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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Application
  2. Award
  3. Post-Award


Where can I find sources of funding?

McMaster researchers can obtain information about funding sources by:

Where can I get a letter of support?

The Development Unit can provide letters of support for McMaster researchers who are identified as principal applicants or co-applicants on grant applications. To prepare a letter of support we will require a copy of the application to be submitted, and a completed application approval form. Please contact the Development Unit Senior Advisor for your department for assistance.

Who should I contact for help with my application?

The Development Unit supports researchers through the identification of funding opportunities, provision of information sessions, and review and editing of grant submissions. Your ROADS Senior Advisor will provide you with guidance documents, examples of successful applications, and review and critique of draft text. ROADS will also assist in policy interpretation and liaise with Agency representatives as required.


Please contact the Development Unit Senior Advisor for your Department for assistance with:


  • applications to government agencies, other funding agencies, and foundations
  • applications for NCE Research Networks (funding for a new Network or for an existing Network)
  • Complex partnered applications such as NSERC Strategic Network Grant, SSHRC Partnership and Partnership Development Grant, Ontario Research Fund-Research Excellence (ORF-RE), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Genome Canada, and Early Researcher Award


Please contact MILO for assistance with:
  • Grants and contracts from Industry
  • applications for NCE Centres for Commercialization and Research (CECR) or Business-Led Networks
  • Partnered applications such as NSERC Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grants, NSERC Industrial Research Chairs, NSERC Strategic Project Grants


    For more detail, please see “ROADS & MILO - Who Does What”




    Who needs to sign my application?

    All proposals for research funding from applicants and co-applicants in the Faculties of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences must be signed by ROADS on behalf of McMaster University prior to submission.

    To obtain institutional approval a copy of the proposal and a completed application approval form, including the signatures of your Department Chair and Faculty Dean, must be submitted to ROADS.

      Do I need to obtain institutional approval for my application if the sponsor does not require it?

      Yes. All proposals for research funding from applicants and co-applicants in the Faculties of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences must be approved by ROADS on behalf of McMaster University prior to submission.

      To obtain institutional approval a copy of the proposal and a completed application approval form must be submitted to ROADS.

      If I am the co-applicant, do I have to submit a copy of the application to ROADS?

      All proposals for research funding from applicants and co-applicants in the Faculties of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences must be approved by ROADS or MILO on behalf of McMaster University prior to submission.

      To obtain institutional approval a copy of the proposal and a completed application approval form must be submitted. To determine whether these documents should be submitted to ROADS or MILO, please see "Who should I contact for help with my application?"

      What are indirect costs/overhead on research?

      Indirect costs (overhead) are expenses incurred in the conduct of research that are not directly attributed to a specific research effort but are still a valid cost of doing research.  Examples of indirect costs include:  central research and financial services, certification offices, heat, light and hydro, libraries and computer services, etc.

      When do I have to include indirect costs/overhead?

      University policy requires that research applications and/or project funding include the maximum allowable indirect costs allowed by the agency/sponsoring institution.  Common agency indirect cost rates include:

      • 25% for grants if McMaster owns the IP
      • 40% for grants if the IP will be owned by, or shared with, the funding agency/sponsor
      • 8% for NIH applications (including sub agreements)
      • 57.5% on salaries and benefits for other US funding agencies

      Industry sponsored grants/contracts indirect cost rates can be found on the McMaster Industry Liaison Office (MILO) website at

      Note: indirect costs may not be requested on applications to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

      Where can I find information on McMaster-specific special registration or institutional numbers?

      There are many important numbers assigned and requested by Canadian and Foreign agencies/sponsors.  In order to receive the correct information please contact the Development Unit Senior Advisor for your department.

      What are Elements of a Successful Proposal?

      General Considerations

      • Relates to the purposes and goals of applicant agency
      • Strictly adheres to the content and format guidelines of the applicant agency
      • Is directed toward the appropriate audience (i.e. those who will review the proposal)
      • Clearly addresses the review criteria of the funding source
      • Is interesting to read
      • Uses a clear, concise, coherent writing style, free of jargon, superfluous information, and undefined acronyms (i.e. it's easy to read)
      • Is organized in a logical manner that is easy to follow
      • Uses headings so that information can be found easily
      • Calls attention to the most significant points in the proposal through the use of underlining, differences in type, spacing, titles, and appropriate summaries
      • Is paginated from beginning to end, including appendix when directly appended to the proposal
      • Makes appropriate use of figures, graphs, charts, and other visual materials
      • Is so meticulously proofread that it has few (if any) grammatical errors, misspellings, or typos

      The Proposal

      • Has title that is appropriate, descriptive, and (perhaps) imaginative
      • Unless it is brief, has a table of contents that is straight-forward and accurate
      • Has a clear, concise, informative abstract/executive summary that can stand alone
      • Has clearly stated goals and objectives that are not buried in a morass of narrative
      • Follows naturally from previous/current programs or research
      • Documents the needs to be met or problems to be solved by the proposed project
      • Indicates that the project's hypotheses rest on sufficient evidence and are conceptually sound
      • Clearly describes who will do the work (who), the methods that will be employed (what), which facilities or location will be used (where), and a timetable of events (when)
      • Justifies the significance and/or contribution of the project on current scientific knowledge or a given population of people or a body of writing/art and socio economic benefit when appropriate
      • Includes appropriate and sufficient citations to prior work, ongoing studies, and related literature
      • Establishes the competence and scholarship of the individual(s) involved
      • Doesn't assume that reviewers "know what you mean"
      • Makes no unsupported assumptions
      • Discusses potential pitfalls and alternative approaches
      • Presents a plan for evaluating data or the success of project
      • Is of reasonable dimensions (i.e. not trying to answer all of the questions at once)
      • Proposes work which can be accomplished in the time allotted
      • Demonstrates the individual(s) and/or organization are qualified to perform the proposed project; doesn't assume that the applicant agency "knows all about you"
      • Documents facilities necessary for the success of the project
      • Includes necessary letters of support and other supporting documentation
      • Includes vitae which demonstrate the credentials required (e.g., Don't use a promotion and tenure vitae replete with institutional committee assignments for a research proposal)
      • Includes a bibliography of cited references

      The Budget

      • Has a budget which corresponds to the narrative: all major elements detailed in the budget are described in the narrative and vice versa
      • Has a budget sufficient to perform the tasks described in the narrative
      • Has a budget which corresponds to the applicant's agency's guidelines with respect to content and detail


      Weak: Genetic Diversity in Luidia clathrada
      Better: Genetic Diversity in the Starfish Luidia clathrada

      Weak: Three Plays by Eugene O'Neill
      Better: A Comparison of Female Characters in Three Eugene O'Neill Plays

      Weak: Improving Math Education in Elementary Schools
      Better: Innovative Instructional Materials to Improve Math Education in Elementary Schools

      Weak: Preparing a New Agenda for Minority Education at the University of Iowa (What's at the University...the agenda or minority education?)
      Better: Minority Education: Preparing a New Agenda for the University of Iowa

      Weak: Special Studies Directed at the Simplification of Analytical Procedures Concerned with Identification of Blood Proteins
      Better: Methods to Simplify Analytical Procedures Used to Identify Blood Proteins

      Weak: Uses of Marine Plant Species in Food Production to Bring About Reductions in Food Costs
      Better: Uses of Marine Plant Species in Food Production to Reduce Food Costs

      Weak: New Perspectives in Learning
      Better: New Perspectives in Learning: A Program to Facilitate the Retention and Graduation of Minority Students

      Weak: Regulation of K Secretion by the CCD
      Better: Regulation of Potassium Secretion by the Cortical Collecting Duct

      Weak: CT Versus MR in the Diagnosis of Brain Disorders
      Better: Computer Tomography (CT) Versus Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR) in the Diagnosis of Brain Disorders


      I have an award. What are my next steps?

      The office which assisted with development of the application (ROADS, HRS, or MILO) will arrange for agreements to be signed, where necessary, and facilitate the authorization of research account activation once all required certifications are in place.

      For applications administered by ROADS, once you have received confirmation of your award please ensure that ROADS has received a copy of the award letter and that the appropriate application approval form  has been completed and forwarded to the ROADS Administration and Support Unit.  Subject to the nature of the award, as outlined below, the Administration and Support Unit will facilitate the authorization of the account activation through an Account Activation Notification (AAN) to the Research Finance office.

      1. If the award letter does not require an Agreement or Institutional signatures, the Administration and Support Unit will review the information on file and contact you directly if clarification is required.  For example:  a copy of the original application was not on file, confirmation of certification approval, etc.  OR
      2. If the award does require an Agreement or Institutional signature, the Administration and Support Unit will await direction from the funding agency/sponsor (most funding agencies/sponsors have their own Agreement format). In addition, the Administration and Support Unit will contact you (the researcher awarded the funds) to ensure that certain conditions including the scope of work as defined in the Agreement are acceptable to you.  OR
      3. In certain larger projects or multi institutional projects the Administration and Support Unit will work with other institutional research offices to co-ordinate the Inter-institutional Agreement process, for example CFI and MRI inter-institutional projects.

      What do I do if I receive a cheque directly from an agency/sponsor?

      If the cheque is for an existing project with an assigned account number, please forward the cheque with any accompanying correspondence to the Research Finance office, Room 305 Gilmour Hall, McMaster University. 

      Please ensure the following information is included:  the researcher’s name, the title of the project, the research account number, and any other identifying information to help match the cheque to the project.

      If the cheque is for a new award/project then please refer to the question -  I have a new award – what are my next steps?

      What do I do with a donation?

      Donations are to be processed through the  Advancement Services office.

      Ensure that you provide the full support information and indicate that the funds are to support your research.

      What do I do if I receive unsolicited funds to support my research?

      When unsolicited funds are received to support your research it is important that you contact a ROADS Administration and Support Advisor. The Advisor will review the information and provide direction as appropriate, which may involve a new account set-up or the addition to an existing account.


      What documentation does ROADS need to set up a new account?

      1. To authorize the set up of a new account ROADS requires:
        • A copy of the agency award letter or a letter from the sponsor on company letterhead, signed by an official of the sponsor defining the terms of reference of the funding support; i.e., as an unencumbered grant for use for the research program (project title, researcher name) and any expectations or deliverables for the funding (timelines);      OR
        • If the funding is to be provided in the form of a research agreement (grant, contract, or service contract) ROADS requires a copy of the agreement defining the expectations and obligations of each party.
      2. A scope of work and budget (including overhead required by University policy, as applicable per agency).
      3.  A completed application approval form.
      4. Proof of approval of human ethics, animal care, or biohazard approval, where applicable or disclosure to our office that the research does not require certifications.  The principal investigator is responsible for providing the copy of the letter of approval from the appropriate authority to ROADS.

      What certifications or clearances are required to open a research account?

      All research involving human or animal subjects, biohazardous materials, radioactive substances, or controlled goods and/or technology must receive clearance from a McMaster ethics, animal-care, biohazards, radiation safety or controlled goods review board before research can begin. A research account will not be opened until all applicable approvals are in place. Please see Certifications and Clearances for additional information.

      Can I access my research funds prior to confirmation of my human ethics certification?

      In some cases researchers can apply for an “In Principle Authority” and have part of their funds released.  This is very limited.  For further information please contact the office of the McMaster Research Ethics Board directly.

      How do I access my funds?

      Once all the initial award and/or agreement information is received and complete, the Administration and Support Unit will complete an Account Activation Notification (AAN), which will include the newly assigned account number.  The AAN will be copied to your Department, Dean, and Research Finance.  Upon receipt of the AAN, Research Finance will review the information provided with the AAN (agreement, reporting requirements, cash flow, billing requirements, eligible expenses, etc.) and activate the research account.  You will receive access to review a monthly financial statement which details all the financial transactions on your account.  Consult Research Finance for further information on processes and policies.

      Who is my Research Accountant?

      ROADS will arrange for the Office of Research Finance (RF) to open your account once required certifications are in place. Assistance with your account will then be provided by RF. The Research Accountants in RF help researchers access the grant money they have been awarded and assist researchers in adhering to university policies, the terms of the grant agreement, and granting agency rules. More information about RF, including a list of Research Accountants, can be found on their website.

      Why does my research account take so long to set-up?

      The administration processes involved in the establishment of a research record and account set-up involve many steps and delays can occur for a variety of reasons, for example:

      • ROADS has no record of the award, agreement or contract;
      • The agreement or contract is in the process of being reviewed, negotiated, or signed;
      • Certifications (human ethics, biohazards, or animal) are outstanding and/or ROADS has not been notified that the certification has been approved;
      • The award start date is in the future.

      For clarification on a specific situation please contact an Administration and Support Unit Senior Advisor.

      Which expenses are eligible?

      Researchers are responsible for knowing what expenses are allowed by the funding agency/sponsor.  Information on eligible expenses can often be found in the application information or on agency/sponsor web sites under an administration of grant funding heading.  If it is unclear whether an expense is eligible, please contact your Research Accountant in the Office of Research Finance.

      What are my reporting responsibilities (deliverables) on my award?

      Researchers are responsible for research progress and final reports as set out in agency/sponsor guidelines and/or agreement conditions.  Certain institutional reports will be coordinated through ROADS, for example: CFI, CRC, MRI ORF and ERA reports.  Note:  many agencies/sponsors have made receipt of deliverables a pre-condition of advancing subsequent installments of research funding.

      Financial reports and statements for research awards are coordinated and authorized by the Research Finance office.

      How do I request an extension to my original award end date?

      The ability to extend an end date is subject to the agency/sponsor award guidelines and/or agreement.  First, review the agency/sponsor administering your award guidelines. If the agency/sponsor allows extensions, contact your Research Finance Accountant who will provide guidance and next steps

      Who do I speak with about travel or purchasing?

      For information about travel, please visit the Office of Financial Affairs Travel website

      For information about Purchasing, please visit the Office of Financial Affairs Strategic Procurement website.