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Suggested Proposal Timeline Guidance

Experienced MSU faculty members have provided the following advice: the intellectual development of proposals is an on-going process that may not turn into a proposal for a year or two and usually requires generating novel ideas, pursuing preliminary data, finding potential funding opportunities, and sometimes even submitting an idea synopsis to multiple potential sponsors to gauge interest.  A subset of this intellectual development is the administrative and logistical preparation and submission of a proposal. This can be a challenging undertaking and usually involves several individuals working closely together to meet proposal deadlines. Becoming familiar with the proposal process will help ensure successful submission. A proposal completion timeline will vary based on the size and type of project, the sponsor’s general submission requirements and solicitation if applicable.

The timeline provided below generally outlines recommended steps and minimum time periods primarily for logistical development. Please add more time when appropriate for projects that are complex and/or require numerous inputs such as multiple PI, subawards, data-management plans, complex cost sharing requirements, and international activities. Please check with your unit’s Preaward administrator for internal deadlines, which may vary from the timeline provided. 

12-16 Weeks Before



Please refer to Proposal Roles and Responsibilities Guidance for additional information at each stage of the process

Step One

Identify your funding opportunity, learn what type of projects the sponsor usually funds, and begin planning your project.

  • Identify Funding Sources
  • Know your sponsor (including reviewing examples of what the sponsor funds)
    • Know that special requirements apply for limited submissions
  • Review program announcement, guidelines, and instructions
    • Communicate with College preaward staff for consultation/coordination/timeline for proposal completion
    • College or department staff provides program announcement, guidelines and instructions with a partially completed KR Proposal Development document (PD) to OSP
  • Study application requirements and confirm eligibility
  • Prepare outline and/or first draft of research/program plan; determine a project title to facilitate logistics, such as routing proposal for approval
  • Coordinate with colleagues at participating organizations/institutions
  • Discuss effort and release time, cost share, and matching funds with your chair/division director/dean (Commit cost share only if necessary)
  • Plan ahead; know what needs to be completed and plan time accordingly; be aware that quotes from external sources such as equipment manufacturers, may need to be requested early
  • Allow time for peer review
  • See additional suggestions at:

Step Two

 6-12 Weeks Before

Follow-up with your colleagues, determine and implement proposal assignments including timelines, and address potential issues. Watch that assignment completion stays on track.


Step Three

 4-6 Weeks Before

Create the draft budget and budget justification and meet with College/Department staff for proposal creation status check.

  • Discuss cost estimating process for the proposed project
  • Prepare a preliminary budget
    • Be aware of sponsor flexibility with the budget categories
  • Finalize subaward budget amounts
  • Share draft of proposal with colleagues/research committee
  • Prepare necessary forms
  • Address regulatory requirements

Step Four

 2-4 Weeks


may have additional internal timelines

Verify the solicitation has been provided to OSP for review (if it has not, send immediately). While the PI continues to develop proposal content, the PI should utilize their college preaward administrator for the budget and administrative sections, when available.

  • Solicitation shared with OSP for OSP Review
  • Submit draft of budget and justification, narrative, and sponsor forms to college administrator for review to ensure compliance with university and sponsor requirements
  • Be available during the proposal submission process
  • Be aware of emergency contact information in case you need help: Chair, Research Dean, Unit Pre-award Office Manager, OSP Managers, OSP Assistant Director and OSP Director
  • Know MSU's proposal deadline policy:

Step Five

 6-8 Business Days Before

Send the following to the applicable OSP Proposal Team for review: budget, budget justification, statement of work, along with any subaward items (e.g. budget, budget justification, statement of work, and commitment form).


Step Six

 4-6 Business Days Before

Complete and route Proposal Development document (PD) for approval after receiving OSP approval of budget.


Step Seven

 3 Business Days Before

Final proposal should be provided to OSP for submission. If not, the proposal is considered to be a "late" proposal.

  • Stay engaged until confirmation from OSP that the proposal has been successfully submitted to the agency.

Step Eight

 1 Business Day Before

OSP has committed to submit most "on-time" proposals one day before the deadline, which allows time to resolve system issues and avoids errors caused by submitting during peak volume submission periods.


Step Nine

 Day of Deadline

At-Risk: Proposals received by OSP on the day of the deadline become "at-risk," which requires Research Dean Approval before OSP can review and submit. PI is responsible for managing this process, although college pre-award staff may help.

  • If OSP is submitting the proposal, the PI/college administrator must confirm that Research Dean approval has been received by OSP.
    • Ensure that the OSP Proposal Team has been notified that the proposal is ready to submit.
    • Stay engaged until confirmation from OSP that the proposal has been successfully submitted to the agency.

See also Proposal Submission Deadline Policy

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