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Proposal Submission Process

Welcome to Proposal Submission Process

To request access to the RAMS-SPOT proposal submission system, please have your Department Administrator email SOMPROPOSALS@vcuhealth.org and include the Fiscally Administering Unit for which you are requesting access.

Step 1: Notify your Department or Center's Research Administrator

Once you decide you want to apply for external funding, the first thing you should do is notify your department or center. Next, make sure you are eligible to serve as Principal Investigator on a sponsored award at VCU.

PI Eligibility

Full-time faculty (or those with an offer letter) are eligible to serve as Principal Investigators: that includes T&R Faculty, Administrative & Professional Faculty, and Term (non-tenure track) Faculty.

Full-time status for SOM faculty means:

  • Primary Employer: VCU
  • Work Status: Full-time
  • Portion of salary is currently paid by VCU

Note: A pre- or post-doctoral scholar may also serve as PI on a training grant when required by the sponsor.

An exception must be requested when a prospective PI does not meet the above defined eligibility criteria.  See SOM Guidance for PI Eligibility Exception Requests for more information.

Magnifying Glass imageIf the proposal qualifies as Clinical Research or Clinical Trial, please visit the SOM Clinical Research website to learn more about the unique submission and planning process.


You and your department’s research administrator should then develop a submission timeline, ensuring that you will meet both the SOM and the Office of Sponsored Programs’ internal deadlines:

  • The new online proposal system, RAMS SPOT, will automatically calculate an internal submission deadline five (5) working days prior to sponsor submission deadline. This allows the Office of Sponsored Programs to thoroughly review the proposal.
  • The School of Medicine Dean’s Office requires two (2) working days to complete review of a proposal prior to routing it to OSP in RAMS-SPOT.
  • This means the submission should be routed at least seven (7) working days prior to the sponsor deadline. At this time, draft “science” portions of the proposal are allowable.
  • OSP requires three (3) working days prior to the submission deadline to review the final “science” portions of the proposal (i.e., research strategy, specific aims)

Click here for more information about the Office of Sponsored Programs’ proposal submission deadlines.

Step 2: Plan the Project

The principal investigator and RA should carefully read the solicitation or funding announcement. There are many different kinds of sponsors and funding programs, each with their own set of proposal requirements. It is extremely important to be aware of your particular proposal guidelines and communicate with your RA on any issues early on in the proposal process.

Other steps in planning the project:

  • Develop content
  • Discuss cost share options, if applicable, with your department chair. If cost share is required, complete the Cost Share Budget in RAMS SPOT (see RAMS SPOT Get Started Guide - Cost Share Budget and Cost Sharing Demo for more information).  This includes NIH over-the-cap salary cost sharing.
  • If this is a limited submission proposal, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs well in advance of deadline
  • Identify key personnel
  • If you are including a subaward to another institution in your proposal, gather the following documents, at minimum, from the subawardee. These material will be uploaded to the Funding Proposal in RAMS-SPOT:
    • Letter of intent endorsed by the subawardee’s organizational official
    • Statement of work
    • Budget (if using SF-424 forms, please see Get Started Guide – Importing Subawards and Importing Subawards Demo)
    • Budget justification
    • CVs for any co-PIs


Step 3: Creating the Proposal Package

The PI or RA should create a new proposal in RAMS SPOT. Refer to the RAMS SPOT training guides for assistance. RAMS SPOT allows you to select a funding opportunity. The system will then import required SF-424 forms, as well as optional forms (see Get Started Guide – Creating an SF-424 Package). Use these to create your proposal based on the solicitation requirements.

The RA should prepare a budget with the PI’s input. If applying to NIH, determine whether you will be using an R&R detailed budget or a modular budget. The following documents may assist you in developing the proposal package.

You may find using the federal government’s per diem rates to be a helpful tool when budgeting for travel costs:

The RA should update and/or collect biosketches and any current and pending documents (if applicable). Be aware that NIH has issued a new biosketch format effective May 25, 2015.

Note: All individuals on the project designated as COI investigators must use the new financial conflict of interest reporting system, Activity and Interest Reporting System (AIRS), to report their financial interests. Office of Sponsored Programs will not submit the proposal until all COI investigators have completed this task. The Office of Research has posted instructions on how to use the VCU AIRS. You can log in to AIRS with your VCU eID and password.

The PI should prepare the scientific portions of the proposal.

  • All final science documents need to be completed and uploaded to RAMS SPOT three working days in advance of the proposal deadline. Once OSP has locked down the proposal, the reviewer will request final science from the PI. If final documents are prepared before OSP requests them, PI may request upload permission from the appropriate OSP team. OSP will no longer switch out documents, but will provide access for PI to do so.

Data management plan: NSF requires that all proposals include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled Data Management Plan. Instructions can be found on NSF’s website.  Examples can be found on various universities’ websites, such as University of California, San Diego.The PI should prepare and/or submit their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee or Institutional Review Board protocols for review. Depending on your sponsor, you may need to obtain approval or submit the IACUC and/or IRB protocol forms prior to your proposal submission.

Step 4: Prepare Internal Documents and Route for Approvals

RAMS SPOT will first send your proposal to your school or center director for review.

Refer to the RAMS-SPOT guide on Routing for Approval for instructions on how to start the proposal routing process.  Be sure that you select both Medicine and the schools of any budgeted personnel who have appointments outside of the School of Medicine.

The Office of Sponsored Programs cannot submit the proposal without approval from the schools of all budgeted personnel.

NOTE: Please allow at least two (2) business days turn-around time for the School of Medicine to review and approve the proposal prior to routing to Office of Sponsored Programs to meet their five (5) business day in advance of sponsor deadline submission requirement.

It is expected that the principal investigator in conjunction with their department chair/administration has reviewed or completed the following items accurately and completely prior to routing the proposal for School of Medicine review.

PI has:

  • Coordinated financial reporting by all designated COI investigators on a proposal.
  • Completed any required training for systems submission and/or requested user ID if required by sponsor.

RA or PI has:

  • Completed a signed subrecipient commitment form and included this with the uploaded subaward package in RAMS-SPOT for all proposed subawardees.
  • Requested internal subaccounts in RAMS-SPOT as applicable/agreed upon by participating departments and schools (some departments require that a subaccount be requested when their personnel are budgeted on a proposal).
  • Prepared proposal in accordance with sponsor application terms and conditions as well as sponsoring agencies rules and regulations.
  • Ensured the entire proposal meets the administrative requirements outlined in the application instructions.
  • If VCU Health System employees are involved in the project, included a completed Approval Form.
  • Confirmed that a current, fully-executed MOU exists for faculty conducting sponsored research that have a joint appointment with a veterans affairs medical center. See SOM Guidance for Joint Appointment MOUs. Investigators and administrators are encouraged to utilize the VA MOU Template‌.

If submitting a proposal that involves clinical research or a clinical trial, PI or RA has included, at minimum:

ONLY the Principal Investigator may route the proposal for approval. Submitting incomplete or inaccurate proposals for review will result in delays in review, return of the materials for correction, and could jeopardize timely submission to the Office of Sponsored Programs for approval and submission to the sponsor.

Step 5: Finalize Proposal Documents

At this stage, the PI, RA and their Office of Sponsored Programs team work together in RAMS SPOT to ensure that the proposal follows the guidelines set forth in the solicitation. 

The mode of submission for a proposal as indicated on the Funding Proposal in RAMS-SPOT under “General Proposal Information,” question #4 – “Indicate how the forms proposal will be submitted to the sponsor.”

Please select "electronic via grants.gov" if the proposal will be submitted to a Federal agency using the SF424 form set in grants.gov. Please select "other" for all non-grants.gov applications. For multi-project submissions submitted through NIH ASSIST or applications submitted to NSF via Fastlane, please select "other."

Step 6: Submit proposal

In RAMS SPOT, under General Proposal Information, question # 4, “Indicate how the forms proposal will be submitted to the sponsor,” please select "electronic via grants.gov" if the proposal will be submitted to a federal agency using the SF424 form set via grants.gov. Please select "other" for all non-grants.gov applications. For multi-project submissions submitted through NIH ASSIST or applications submitted to NSF via Fastlane select "other."

ONLY the Principal Investigator may route the proposal for approval.

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