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Frequently Asked Questions

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Find answers to the most common questions regarding the Propel Grants. We encourage you to check back frequently as additional content will be made available over time. Please contact us at if you have additional questions.

  • Who is eligible to apply?
    • Faculty with PI eligibility (members of the University's Academic Council or UML faculty).

      Applications from the School of Medicine must include co-investigators from one or more Stanford schools to be eligible for funding.

  • Can members of my lab apply on my behalf?
    • Yes. Applications may be submitted by other personnel (grad students, postdocs, etc.).

  • How do you define a team?
    • A  team constitutes at least one Stanford PI and one or more faculty collaborators. It is expected that some of the collaborators will be from outside of the lead PI’s department. It is up to the applicants to explain how their team size or composition is “beyond the usual” for their discipline.

      Additional collaborators from other institutions are allowed. Projects with Stanford listed as a participant or subawardee may be considered, with a strong preference given to Stanford-led teams.

  • What kind of projects are appropriate for this funding?
    • This program is intended to support projects that are “beyond the usual” in scale and in the final stages of proposal development with most of the preliminary work complete.

      The Small Propel Grants support collaborative teams who are finalizing their proposal for externally sponsored research funding in the next six months.

      The Large Propel Grants support collaborative teams who want to obtain additional data or other elements to enhance the competitiveness of their externally funded sponsored research proposal in the next year.

  • What kinds of projects are not appropriate for this funding?
    • Consider the readiness of your project. Propel Grants are not seed grants and are not intended to fund early-stage ideas that are still defining the research question or forming the initial team.

      We expect teams to have an established foundation for their proposed project with most preliminary work completed and a plan to apply for external funding in place.

  • What do you mean by collaborative project "beyond the usual" in scale?
    • The definition of “beyond the usual” will vary considerably across disciplines and research areas. It is up to the applicant to explain how the scope of the project, budget, or team size go “beyond the usual” in scale for their discipline.

      Essentially, “beyond the usual” means that the proposed effort is bigger and more collaborative than the typical “bread and butter” funding for PIs or research groups in that field. The funds support efforts that go beyond routine work to advance an individual's scientific career, such as complex or large-scale grants which are often better addressed by interdisciplinary teams and may involve multiple scientific/administrative components.

      For example, projects with a STEM focus that target a center-type grant, such as NSF Science and Technology Centers, DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers, NIH P50, NIH U54, or similar align well with the Propel Grants. Projects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences that target large, collaborative funding opportunities, such as NEH Collaborative Research Grants, NEA Grants for Arts Projects, and some Mellon grants would be appropriate. This list is not exhaustive.

  • What can the $5,000 grant funds be used for?
    • Funding from the Small Propel Grants may be used for activities that will elevate your external funding application and drive it forward. Examples can include a writing day, hiring a graphic designer or scientific illustrator, conducting an expert review of your proposal draft, or another activity to make the external application more competitive. These small grants are meant to help you finalize your external grant application and to position your proposal for success.

      Please see the Stanford Purchasing Policies and Guidelines if you have questions regarding allowable expenses.

  • What can the $50,000 grant funds be used for?
    • Funding from the Large Propel Grants is intended to help Stanford researchers position themselves well for larger, external sponsored research funding. Activities should be part of the final stretch of a grant application, not early-stage data collection. Examples include, but are not limited to:

      • Conducting additional, desirable research experiments (not initial, essential preliminary data)
      • Accessing archives
      • Performing additional data analysis
      • Consulting with experts or hiring research assistants
      • Bringing new collaborators together to demonstrate existing relationships in the proposal
      • Implementing a triangulation protocol
      • Producing questionnaires and surveys
      • Travel for site visits, and/or
      • Other elements to enhance chances of external funding success

      You could use a portion of the Propel Grant to cover the administrative costs required to manage the Propel Grant funded activities, such as hiring a student worker or support staff to organize a conference or workshop in preparation of the external grant submission.

      Up to $5,000 of the Propel Grant can be budgeted for proposal development/beautification:

      • Conducting an expert review of your proposal draft
      • Hiring a graphic designer or scientific illustrator

      Note that all applicable university fees apply. Award funds may be used to cover these expenses (e.g., Fees for Visiting Student Researchers, shared facility hourly rates, dedicated computing resources on Sherlock, Oak monthly storage, etc.).

      Projects are encouraged to utilize existing institutional resources, including but not limited to Stanford Shared Facilities or the Stanford Research Computing Center.

      Please see the Stanford Purchasing Policies and Guidelines if you have questions regarding allowable expenses.

  • Can I request more than $50,000?
    • Requests up to $100,000 and/or up to 24 months may be considered if the proposal is of high strategic value to the university.

      If your proposed budget exceeds $50,000, you will need to provide a narrative that justifies the additional funds and explains how the larger budget aligns with the scale and complexity of the proposed research project for external funding.

      RDO aims to support up to 10 teams each year while maximizing the efficient use of available resources. Your careful consideration of budgetary needs contributes to the overall success and competitiveness of your proposal.

  • May I apply to both the small and large Propel Grants?
    • A second award will only be considered for those teams who have proven to be good stewards of previous VPDoR-funded awards and with strong justification. Principal Investigators may be the lead on consecutive grants.

      Teams may receive up to one small award and up to one large award for a given project, with a preference of only one award per team.

  • May I submit multiple applications within the same Propel grant cycle?
    • No. Principal Investigators may submit only one application for a Large Propel Grant as the lead PI per cycle.

      Principal Investigators may submit a subsequent application in the next cycle. Grant recipients must have finished their project and completed their end-of-grant report or impact survey before submitting new applications.

  • I want to apply for a Propel Grant, but the anticipated deadline for the next external funding opportunity is still far away - what should I do? 
    • Consider one of our other deadlines! We offer the Large Propel Grant twice per year, and the Small Propel Grants are reviewed on a rolling basis every two weeks; deadlines are listed in the “Timeline” section for each.

      If the work you need to do requires a longer timeframe than the Propel Grant stipulates, you can still consider applying with a strong justification of why you need more time between the Propel funds and the submission of your external funding application. Funding decisions are based on review outcomes and availability of funds.

  • I want to apply for a Propel Grant, but the sponsor’s deadline for the external funding opportunity is before the next internal deadline - what should I do?
    • Exceptions to the deadlines may be requested if the proposal is of high strategic value to the university and when circumstances outside the PI’s control negatively impact the team’s ability to participate in the next cycle.

      Such exceptions require a consultation with the Director of Research Development, Kim Baeten, in VPDoR and are evaluated on the review criteria by an ad-hoc committee. Please email us at at

  • Do Propel Grant applications require OSR or RMG review?
    • No. Proposed budgets for the VPDoR-sponsored Propel Grants do not need to be routed through OSR/RMG because they are internally funded grants; however, we encourage applicants to work with their department administrator/financial analyst on budget development.

  • Should I include the university infrastructure charge in the budget?
    • No. Because of the source of these internal funds, the university infrastructure charge will not be assessed. No indirect charges need to be included in your budget.

      Proposed budgets do not need institutional representative review for this internally funded program; however, we encourage applicants to work with their department administrator/financial analyst on budget development.

  • How do I submit my application?
    • Small Propel Grant Applications may be submitted here and Large Propel Grant Applications here.
  • How are Small Propel Grant applications evaluated?
    • Applications are reviewed for program alignment and compliance by RDO staff.
    • Reviewers should be confident that your proposal to an external funding agency will be better positioned upon completion of the proposed Propel Grant activities. The application will be reviewed for the following criteria:
      • Significance: Is the research idea “beyond the usual”?
      • Proposed activities: Are the proposed activities likely to enhance the competitiveness of a proposal to an external funding agency and increase the likelihood of success?
      • Potential for external funding: Is the plan to pursue external funding appropriate? Does the team have a strong chance of submitting a well-aligned proposal to an external funding agency?
      • Team composition and collaboration: Does the application demonstrate a confirmed collaboration and a cohesive team with sufficient expertise to carry out the research?
  • How are Large Propel Grant applications evaluated?
    • Applications are initially screened for program alignment and compliance by RDO staff. Staff will first look to confirm the applications answer the following:
      • How is the project collaborative in nature and “beyond the usual” in scale for their discipline and routine research work?
      • How does the team ensure a meaningful faculty partnership?
      • Will the funds be used wisely and result in a proposal to an external funder?
    • Applications are then competitively reviewed by at least two faculty peers for suitability of the proposed plan and likely impact on future external funding. Successful Large Propel Grant applications should result in the submission of at least one competitive proposal to an external funding agency and address the review criteria.
      • Significance of the research idea
      • Readiness
      • Suitability of proposed activities
      • Appropriate budget
      • Feasibility
      • Potential for external funding
  • I am ready to submit my project for external sponsored research funding. Is there someone to help me with my proposal?
    • The Stanford Research Development Office (RDO) aims to strengthen collaborative or strategic research, scholarship, and creative activities. Please visit for more information about how RDO can help you.