​​​Frequently Asked Questions

1. I have a query, who do I contact?

​ Helpdesk facility is available at the Office of Research and Graduate studies (ORGS) for all inquiries. Please call ext. *92 4111.

2. Is there a flow diagram showing the step-by-step review process and whether administrative sign-off is required?

 Yes - The ORGS has developed a flow diagram which outlines the process of approvals required for the application. Please see the flow diagram of 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. This is to ensure that you as the faculty as well as AKU are protected against making any commitments which we may not be able to fulfill. Your proposal must be reviewed and endorsed by the University authorities​. Please see the above flow diagram of 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 Trials Unit
  • Housing Department
  • Registrar Office

Following the review of the administrative units, the proposal is reviewed and signed off by the Department Chair/Head which is then followed by the Dean/Director of the Entity. ORGS 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:

Type 1 - This usually consists 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. But, you must send a copy to ORGS.

Type 2 - 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 ORGS via the Helpdesk.

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 to 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 ORGS 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 ORGS. We are here to assist you.

9. What is the approximate timeline from submission to completion of the sign-off?

 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 you to give yourself at least 30 working days to ensure that you get the sign-off.

However, if your grant has a larger budget, is a Clinical Trial or is multi centre, 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?

 The process in Pakistan is electronic, so only soft copies are acceptable. For East Africa and UK, final endorsement will be done on hard copy of the Checklist. However, full grant proposal along with accompanying papers should also be submitted electronically to the administrative units' contact person to speed up the review process.

11. What will happen when I submit my grant proposal directly to the granting agency?

 It will be considered a violation to AKU practice and most likely, the University will not take the responsibility of handling the funds, if awarded. Many granting agencies do not accept applications from an individual if it has not been signed-off by the University. You would also be breaching 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. Hence these changes must be reviewed by the respective administrative unit(s) whose approval is affected by the change and a copy of the final version of the proposal must be sent to ORGS 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 nor does it, in any way, affect the rights of the PI and AKU. ​It must then be sent to ORGS for the final sign-off.

14. What if I apply to more than one granting agency at the same time, do I still need to fill out a separate checklist for each 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 to multiple agencies. In most instances, this is either unacceptable or you have to clearly declare where else have you applied, amount applied for and anticipated 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 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 3 hours per week
  • Co-I (2) contributes an average of 2 hours per week
  • Co-I (3) contributes an average of 6 hours per week
  • Collaborator 1 contributes an average of 1.5 hours per week
  • Collaborator 2 contributes an average of 3 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 or even average per year (or the period of the grant) as a base. 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 of this project. As this is a percentage, 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, are to be added and also the contribution of the collaborators has to be included. Table 2.1 would therefore look like:





​Principal Investigator

​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%)






​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, 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:






​Principal Investigator



​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 research ethics approval before submitting a grant proposal for evaluation?

 ERC/REC approval may not be required at the proposal submission stage unless specifically requested by the granting agency. However, ERC/REC approval is mandatory for activation of the grant and use 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 7(c) and expected contribution by AKU 7(f)?

 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 easily attributable to a single project.  For e.g. rental, administrative time, telephone, 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 components include 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). Their review and approval is manadatory for such proposals.

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 (Pakistan), please contact ORGS. 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 department head/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 department 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 system 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 regularly does sub-contracts with these Universities and these clauses are there, which they readily accepted. This does not mean that AKU will definitely go and review the system 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 system has been inadequate especially of small NGOs. In such a 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 original hard copy from collaborators outside AKU could be difficult and time consuming. Would scanned or faxed copies be acceptable?

 Yes, but do 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 s/he is aware of the proposal and has read the proposal.
  • The collaborator should specify clearly the tasks that s/he 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 ORGS?

 Yes, a copy must be submitted to ORGS, 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 ORGS once it is awarded?

 Yes, ORGS maintains record of every grant.​​ You are required to submit a copy of all the financial reports and technical reports sent to the granting agency. 

30. When do I need to fill up 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): 

  • Long-range or strategic planning
  • Organizing  workshops, seminars or conferences 
  • Development of fiscal management or fundraising/marketing plans
  • Creation or expansion of an academic and other  programmes
  • Equipment purchase
  • Awareness raising sessions 
  • Community development programs, etc.​

31. Who can apply for the Capacity Building Grants?

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. 

32. Can the grant be used to fund partnership work that is ongoing? 

Yes, however, applicants should show how the fund will deepen and strengthen the existing partnership work.​

33. My Capacity Building Grant has no research component.  Am I still required to submit my non- research grant application to ORGS for final approval?


34. How much time does ORGS take to review Capacity Building Grants checklist?

 Since 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 Grant?

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. Once the grant ends, sustainability of the project is also an issue.​