Research Administration Guidelines

RAG20 Limited Submissions

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Vijay Narayanan, 814 867 6367,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President for Research and the Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance



Develop and implement internal selection processes to respond to funding opportunities or awards that impose limits on the number of proposals submitted by Penn State. These opportunities are termed "limited submissions," since the university is limited to the number of proposals it may submit. Sources of these opportunities include governmental agencies, private foundations, and corporate sponsors. The primary objective is to identify the most competitive internal proposal(s), application(s), and nomination(s) in a consistent manner based upon merit review criteria specified by the sponsors.


The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research (OSVPR) has oversight for the limited submission selection process and the Senior Vice President for Research (SVPR) makes the final determination as to which submissions will be permitted from Penn State, except as detailed below. The Associate Vice President for Research and Director of Strategic Initiatives (AVPR-DSI), in consultation with a review committee, and with the colleges/institutes/campuses, is charged with implementing the process.

For specific programs that are related to undergraduate education, the Office of Undergraduate Education is charged with implementing the process and follows other procedures. The OSVPR also works closely with Penn State's Corporate Engagement Center and Foundation Relations when the funding opportunity originates from a private foundation or industry sponsor. The OSVPR communicates with these partner units to ensure timely submission of the selected proposals to the external funding agencies.

It is the responsibility of the faculty or their college/institute/campus to contact if they identify a limited submission opportunity to pursue. Faculty should not proceed with a response to a limited submission opportunity without their college/institute/campus obtaining approval from the OSVPR.


Limited submission opportunities are identified in several ways, e.g., through invitations, funding agency announcements, and agency mailing lists. Limited submission opportunities are handled through one of two paths, depending on the level of faculty interest.

For those limited submission opportunities that are broad in scope and likely to be of interest to multiple faculty members, the OSVPR will notify the research community and perform a selection process using the approach detailed in the next section.

For those limited submission opportunities that are focused on relatively narrow fields of interest, the OSVPR will convey the opportunity to the applicable units and allow them to conduct the selection of the proposals to submit. A faculty member wanting to compete for an opportunity in this category must notify their college research dean, institute director, or campus chancellor, as well as the OSVPR at preferably two months in advance of the submission deadline, as permitted by the external deadlines, to allow the OSVPR to initiate a selection review process in advance of submission.

Before submitting a proposal, all faculty members and research administrators should review the proposal call to ensure there are no limits on the number of submissions from the university. The OSVPR maintains a limited submission website of known proposal calls that place limits on the number of submissions.


The following limited submissions process is used. Exceptions are made in certain situations, for example, when the deadline is short (less than two weeks), when the program is highly focused (college manages the selection), or when a strategic interest of the University is impacted.

  1. UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCEMENT: Website postings and e-mail announcements are issued from the OSVPR to the University Research Council (URC) or to a specific college for programs that are extremely focused and discipline-specific. The email includes the Administrative Committee on Research, and a summary of the program, website location, timeline for response, pre-proposal / information requirements, and submission deadlines. For large and more notable awards, the OSVPR in conjunction with other relevant units will hold informational workshops to enhance the quality of responses.
  2. COLLEGE/INSTITUTE/CAMPUS ANNOUNCEMENT: URC members are requested to share e-mail announcements with their department heads and faculty to broadly circulate the opportunity.
  3. NOTICE-OF-INTENT: If timing and anticipated interest warrants, interested faculty are asked to submit a notice-of-intent to the OSVPR following the instructions on the announcement. This notice should include the name and title of the principal investigator, co-investigators, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, planned pre-proposal title, and brief description of the project. The primary purpose of the notice-of-intent is to enable the rapid initiation of the pre-proposal review process.
  4. PRE-PROPOSAL APPLICATION: If the number of notices-of-intent is less than the institutional limit, the faculty member will be notified to proceed with the submission. If the number of notices-of-intent exceeds the institutional limit, each faculty member will be asked to submit an electronic pre-proposal application by the stated deadline and following the instructions on the announcement.
  5. SELECTION OF A REVIEW PANEL: The AVPR-DSI and limited submissions personnel will identify members to serve on a review panel based on the notices-of-intent to ensure the appropriate expertise is represented on the panel. Panels are assembled from a standing pool of faculty who were nominated by research deans, chancellors and institute directors to represent specific disciplines. Based on the proposal subject, specific individuals from the pool are requested to support a review of the pre-proposal material and do so relatively quickly. Additional faculty may be recruited to serve on the panels if specialized expertise is required. Faculty who have previously recieved awards may be requested to review submissions to the sponsor thereby providing additional insight into the requisite qualifications and metrics.
  • For future reviews, faculty may request that their unit leaders nominate them to serve on the pool of potential reviewers. Service credits for faculty are provided for the efforts.
  1. SELECTION PROCESS: With support from the OSVPR, the review panel will access, review, and rank the pre-proposals. They may also meet to discuss the combined rankings. Except in cases where a panel meeting is required, reviewer names, reviews, and submitted applications are kept confidential. The panel aims to determine which pre-proposal teams will have the best chance of success in external competition and will also consider which pre-proposals are best aligned with the University's strategic goals. Panel members are requested to provide written feedback to be shared with the faculty. Every attempt is made to ensure that panel deliberations and final decisions are completed in a timely fashion, thereby optimizing the time available to the faculty for preparation of the final proposal.
  • If all applicants are from the same college or campus, the college or campus dean's office will coordinate the review with assistance from OSVPR. In these cases, the college/campus will provide their recommendation and written rationales to the OSVPR. Each unit handling the review will involve at least three individuals in the selection.
  • When the call for proposals originates from a foundation, the pre-proposals will be reviewed by the Office of Foundation Relations to ensure responsiveness to the foundation's goals.
  1. SELECTION NOTIFICATION: The OSVPR electronically notifies the faculty nominee, the appropriate research administrators, and URC members of the decisions. The OSVPR also sends the faculty applicants written feedback as provided by the panel.
  2. FACULTY RESPONSIBILTY: Once a faculty member is selected to apply for a specific limited submission opportunity, they have the responsibility to submit to that program by the designated deadline and to work with the appropriate administrative units within the University to prepare the best possible proposal. If a faculty member decides to decline the selection, they must notify as soon as possible to permit another faculty member to compete externally. If a selected faculty member does not submit externally and does not notify the OSVPR, this may be taken into consideration in future limited submission selections.

ADDENDUM 1: Volunteering for Service on a Selection Advisory Panel

Faculty interested in serving on the Selection Advisory Panel should notify their dean, chancellor, or Associate Dean for Research who will submit the nomination to OSVPR to be considered to the standing pool of reviewers in one of the four areas: Life & Biomedical Sciences, Science & Engineering, Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities. Review panels are created from this standing pool of reviewers as appropriate for each call.

ADDENDUM 2: Credit Assignment for Faculty Supporting Proposal Reviews

The OSVPR relies on the service of faculty members to perform internal reviews for limited submission, external funding opportunities. This is an extremely important service that faculty provide toward identifying proposals that best represent Penn State in these external funding competitions. The review process involves the research and scholarly expertise of faculty members, akin to the role of peer reviewers for conferences, journals, and funding agencies, and assists our colleagues in developing stronger proposals. The credit assigned for service to the faculty member is commensurate with the impact, number, length, and type of internal proposals ;reviewed each year with 10 points assigned for each 2-page application reviewed, equivalent to one hour of service. Additional points are added for longer applications and more detailed reviews.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the OSVPR or the Office of Budget and Finance.

Revision History:

  • July 12, 2023 - Editorial changes:
    • References to the Corporate Controller changed to the Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance
    • References to the Office of the Corporate Controller changed to the Office of Budget and Finance
  • February 14, 2022 - This guide has been edited to provide clarifying details on how limited submission proposals are reviewed and selected for submission.
  • September 13, 2019 - Changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research
  • February 26, 2016 - This guideline (previously RAG19) has been edited to reflect current practice.
  • June 19, 2012 - Editorial changes. Changed references FROM "Associate Vice President for Research and Director of Strategic Initiatives (AVPR/DSI)" TO "Limited Submissions Management Group (LSMG)" in the OVERSIGHT, SELECTION ADVISORY PANEL, and SELECTION PROCESS sections.
  • January 1, 2010 - Editorial changes to position titles
  • December 23, 2008 - New Policy Guideline

Date Approved: 

April 18, 2022

Date Published: 

April 18, 2022

Effective Date: 

April 18, 2022