Frequently Asked Questions
Extramural Grants Submission Process
1. I have a query, who do I contact?
A Help desk facility is available at the Research Office for all inquiries. Please call ext. 4111 or dial +92-21-3486 4111.
2. Is there a flow diagram showing the step-by-step review process and whether administrative sign-off required?
Yes - The Research Office has developed a flow diagram which outlines the process of approvals required for the application. The flow diagram is available on the Intranet (Procedure for applying to extramural funding)
3. Is it mandatory to get my grant application reviewed and approved by the University authorities before sending it to the granting agency?
Yes, absolutely. Faculty cannot submit grant applications/contracts directly to any funding agency. Your proposal must be reviewed by the University authorities and endorsed. Please see the flow diagram available on the Procedure for applying to extramural funding.Your proposal should be reviewed by the representatives of some or all of the following administrative units and be signed off according to the needs of the project.
- Human Resources Division
- Finance Department
- Legal Department
- Safety & Security Department
- Clinical Research Unit
- Housing Department
- Registrar's Office
Following review by the administrative units, the proposal is reviewed and signed off by the Department Chair/Head followed by the Dean/Director of the Entity. The Research Office makes the final review and sign-off.
4. Does a letter of intent (LOI)/ concept paper / position paper also need to go through this process ?
There are two types of LOI's:
Type1 - This usually consist of a project outline, more of a concept note and does not include any financial, personnel or other details. This can be submitted directly to the funding agency. You must send a copy to the Research Office.
Type2 - This is much more than a concept note. It is close to a full proposal and includes detailed budget such as, personnel, equipment costs etc. This LOI can not be submitted directly. It would follow the same process as a full grant proposal.
If you are unsure, contact the Research Office via the Helpdesk, (Ext.4111).
5. How much time does it take to fill the grants checklist?
If your research proposal is systematically written, it should take you no more than 30 minutes to fill in the checklist.
6.What is the purpose of the process?
The intent is to protect you, the PI and to protect the Institution as guarantor of your proposed work. AKU does not want the PI or itself to commit anything which it may not be able to deliver, or undertake any activity which may not be in line with the University's mission and/or values or capability.
7. Will my application be treated with confidentiality?
Yes, all research proposals are treated with strict confidentiality by the Research Office and other support offices.
8. What if I have a close deadline for my application and it is not possible to get approvals from various units?
Every Request for Proposal/Request for Application(RFP/RFA) carries a reasonable time with it. It is the responsibility of the PI to make sure that sufficient time is given to everyone to ensure institutional approval. Please contact the Research Office. We are here to help and assist you.
9. What is the approximate timeline from submission to completion of the signoff?
For a single institution, non-clinical trial for less than US$ 250,000, the whole process of review takes an average of 20 working days. However, we would strongly advise that you give yourself at least 30 working days to ensure that you get the signoff.
However, if your grant has a larger budget, is a Clinical Trial or is multicenter, it would probably take more than 30 working days.
10. Can I submit my grant proposal plus the checklist and accompanying papers in soft copy format?
Final Endorsement will be done on hardcopy of the Checklist. However, full grant proposal along with accompanying papers should also be submitted electronically to the administrative units' contact person to speed the review process.
11. What will happen when I submit my grant checklist directly to the granting agency?
It will be considered as a violation to AKU practice and most likely the University will not take the responsibility of handling the funds, if awarded. Nearly all granting agencies do not accept applications from an individual if it has not been signed-off by the University. You would also be breeching the funding agency rules.
12. After review of my proposal, the granting agency requests certain changes, what do I need to do?
Changes suggested by the granting agency could have implications. Any changes to the original grant may have implications for Finance and other administrative units including ERC(Ethical). Hence these changes must be reviewed by the respective administrative unit(s), and a copy of the final version of the proposal must be sent to the Research Office for final approval and record.
13. My grant is approved and a contract has been sent for signature, what do I do?
The contract should be reviewed by the departments of Finance, Legal, and CTU (if applicable) which will ensure that whatever has been agreed in the contract/agreement does not materially differ from the actual proposal. It must then be sent to the Research Office for final signoff.
14. What if I apply to more than one granting agency at the same time, do I still need to fill out separate checklist every time and seek approvals from various units?
Yes, as budgets may differ. In addition, you must ensure that various granting agencies receiving an identical application are made aware that you have /or are submitting the same application. In most instances this is either unacceptable or you have to clearly declare where else you have applied, amount applied for and date of decision.
The Checklists (Health Sciences, Social Sciences & Capacity Building)
15. How do I fill in table 2.1 and calculate AKU time for the PI and Co-I's as specified in table 3.1 of the grants checklist?
Table 2.1 and 3.1 ask for different things, but amounts in each will have some link to each other. If correctly filled, both will reflect the same scenario. In order for researchers to get a better feel of the tables, the following example should answer most of your queries;
PI contributes an average of 5 hours a week* towards this project
- Co-I (1) contributes an average of 3hours per week
- Co-I (2) contributes an average of 2hours per week
- Co-I (3) contributes an average of 6hours per week
- Collaborator 1 contributes an average of1.5 hours per week
- Collaborator 2 contributes an average of3 hours per week
- Total = 20.5 hours per week
* If the average per week is difficult to estimate, you can use the average per month of even average per year (or the period of the grant) as a base. Please however note that a constant base must be used for all the contributors.
Table 2.1 simply asks the contribution in percentage terms from each of the PI, Co-Is and collaborators to this project. As this is a percentage of course the total should add up to 100%. This percentage can be either in terms of the average time spent or the effort done. Please note that all co-Is whether within AKU or outside it, are to be added and also the contribution of the collaborators. Table 2.1 would therefore look like:
|AGA KHAN UNIVERSITY
||% OF TIME ALLOTED TO THE PROJECT|
||5÷20.5x100= 24.4% (or 24%)|
||3÷20.5x100= 14.6% (or 15%)|
||2÷20.5x100= 9.8% (or 10%)|
||6÷20.5x100= 29.2% (or 29%)|
|EXTERNAL APPLICANTS/COLLABORATORS OR PARTNERS
||% OF TIME ALLOTED TO THE PROJECT|
||1.5÷20.5x100= 7.3% (or 7%)|
||3÷20.5x100= 14.6% (or 15%)|
Unlike table 2.1, table 3.1 requires information only about the PI and Co-Is and collaborators within AKU. It attempts to determine how much of their total time will be utilized in this project rather than table 2.12 which attempts to determine their share in the project's effort. A standard base of 42 working hours per week is utilized. If a monthly base is used, then it is 184 hours. For the same parameters Table 3.1 would be:
||INSTITUTION & DEPARTMENT
||AVERAGE # OF HOURS/WEEK
||% OF TOTAL HOURS/WEEK
||% ALLOTTED BY AKU|
||5÷42=11.9% (or 12%)|
||3÷42=7.1% (or 7%)|
||2÷42=4.76% (or 5%)|
||6÷42=14.3% (or 14%)|
Please note that the percentage in the last column called "% allocated by AKU" is the percentage of their total time that each person is expected to contribute towards research.
16. Do I need to get an ERC approval before submitting a grant proposal for evaluation?
ERC approval may not be required at the proposal submission stage unless specifically requested by the granting agency. However, ERC approval is mandatory for activation of funds, if the grant is awarded.
17. How to calculate overheads?
The University expects that every PI must try to recover the maximum percentage allowed by the granting agency, including core recoveries like bench fees, tuition (Students in AKU programme) etc. wherever allowed. If you require further help in this regard, please contact the Helpdesk.
18. What does the total sum requested from granting agency as mentioned in section 7(a) mean? Also please define how do we calculate Indirect cost recoverable (7c) and expected contribution by AKU (7f)?
All projects consist of a direct cost and an indirect cost component. Direct costs are those easily identifiable, (e.g. staff, supplies, travel, lab tests, etc., associated with the project) additional costs (incremental to your normal departmental budget) which are incurred to run the project. Indirect costs are those activities or services that benefit more than one project and are not easy identifiable. For e.g. rentals, audits, administrative, telephones, electricity, etc.
Generally indirect costs are recovered as a percentage of direct costs. It is imperative that indirect cost be recovered from the granting agency as per their policy; otherwise AKU will have to pay for the shortfalls. See also FAQ # 17.
If AKU contribution is required then this must be stated in section 7f, for example a URC grant may be funding a part of the project, or AKU may be contributing supplies etc.
19. How do I calculate the % of on-campus and off-campus component?
Off-campus costs are those incurred outside AKU campuses e.g. field-based staff and supplies, transport, travel, field site rent and other support costs. On-campus component includes all personnel, supplies and other expenses incurring on campus. First identify all expenses that can be classified as on-campus or off-campus.
Add all on-campus costs*. An example is given below:
Total direct cost of the project = Rs.2.5 million.
Sum of all on-campus component = Rs.0.8 million
The off-campus would thus be 2.5-0.8 = 1.7 million
On-campus component is thus 0.8x100÷2.5 = 32%
Hence, off-campus cost would be 100-32 = 68%
* Please note that this is not an exact estimate, minor variances are acceptable.
20. If my grant has some training component, whom should I contact to seek guidance and approval?
Your grant may include provision for Masters, PhD, Diploma or other AKU courses. You should contact the Registrar Office to determine the exact title of the course, the start date, the duration and year or year cost (fees).
21. Who should I contact for research laboratory space?
You should contact your department head wherever relevant. For centralized University lab spaces e.g. space in Juma Research Lab (Karachi), please contact the Research Office. This should be done well before you develop your grant proposal.
22. Who should I contact if I need writing space for my project?
You should contact your head of the Department/Chair for writing space. The endorsement of the checklist by the department chair is a confirmation that he/she agrees to all the terms and conditions mentioned in your project and will provide the PI with the necessary space required. No additional approval letter is required from the chair.
However, spaces outside the domain of the PI’s department requires approval from the respective departmental head.
23. For off-campus projects, do I need to involve Housing Department to identify space?
It is extremely important for your own safety as well as that of the University to involve departments of Housing and Safety & Security before an off-site space is finalized.
24. I am collaborating with an organization which has even greater reputation in research than AKU. Will AKU still review their systems including Financial?
If the funding agency holds us responsible for the funds our collaborators utilize, then yes we have to make our collaborators responsible and accountable for the funds they utilize. Most reputable organizations have no problem in accepting this as does AKU when receiving grants from e.g. Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, and Drexel University. AKU recently did a sub-contract with one of these Universities and these clauses are there, which they readily accepted. This does not mean that AKU will definitely go and review the systems but merely reserves the right to do so as appropriate. It is Finance Department’s prerogative to do what is in the best financial interest of AKU. There have been instances where financial systems have been inadequate especially small NGOs in which case we have to be extra careful to ensure that AKU’s reputation is not at stake due to some oversight or negligence of that organization. Funds are given to AKU based on trust, reputation and transparent financial practices. PI should ensure this reputation is not tarnished.
25. Obtaining signatures on hard copy from collaborators outside AKU at other institutions could be difficult and time consuming. Would scanned or faxed copies be acceptable?
Yes, but ensure that it is approved on their institutional letterhead by an authorized person. Originals should be submitted in due course.
26. What should a letter of collaboration include?
A letter of collaboration should include the following three undertakings from the collaborator.
- The collaborator should declare that he is aware of and has read the proposal.
- The collaborator should specify clearly the tasks that he/she will perform (e.g. analysis of tests, literature review, performing certain lab tests etc.)
- The cost associated with the task(s) to be performed by the collaborator must also be mentioned. Similarly, if the work is being done gratis, this should be mentioned.
27. If I am a co-applicant/collaborator on a grant with an out-of-AKU PI, do I have to submit a copy of the application to Research Office?
Yes, a copy must be submitted to the Research Office if;
- the application requires the signature/endorsement of University representative
- part of the funding will be transmitted to AKU
- if there is some activity to be performed by you as an AKU representative.
28. Who do I contact if I feel that output of the research could result in potential for commercial exploitation?
This should be indicated in your grants checklist in the section of “Potential for Commercial Exploitation”. Generally, in financial terms, it means that your activity will result in gain to you and AKU in any form whether inadvertently or deliberately.
29. Am I required to submit the progress report of my external grant to the Research Office once it is awarded?
Yes, the Research Office maintains record of every grant.
30. When do I need to fillup the Capacity Building Grants Checklist?
The capacity building grants checklist is filled for
activities that strengthen the capacity of a group, department, unit,
entity or the university. Allowable activities include (but are not
limited to): 1) long-range or strategic planning; 2) organizing workshops, seminars or conferences, 3)
development of fiscal management or fundraising/marketing plans, 4) the
creation or expansion of an academic and other programmes 5) equipment purchases 6)
Awareness raising sessions, 7) community development programs etc.
can apply for the capacity building grant?
Full time faculty members and entity heads/directors can apply for capacity
building grants. The entity heads can also designate a person to run the
program but they will remain responsible to the funder as well as to AKU
regarding the programme related activities and finances.
the grant be used to fund partnership work that is ongoing?
applicants should show how the fund will deepen and strengthen the existing Partnership
building grant has no research component. Am I still required to submit my non-
research grant application to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies
for final approval?
34. How much time does the Office
of Research & Graduate Studies take to review Capacity building grants
Capacity building grants are different than the normal research grants and are the result of negotiations
between the funder and AKU, it takes longer than the research grants to review
a capacity building grant.
35. What are the
possible risks associated with a capacity building grants
These include, risks affecting the successful implementation of the project;
risks associated with the systems to ensure that the funding process is fair
and transparent; and that it is able to meet its accountability obligations. Also
some conflict of interest risks and
AKU’s and the Project director’s rights and obligations in the funding