Proposal Submission Procedures

Proposals that request sponsored research support from all agencies, whether government or private, are to be submitted to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) Office of Contracts and Grants (C&G) for processing through the Columbia University Office of Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) . Both offices have access to the latest agency guidelines, application packages, and deadlines for the largest government sponsors.

Preliminary Proposals
A preliminary proposal (2-4 pages) can save time and money. Some agencies require them prior to a full proposal submission, and will specifically state this requirement in the Request for Proposals (RFP), or some other announcement of opportunity. Other agencies encourage preliminary proposals if the Principal Investigator(s) is unsure of the sponsor's interest in a particular research area. The appropriate program official should be consulted if you have questions about submitting a pre-proposal.  Preliminary proposals generally consist of:
1.      Brief Description of Research Objectives and Their Significant Potential Impact
2.      Period of Performance
3.      Approximate Budget
4.      Curriculum Vitae of the Investigator(s)
While preliminary proposals don't always require institutional signatures, we strongly recommend submission of a draft copy through C&G to review the budget for accuracy relative to the project objectives.
Standard Proposals
Once a prospective Principal Investigator decides to submit a proposal, the appropriate Division Administrator (DA) should be contacted to assist with draft budget preparation and coordination through the C&G for review and submission.
A budget should reflect all of the costs needed to conduct the proposed research throughout the duration of the project. It should not be inflated unnecessarily but careful consideration must be given to multi-year projects that should include reasonable increases for inflation. The NSF format is widely used among the government agencies for basic unsolicited proposals and is briefly described below. Solicited proposal budgets may vary.
All personnel associated with the project should be listed with amount of time budgeted in months or percent of effort. General secretarial support is not permitted. Project-specific secretarial support must be fully justified in the Budget Justification section.
Student Salary/Tuition
 Effective July 1, 1998, student salary is no longer subject to Fringe Benefits. In lieu of Fringe, tuition will now be charged, based on $26,286 per year effective September 1, 2015 (+3% inflation increase each year thereafter). This in an estimate of the tuition cost, and is subject to revision when the actual amount is determined. This tuition rate is exempt from Indirect Cost assessment. Tuition remission is budgeted under Other Direct Costs . No tuition remission is to be charged during summer months.
Sea Pay or Overtime
Sea Pay for Officers of Instruction, Officers of Research, and Officers of Administration will be calculated as follows:
  • Annual Salary/260 days per year = Daily Salary
  • Daily Salary x 35% = Daily Sea Pay Rate
  • Daily Sea Pay Rate x (number of normal working days at sea minus the first 3 days) = Sea Pay amount due
 Sea Pay for Student Officers will be calculated as follows:
  • Annual Salary/195 days per year = Daily Salary
  • Daily Salary x 35% Daily Sea Pay Rate
  • Daily Sea Pay Rate x (number of normal working days at sea minus the first 3 days) = Sea Pay amount due
In-Port pay is calculated the same way for both groups; however it goes into effect on day one, with no exclusion of the first three (3) days.
Travel days are not to be counted as days-at-sea or in-port. It is possible one may have a travel day followed by a day at-sea with no in-port day in between.
Sea Pay Policy should be consulted.  Sea pay is not subject to fringe.  Support staff is eligible for overtime.  Overtime is subject to full fringe.
Fringe Benefits
Effective July 1, 2015, the rate for sponsored research accounts will be 27.1% remaining the same for all out years.  The rate for non-government and for institutional accounts is 29.5% remaining the same for out years.  Do not include sea pay. Graduate student salary is not subject to fringe benefits tuition remission will be direct charged instead.
List each item costing $5,000 or more. Any item under this amount is considered a supply item. A definition of permanent equipment is available from C&G.
Travel (Domestic and Foreign)
List the number of people, days and destination. Your DA or C&G will provide the most current rates for airfare, and ground transportation or car rentals if needed. Complex field trips may require further discussion.  Access to the latest per diem/subsistence rates can be found at: .
Participant Support Costs
 This budget category is for non-LDEO participants to attend a specific conference. Costs can include: 1) stipends, 2) travel, 3) subsistence, and 4) other related costs in connection with conference, meetings, symposia, training activities and workshop.
Other Direct Costs
Other Direct Costs may include: 1) materials and supplies, 2) publication costs and page charges, 3) consultants, 4) subcontracts, and 5) other approved costs, including tuition remission.
Total Direct Costs (TDC)
The sum of all categories referenced above in Budget Preparation .
Modified Total Direct costs (MTDC)
The sum of all direct costs less equipment, participant support costs (NSF only), student tuition remission, and the dollar amount of each subcontract that exceeds $25,000.
Indirect Costs
A detailed description of indirect costs can be found here . For proposal budget preparation the current provisional negotiated rates for LDEO from July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015 are:
  • ON-CAMPUS = 53% of MTDC
  • OFF-CAMPUS = 26% of MTDC
Total Project Costs
This is the sum of the Total Direct Cost amount and Indirect Costs.
Budget Justification
After the budget has been prepared, all costs should be fully detailed by category in this section.
While the budget and budget justification are being reviewed, the body of the proposal can be prepared and assembled in accordance with the specific agency guidelines.
Proposal Package
Once the draft proposal is approved, copies can be made, signatures obtained and the package sent to C&G for processing. The package consists of:
1.      One PropTrak Proposal Routing Sheet with electronic signatures (See PropTrak description below)
2.      A cover, along with any other correspondence not required in the body of the proposal
3.      One original signed copy plus the remaining number the agency requires (If hardcopy)
4.      Two additional signed copies for LDEO and SPA files
RASCAL and PropTrak
The Columbia Research Administration System (RASCAL) was developed to simplify and guide the University's research administrative process. RASCAL's Proposal Tracking module (PropTrak) is designed to provide real time tracking information for Columbia's Research Offices (SPA and GC), researchers, and departments. The RASCAL system will manage data connected to proposal submission.
PropTrak will provide a web based version of a proposal routing sheet. Researchers will enter information on-line and register the data for Research Office collaboration.  Once appropriate, electronic signatures are obtained a copy should be printed and accompany proposal.
RASCAL and PropTrak can be accessed directly at: .
Fastlane Submissions
The NSF Fastlane system uses Internet/Web technology to facilitate the way NSF does business with the research, education, and related communities. The NSF Fastlane system is available for proposal preparation; submission and status checking; project reporting; and post-award administrative activities. All Fastlane functions are accessed by using a Web browser on the Internet. There is a link to Fastlane on the NSF Web site, or Fastlane can be accessed directly at: .
Principal Investigators are required to use Fastlane for all project reporting of annual and final project reports, all no-funds extensions, all request for PI transfers or change, grant transfers, and addition of sub-award. In addition PIs can enter additional single copy documents into their proposals. Instead of mailing these documents, like proprietary and confidential budget info,
SPA requires receipt of proposal packages 5 days prior to an agency deadline to ensure delivery on time. Hard Copy Proposals will be mailed 2nd day express. If a proposal requires next day express delivery the cost will be the department’s responsibility and an institutional account number will be required at the time of submission. Submissions simplifies the grants management process and creates a centralized, online process to find and apply for over 900 grant programs from the 26 federal grant-making agencies. is also a great place to find grant opportunities. can be accessed directly at .