Research Project Life Cycle

Sponsored research projects at UW, and at other universities, follow a fairly standard lifecycle. 

If you're new to DOM research administration, check out our glossary of research terms and read on to get started.

Research Project Life Cycle graphic

Pre-Award Phase

In the early stages of the lifecycle, a researcher, or principal investigator (PI), generates an idea for a project. The researcher will then search for various funding opportunities which align with their interests and submit a proposal to a funding agency. This is what's known as the "pre-award" portion of the lifecycle.

Post-Award Phase

If the researcher receives the award, the lifecycle moves into the "post-award" phase. In this phase, DOM’s Office of Research Services (ORS) will work with the PI and UW’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) to set up the award.

Project Management Phase

Next, the PI and will enter the project management phase as the research is being conducted. This process could last for months, or even years, depending on the complexity of the project. At the end of the project, ORS will work with the PI and RSP to close the award.

The pre-award and post-award administrator’s role throughout this process will vary depending on the PI and research needs. 

Lifecycle Steps 

The Office of Research Services may assist with processes at each step.

Step 1: Find Funding

In this step, the pre-award specialist might assist the PI with locating suitable funding opportunities which align with their interests. They may use Pivot, an online database of various funding opportunities, to track various award notices.

Did you know...

UW RSP has many resources dedicated to helping researchers connect with funding opportunities. Visit their Finding Funding section for more information.

Step 2: Develop Proposal

The pre-award specialist generally provides great assistance in this step. They may be asked to enter necessary information into WISPER and Cayuse—the online portals used to submit a proposal and manage an award. They may also be asked to help with developing the project budget, non-technical forms, formatting, and more.

Step 3: Submit Proposal

While the PI is ultimately responsible for approving the submission of a research proposal, the pre-award specialist might be asked to assist with gathering any necessary final documents for submission into WISPER/Cayuse. The pre-award specialist will then have the PI review the information prior to submitting the proposal.

Did you know...

RSP requires three (3) business days to review the proposal before it can be submitted to the agency. Make sure to review the application deadlines, and plan ahead!

Step 4: Set Up Project

Once awarded, UW RSP will work with ORS and the PI to set up the award. RSP will review the terms of the award, and coordinate with ORS and the PI as needed. 

Did you know...

In some cases, the PI may be able to start work on their project before an award contract has been signed. This is what's known as an Advance, and it allows the PI to begin work as long as they have sponsor and departmental approval. Contact your pre-award specialist for more information!

Step 5: Manage Project

In this phase of the project, the post-award accountant will ensure that project funds are being spent according to sponsor/university guidelines. Monthly account reconciliations will be performed to ensure funds are spent as required and charged to the correct project. They will also maintain expense records and decision processes for potential sponsor audits.

Did you know...

Sponsors may audit both proposals and awarded projects anytime during the award and up to an established period after award closeout. It’s important to understand UW and sponsor record retention policies and to maintain necessary documents to ensure compliance, especially if expenditure exceptions are made.

Step 6: Close Out Project

The post-award accountant will conduct a pre-closeout review with the PI and work to ensure that the final project budget has been reconciled. They might also assist the PI in preparing and submitting any final reports and obtaining any required signatures on closeout documents.