A grant proposal and a research protocol are not equivalent documents. Grant proposals aim to convey the necessary information to inform a panel of peers why a study should be funded, and that the individual/team has the skills to execute the research. A research protocol is a master document on how to operationalize the research idea. The protocol should contain sufficient information so that the study could be repeated successfully, by another site, group or individual. A variety of sample grants are available through both the Research Office and the SPARC office for individuals who wish to view successful grant applications. Sample protocols are available through the Research Office for individuals who would like to look at different examples. In this section we will focus on steps required to generate research grant/award proposals. For assistance with protocols please refer to the next section. Obtaining funding for your research involves two phases which are referred to by UBC as pre- and post- award management.
- Pre-award management
- generate a grant proposal
- obtain signatures
- Post-award management
- award acceptance
- PG accounts
- reporting requirements
- Pre-award management
Proposals for a grant or award competition
External funding typically falls into one of the following general grant types: operating grants, salary awards, infrastructure/equipment grants, industry sponsored research, and postdoctoral fellowship/trainee grants. Here we outline the general steps for the submission of a grant or award application.
1. Identify Funding Opportunities
It is not always easy to know where to look to find open funding competitions. Most investigators are aware of the major competitions run by CIHR, and NIH but may not be aware of some of the other opportunities they could explore. Consider disease specific funding agencies in your area as well as National Centres of Excellence (NCE’s). There are a few resources available to help you identify open funding competitions:
- Department of Medicine Research Office
- Faculty of Medicine
- Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute
- UBC Office of Research Services
2. Review eligibility and assessment criteria (both UBC and sponsor)
Who is eligible to apply for funding at UBC?
- Individuals who hold full time UBC clinical or academic appointments are eligible to apply for funding to conduct research.
- Only tenure track assistant, associate and professors are eligible to apply for external salary support such as the CIHR New Investigator Award. See Faculty of Medicine website for more information.
- Research trainees including post-doctoral fellows are eligible to apply for funding providing they are supervised by an eligible researcher.
- Note: ensure that your appointment covers the duration of the award funding or that you have discussed with your Division Head your interest in applying for major awards.
Review the eligibility of the sponsor and check for any of the following:
- Education requirements (i.e. MD, PhD)
- Career stage requirements (i.e. within first 5 years of first academic appointment)
- Carefully read the evaluation criteria and make sure you address the key criteria in your proposal. If headings are provided ensure your proposal uses the same headings. Make it easy for the reviewer to understand how your proposal meets both the objectives of the funding agency and the evaluation criteria.
3. Prepare Proposal Draft
Writing from scratch can be a daunting task, it is often helpful to look at sample successful proposals. Both the Research Office and the SPARC office have a collection of sample grants which may be viewed on-line or in person. To access the SPARC resources you will need to use your Campus Wide Login (CWL). If you do not remember your CWL please contact the Research Office. The Departmental Grant Library is located on a special SharePoint site. To access the Departmental Grant Library please contact the Research Manager for a password.
4. Have your draft reviewed by Grant Development or Internal Review
Both the SPARC Internal Review and Faculty of Medicine Grant Development resources are offered for major competitions, including CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC. The two resources have very differ and complimentary aims. Both of these valuable resources require a registration to ensure that there are sufficient resources to accommodate the need. The dates and deadlines will be specific for each competition, a general schedule is provided here for planning purposes only. Please check with the Research Office to determine current deadlines and availability of review for other competitions. To get the most out of these services investigators are encouraged to submit close to final drafts for review. If you submit your first draft the comments and reviews will not be as useful, as they would reflect changes you would likely make yourself.
5. Finalize your draft
When finalizing your application it is a good idea to review the criteria again to ensure that you have addressed all the requirements and have all of the necessary documents, including collaborators/co-investigator CCVs, letters of support, quotes etc.
6. Obtain necessary signatures
All grants submitted require the following signatures:
Instituional Signatures are required for all of the following
- Full grant applications
- LOIs (when specified by granting agency)
- Requests for renewal
- Post Doctoral Fellowships
- Graduate and Undergraduate scholarships and fellowships
- Faculty awards, fellowships even when funds not administered through UBC
- Note: the Department of Medicine has a 48 turnaround policy for signatures. We will do our best to provide a timely service but all researchers are encouraged to begin collecting signatures 5 – 7 working days in advance of any ORS deadline.
The Research Office will be happy to pass on your complete signature package to the next level for signature. If you would like assistance collecting signatures please contact the Research Manager. When submitting grants for signature please ensure the following are complete and provided.
- UBC Research Project Information Form (RPIF) with PI signature
- Title Page or grant cover page
- Signature Page and routing slip
- Abstract, or summary of the proposed research
- Budget and justification
- Letters of Support & Collaboration (if applicable)
- Matching funds documents (if applicable)
All requests for signatures for industry sponsored applications are required to be submitted in full and complete form. Applications for salary awards have more stringent signature guidelines, and will require more time, please plan accordingly. For salary awards please keep the following in mind.
- Your application must be signed by the Dean, not one of the site designates.
- If your appointment is at one of the Senate-approved research centres you must have your RPIF form signed by the Centre Director.
Some rare cases require the signature of the President, and specify that no delegated signatures will be accepted. Please allow at least 3 days to obtain this signature, contact the Vice-President, Research & International Office to obtain this signature.
7. Submit your application
It is the responsibility of the investigator to ensure that they meet any internal (ORS) and external (agency) deadlines. If the investigator is responsible for submitting the grant to the agency you will receive a wet signature from UBC ORS, signatory which you will need to upload/send with your grant. Some grants participate in an e-Submit process. In this case you will need to adhere to ORS internal deadline to be sure there is enough time for ORS to process your grant and submit on your behalf.
Tips for Grant Funding Success:
- Regularly consult open funding competitions and be aware of deadlines
- Check eligibility criteria carefully (ask Research Manager if you need help) to ensure that you meet all the criteria
- Attend grant writing workshops and information sessions when available
- Start early, prepare an outline ensuring your research question is clearly defined
- Consult with a statistician to help with protocol development and study design
Post Award Management
You have received a grant! Now what? Most people are surprised to find out that there are a few more important steps required before they can access their grant/awards funds. The term post award management refers all of the processes which occur after a grant has been awarded. The exact activities required will depend on the type of award, sponsor requirements, and whether any contracts are required. Unlike the pre-award phase the post award management may involve the interaction of multiple UBC units such as Research Trust Accounting (RTA), Office of Research Services (ORS), University-Industry Liasion Office (UILO) and the Department. We will look at each of these cycles here:
- Opening a R PG (ORS)
- Applying charges & managing research finances (Dept & PI)
- Execution of Contracts (UILO) (if needed)
1. Opening a Research PG Account
Grants and awards are always held in trust by UBC, not given directly to individual PI’s. Funds for research are kept in R PGs which are set up by ORS, managed by the Department and overseen by RTA. The following rules apply to R PG’s at UBC.
- In order to hold a UBC research Project Grant (PGs) the researcher must hold a permanent appointment at the rank of either assistant/clinical assistant professor or higher. Post doctoral fellows, research fellows, students or visitors cannot hold PGs in their name. Instead the PG will be opened under either the name of the supervisor or department head
- For lecturers and research associates, upon confirmation of the appointment covering the term of the grant special permission may be granted by the Dean to open a PG account.
- In order to open a R PG account the following must be in place:
- RPIF form
- notice of award
- copy of application (if available)
- budget plan for funds
- ethics certificate (if applicable)
In most cases, with the exception of the ethical approval, these items will be provided to ORS at the time of submission and will be kept on file in the event the application is successful.
1a. Notify the Department/ORS
For all grant/awards the investigator will be given an Awards Notice. This notice outlines the key terms of the award including the duration and any limitations on the use of the funds. ORS will use the information in this letter to open a Research PG account in the investigators name. For major competitions (CIHR/NSERC/SSHRC), ORS will receive a copy of this letter directly. However, it is always recommended that the investigator send a copy of this letter to the Department Research Office. We will forward this to ORS directly, and determine if there are any additional outstanding items required. If you have receive funds for which there was no application submitted (i.e start-up funds) you will need to submit your letter along with an Research Project Info Form (RPIF), project budget, and brief summary. The Departmental Research Office will collect these and obtain the necessary signatures.
1b. Reply to the Sponsor (if needed)
Some sponsors require that you return a signed copy of a Notice of Awards Acceptance. In some cases they also require an institutional signature. If you require a UBC signature, please contact the Research Office and provide us with a copy of the Awards Notification Letter. If you have already signed a RPIF form the information required will be on file.
1c. Ensure Ethics Approval is in place (if needed)
If your study requires ethical approval, the approval must be in place before the funds are released. Be aware that in some cases there is a restriction on how long an investigator has to get these approvals once they have accepted the award.
1d. Obtain the RPB for your PG
Once all of the required documentation is in place, ORS will upload this documentation and a PG account in the investigator’s name will be opened. The investigator will be sent a Research Project Budget (RPB) in their email with the details about this account including, who to contact from Office of Finance Services (OFS), or Research Trust Accounting (RTA). The RPB contains important information needed to apply charges to this account including your PG #, speed chart and signing authority for the account.
1e. Sponsor reporting requirements
2. Applying Charges & Managing Research Finances
Researchers are responsible for the responsible management of their research funds. Any charges applied to their accounts are subject to restrictions and limitations of the funding agency, and it is the responsibility of the PI and any individual who manages research funds on behalf of the PI to understand which expenses are eligible/ineligible.
2a. Applying charges to your PG account
3. Draft any required contracts
For larger studies we will often have a situation where UBC is the institution paid, but the work will be shared by a number of different institutions/centres or research groups. If money is to be provided to another group outside the home institution in exchange for work, services or to support research you will need to work with the UILO to establish and execute any required investigator initiated contracts. These include the following:
- Service agreements
- Material transfer agreements
- Non-disclosure agreements
- Sub-site agreements
To expedite the process please ensure that you have the required information before contacting UILO:
- study protocol
- REB application number
- duration of the study
- names and contact information for each site investigator
- site budgets and payment schedules (see UILO templates)
- site investigator responsibilities (if not in protocol)
- UBC account(s) from which the funds will be paid to other sites
- information about any investigational products/devices (if applicable)
- a copy of a Health Canada No Objection Letter (if applicable)
- notice of award (if applicable)
- case report forms (if applicable)
- reporting requirements SAE’s at sites (if applicable)
Note that UILO does not handle budget-related questions. It is the responsibility of the PI and sub-site investigators to agree on budget, payment terms and any other remuneration.
Protocol for a research study
Preparing a Research Protocol
Preparing research protocols is often a daunting task, particularly if you have not prepared one in the past. Preparing a detailed and complete research protocol can help you clarify your research question, clearly identify variables, establish endpoints and operationalize your research. Importantly, a well constructed protocol will be a key reference for your study that will convey to all members of the team how to carry out study criteria, methodology, and data evaluation. A proper research protocol is necessary for all UBC REB applications, as outlined here by UBC CREB Guidance Note #7, Article 8.1. The complexity of the protocol will depend largely on the study design. Randomized control trials will have very lengthy and detailed protocols while retrospective chart reviews will have much shorter protocols will less emphasis placed on areas such as sample size justification and study methods. However, it is important to realize that even simple studies can benefit from having a complete protocol.
Basic Protocol Requirements
All protocols should follow the same basic structure including the following elements:
- Title page
- Background information and study motivation
- Study hypothesis, objectives and aims
- Study procedures & methodology
- Data & statistical analysis plan (if applicable)
Sample Protocol Templates
To help researchers we have created protocol templates for use by Department of Medicine researchers. The simplified template is suitable for chart reviews and minimal risk projects involving no interventions. A more detailed template is also available for general research projects. We are currently working on developing a template for randomized control trials, and hope to have this available for researchers in the near future.
You may adapt these protocols to your study include the relevant sections and omit those which are not applicable. *Note that you will have to enable editing to use these Word document templates
Requirements for Peer Review of Protocols
Harvey BJ, Lang ES, JR Frank, editors. The research guide: a primer for residents, other health care trainees, and practitioners. Ottawa: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada; 2011