (Research Management Group)

ICO (Industrial Contracts Office)


All  Stanford University proposals except the School of Medicine School of Medicine proposals None


All awards except those handled by RMG and ICO Basic grants, fellowships and industry sponsored clinical trials for School of Medicine Industry sponsored contracts except clinical trials


All, except those under industry sponsored clinical trials Industry sponsored clinical trials None


Back to Top

Stanford Proposal Preparation Resources

The Office of Sponsored Research, Research Management Group and the  Industrial Contract Office along with your school based research administrators can help you with your proposal.

In addition Stanford offers support for your proposals from the following offices:

The Office of Science Outreach (OSO)

Stanford's OSO helps faculty engage in science outreach -- organized activities targeted at youth, school teachers, and general public that will increase their interest, understanding, and involvement in math, science, and engineering.  

The OSO serves faculty throughout the University by assisting them in creating outreach project ideas and proposals, identifying potential partners for them (both within Stanford as well as externally), and facilitating information and resource sharing among all of the University's science outreach programs. 

They can brainstorm/suggest outreach ideas to incorporate in your proposal, review and give feedback on a draft proposal, find a specific audience/partner for your project, or write/acquire letters of support from project partners/participants. OSO also provides programs faculty members can tap into to fulfill outreach requirements while continuing to conduct research and perform teaching duties.

The Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Education and Research (Spectrum)

Spectrum is a Stanford University independent research center funded in part by an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). Its goal is to accelerate and enhance medical research, from basic discovery to improved patient care.

International Affairs

Are you planning travel abroad to study, research, or volunteer? Will you be collaborating with international visitors either here at Stanford or abroad? If so, you must be aware of your individual responsibilities for understanding the laws, regulations, and requirements that apply. Prepare for your international academic activity with the wealth of tools and services available to you.

University Libraries Data Management Services

Data management is emerging as a key component of funding agency requirements. Stanford University Libraries offers tools and services to help researchers comply with funding agency provisions on data management and to improve the visibility of their research.

The Data Management Planning Tool provides templates, Stanford-specific guidance, and suggested answer text for creating a data management plan for your next grant submission. The Stanford Digital Repository provides long-term preservation of your important research data in a secure, sustainable stewardship environment, combined with a persistent URL (PURL) that allows for easy data discovery, access, sharing, and reuse.

Office of the Dean of Research Support in Preparing a Center Grant

The Dean of Research Office provides supplemental and complementary assistance to  faculty for support in preparing a center grant proposal.

The VPTL (Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning)

The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (VPTL, formerly VPOL) has enabled the creation of hundreds of online offerings in support of courses and other learning activities for both enrolled students and public audiences. Many unique MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been offered through Stanford Online to date, reaching millions of learners across the nation and around the globe.


VPTL also works with faculty to make proposals to funding agencies more competitive by leveraging Stanford’s leadership in online teaching and learning to better achieve broader impacts objectives. Faculty can utilize our capabilities to create and deliver online materials and courseware to more effectively disseminate knowledge; building greater awareness of research and building communities around research areas and researchers. 

Faculty with successful proposals can use professional services offered by VPTL to execute on those plans. Our instructional designers consult with faculty to delineate targeted audiences and desired learning outcomes, and identify strategies for achieving those goals. Our media production team and campus studios are available to help create high-quality learning materials. Online materials can be delivered in a variety of formats through Stanford Online. Distribution may be limited to Stanford affiliates, other specific communities, or be made available to the public. Materials may also be readily repurposed for other uses. Stanford Online platforms allow for unprecedented data collection and analysis. With these data, VPTL can work with faculty to provide assessment and reporting of broader impacts results. If other channels of delivery are important, VPTL will work with research teams to make their materials available through other means.

Also visit Successful Proposal Writing

Back to Top

Many federal and private sponsors accept and even require you to submit applications through their online submission system.

 Federal Agencies

  • NSF FastLane is the National Science Foundation online systemthat supports all functions of the proposal process: submission, review, award, and reporting. Effective March 18, 2013 NSF Fastlane system will perform  automatic compliance checking for all GPG (Grant Proposal Guide) required sections of proposals.  View the NSF presentationNSF FAQs on automatic compliance checking 

  • is the official grant announcement and proposal submission system for the federal government.

  • NASA NSPIRES - NASA utilizes this online system to announce NASA funding opportunities. In some instances, pre-proposals and/or full proposals are accepted via NSPIRES.

  • NIH ERA Commons is an investigator registration system that works in conjunction with to insure receipt of applications by the National Institutes of Health. All investigators must be registered in the Commons prior to submitting proposals to NIH and other Public Health Service agencies.

Private Agencies

  • Proposal Central supports a variety of non-profit funding agencies in proposal submission. Agencies that utilize this system include the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Back to Top

Before you prepare a proposal, study and follow the current specific agency/sponsor guidelines to understand your responsibilities. Proposal Preparation Guidelines for key agencies.


Back to Top

Major Foundations/Non-Federal Sponsors

University Corporate and Foundation Relations is the central Stanford office for fundraising from private foundations. The staff can help you identify and approach potential funding sources, write proposals, gather supporting material, and obtain institutional signatures. Proposals to some foundations require prior approval or coordination with this office. 

Visit University Corporate and Foundation Relations

Back to Top