Stanford Research Development Office

Frequently Asked Questions About RDO

What does the Research Development Office do?

The Research Development Office (RDO) focuses on assisting PIs in developing the content, text, and presentation of their proposals. Examples of support might include finding the right fit between project and sponsor, supporting team formation, providing guidance for strategic preparation and concept development, coordinating projects, strengthening the responsiveness of grant applications, writing and editing proposals, and enhancing the structure and presentation of proposal components. RDO also manages the Limited Submission Program for the University, in collaboration with the School of Medicine.

How do RDO's services relate to other proposal submission support at Stanford?

RDO services, with their focus on the text and concept development (see above), are complementary to other proposal submission support services at Stanford.

For example, pre-award Research Administrators (RAs), who work at the department, school, or laboratory level, focus on the administrative aspects of the proposal submission process (e.g., assisting with budgets, collecting and uploading documents to the sponsor portal, and routing proposals to the Office of Sponsored Research). From there, OSR/the Research Management Group/the Industrial Contracts Office (depending on your unit and grant) review and submit proposals to the sponsor. For more detailed information on the role of different University offices in the proposal process, see Proposal Preparation and Submission. Should the team include other people who provide RD-like support, we will collaborate with them in the way that adds the most value to the proposal.

While some of these services are required for most proposals, RDO support is optional and given at the PI’s request.

Who can request support from RDO?

RDO services are available to Principal Investigators (PIs) from any department or discipline at Stanford. We support faculty (or faculty equivalent) and research teams from across the University, with an emphasis on complex or strategic proposals. This often includes large, multi-PI, and/or multi-disciplinary proposals, but can also apply to other projects depending on the discipline or specific situation.

As a small office, we do not offer one-on-one support for postdocs or students. We do, however, encourage postdocs and students to make use of the written materials and resources available on our website, as well as those from the Stanford Grant Writing Academy, and other campus resources.

What types of proposals does RDO support?

RDO assists with a variety of proposal types, with our main focus being on large, complex, or strategic proposals. This often includes large, multi-PI, and/or multi-disciplinary proposals, but can also apply to other projects depending on the discipline or specific situation.

In most STEM fields, “large, complex proposals” may include, for instance, a proposal where the PI brings together multiple projects or cores and multiple collaborators, often across institutions or disciplines. Many proposals of this type include mandatory non-scientific sections such as management; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and evaluation plans. Center grants are a common example of this type of proposal.

In the Humanities, Arts, and Interpretive Social Sciences, “large, complex, or strategic” proposals can encompass a wide variety of projects, from small, single-author grants that will provide the first source of funding for a faculty member or project, to large, collaborative, and interdisciplinary projects.

In all fields, proposals of "strategic" importance may include those aligned with Stanford’s Long Range Vision, grants that expand or transform a unit’s capabilities, or that are considered of high impact in a given field. This category may also include re-submissions of previous proposals that were not funded (this includes single-PI proposals). We encourage PIs who are considering a re-submission to contact us as early as possible in the process.

Please don't hesitate contact us to see how we can assist you.

What kinds of sponsors/donors do you work with?

As we are a new office, we are open to evaluating campus needs to guide the types of proposals we support. We can help formulate the idea and edit a proposal for flow and grammar for any sponsor. However, at this time, our expertise is mostly with federal sponsors or other opportunities that have an open call for proposals. This often includes Foundations and State agencies as well and could involve foreign sponsors (like the European Research Council). For donors, foundations, corporate, etc. we would want to loop in the relevant support offices (Development, UCFR), as they will be better positioned to advise on how to pitch your request for funding to the specific interests of the sponsor.

Are there any fees associated with RDO support?

Under the umbrella of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research, RDO’s services are free to Stanford PIs.

When in the proposal process should I reach out to RDO?

If you are interested in working with us, please contact us as early as possible. The sooner you consult with us, the more likely we can include your proposal in our schedule and offer a wider range of support.

What is the best way to contact RDO?

For general inquiries and consultation requests, please write to

Who at RDO will I be working with?

In order to best serve the Stanford Community, each RD Specialist has a portfolio of departments, disciplines, or faculty for whom they function as a liaison. RDO Staff are assigned to specific projects on a case-by-case basis depending on fit and availability.

What level of support can I expect from RDO?

When you reach out to RDO, we will discuss your proposal and offer services on a case-by-case basis to help us optimize our added value. Support varies depending on what you want, what the proposal requires, the availability of RDO staff, and the timing. For more information on how we can assist you, contact

Why are some of RDO's files only accessible to those with a SUNet ID? What should I do if I don't have access?

We create and curate some of our written resources with the Stanford community in mind. Some of this material is subscription-based, or based on the unique insights and experience of RDO staff or other Stanford contributors. Anyone logged in with an SUNet ID, including staff and students, can access these materials. If you do not have a SUNet ID and would like to view specific documents or protected web pages, please contact to discuss further.