Course slide presentation

Center Proposal Development
Randolph Hall
Vice Provost for Research Advancement
Why Pursue Centers?
Impact Extends Beyond What You Can Personally
 New Types of Research, Crossing Disciplines,
Linking Applications with Basic Research
 Increase in Recognition, Reputation, Rewards
 Ability to Reach Out Beyond Traditional Base
(industry, government, students, community)
 Support for Basic Infrastructure (labs, staffing,
 Stable Funding Over Long Periods
Center Cautions
 Must be Satisfied with Role of a “Conductor”
 Will Detract from Personal Research
 Financial Responsibility
 New Forms of Reporting (site visits, annual
 Must be Responsible for Performance of
Fellow Faculty
 Sponsor Can be Fickled and Arbitrary
 Not for Everyone
Personal Background
• Program Manager, Systems Engineering,
Partners for Advanced Transit and
• Founding Director, METRANS
transportation center at USC
• Principal Investigator CREATE Homeland
Security Center at USC
Lessons Learned
 Begin with the vision
 Build a team among people you can trust
 Set highest standards for ethics and
 Make the tough decisions and accept the
 Reinforce the vision
What it Takes to Win
 Leadership
 Top quality team, that works together
 Vision and ideas
 Organization and management
 Responsiveness and clarity
 Commitment
 Leadership
Starting Point
You, PI, Director, Leader
 Vision
• What center will be known for
• What it will contribute
• Unique and compelling theme/idea to tie it all
• How it will achieve the vision
• Set of activities undertaken
1. Team building
 2. Organization Plan
 3. Selection Process
 4. Talk with your administration
 5. Proposal writing
 6. Budget creation
 7. Broader impacts/outreach
 8. Site visit
1. Team Building
What skill mix is required by the RFP and by your
 Multi-department?
 Multi-institution?
 Minority institutions?
 National laboratories?
 Industry and government?
 Special facilitiies
Competitive Assessment
 Where is strongest competition, and what
will they propose?
 What weaknesses can USC exploit?
 What USC strengths can be applied to the
 How can USC compensate for weaknesses
with external involvement?
 “Shadow” the competition
Before going too far…
Sketch the budget, see what you can afford
Administration: 10-20%
Education: 0-20%
Outreach: 5-10%
Funded projects: 50-75%
– Pre-selected funded projects: 0-75%
Assess realistic funding per investigator, and
matching requirements, before inviting anyone
 Identify those skills that are needed to fulfill the
Picking the Members
Open invitations are asking for trouble – will quickly lose
Scientific reputation (build the quals)
Satisfying diversity goals (individuals and institutions)
Team players
Time and prior commitments (will they be present at site
Special assets (facilitiies, familiarity with sponsor,
matching funds)
Attracting Key Members
 Sell them on the vision – opportunity to be
part of something important
 Carefully considered financial
Create Core Group
Identify about 3-5 people who are core to the
proposal – absolutely essential
 Clarify the role of each core member in the
proposal and center – reach agreement, but avoid
specific budget commitment at this point
 Begin meeting on regular basis to map out
strategy and execute
 Based on the leadership you exhibit, make it clear
that you are in charge
2. Organization Plan
 Director/PI (you)
• Bottom line responsibility/final authority for
entire center
• Primary interface with sponsor and key
advisory/steering committees
• Intellectual leader for entire center
• Typically 50% to 100% effort
Deputy Director(s)
 As needed, faculty member may be deputy
director for defined areas:
• Deputy Director for Education
• Deputy Director for Technology Transfer
• Deputy Director, or Research Lead, for Defined
Research Concentration Areas, or Institutions
 Do not burden center with too much
Sometimes, Managing Director ($100-$150k)
• Project management, production of deliverables, budget
oversight – should have broad technical understanding (often
PhD), but usually not the idea generator
Sometimes, Industrial Liaison ($100-$150k)
Chief Financial Officer (level I to K)
• Budgeting, payroll, financial reporting
Outreach Manager (level H to J)
• Publicity, events, brochures
Educational Coordinator (level H, I)
• Advisement, student programs, etc.
Other Staffing, Depending on Size
 Lower level support staff for administration
 Research support positions
 Scientific Advisory Committee
• Technical review of work
 Industrial/Government Advisory
 Executive Committee (sometimes)
• Participation in selection, review process
• Set internal technical direction
Example Organization
DD for
Alternate Organization
Leader 1
Leader 2
3. Selection/Review Process
How Will You Allocate Funds Among Projects &
Review Work?
Role of initial participants
Balancing “processes” versus “plan”
Authority of PI to make decision
Peer review of work & proposals
Respond to sponsors priorities
Sticking to the vision
Must be a good system for changing course
Peer Review System
Create RFP for limited competition, with input
from sponsor and advisory committees
 Publicize within USC, perhaps beyond USC (among
partners or broadly)
 Send for reviews, either individual or panel
 Rank order, present back to advisory committee
for strategic assessment & selection
 Review work before advisory committees,
integrate into the process
Peer Review Merits
Can filter best quality proposals
Generally perceived as fair
Attracts new blood
Fairly easy to make corrections
Loss in your authority
Harder to integrate projects
Bureaucratic and slow
Difficult to push work toward particular needs
Reviewers may be out of touch with priorities and may not be
aware of past performance
• Proposal may be viewed as non-specific
Follow Master Proposal
 Build team with specific work plans at time
the center proposal is submitted
 Follow the plan, unless significant
corrections are needed
Merits: Master Proposal
• Builds continuity
• Team building
• Easier to integrate
• Can be hard to fix problems—sense of entitlement
• Not responsive to change
• Creates perception of insularity – hard to develop
outreach/support in university
PI is in Charge
 Based on input from advisory committees,
PI makes decision on whom to fund, what to
fund, on annual or perhaps continuing
Merits: “PI is in charge”
 Strengths
• Easiest to respond to changing priorities
• Builds coherency among projects
• Power to cut losses early
 Weaknesses
• Lose commitment among faculty
• May make wrong decisions
Balanced Approach
 Percentage reserved for competitive
 Percentage for original group of
participants, subject to advisory
committee review
 Percentage at discretion of the PI
4. Talk to Your
 Begin with the vision: why it is important
 Space Needs
 Cost-share
 Degree programs
 Leveraging existing programs
 Participation/support in proposal
generation, site visit
Overhead Division
 USC Policy: Overhead is collected by the
school that performs the work.
 OH on Administration, Education, Outreach,
other central activities generally collected
by the PI’s school.
 Individual projects generally established
as satellites, with OH traveling to the
recipient school
Types of Required Cost-Share
Overhead reduction (often for foundations)
 % of total cost
 Tuition
 NIH Salary Cap
Starting point: each school participates equally in
cost-share, in proportion to overhead received
Deans will want to use soft cost-share as much as
feasible (discussed later)
Space Commitment
 Center will likely need an office suite, and
perhaps new labs.
 Space commitment for the center is
normally met by the PI’s school
 When this is impossible, or if center is
independent of a school, space might be
found through provost office (likely off
Provost Office Role
 Advise and support site visits for major
 Identify persons to create budgets
 Critique proposals, advise
 Participate in site visits
 Generate commitment letters
 Cost-share on occasion (discussed later)
5. Proposal Writing
Proposal should have a single author, the PI, with some
input from others
• Consistency and coherency are essential
• Ensure that all elements are covered
PI might be assisted by a professional proposal writer
Assemble input from others
Prepare graphics
Stylistic, grammatical editing
Packaging and formatting
Other faculty can provide input for individual sections
PI Must Write these Sections
 Abstract, Summary
 Introduction
 Vision, Mission
 Organization Plan
 Conclusions
Proposal Writing Steps
Parse the RFP – determine required sections and their
Determine which sections require input from others
List key messages that will be reinforced
Prepare initial draft vision statement or abstract (perhaps
graphics) that explains the theme of the proposal
Create schedule, allowing first draft at least 2 weeks
before due date (longer the better)
Write and revise
Communication with Co-authors
 Provide all high-level material: vision, key
messages, information on organization, etc.
 Make a specific request
Exact topic
Use naming convention for file
Length, format, due date
May give budget range for topic, but avoid
specific commitment
Processing Input
 Review for Quality – if poor, reject the
 If good and needed, edit for style, grammar
 Assemble all components into single
 Write, Re-write, Review, Criticize, Input from
Multiple Parties
6. Budget Creation
 You need help from a professional
• Qualified to be business officer
• Experience in proposal creation with multiple
departments, sub-contracts, institutions, costsharing, etc.
 The professional cannot do everything
• All strategic decisions are yours
 Do not delay, as it will be complicated
What to Tell the Budgeter
Total dollars available, start date, end date
Organization plan, with time commitments (%) for all
central activities (admin, outreach, education, etc.)
Other needed central expenses – gross $s (equipment,
materials, travel, events, etc.)
General budget guidelines, year 1 versus future years
Dollar division among participating faculty and projects
Any cost-share requirements
What the Budgeter will Tell You
 Aggregate budget
 Split among budget categories (admin,
outreach, project areas, etc.)
 Whether you are in budget or not; whether
to cut or add
Your Next Step
 Make budget adjustments, up or down,
based on your priorities, commitments, and
what it takes to win – iterate until budget is
Once Budget is Balanced:
 Budgeter communicates with each faculty
member who has a project (or an
assistant), to prioritize the allocation of
that faculty member’s budget.
 Specific budget may be requested for each
– exact dollar amounts, exact durations –
with specific deadline (do not allow any
deviations at this point)
General Advice
 Don’t over specify the budget – use
categories, rather than specific
individuals, where feasible
 Leave a cushion – must have some funds
that can be moved as needed
 Don’t over commit to participants – needs
will change
Meeting Cost-share
Soft Cost Share (these may prioritize existing
allocations toward your center)
• Tuition
• Portion of academic year salary, paid by your school
and devoted to research
• Some forms of staff support, for instance in education
• Sometimes fellowships
Hard Cost-share
• New dollar commitments
Sources of Cost Share
Your own lab, such as gift funds
 Your school or department
 External sources, such as companies or state
 Provost office, when:
Cost share is required
Two or more schools
Each school makes hard dollar commitment
Strategic university priority
7. Broader Impacts Outreach
NSF: How well does the activity advance discovery and
understanding while promoting teaching, training, and
learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden
the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g.,
gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what
extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and
education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks,
and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated
broadly to enhance scientific and technological
understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed
activity to society?
 Broadening opportunities and enabling the
participation of all citizens -- women and
men, underrepresented minorities, and
persons with disabilities -- is essential to
the health and vitality of science and
engineering. NSF is committed to this
principle of diversity and deems it central
to the programs, projects, and activities it
considers and supports.
 Broad participation
• Minorities, women as lead participants
• Minority serving institutions
 Include outreach plan in proposal
 Strong role for industry/government
 Education program
Example Education Activities
 High school outreach with community
 Summer internship from minority
 Fellowship or RA program targeted at
under-represented groups
 Staff position focused on outreach
8. Site Visit: Goals
 Leadership
 Teamwork
 Commitment of the university
 Responsiveness
 Integration
 All key members must attend, along with
key administrators
General Structure
PI makes key presentations, covering
• Vision, mission, theme
• Management/organization plan
• Conclusions, summary
Others present their own areas
• Education, Outreach, etc.
• Faculty representing their areas
Include outstanding students
PI acts as the emcee throughout the visit, handling all
questions, keeping event on time, on topic, etc.
Ensure commitment of all key participants to attend
Advance Planning
Identify your presenters: they must be reliable
and high quality
 Create presentation template, with graphics that
reinforce the theme
• Generally, the first slide of each presentation should
reinforce the theme, and where it is placed within
entire proposal
• Should all have the same appearance
Create slide graphics that can be incorporated in
After Schedule is Created
Notify each speaker
• Allocated time (allow 50% of time for Q&A)
• Number of slides (about one per minute)
• Provide template, and mandate its use
Give deadline for submitting all powerpoint slides, well in
advance of site visit
Identify date for dress rehearsal
Use a staff person to coordinate event, arrange rooms,
food, transportation, hotels, creating seating charts:
accommodations should be good, but not excessive
Prior to Dress Rehearsal
 Edit all slides for consistency and content
 Load on two computers (one back-up) +
perhaps a jump drive
 Verify that it works with the project that you
plan to use
 Send reminders
Dress Rehearsal
All presenters should attend entire rehearsal
 Do not short-cut, go through whole set of
 Critique each, look for short-comings and adjust
 Ideally, presentation packet with final versions of
presentations should be duplicated after the
dress rehearsal – at this point you are locked in
Day of Site Visit
 Arrive early, be prepared with backup
 Provide for sufficient staff support
 Start on time
 Actively manage all Q&A, directing
questions as needed
 Focus on decision makers
 Show understanding, responsiveness,
flexibility while sticking to the vision
Example Schedule: Site Visit
Prior to notification: complete most advance planning (assume you
will win)
2 months in advance: notification
• Notify all team members, finalize date
2 weeks later
• Distribute template, exact speaking guidelines
• Finalize location, arrangements
4 weeks later
• Deadline for submitting presentations
6 weeks later
• First dress rehearsal
7 weeks later
• Repeat rehearsals where needed, prepare all copied material
Example Schedule: Proposal
Prior to announcement: team building, organization plan, vision
3 months in advance: announcement
10 weeks in advance:
Achieve all needed administration commitments
Assemble first draft of proposal
Send budget guidelines to participants
4 weeks in advance
Finish proposal outline and distribute to team
Refine budget, detail central portion
6 weeks in advance
Refine vision
Create high-level budget
Speak with administration
Create selection process
Distribute fully integrated proposal to team for review/comment
Finish complete draft budget
2 weeks in advance
Receive input from team, and revise proposal
1. Team building
 2. Organization Plan
 3. Selection Process
 4. Talk with your administration
 5. Proposal writing
 6. Budget creation
 7. Broader impacts/outreach
 8. Site visit
Final Thoughts
 Maintain focus: vision, leadership, team,
 Plan, and provide a cushion
 Get help on budget and packaging
 Do not delegate big decisions; PI needs to
take charge
 Be careful on commitments: consider how
center will actually operate if funded
Resources on USC Site
Example Presentation Materials