2013 CTSI Annual Pilot Awards to Improve the Conduct of Research

To facilitate the development, conduct or analysis of clinical & translational research

Building a Searchable Online Library of Template/Example Language for Grant Proposals

Proposal Status: 

Rationale: One major hurdle faculty face in preparing grant proposals is in the drafting of the non-scientific components—that is, the Resource & Facilities, Resource Sharing Plan, biosketch personal statements, letters of support, and other regulatory sections (e.g., human subjects and vertebrate animals); this is especially true in the preparation of complex, multi-investigator and multi-institutional, Center-type grant proposals. Faculty may look at these sections as bothersome time-sinks, hardly worth time or effort, or as insurmountable challenges that prevent them from applying to a grant. In either case, the ability to procure the necessary funding to conduct of their research can be seriously affected by sub-par non-scientific components in their proposals.

The Research Development Office (RDO) supports the development of multi-component grant proposals and, since its inception in July 2012, has already amassed a collection of template/example language for the non-scientific components of large Center grant applications (e.g., P01, P30, P50, U19, and U54 mechanisms). Of particular importance, we have descriptions of many UCSF resources (general environment, schools, departments, core facilities, etc.); we also have collected Resource Sharing Plans, regulatory sections, letters of support, and biosketches. So far, we have deposited these documents on our office server and kept inventory on an Excel spreadsheet. This is not a viable, scalable, or sustainable way for us to accomplish our goal of creating, managing, and curating a database of template/example language and making it available to any UCSF faculty or staff member (Principal Investigators, Key Personnel, grant and research administrators, Research Management Services staff, Contracts & Grants staff, staff writers, etc.). This library will not replace any of our current functionality in the proposal development process—RDO personnel will continue to help draft personalized sections—but will instead allow us to expand our level of service and free up bandwidth. In particular, the templates/examples will be relevant for a large breadth of documents in addition to large Center grants, including R01s, training grants, and contracts. Sources for template/example language will include the internal RDO library, as well as RMS personnel, UCSF departments, and individual investigators willing to share their samples.  The creation of such a library has been enthusiastically supported by many faculty members, RMS and C&G staff, and administrators, and we look forward to working with them to continually adapt the library to best serve the needs of the UCSF community.


  1. Consult with a system administrator or web developer to identify an appropriate solution based on the following criteria:
    1. Ease-of-use: possible for any RDO staff member to be a site administrator in order to upload documents and update/manage content, overseen by Dr. Erin Bank, Research Development Specialist
    2. Searchability: keyword optimized for intuitive and easy searching by section title, keyword, and type of document
    3. Accessibility: open to UCSF faculty and staff via the UCSF network at any UCSF workstation or through a UCSF VPN account
    4. Connectability: able to link from the OSR/RDO website, currently under development to be hosted by the UCSF Office of Research using Drupal
    5. Adaptability: able to adapt to different types of documents and files as need dictates
    6. Trackability: count number of visits and downloads
    7. Capacity: room for hundreds of small-format .doc, .pdf, and .xcl files
  2. Work with a system administrator or web developer to implement the system
  3. Train Dr. Bank to be the primary manager of the database once it is up and running. Dr. Bank will also curate templates/examples contributed from outside the RDO

Criteria and metrics for success: We will track the visitors to the site and the number of times each document is downloaded, in addition to the number of text sections offered and the number of edits made to the stored text sections in order to keep them accurate.

Approximate cost and very brief justification: We request a budget of $20,000 to cover consulting fees; site building, authentication, and implementation; software installation; CMS costs (licensing fees, add-ons, hosting); training; and the UCSF server recharge.

Collaborators: A system administrator/web developer with experience working with UCSF; RMS, other staff, and faculty members will be both partners in contributing to the content of the database and users of the database after it is established.


Really valuable idea Erin. I am interested to know if you may collaborate for a portion of the project with an RMS member and leverage any knowledge they may have as well. I know they have years of experience as well and I can see a collaboration with them as vital to the success across departments. Especially as they have been working to harmonize more of their processes I see the fusion bretween RDO and RMS rather imperative. 



Thank you for your comment. You are right in that the RDO and RMS, and indeed C&G, are necessary partners in this venture. In fact, RMS has been one of the biggest advocates for the RDO to establish such a database. This database will benefit from our continued working relationship as colleagues within the Office of Research, especially with RMS and C&G contributing the language they may have accumulated and using the language as they help researchers with grant submissions.

Dear Erin,


This is a terrific idea and would address a much needed gap in training grant support at UCSF.  I was so appreciative of all the work you put into the Resource Section of our large T32 training grant.  It would not have been possible to do that without you guys.  Hence, streamlining this for the whole UCSF community should be a top priority.  I would also just add that something similar should be considered for the Tables that must be included in the applications (how many postdocs apply to each UCSF Department per year, how many are URMs, how many are veterans, etc, etc).  If this ends up working for your resource section, I hope the university might consider asking the office of postdoctoral affairs and the graduate programs to do something similar for the tables. 




Hi Erin,

This is a great idea.  Is streamlining the process for writing Data Management Plans part of the vision of your proposal?  If so there might be potential for collaboration with the UCSF Library through use/adoption of the DMPTool (Data Management Plan Tool).  I just returned from a workshop on the DMPTool https://dmp.cdlib.org/, hosted by the California Digital Library (CDL), and and there was a lot of discussion about customizing the tool to reflect institution-specific language and examples of Data Management Plans for specific types of grants.  If the RDO has standard language or templates it is using for Data Management Plans it seems like a great opportunity to connect your work with the DMPTool effort so that the tool can be customized to reflect your recommended language, or include any UCSF–specific language that has already been successfully implemented by the RDO (or other offices here at UCSF that facilitate grant writing and submission).


Hi Megan,


The RDO has also had conversations with the CDL and has learned what a great tool the DMPTool is for creating customized language for DMPs. Our database will contain more generalized language, hopefully which investigators can use as a foundation for then using DMPTool. We will make sure to link to the site on our "Resources" page on our new website. Thanks for your comment!

This is a great idea, Erin!  I will certainly use this resource when it becomes available.  I would also urge you to let the RSAs know that such a resource exists.

Thanks, Wendy. RMS has been one of the biggest supporters of this endeavor, so we look forward to working with them on its development!

We've already discussed that this is a great idea and I'll say that again! Two thoughts:

- I'd include a broader range of docs such as budget justifications, budget planning templates, etc

- My guess is that a lot of home-grown templates already are being used so it would seem you'd want to systematically ask for examples from across the campus



Kathy, thank you for your comments. They are both great ideas that are well within our scope. We would certainly rely on RMS regarding budget documents. In addition to the language that is generated within the RDO, we would certainly welcome submissions of language by faculty and staff on campus who have been working with their own templates, if they are willing to share them. 

Hi, I've been fortunate to have great help from the RDO on several large proposals recently.  And I know that finding the correct text for these required grant components is critical.  My concern is that the IT-based library of documents is only part of the answer.  The key is to assign the correct person in each unit the responsibility of writing and then updating these documents, and making sure that person is available to help with updates specifically tailored to new grant proposals.  So my suggestion would be to add more human resources to your proposal.  And to make sure that pre-award personnel are fully aware of the process, resource itself, and key people to contact.

Dear Barbara,


Your point is very well-taken: certainly RDO personnel will be actively involved in writing and maintaining these documents. We will also continue to offer "personalized" language as one of the services we provide during the development of large program project grant proposals. We will be sure to emphasize these points in the final proposal. To address your last point, as I've tried to indicate in other comments, our relationship with RMS under the Office of Research necessitates these two offices, along with C&G, work closely together on developing this database. You are right that it is necessary to streamline the process and maintain open communication with other pre-award personnel.

This could be a very useful resource to applicants seeking intramural funds through RAP or other programs, especially if they are junior faculty or fellows/post docs.

Emy Volpe


this is a great idea and would be a great resource for my work and other faculty.

thanks for putting this forth.


This would be tremendously useful for investigators at all levels. Having spent countless hours writing and re-writing basic grant section language, it makes great sense to have such a library to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

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