Research Excellence Fund (REF) - Research Seed Grants (RS)

Research Seed Grants

Spring Budget Deadline: October 3, 2019 at 4 p.m.

Fall Proposal Deadline: March 5, 2020 at 4 p.m.

PI Eligibility: Untenured tenure-track academic faculty and research faculty members (including research scientists/engineers) are eligible to submit REF-RS proposals as the principal investigator. REF-RS grants are designed to provide untenured tenure-track academic faculty and research faculty who have been employed for less than six years with resources to develop an externally supported research program. Teams of untenured faculty in one or more academic units are encouraged to submit joint proposals. Tenured faculty, research faculty (who have been employed for more than six years), or research staff are not eligible to be Principal Investigators for REF-RS awards but may be included as Co-Investigators on REF-RS proposals. PI's cannot have been awarded an REF-RS in the prior fiscal year or have an active REF-RS grant. PI's in their last probational year are also ineligible.

PI Limitation: A PI may only submit one proposal per category (see FAQs).

Project Duration: Projects are 12 months long.

Program Description

Typical REF-RS projects will develop preliminary data to be used in subsequent proposals to outside funding sources, support pilot studies developing new research methods or procedures, or support other activity leading to the development of an externally recognized and funded research program. The report submitted at the end of supported REF-RS projects should include a description of proposals submitted to external funding agencies based on the work supported by the REF-RS Grant.

REF-RS grants may be up to $40,000 per year, with an expected average award of $30,000 per year.

REF Seed Grants will not be approved for faculty with significant startup balances. All project participants with remaining balances in their startup accounts must include a detailed description of why additional REF funds are needed. Remaining startup funds must be entered as cost share in the budget. The expectation is that remaining startup funds will be dedicated to the REF project if it is funded. The supporting letter from the Department Chair must address the need for additional funds and that the faculty members is spending down his/her startup in a manner consistent with the agreed-upon startup plan.

If submitting a health-oriented research proposal, please review the Portage Health Foundation Research Awards (PHF) for more information.

Note - If awarded a REF-RS or PHF-REF-RS grant, you are required to review and provide feedback on REF proposals (no more than four) the following round. 

Evaluation of Proposals

REF-RS proposals will be evaluated on:

  1. Likelihood of leading to the development of an externally supported research program, including future external graduate student funding.
  2. Contribution to the achievement of the University and strategic plans.
  3. Matching funds are encouraged, but not required; however the supporting letter from the Chair must clearly show the department's commitment to the success of the project.

Proposal Format

All proposals must include a completed Required Elements Checklist-RS to ensure all necessary documents have been submitted. Please review this checklist prior to writing your proposal as it explains the requirements and page limits. When putting together your proposal package, follow the order on the Required Elements Checklist.

The proposal must be formatted according to the following guidelines or it will be returned without review:

  • Times New Roman font at a font size of 12 point. A smaller font size may be used for mathematical formulas, equations, figures, tables, or diagram captions. This text must still be readable.
  • Margins in all directions must be at least one inch.
  • The proposal must be single spaced.
  • Page numbers should be placed at the bottom center of each page with the exception of attachments.

With an expectation of a heavy volume of submission for this competition, please adhere to all guidelines including the proposal format.

Budget Information 

Budgets, budget justifications, quotes, and cost share forms (if cost share is used) must be submitted to the Sponsored Programs Office by the budget deadline. Budgets must be approved by the Sponsored Programs Office prior to the proposal deadline. 

  • Budgets will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. To ensure the deadline is not missed, start working with the Sponsored Programs Office early.
  • Proposed budgets should be clear and detailed, and must fully justify all expenditures.
  • If you are requesting equipment that is more than $5,000, quotes must be provided.
  • If you are requesting travel support over $1,500, quotes must be provided.
  • The F&A rate on all REF budgets is 0%.
  • Please use this provided budget spreadsheet to complete your budget.

Unallowable Expenditures

  • Faculty salary (including summer salary and academic release time).
  • Graduate student support (stipend, tuition, hourly, etc). Hourly graduate student support is ONLY allowed during the summer semester.

Student Support Limitations

  • Undergraduate support is allowable and needs to be clearly justified in the proposal.
  • Hourly graduate student support is ONLY allowable during the summer semester.

Cost Share

All cost share is to be disclosed in the budget justification and shown on the budget worksheet. You must also submit a completed Cost Share Authorization form (which is located on the Banner Self Service Site).

Budget Submission

Please submit all of your budget materials and completed Cost Share/Matching Support Authorization Form to

Letters of Support

Letters of support from the Department Chair or School Dean must be included and address the significance of the project. The supporting letter must also address the need for additional funds and that the faculty member is spending down his/her startup in a manner consistent with the agreed upon startup plan.


  • Submit one copy of the final proposal to the appropriate Dean or Director for review—the Dean or Director will submit their letter of support directly to Natasha Chopp at


  • Obtain letter of support from the appropriate Chair(s) and include with the final proposal.
  • Submit one copy of the final proposal, including the letter of support from the Chair(s), to the appropriate Dean for review—the Dean will submit their letter of support directly to Natasha Chopp at

Proposal Submission Requirements

Submit one pdf file of your complete proposal packagewhich follows the order on the Required Elements Checklist, to  

Dean Requirement

The Dean will send their letter of support directly to Natasha Chopp at Dean letters are due within seven calendar days of the proposal deadline. If faculty members from the same College/School submit multiple proposals, the Dean needs to prioritize the proposals from the College/School based on need and benefit.

Award Modifications

If you need to make a modification to your REF award end date or budget, please send a completed Request for Modification Form (see resources box on this page) via email to The form should provide a justification for the requested change and be signed by the required individuals. Please send the document as a PDF file.