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Grand Challenges Grants FAQs

Please find below answers to selected frequently asked questions. These answers are not intended to replace or substitute for the information that appears in the Grand Challenges Grants Program RFPs.  Please read the RFP for the Institutional Grants and the RFP for the Team and Individual Project Grants first before reviewing the FAQs below. The last update to this page was made on May 16.

Teaming:  What do you need to know about my team?

Proposals must include information about the roles and duties of each team member (including students if appropriate) and how they will collaborate to advance the work proposed.


The Institutional Grants RFP states that only tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and professional track faculty are eligible to apply as principal investigators (PIs). What about new faculty who have a start date in August 2022?

Only tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and professional track faculty who are full time at UMD as of July 1, 2022 are eligible to submit LOIs.  If the proposal moves past the LOI stage, a faculty member with a start date in August 2022 can become a Co-PI. 


If we are an interdisciplinary department by nature — that is we have social psychologists, clinical psychologists, family therapists, epidemiologists in our department — does the center grant need to have multiple PIs from different departments?

That depends on whether you’re applying for an institutional grant or a team project grant. For institutional grants, we’re looking for collaborations across departments/schools/colleges. For team grants, if the team itself is multi-disciplinary but all from within one college it may still be competitive. 


Can one of the co-PIs be from another University System of Maryland institution? 

Faculty and staff from other institutions are eligible to participate on teams, but UMD faculty must be the leads and Co-PIs on the proposals.  


What is meant by "single investigator" grant, as it relates to the number of personnel able to be involved?

These grants allow for one lead PI, and post-docs/GRAs/undergraduates or staff time are fine to include; the bulk of the effort is designed to be led by the lead PI for the project.


Are projects submitted by non-faculty PIs (e.g., staff, post-docs) eligible for funding?

No; although, all UMD employees and students are welcome to participate as team members. (See for a list of UMD faculty titles.)


Questions about institutional grants: if such a "big idea" entails harmonizing existing groups across campus and adding integrative infrastructure, the proposed team may be large. Are there guidelines for the number of PIs, Co-PIs, Consultants, etc.?

There is no limit to the number of research team members.


May faculty be listed as PIs and/or co-investigators on multiple proposal submissions?  Are there any PI/Co-PI limits, e.g., one proposal per PI per track

We recommend that faculty investigators attempt to concentrate on directing their energy into a single proposal they believe best matches the Grand Challenges Grants RFP criteria, though it is allowable for individuals to be involved with more than one proposal.


Can staff (including those who hold lecturer or affiliate faculty positions and terminal degrees, such as PhDs, JDs, etc.) be part of the research team? Can staff serve as co-PIs?

Staff, post-docs, lecturers, students, and individuals with affiliate faculty positions are welcome to participate as team members.  The PI’s primary appointment should be a faculty appointment. 


Is it ok to apply for an individual project that may be part of a larger Institutional effort that is also being proposed?

Yes, it is allowable to submit an individual project proposal that is related to a larger institutional grant proposal.

Are collaborators outside of UMD allowed? 

Yes. However, the team leader/Principal Investigator must be a full-time TTK or PTK faculty member at the University of Maryland College Park.  Partnerships and collaborations with external entities (other universities, non-profits, industry partners, hospitals, etc.) are encouraged as appropriate. 


If outside partners are included, does that mean funding can go outside of UMD? Are we permitted to include payment of stipends/wages to community-based partners who are co-designers of the project/center? Also, can outside partners contribute to the 1:1 match if they have funds to contribute?  (e.g., Rotary)

Community partners are able to participate in projects. Any funding request for an outside organization needs to be well-justified. Cash/in-kind contributions from outside partners are welcome.


How should we handle external partners (community, university, corporate, etc.) in our proposal? 

Collaborators are welcome on proposals. The bulk of the institutional investment should remain at UMD. Any expenses to collaborators must be well justified; also, contributions from collaborators are welcomed and encouraged.


Could you define partners? Could this mean companies or PIs at other universities across the country?

The term “partners” can apply to external organizations and individuals as well as internal individuals who collaborate with you on the proposed work. Incorporating partnerships in your Grand Challenges Grants proposal or LOI is highly encouraged.


Can you speak a bit more to how you envision that teams can capture the impact of members of the community in their make-up, perhaps what may be an ideal vision of balance of students, staff, or community partners integrated into the team?

Initiatives that involve multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships are encouraged, and therefore teams that involve multiple University personnel and partners are particularly welcome. The balance and composition of the teams are up to the PI and Co-PI(s). 


Can grant proposals include international collaborators (not on the budget)? Also, can part of the research be done abroad?

Yes, international collaborators may be included in proposals. And part of the work can be done abroad, provided that an explanation is included of why this is important to the goals of the proposal.


Can teams include non-profit organizations outside of the University System of Maryland?

Yes, non-profit organizations outside of the University System of Maryland may be included in proposals.

Do these grants encourage collaboration or are they strictly for the Schools and Colleges?        

Absolutely. That’s one of the main goals of the grants program… to encourage collaboration across disciplines.


Would you suggest first reaching out to department heads before putting together LOIs and/or proposals?

Yes, if you plan to submit a letter of intent or proposal for the Grand Challenges Grants, you should reach out to your department leadership at an early stage.


Are Deans' letters/Chair’s letters required for every team member’s college/department? Or just for the lead PI?

A letter is required from the Dean/Department Chair of the PI for the proposal. Dean acknowledgement is needed in the form of either a co-signature or an email confirmation for any unit for which financial support is being provided. For the final submission, all commitments with signatures of financial support (cash/in-kind) will be required.


Subsequent RFPs:  WIll there be additional RFPs for institutional grants, teams, or single investigators? 

It is possible that there will be additional RFPs.  That is dependent upon the quality and quantity of submissions to the program in this initial cycle. 


In some cases, the University may already have existing structures that have demonstrated success, but that have not had the benefit of any State, UMD, or College resources. Are they excluded from consideration?

We are looking for *new* structures for the institutional awards. The project grants may build upon existing work but should justify how the additional funding would take the project in a new direction. 


Proposal Specifics: Does the page maximum include all images? Or just the written text with images on additional pages? What about references, budget, and letters of support?

The budget, references, letter(s) of support from relevant Deans/Department Chairs do not count against the page limit.  Graphics also do not count against the page limit; if graphics are embedded into the body of the text, however, a proportional amount of additional text is acceptable. Please be respectful of the work required to review the proposals, however, and keep additional material to a minimum.


Proposal Specifics: Can appendices with more detailed information be included with proposals, and if so, would the appendices count toward the page limit for the proposal?

Yes, appendices may be included with proposals, and no, they will not count against the page limit.


For the Institutional Proposals, an abstract is required for each application. Is there a character or word limit for the abstract?

There is no word or character limit for the abstract. By default, the first paragraph of the proposal can be used as the abstract.


Does my proposal need to include both in-kind and cash in the matching request?

There is an expectation that the proposal will be built from existing expertise across campus, so at least part of the match should be “in-kind.” At the same time, there is an expectation that some funding reallocation will also be put towards the initiative. The proportions of each will be project dependent. 


Can grant funding be part of the 1:1 match?

Yes, provided there is a justification as to how it is linked to the initiative. 


The match seems very challenging, especially for the smaller units on campus that are not very well funded. Is there any wiggle room with the match requirement? Could it be possibly lowered? 

Not every proposal has to ask for the maximum allowable funding. Circumstances for each project or proposal will vary, and we expect and understand that resource requirements across the tracks will vary. There is no set percentage for cash or in-kind resources, but our expectation is that there will be both a cash and an in-kind contribution for each proposal. 


Can you please expand upon the types of in-kind matches that would be acceptable? Space? Salary?

In-kind matches may include salaries for personnel, costs associated with workspace (if the space is not owned by the campus), as well as equipment and technology (when a charge is already assessed to campus users for its use), and other resources required to complete the work associated with the proposal. 


Can the time that faculty and staff spend on proposal development be considered part of the in-kind contribution?

Yes, as long as it is identified in the letter of intent for the institutional award proposals. Whether this time is considered to be part of the faculty/staff member’s assigned workload or whether an overload would be required would be a local decision and dependent on the specific circumstances of the people and tasks involved.


Can I include new TTK faculty lines in the proposal?

No. The initial commitment for the Grand Challenge Institutional grants will be annual one-time funding for up to three years as the development phase of a new institutional structure.  It would therefore not be prudent to include new tenure-track faculty lines, but redirection of existing faculty lines could be included, as long as there is a long-term solution for support of the faculty member should the project not move forward beyond the three-year commitment.  Successful institutional awards have the possibility of converting to base funding after three years, at which time new faculty lines could be considered as part of the long-term plan. 


Equipment: Can equipment be purchased via the GC Grants Program?

Yes.  Equipment purchased through the GC Initiative will remain at UMD even if a PI or team member were to leave the university.


For the institutional grant, can hiring of faculty be a part of the proposal?

Inclusion of tenure-track faculty hiring in a proposal would need to be explained and justified and also approved by the Dean/Department Chair affiliated with the PI’s college/department where the hiring would occur. PTK hires that are expected to be of limited duration can be part of the proposal.


How will the funding be distributed?

Funds for the initial year of all Grand Challenge Institutional and Project (Teams and Single PI) Grants will be provided immediately after a dedicated project account is established in KFS.  For subsequent years, funding will be subject to an annual progress review to ensure receipt of the required matches, and the feasibility of realizing the timelines proposed in the approved budget plan.

More detailed information will be provided for those initiatives that move to the final proposal phase. 

  • Once the grants have been awarded, the University Budget Office will create a series of accounts to host the grant project’s activity.  Each awardee will be assigned a unique account number from this series for the grant. 
  • ALL activity funded by the Strategic Plan grant and College/Department cash matches must occur in this account.
    • Central funding will be provided to the project using a new Strategic Plan Campus revenue allocation object code. 
    • Matching funds should be provided using a new Strategic Plan Partner revenue allocation object code. 
    • In-kind contributions should be documented in the unit account where the expenses are incurred, and included in the annual progress report.
  • Because of the 1:1 fund matching requirements, two sign-offs indicating awareness and support of the grant activity will be required to establish the new dedicated account: 1) the first from the relevant chair, center/institute director, or supervisor of the PI; and 2) a second from the Dean’s Office in the home College/School.  
  • A Universal Funding Form will be made available to all awardees to facilitate this requirement. Once completed, the grant account will reside in the departmental home of the PI.


Do we need to demonstrate a sustainable funding stream beyond the timeline of the grant? 

Yes, institutional grant proposals will require a description of a plan for sustainable funding for the initiative beyond the timeline of the grant. Successful institutional awards have the possibility of converting to base funding after three years, and this possibility can be considered as a portion of the long-term sustainability plan.


Will there be additional calls for proposals for Grand Challenges Grants in future years?

No decisions have been made yet regarding possible future calls for proposals for additional Grand Challenges Grants funding. This will depend on the number of proposals submitted and awarded, the progress of the program, and future budget outlook.

How open are you to topics beyond those listed?

We are open to topics beyond the grand challenges listed; the list provided was intended to be exemplar.


If an institutional grant is funded for a center, where does that new institutional structure "sit"? Is it under the college of the PI, at the university level or some other place within the UMD structure?

This depends upon the vision and suggested structure described in each unique proposal, with approval from the Dean/Department Chair associated with the proposed location of the new entity.


For the institution grants, does the idea have to be completely new? Can the idea leverage an existing Center/training grant that is expanding into new areas?

Proposals can leverage existing Centers or grants, but should explain how an expansion into new area(s) will address a significant grand challenge.


For institutional proposals that are not selected, it appears the timeline is too late to alter the proposal and submit to the team and individual project track for consideration.  Are there any plans for what might happen for strong proposals that are not selected?

For investigators who submit promising proposals that are not selected for funding through the Grand Challenges Grants program, they can still seek funding through other programs, including external funding solicitations. It has not yet been determined if there will be future rounds inviting additional Grand Challenges Grants proposals.


Can a group project propose to construct a building, e.g., to demonstrate climate resilience and/or community-led design?

This depends upon the feasibility of the proposed project and the funding required to facilitate such an initiative. One would also need to consider the long-term maintenance and/or dispensation of the structure beyond the three-year period. 


Could you please discuss more about how you envision the component of the individual proposals that, "Provide innovative and new opportunities for students’ learning and classroom experiences"?

Proposals should include creative ideas for how student learning experiences can be incorporated into the project plan. This could include experiential learning, field work, research, interviews, capstone projects, multimedia presentations, or other kinds of innovative educational experiences. 


Is it the case that when there are project ideas that fit the general parameters of the program, but might not fit exactly the current project profile, researchers are encouraged to discuss the particulars of their proposals?

Yes, researchers are welcome to discuss the particulars of their proposal during the Ideation and Accelerator Workshops and/or the recurring Office Hours on Friday afternoons. Please see the Resources page for more information.

For the three optional Grand Challenges Ideation and Accelerator Workshops scheduled before the July 1 LOI deadline for Institutional Grants, should interested individuals register for only one of the sessions? Or all three? Will the content be identical? 

Individuals should register for only one of the three optional Ideation and Accelerator Workshops scheduled on May 13, May 23, and June 7. The presentation content for the three sessions will be identical.


My team and I are very experienced with proposal submissions for large grants or multi-disciplinary initiatives. Do we have to participate in the workshops?

Because of the potential for allocation of substantial base funding towards successful institutional grant proposals, workshops will be required of teams whose letters of intent are selected to move forward to the second stage of this process.  Additional information regarding the information sessions and workshops can be found here:


Will applicants who advance to the next stage of the institutional grants be able to choose among the required workshops (not required to attend all of them)?

Yes.  Applicants who proceed from the LOI submission stage into the second phase of the Institutional Grants competition can choose which required ideation workshop to participate in.


When will the dates be announced for the required workshops (July - Sept) for letters of intent that advance to the second phase of the process?

The dates for the required Ideation and Accelerator Workshops for the Full Proposal Development stage will be announced after July 1.

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