Once a proposal is submitted to a sponsor, the review process may take from six to nine months before the University receives formal notification about its status. While Principal Investigators may receive preliminary or informal advice from the sponsor, this advice may precede official notification by as much as several months. Because scientific or program approval does not always guarantee funding, no work may be initiated or costs incurred until the sponsor’s official written notification is received and accepted by the University. When this notification comes directly to the investigator, the award document and any attachments should immediately be forwarded to the OSP for formal acceptance.
In some instances, the sponsor will wish to negotiate the substance or scope of the work, or the terms and conditions under which an award will be made. Negotiations of the technical aspects of a proposal are generally conducted with the sponsor’s program officials; negotiations concerning type of award mechanism, terms, and financial arrangements are conducted with the sponsor’s grant or contract officials. The Principal Investigator and the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, or the Office of Sponsored Programs designee (Grants Specialist), respectively, are responsible for negotiating the technical and contractual aspects of the proposal.
It should be noted, however, that in no case should the technical aspects of the project be negotiated without consultation with the Office of Sponsored Programs, since any changes in the project scope are likely to affect the cost elements as well as other performance aspects, particularly the time period of the project.
An award may be made in the form of a letter issued by the sponsor or it may consist of a complete contractual document.
Acceptance of an Award
The Office of Sponsored Programs is the university’s central office for the receipt of notifications of sponsor acceptance or rejection of awards. In cases where an award document is sent directly to the Principal Investigator, such notices should be forwarded to the Office of Sponsored Programs immediately.
Because an award to the University from a sponsor represents a formal obligation by the University, both the Principal Investigator and the Office of Sponsored Programs must review the provisions of each award offer before the university formally accepts the award. The Principal Investigator must review the document to ensure its conformance with the proposal and that the scope of work, timetables, and deliverables, if any, are acceptable. The Office of Sponsored Programs reviews the award to ensure that its provisions are acceptable to the university, identifies any unusual terms and conditions to the Principal Investigator, and conducts any further negotiations with the sponsor, should they be required.
After review, the Office of Sponsored Programs submits the appropriate acceptance documents to the sponsor. In some cases, the award is not official until the sponsor returns a final signed copy of the award document.
No charges may be incurred against a sponsored project until such time as the Office of Sponsored Programs has formally accepted the award and a University account number has been issued by the Office of Contracts and Grants.
Types of Awards
Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Grants and cooperative agreements are awards that come directly from a sponsoring agency, usually a unit of the federal government, to UNCG as the prime recipient. A Notice of Award (NOA) is issued to UNCG as the result of a successful proposal and proposal budget that was submitted at an earlier date. The notice of award may be sent directly to OSP either electronically or by mail. If the Principal Investigator receives a NOA, it should be forwarded to OSP immediately for processing.
Subaward or Subcontract to UNCG
Funds for sponsored projects can also be transferred by a subaward document to UNCG from another entity that is the prime recipient of the grant. In this case UNCG is called the secondary recipient. Faculty from UNCG will have been involved in preparing the grant proposal with the prime recipient and this proposal will have included a scope of work for UNCG as well as a subaward budget. The scope of work and subaward budget would have been processed and approved through RAMSeS during the proposal development stage.
The OSP can also issue subawards or subcontracts to other entities. For more information, see “Subawards.
A contract is a mechanism for transferring resources to UNCG from businesses, industries, private agencies, and other entities. A contract will incorporate a scope of work and a project budget developed by the Principal Investigator. A contract will also have terms and conditions that must be reviewed by the Grants Specialist within OSP. Sometimes these terms and conditions must be rewritten so that they are in compliance with federal and state laws and the State of North Carolina laws. Only an Authorized Institutional Representative, empowered by the Chancellor and the President of the University System, can sign a contract that binds UNCG into a contractual agreement regarding a sponsored project.
Types of Awards not processed by OSP
A gift is defined as a contribution with no reciprocal benefit to the donor. In general, the following characteristics describe a gift:
No contractual requirements are imposed. However the gift may be for a stated purpose, with the use of the funds restricted to that purpose.
The award is typically irrevocable, with no specified “period of performance”.
There is no formal fiscal accountability beyond periodic progress reports and reports of expenditures. These reports may be thought of as a requirement of good stewardship, rather than as a contractual obligation.
Funds identified as gifts are processed through the UNCG Development Office. For more help determining if your award is a gift or a grant or a contract, please contact your Grants Specialist in the OSP.
Each sponsor has a different approach to transferring grants. In most cases it will involve notifying the sponsor either through an electronic system or by filing grant transfer application forms. The University giving up the grant will have to file a final financial report and a release of unobligated funds. The University receiving the grant will have to agree to accept it. If you are bringing a grant into UNCG or taking one with you when you leave, please contact the OSP at least 90 days in advance for a smooth transition. See “Transferring Grants at UNCG.
Project expenses before an award is received or contract signed
In some cases, the principal investigator knows he or she will be receiving an award before the formal award document arrives or before the contract is signed. Because both of these documents may be finalized AFTER the beginning date of the award, the Principal Investigator can request permission to spend funds during the waiting time. This is done by completing an Assumption of Risk (AOR) form. The AOR must be signed by the Principal Investigator, the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Director of the Office of Contracts and Grants and the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development. However, if the award doesn’t come or the contract is not completed, the Principal Investigator’s department may have to pay for anything that is spent. The AOR must be accompanied by evidence that the funds are coming. This evidence might be an e-mail from an agency executive, draft contract or notice of award to another University who intends to subcontract with UNCG.
In other cases, project costs need to be incurred before the start date of the award. Each sponsor has a different policy regarding “pre-award costs” and these policies will be contained in the terms and conditions of the award or contract. The Principal Investigator should check these policies carefully before requesting permission to incur pre-award costs.
As signatories in RAMSeS during the proposal submission process, Principal Investigators, Department Chairpersons/Directors, and Deans are considered by the University to be accountable for project implementation as outlined in the proposal. Both technical and administrative content fall within their purview.
The Office of Sponsored Programs prepares and distributes a copy of the award to all concerned units within the University.
Please note that the PI will need to follow departmental or unit procedures to place people on the payroll or otherwise expend funds. This process is facilitated by the Office of Contracts and Grants.
Upon receipt of the award document, the Office of Sponsored Programs will enter the award information into the RAMSeS proposal, signifying to the Office of Contracts and Grants that an award has been made and the process for assignment of an account number should be initiated. Each project is fiscally accounted for by a separate restricted account.