Reviewing the Solicitation
Most funding agencies issue various forms of proposal solicitations that can be called requests for proposals (RFPs), request for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs) or funding opportunities announcements (FOAs). Whatever term the agency uses, the solicitation is a researcher’s point of reference for the entire proposal development process. Most solicitations include a variety of items such as: the goals and objectives of the agency; scope of the project; general and specific topics to be addressed; budget requirements; outcomes; eligibility requirements; timelines and deadlines; and review criteria. Most agencies require clear compliance with every element of the solicitation in order to justify review of a proposal; many are rejected by agencies even before they are evaluated on the basis of not following the solicitation requirements. If aspects of a solicitation are unclear, please contact your Sponsored Programs representative, in addition, if the question is more scientific in nature, the investigator can often communicate with a designated program officer or another individual responsible for fielding questions at the sponsoring agency.

Some solicitations may limit the number of proposals that an eligible institution may submit. This limitation can be inserted by: 1) limiting the number of proposals from any given entity, or 2) requiring a preliminary proposal or letter of intent. If you encounter a solicitation that limits the number of proposals an institution can submit, go first to VU's Limited Submissions web site. Funding opportunities with limited submissions are coordinated internally by the Office of Research (SOM/SON) and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (UC) and an internal deadline for submitting an abstract will be listed on the website. If you do not see the funding opportunity listed, contact susan.meyn@vanderbilt.edu for SOM/SON or elizabeth.rapisarda@vanderbilt.edu for University Central and include a link to the funding announcement in your e-mail.

If the solicitation requests a preliminary proposal, usually a shorter version of the proposal, the deadline is typically months prior to the full proposal deadline. Sponsors review these and then reduce the number of applications eligible to submit full proposals. For instructions regarding pre-applications please visit: Pre-Application Guidance

Reading a program solicitation for the first time can be overwhelming. However, by planning early, developing clear timelines and creating content outlines using the solicitation as a guide for writing, the process is manageable.


For non-Federal submissions, please be sure to include a copy of the guidelines as part of your internal submission package.  This information is used by OSP to ensure the application meets the sponsors requirements.