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Job Title:
Research Proposal Development Administrator, IS-0301, Grade 13; $116,820 - $151,870 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:


AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all eligible candidates.

INTRODUCTION:  The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. SAO combines its resources with those of the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA is the best-known astrophysics center in the world. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants. 

SUMMARY:  The Research Proposal Development Administrator will lead strategic, proactive, and capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual and teams of scientists and engineers in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness. This role involves working closely with the SAO Executive Team to optimize research funding strategies, manage proposal submissions, and identify funding opportunities. The administrator will support grant writing and editing, offer consultations, and oversee large-scale grant proposal projects.


Research Development Activites:

  • Advise and strategize with scientists and postdoctoral researchers on grant portfolios to align with SAO priorities and research objectives.
  • Research, identify, and distribute grant opportunities from funding agencies, non-profits, and foundations for all researcher levels.
  • Coordinate and provide resources for developing competitive research proposals, including editing and writing research-related documents. 
  • In partnership with internal and external stakeholders, respond to funder requests for large-scale and interdisciplinary opportunities.
  • Draft text for proposals, manage image preparation and collect necessary documentation.
  • Compile, review, and assemble proposal elements, making amendments as needed.
  • Review and guide grant program or project guidelines and proposal submission requirements.
  • Ensure timely submission of proposals to maximize external research funding.
  • Prepare templates and checklists aligned with project and program guidelines.
  • Prepare and submit non-technical grant proposal components, including management plans, education, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and innovation strategies.
  • Review proposed budgets and budget justification narratives the responsible division administrators created to ensure alignment with the solicitation guidelines.
  • In coordination with the Associate Directors for Internal Affairs and Science, develop programming and resources for scientists at all stages of their careers, such as toolkits, templates, workshops, writing groups, and orientations.
  • Network and build relationships with scientists and engineers across the organization to ensure effective communication and interaction between the researchers and staff responsible for providing proposal development support.

Internal Research Program Oversight:

  • Works directly with scientists to identify available funding opportunities by matching research needs and priorities. 
  • Ensures all stakeholders are engaged throughout the proposal submission process (i.e., Director’s Offices, SI HQ OSP, Central Engineering, etc.). 
  • Drafts institutional letters of support for the Director and associate directors.
  • Manages internal funding competitions on behalf of the Director and Deputy Director. 
  • Evaluates solicitation requirements in consultation with members of the SAO executive committee. 
  • Reviews and approves solicitation and internal competition announcements. 
  • Identifies resources and training materials related to best practices to support the development of future proposals. 

Other Duties:

  • Conduct training sessions and workshops on grant writing strategies for SAO scientists and engineers based on input from the SAO Executive Team input as well as needs from members of the community. 
  • Perform other duties as assigned.


Additional Requirements:  Candidates must possess at least one year of specialized experience at or above the grade 12 level in similar positions.  Specialized experience is experience that has provided the knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully perform the work of the position, as described below.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in organizing and managing the administration of complex research programs, including documentation, timelines, and resource allocation.
  • Strong communication skills to effectively convey project updates, requirements, and expectations to team members and stakeholders.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage multiple intricate research projects simultaneously, ensuring they stay on schedule and within budget. 
  • Proven success in building and maintaining positive relationships between sponsors, principal investigators, research organizations, and other stakeholders.
  • Ability to facilitate collaboration and coordination among diverse teams and individuals from scientists, engineers, and administrative staff members. 
  • Familiarity with various sponsoring agencies, their guidelines, and electronic research administration systems, such as grants management software.
  • Experience navigating funding opportunities and proposal submission processes.
  • Strong understanding of grant administration policies and procedures, including federal regulatory compliance (e.g., Uniform Guidance).
  • Ability to ensure that research programs adhere to funding calls for proposals with respect to compliance requirements and maintain accurate records. 
  • Capability to analyze program announcements and identify critical requirements, enabling the development of successful proposal strategies.
  • Skill in written communications in order to craft compelling and competitive grant proposals.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills for conveying research findings, progress reports, and updates to diverse audiences.
  • Strong interpersonal skills to foster collaboration, resolve conflicts, and build productive relationships.
  • A customer service mindset that balances the needs of principal investigators while representing the SAO’s best interests.
  • Demonstrated skill in providing support and guidance to researchers in navigating administrative processes.
  • Experience coordinating workshops and seminars related to securing research programs and presenting to diverse audiences. 
  • Ability to develop and manage research proposal development programs for research staff and faculty.
  • Understanding funding opportunity discovery and dissemination processes, including tracking and communicating relevant opportunities to researchers.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  Please use the following link to visit Smithsonian's Career Page:  Smithsonian Institution Job Opportunities Site

The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis

Conditions of Employment

  • Successful completion of pre- and post-employment background investigation, as required.
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Direct Deposit/Elect Funds Transfer required for salary payment.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

Visit the SAO website at

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds supports and enhances our daily work life and contributes to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. For more information on the Smithsonian EEO program please see

Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website