Obtaining Institutional Review and Endorsement


Proposal Approval

UC Presidential policy requires that employees who receive any part of their salary through the University, or whose activities use any University resources or facilities, must submit their proposals for extramural support to the appropriate local contracts and grants office for review and institutional approval prior to submission to the sponsor. At UCR, the local contract and grant office is Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) in the Office of Research.

This policy is applicable even if a sponsor does not require an authorized institutional official's signature on its proposal application or does not require that proposal applications be submitted by an authorized institutional official, whether electronically or by other means. This includes, but is not limited to sponsors such as marketing order boards and UC-wide funding programs (e.g., Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC MEXUS, Pacific Rim Research Program, UC Energy Institute, UC Discovery Program, Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, etc.).

Institutional review is the process performed by SPA to: i) identify and resolve institutional issues (i.e., concerns or problems that may pose increased risk to UCR), ii) ensure that all proposals comply with University, federal, and/or state requirements; and iii) confirm that institutional commitments have been approved by the responsible official for the unit making the commitment. Institutional review and approval of a proposal cannot be completed at the last minute before a proposal submission deadline, especially if the sponsor requires electronic proposal submission. It is in a PIs best interest that they notify their unit Contract and Grant Analyst and SPA as soon as possible after learning of a funding opportunity.

The institutional review process includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing sponsor solicitations and guidelines to:
    • Verify institutional eligibility
    • Identify problematic award terms, if any
    • Identify institutional issues or requirements such as cost sharing, Facilities and Administrative (F&A) cost rate limitations, certifications and assurances, special signature requirements, limited submission requirements, etc.
    • Clarify ambiguous language, terms, conditions or requirements
  • Verifying principal investigator eligibility issues.
  • Verifying the correct use of institutional identifiers.
  • Confirming that proposed costs are consistent with campus and federal cost principles and that the correct F&A rate is applied based on the proposed activity and the location of those activities.
  • Confirming that cost sharing commitments have been approved by the responsible official for the unit making the commitment.
  • Verifying that proposed subcontractors and consultants are eligible to receive federal funding.
  • Identifying export control issues, if any.


Most sponsors use preproposals as a way to screen potential projects. Those projects that are promising and consistent with the sponsor's programmatic goals are then invited to submit a full proposal. In most cases, preproposals do not need to be submitted to SPA for institutional review and approval. However, preproposals should be submitted to SPA for institutional review if any of the following apply:

  • The preproposal must be signed by an authorized institutional official.
  • Submission of a cost sharing commitment letter signed by an institutional official is required, or the sponsor will use institutional commitments evidenced by a signed letter (or equivalent) as a selection criteria to determine which applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.
  • A detailed budget is required by the sponsor, or the preproposal contains a detailed budget that i) does not include facilities and administrative (F&A) costs or ii) F&A costs are calculated using an F&A rate other than those rates contained in UCR's F&A cost rate agreement or for which there is no currently approved waiver.
  • Preproposals submitted in response to a sponsor's solicitation that indicates that the sponsor may fund awards based on preproposals (i.e., the sponsor reserves the option to forego requesting a full proposal).
  • Preproposals that must be submitted to the sponsor by SPA via an electronic proposal submission system (e.g., NSF FastLane,, etc.).

Submitting Preproposals or Proposals to SPA

Our goal is to ensure that the institutional review and approval process is completed in a timely manner and to ensure that proposals are submitted to sponsors before submission deadlines.

UCR's Electronic Campus Approval Form (eCAF) is the enterprise system used for the routing, approval and submission of proposals to SPA. Using this system will facilitate the submission of all documents necessary to enable SPA's institutional review.

Even when a sponsor requires the submission of a paper proposal, eCAF is the system used for routing, approval and submission to SPA. In such cases, any documents that require a pen and ink signature of an authorized institutional official should be forwarded to the Contract and Grant Officer assigned to the eCAF (the assigned officer is noted in the top left corner of each eCAF screen).

The eCAF system provides information about the documents necessary to enable SPA to conduct its intuitional review of proposals. It also prompts users to attach these documents to their eCAF.

Lead Times for Submitting Proposals

UCR has long had a policy (see Policy 527-4: Proposal Review, Approval and Submission) indicating that proposals are due to Sponsored Research Administration (SPA) three business days before the sponsor's deadline, and seven days before the deadline for complex proposals.

  • Standard Proposal Lead Time – three (3) full business days prior to the Sponsor Due Date.
  • Non-standard Proposal Lead Time – a minimum of seven (7) full business days prior to the Sponsor Due Date. Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged to start working with their unit administrator and the Office of Research at least one month prior to the Sponsor Due Date for non-standard proposals. This will ensure that there is sufficient time to review and resolve any issues, secure special approvals, coordinate with the UC Office of the President, etc. prior to the Sponsor Due Date.

However, that policy was widely ignored, and many proposals came in with less than 8 hours to review before submission.  Starting December 1, 2018,  SPA will enforce this proposal deadline policy, but give one extra day for those that need it.

If SPA receives an eCAF and final proposal less than two (2) full business days of sponsor’s deadline, the eCAF will be returned and the proposal will not be submitted to the sponsor.

Two (2) Business Day Example:

The eCAF and Final Proposal (all components in final form and ready for submission) must be received in RED at least two (2) full business days before the sponsor’s submission deadline.

Sponsor Due Date/Time ~ RED Due Date/Time

Friday, September 1st at 5 p.m. (PST) ~ Wednesday, August 30th at 5 p.m. (PST)

Monday, July 1st at 1 p.m. (PST) ~ Thursday, June 27th at 1 p.m. (PST)

Prioritizing Proposals for Review

Once a proposal is advanced to Research and Economic Development's queue in eCAF, it is reviewed in the order received by the Contract & Grant Officer (CGO) assigned to the department/unit that submitted the proposal. Please keep in mind that each CGO provides sponsored programs services to a large number of units on campus, all of which are also submitting proposals. If a proposal is received after RED's internal deadline, SPA may not be able to complete its review and provide institutional approval in time to meet the sponsor's deadline.

In those instances when the above prioritization methodology would jeopardize the timely submission of a proposal to meet a sponsor's deadline, and where circumstances outside of the control of the PI and department/unit prevent the submission of a proposal in accordance with SPA's established lead times, an exception to the above prioritization methodology may be coordinated through the CGO. The CGO will forward the request to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development (or designee) for consideration.  Should an exceptional approval be granted, the CGO may then submit the proposal provided their schedule permits (e.g., not at the expense of the review and submission of other proposals due that same day yet were timely routed to SPA).

Special Considerations: Electronic Submissions

Please note that most sponsor electronic proposal submission systems require the submission of complete and final forms. In addition, such systems usually require that the electronic proposal be submitted by the authorized institutional official. Therefore, please be sure to submit the final electronic files or grant SPA access to your proposal in the sponsor's on-line system far enough in advance to ensure that the proposal can be submitted prior to the sponsor's deadline. Please note that SPA and other contract and grant offices at other universities across the nation have experienced a variety of problems/issues in using these electronic proposal submission systems, and it is a PI's best interests to plan on submitting their proposals to SPA as early as possible.

Often, sponsor electronic proposal submission systems require institutional registration, maintenance of institutional profiles and user registration (e.g., PIs and support staff involved in preparing proposals). SPA is responsible for institutional registration and maintaining institutional profiles. User registration is handled in accordance with each sponsor's guidelines.

For more information regarding e-proposal submission and other electronic research administration systems, please visit the Electronic Research Administration section of this web site.