School of Nursing: Standard On Small Grant Opportunities

Unit Standard


School of Nursing: Standard On Small Grant Opportunities



These small grants are provided to faculty conducting early stages of research or research in a transitional phase to accrued data necessary to support applications for external funding.


Priorities for funding are as follows:

  1. New investigators... who have not previously received substantial external support for their research. The goal is to provide initial funding to enable these individuals to develop research of significance. Preliminary and pilot studies (e.g., feasibility studies, instrument evaluation or development studies, studies to pilot methods or interventions) will be encouraged to lay the foundation for subsequent applications for external funding. New investigators are encouraged to involve senior faculty researchers and their RSC consultant to assist with the research endeavor.
  2. Experienced investigators... who wish to explore new research ideas, develop new measurement techniques, extend their research in new directions, or pilot methods and instruments in preparation for studies to be submitted for external funding.
  3. Projects in transition… projects supported by other funding mechanisms that have unexpected requirements/opportunities or temporary lapses in funding.


SPARK (Support Pilots for Advancing Research & Knowledge) and Other Small Grants--Overview

  • When funds are available, proposals will be accepted on the 2nd Wednesday of each month (September - April). Check with the Office of Research Support and Consultation (RSC) about whether there is an open call for proposal.
  • Applications will be reviewed by members of the RSC Policy Board. The review is competitive, and funds will be awarded to proposals that meet the review criteria (see below) and are of highest merit. The number of awards made annually will vary with RSC funding availability.
  • Funding priorities include new investigators, experienced investigators exploring new areas, and funded investigators experiencing a temporary lapse in funding or unexpected requirements. Although special consideration will be given to new investigators, please note that the Board is interested in receiving proposals in all three areas. Each application must include a clear description of how the pilot will lead to external funding.
  • Help is available from RSC Consultants in writing a SPARK proposal, RSC staff are available to help with preparing the application packet, and example proposals can be made available to guide you.
  • Notification of awards are generally made within 2 months of submission.


The purpose of the SPARK program is to provide small grants to faculty for conducting research. The larger goal is to provide a foundation upon which faculty can build larger projects and to facilitate our faculty's efforts to obtain external funding to support their work. Therefore, faculty are encouraged to use these awards as a mechanism to move toward subsequent applications for external funding.

SPARK awards are funded by a portion of the overhead earned on externally funded grants. They are made on a competitive basis according to the guidelines in this document. Awards are made for a period of one year. Budget requests must be justified.

Eligibility and Requirements

  1. School of Nursing faculty eligible to apply are those:
    1. who are employed full-time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
    2. whose primary appointment and majority of time commitment are in the School of Nursing, and
    3. whose Associate Dean supports their undertaking this endeavor.
  2. The awards are for research related activities as broadly defined above.
  3. The project should be one that can be completed within one calendar year of the award date.
  4. Applications will not be accepted for work to be completed in relation to course work or work toward a degree (e.g., dissertation).
  5. Faculty receiving awards will be expected to follow the post award guidelines outlined in this policy. Future awards will be made with consideration of the outcomes of this award.
  6. Since the goal of the SPARK program is to facilitate acquisition of external funding, for those who have received prior SPARK awards, future awards will depend on application for external funding if appropriate.
  7. Although Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and site access are not required prior to application submission, faculty are encouraged to make these arrangements as soon as possible so the research progress is not hindered. IRB approval is required prior to any human subjects research.

Award Parameters

Applications that contribute matching funds are desired and these will be given priority for funding. Budgets may be submitted for up to $15,000 and will require a 50% match. If no match is included, awards will be limited to $2500. See table of examples.

Grant Amount RSC Portion Matching Funds
$2,500 or less $2,500 $0
$5,000 $2,500 $2,500
$10,000 $5,000 $5,000
$15,000 $7,500 $7,500

Only expenses related to the conduct of the research are allowed; however, within this overall guideline, each applicant may structure the budget to the needs of his or her own project. Virtually all categories of expenditure are allowed (e.g., research assistants, transcription services, travel for data collection, supplies, copying, communications) with these exceptions: monies may not be used for faculty salaries, conference travel, subscriptions, and personal reference materials. Incentive payments for subjects may be allowed if prior arrangements are made with the Director of the RSC. If you have a question about budget allowances or exceptions, please contact the RSC for assistance.

After the applications have been reviewed and rated, the Policy Board will review the budget and budget justification of each approved application for appropriateness of the budget request. Alterations in the budget may be recommended. Therefore, applicants should clearly specify and justify their budget requests.

Application Packet & Process

Application Form

The application packet should consist of the elements listed below. The text of the application (items numbered 2 through 9 below) may not exceed 6 single-spaced pages (1 inch margins minimum; Arial font size 11; 6 lines per inch). You may use any reference style you wish, however please use it accurately and consistently throughout the proposal.

Applications not meeting the following requirements will be returned:

  1. Face page and abstract using the attached cover sheet.
    Text of the proposal (6 page maximum), including:
  2. Aims or purpose of project;
  3. Significance and impact of project, including its scientific and clinical relevance [this includes the literature review and any conceptual or theoretical models guiding the work);
  4. Preliminary work (not required, but if you have done prior work related to the proposed study, summarize it here);
  5. Methods or plan of action to accomplish the specified aims (in general this will include the study's design, setting in which the study will be conducted, sample selection criteria and size, intervention description (if applicable), variables and how they will be measured, data collection procedures, and plans for data analysis; this section may be adapted as needed for the type of research proposed);
  6. Projected timetable for conducting the study (indicate what will be accomplished during each month of the project);
  7. Brief statement regarding how the proposed project fits into the applicant's long-term research plans and plans to apply for external funding;
  8. Brief statement regarding the role and expertise of consultants and co-investigators;
  9. Budget and brief budget justification;
  10. Reference list (not included in the 6-page limit)
  11. Copies of study instruments (not included in the 6-page limit)
  12. NIH Bio-sketches for PI and all co-investigators and consultants.

When the call for proposal is open (depending on RSC overhead funds), proposals will be accepted on the 2nd Wednesday of each month (September - April). Funding decisions generally are announced within two (2) months.

Electronic Submission

SPARK applications should be emailed to RSC Director.


As with all proposals, consultation and preparation assistance are available from the RSC. Arrangements should be made with the Associate Dean for Research for scientific assistance and the RSC Director for preparation assistance.

Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed on merit. Included in consideration of merit are:

  • Significance and potential for impact;
  • Study design - appropriateness, clarity;
  • Feasibility; and
  • Likelihood of leading to a competitive proposal.

It is the researcher's responsibility to present the proposal in a clear and logical fashion, to make a convincing case for the significance of the work, and to present sufficient detail about the research plans so that an adequate evaluation of the proposal can be made. For those who have previously received intramural awards from the School of Nursing, determination of "feasibility" will be based, in part, on productivity from the previous awards.

Review Process

Applications will be reviewed by the Policy Board of the RSC in the following manner:

  • All members of the Policy Board will review applications individually.
  • Primary and secondary reviewers will present their critiques at the Board's meeting.
  • The Board will discuss the merits of the proposal and recommend projects to the ADR for final decision.
  • Members of the Policy Board who submit proposals for review will be excused for the review of their applications and others under consideration during the same review cycle.


A summary of the review and discussion will be provided to the applicant by the Associate Dean for Research. Those wishing further detail are invited to meet with the RSC Director to discuss the application.

Investigator Responsibilities

All School of Nursing Faculty SPARK award recipients are required to:

  1. meet twice during the project period with the Director of the RSC,
  2. obtain IRB approval prior to the conduct of the research and file a copy of that approval with the RSC,
  3. conduct the research as proposed,
  4. expend the grant funds in accordance with the proposed budget and state guidelines, and
  5. submit a final grant report at the end of the project. While subsequent submission for extramural research support is not required, it is very strongly encouraged.

Post Award Guidelines for SPARK and other small grants


The RSC and RSC Consultants are here to help as you progress. Please consider the following expectations before you accept the award. Accepting the award will be taken as your acceptance of the grant recipient responsibilities outlined below.

Grant Recipient Responsibilities

During the life of the project faculty who receive an award are responsible for:

  • Establishing and maintaining a collaborative relationship with an RSC Consultant with whom you can review progress periodically;
  • Joining the RSC Research Seminars and being willing to present study results;
  • Supervising and being accountable for the conduct and scientific integrity of the research;
  • Keeping the project on the timeline provided in the application;
  • Working with the RSC office to track the budget expenditures; and
  • Submitting required reports within stated deadlines (see below).

After the funding period has ended the following is expected:

1. Scientific Report: Due to RSC 60 days after the funding has ended.

  • Please describe in the written report:
    • How the aims of the study were met,
    • What the major findings were,
    • Any problems or limitations that occurred during the research process,
    • Plans for further research.

2. Financial Report: Due to RSC 60 days after the funding has ended.

  • A list of any outstanding expenses.
  • Confirmation that all expenses are project specific and charged appropriately.
  • Keep in mind that budgeted funds not utilized are retained within the fund and are made available for funding other proposals

3. Grant Submission for Extramural Funds:

  • Within one year of the close of the grant, apply for extramural funding.

4. Dissemination of Findings:

  • Present:
    • Within six months of the close of the project, schedule an oral presentation or poster to the UNC School of Nursing community as part of the Research Seminar Series.
    • Within one year of the close of the project, present the project at a state-wide and/or larger conference.
  • Submit Manuscript: Within one year of the close of the project, submit at least one manuscript for publication, citing your work as supported by the University of North Carolina School of Nursing, Office of Research Support & Consultation.

5. Grant Submission and Dissemination Progress Report:

  • One year after the close of the project, submit a brief closing statement to the RSC identifying where the project was presented, where the manuscript was submitted/published, and when and to what agency an application for extramural funding has been submitted. We will use these data to support continuation of the small grants program.



Contact Information

Primary Contact

Jennifer Leeman, Associate Dean Research

Other Contacts


Important Dates

  • Effective Date and title of Approver: 9/2019


Article ID: 132422
Thu 4/8/21 9:31 PM
Mon 11/13/23 3:53 PM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
10/22/2020 2:19 PM
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Associate Dean for Research
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
10/22/2020 2:19 PM
Last Revised
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10/22/2020 2:19 PM
Next Review
Date on which the next document review is due.
10/22/2021 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
09/01/2007 12:00 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
School of Nursing