Understanding roles, responsibilities & partnerships during the pre-award stage

Below, you will find common questions and answers about roles, responsibilities, and partnerships during the pre-award stage. The best way to ensure a smooth submission where everyone can play the appropriate role is to complete the required Intent to Submit at least fifteen (15) business days in advance of the submission date.  This alerts a PI’s partners (grant manager and ORA/ORS) that a submission is forthcoming (note: some business units may require a longer lead time).   

What is the difference between the activities managed by local versus central research administration? 

Short answer: Both are there as partners to help you navigate the research administration environment at Duke and to facilitate Duke’s compliance with federal and sponsor rules and regulations that govern research.   

The Details: Everyone in the research community plays a part in ensuring the accountable, proactive management and oversight of research and fostering a responsible research culture at Duke, but there are also important distinctions between the various roles at Duke and their responsibilities.  A roles and responsibilities matrix is available in myRESEARCHpath that contains information on “who does what” in each phase of the research lifecycle. 

  • Local Research Administration: Broadly speaking, local grant managers are responsible for administration of research at the project level, interfacing directly with investigators in the local academic/business unit, and for interpreting and confirming compliance with applicable rules, regulations, laws, and policies/procedures that govern research. 
  • Central Research Administration: Central research administration establishes and maintains the infrastructure (policies, processes, data and systems) necessary for facilitating the efficient, effective and responsible conduct of research at Duke.  This is accomplished by various business units at Duke - view research administration support roles
  • myRESEARCHnavigators: Additionally, myRESEARCHnavigators are available to help investigators find relevant resources, connect with experts, and understand processes and best practices for conducting research at Duke. 
What is the role of the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) in the proposal submission process? 

Short Answer: The AOR serves as the designated representative with delegated signature authority in matters related to external research funding at Duke. The AOR is part of the team supporting the development, review, and submission of your proposal.   

The Details: All Duke employees act on behalf of the University in different capacities to support research; but certain decisions and commitments require proper delegation of authority from Duke’s Board of Trustees to be considered official and binding. 

Sponsors make awards to the institution (Duke University, as the applicant organization), not the individual, and require certifications and signatures from individuals designated by the University as Authorized Organizational Representatives (AORs).  

The AOR’s signature represents to the sponsor that the University: 

  1. is eligible to submit the application 
  2. has confirmed the materials being submitted by the University on behalf of the PI are true, complete and accurate, are the original work of the PI, and have not been used by other individuals in the preparation and submission of a similar grant application 
  3. has the ability to provide appropriate administrative and scientific oversight of the project and agrees to be fully accountable for the appropriate use of funds awarded and for the performance of the project 
  4. has adequate facilities and infrastructure to carry out the project 
  5. agrees to perform the proposed work within the requested budget and the proposed timeline 
  6. complies with applicable Federal laws and regulations, certifications and assurances, and the terms and conditions of an award 

As a reminder, only an AOR can communicate official administrative matters to the sponsor and bind the University in matters related to research.  

Find more information about the role of the Authorized Organizational Representative.  

What is the Office of Research Administration (ORA) / Office of Research Support (ORS) reviewing for? 

Short answer: ORA (Schools of Medicine and Nursing) and ORS (Campus Units) are there to help you submit your application (new, competing, and non-competing renewals) in a way that makes it possible for the sponsor to accept and assign it to a review panel or program officer – avoiding rejection for administrative or system errors. 

The Details:  ORA and ORS review applications (new, competing, and non-competing renewals) using various tools, information, and guidance – including sponsor program announcements, sponsor policies, Federal regulations, Duke policies, and internal review procedures. In addition, ORA and ORS assess whether information in the SPS record is consistent with the application.  

Review by ORA and ORS includes:  

  • Adherence to application guidelines 
  • Conformance to Sponsor and University eligibility requirements  
  • Accuracy of Duke reference data   
  • Compliance with sponsor-specific budgetary requirements and limitations 
  • Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs are applied and calculated appropriately  
  • Cost sharing requirements or restrictions are addressed 
  • If prohibited by sponsor, cost share is not presented in the application. 
  • If cost-sharing is allowable, appropriate approvals are in place, and the cost-sharing is consistent with federal requirements  
  • All proposed subrecipients satisfy the University’s documentation requirement  
  • The requisite institutional, regulatory, and compliance approvals are obtained  
  • Scientific*, budget, and/or commitment overlap is disclosed and/or resolved (if applicable) 

*A note about Scientific Overlap: Issues of potential or actual scientific overlap are the responsibility of the investigator to identify, disclose, and resolve.  The grant manager and ORA/ORS are available to assist with understanding sponsor policies and can guide you with the requirements and process related to appropriate disclosure and resolution. 

Incidental to its review of an application, ORA or ORS may identify other areas needing clarification or revisions not included in the list above.  Common Errors and How to Avoid Them provides an example list of errors commonly found in applications when routed to ORA/ORS that can cause delays in review and submission (or prevent submission altogether).   

If you have questions or need help navigating the proposal submission process, work with your departmental research administrator and/or contact researchinitiatives@duke.edu

Applications (new, competing, and non-competing renewals) submitted for external funding without first receiving institutional clearance from the appropriate pre-award office will not be accepted at the time of award notification. 

Who submits the application? 

Short answer: Who submits the application (new, competing, and non-competing renewals) depends on sponsor requirements and the system used for submission.   

The Details: The sponsor’s guidelines will include instructions for how and when the application must be submitted. 


Submit via 

Submitted by 

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – New and competing 



National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Noncompeting 

RPPR module in eRA Commons 

Signing Official in ORA/ORS 

National Science Foundation (NSF) 

Research.gov (some programs have not migrated to Research.gov yet and may still require submission via FastLane) 


Department of Defense (DOD) 

Grants.Duke and eBRAP 


Department of Energy (DOE) 

Grants.Duke (or if to ARPA-E and FOA instructs, submit via eXCHANGE)  


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) 



Federal Drug Administration (FDA)  




ProposalCentral or some foundations have their own online submission system 


In all cases, an application can be submitted only after all of the following steps have occurred: 

  • ORA/ORS has reviewed and approved the final application in SPS, Grants.Duke, Research.gov, etc. 
  • Any necessary changes requested by ORA/ORS have been made to the application contents 
  • ORA/ORS has updated the proposal status in SPS to Awaiting Submission for Grants.Duke 
  • All required proposal attestations have been completed (requires login) 

Once the steps above are completed, the PI is notified via email that the application is cleared for submission, and the PI may submit the application (unless the sponsor requires submission by an authorized organizational representative). 

Once cleared for submission, it is strongly recommended that the application be submitted as early as possible to avoid unforeseeable technical errors or inevitable system delays that can occur on the due date. 

If submitting electronically, the PI (not a delegate or designee) must log in to the electronic submission system using their own login credentials to submit the application in time to meet the sponsor’s submission deadline. 

  • Other Electronic Submission Systems - Many federal and private sponsors require the use of their own submission websites (for example, Research.gov or ProposalCentral). As each system has different requirements, confirm the instructions for submission early in the process and contact your grant manager immediately if you have not previously submitted through a particular system as the registration process can take time.