Wright State University

Frequently Asked Questions for Principal Investigators

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I need help finding a potential sponsor for my research—whom do I contact?

RSPís Jackie Frederick will be glad to help. Write her at jackie.frederick@wright.edu or call 775-2664.

Iím not sure Iím ready to seek external funding. Are there internal funding sources to help get me started in doing research?

RSP runs two internal funding programs, Research Incentive and Research Challenge (see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/internal.html). If you are in the Boonshoft School of Medicine, check out http://www.med.wright.edu/ra/funding/index.html. For other colleges/schools, contact your deanís office to see if there may be other internal funding opportunities.

Whom do I contact for help with submitting a grant/contract proposal?

Go to http://www.wright.edu/rsp/pubs/RN/rsp-staff.html and find your department name in the “Pre-Award” section of the RSP staff list. In the left-hand column you'll find the name of your RSP contact.

What is the difference between a grant and a contract? And what in the world is a cooperative agreement?

In 1977, Congress clarified the difference in the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act. The government uses money either to acquire goods and services or to assist other organizations. Accordingly, the rules for ACQUISITION are very different from the rules for ASSISTANCE. Government agencies are required to use a procurement contract as the legal instrument whenever the principal purpose of the agreement is the acquisition, by purchase, lease, or barter, of property or services for the direct benefit or use of the federal government. An assistance mechanism is to be used whenever the principal purpose of the relationship is the transfer of money, property, services, or anything of value to the recipient to help that recipient accomplish its own purposes. There are two types of assistance mechanisms. A grant is to be used when no substantial involvement is anticipated between the government and the recipient during performance of the contemplated activity. A cooperative agreement is to be used when substantial involvement is anticipated between the government and the recipient. The distinction between a grant and a contract is sometimes not so clear-cut in the non-federal world, so RSP sometimes has to use its best guess as to how to categorize some awards from non-federal sponsors.

What is the difference between a grant or contract, and a gift?

This is covered in Wright Way policy 3703 (http://www.wright.edu/wrightway/3703.html).

Is there a way to get announcements funding opportunities automatically?

There certainly is, by signing up with Community of Science (COS) and with RSP. For the former, contact Jackie Frederick in RSP (jackie.frederick@wright.edu; 775-2664). For the latter, go to http://www.wright.edu/cgibin/profile.pl to fill out a Faculty Interest Profile, including keywords that reflect your research interests. COS has a massive database of opportunities that are updated regularly. RSP occasionally receives funding announcements directly that we then distribute to interested faculty based on their keywords.

I want to apply for a program that limits the number of applicants from a single institution. How does that work?

Please see the procedure outlined at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/ltd_sub.pdf.

Where do I locate proposal budget information on Facilities and Administration (F&A) costs, fringe benefit rates, etc.?

Go to http://www.wright.edu/rsp/rates.html.

Who is designated as the authorized institutional representative?

The Assistant Vice President for Research, Ellen Reinsch Friese, has been delegated this authority.

How do I know when I should have a sponsored agreement versus a personal consulting agreement?

You should always use a sponsored agreement when the resources of the university are used to complete all or part of the scope of work. In most cases, a personal consulting agreement is appropriate when you are performing work on your own time, outside of the contractual commitment to the university.

Who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator on a proposal?

Fully-affiliated faculty are eligible to become principal investigators. Adjunct faculty and staff may be eligible if they have the approval of their department chair and dean. Students and persons not employed at the university are not eligible unless there is fully- affiliated faculty member acting as co-investigator.

Can there be more than one Principal Investigator on a proposal?

It depends on the sponsor. If allowed and that is what you want, we can show more than one PI in the proposal. However, for internal purposes, the first PI shown will be considered to have overall responsibility for the project and be designated “Principal Investigator” while other PIs will be termed “Co-Investigators.”

Can I request funds for secretarial salary on a proposal to a federal agency?

Generally federal rules require that secretarial salaries not be directly charged but instead be treated as an indirect (ďF&AĒ) cost. The exception is a large center-type project that is large enough to require administrative support dedicated primarily to that project. In general, if such expenses are included in the approved budget, this means the cost is allowable.

How do I request overload pay on a grant/contract?

See http://www.wright.edu/rsp/overloads.html for guidance.

What are F&A (facilities and administrative) costs (sometimes called indirect costs or overhead)?

These are expenses that benefit grant/contract funded activities but are of such a nature that it would not be practical or cost-effective to try to calculate what the actual benefit is to particular projects. Typical expenses are maintenance, building depreciation, library costs, and various kinds of administrative functions (purchasing, payroll, RSP, etc.) that are employed indirectly to support your research and scholarly efforts. F&A costs are reimbursed through one or more rates that are negotiated with the federal government and then, normally, are applied as a percentage of most of the direct costs incurred on particular projects. At WSU we have four negotiated rates depending on whether a project is research or something else, and depending on whether it is conducted on or off campus (see the F&A Cost Rate subheading at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/rates.html). Keep in mind that F&A rates represent an average amount of indirect costs borne by any given project. Also keep in mind that the actual award you receive may contain restrictions on how, to what extent, and even whether F&A costs are to be reimbursed by the sponsor.

Should I budget for tuition for Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs)?

Pursuant to a July 21, 1992, memo from Vice President Hathaway to Deans, for graduate research assistants charged to a grant/contract account:

  • Out-of-state instructional and general fees shall be waived.
  • In-state instructional and general fees shall be waived provided
      (a) full university research F&A charges are collected, and
      (b) a graduate stipend of at least $2,500 is paid per quarter.
  • Thus it is usually not necessary to budget for tuition for GRAs unless the sponsor is not paying the full applicable F&A rate (for current rates, see the F&A Cost Rate subheading at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/rates.html) or the stipend amount is less than $2,500 per quarter. Note that neither Research Council nor Research Challenge funds bear F&A costs and so are not eligible for tuition waivers.

    How do I request approval to use a lower F&A rate on my sponsored project?

    Some universities have a formal approval process for this purpose but this is not the case at WSU. The F&A exception policy in Wright Way 5305 (http://www.wright.edu/wrightway/5305.html) outlines the conditions under which lower F&A rates may be accepted.

    How many copies of my proposal do I need to make?

    In accordance with the sponsorís instructions, RSP will make the required copies and send them via overnight delivery service provided that proposals are received with adequate time prior to the deadline in order for us to complete the task during normal business hours.

    What can I do to expedite the proposal process for myself?

    Contact RSP as early as you can. This is especially true of proposals that need to be submitted electronically because of the possibility of computer crashes and automatic rejections that need correction and re-submittal. Please see RSPís specific guidance on applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/Grants_gov/WSU%20Grants_gov.html.

    What approvals are required for proposal submission?

    This will vary depending on the specific proposal, but generally each investigator will need to sign our ďAuthorization to Seek Off-Campus Funds,Ē the yellow sheet, along with the relevant chair(s) and dean(s) [or functional equivalents], in addition to the institutional endorsement provided by RSP.

    What if a sponsor asks me to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement?

    It would be unusual for a sponsor to request this unless an exchange of proprietary information was contemplated. Typically this might be the case if the sponsor is actually an industry contractor and we are going in as a subcontractor on a proposal being submitted by the contractor to the government. In any event, such agreements should be reviewed and signed by the Technology Transfer Director (see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/pubs/RN/rsp-staff.html for contact information).

    Why do I have to complete a blue conflict of interest form on every proposal I submit? Why does it ask for information on family members?

    Basically this is a federal requirement. Both NIH and NSF have conflict of interest (COI) regulations, and WSU has decided to implement COI procedures for all proposals to federal agencies (see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/conflict.html).

    What happens if I check that I do have a conflict of interest?

    You will be asked to complete Financial Interest Disclosure Statement (http://www.wright.edu/rsp/COI_fin_int_discl.doc) and return it to RSP. If it is determined that a conflict does exist, this doesnít mean that you wonít be allowed to submit the proposal. But the potential conflict will have to be managed (e.g., by additional project oversight).

    How do I get a password for National Science Foundation (NSF) FastLane?

    Go to http://www.wright.edu/rsp/pubs/RN/rsp-staff.html and find your department name in the “Pre-Award” section of the RSP staff list. In the left-hand column youíll find the name of your RSP contact. Please phone or e-mail your RSP “Pre-Award” contact, who will add you to the NSF database and assign you a password to access the FastLane.

    How do I sign up with the NIH eRA Commons?

    Go to http://www.wright.edu/rsp/pubs/RN/rsp-staff.html and find your department name in the “Pre-Award” section of the RSP staff list. In the left-hand column youíll find the name of your RSP contact. Please phone or e-mail your RSP “Pre-Award” contact, who will add you to the NIH eRA Commons and assign you a User ID. NIH will then e-mail you with additional information and a username and password to access the eRA Commons.

    My research might involve human subjects, laboratory animals, radioactive material, radiation-producing devices or biohazards (e.g., recombinant DNA). What is the procedure for getting approval to do this?

    In each case, there is a committee that would review a “petition” that you would submit through RSP, namely the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Laboratory Animal and Use Committee (LACUC), or Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), respectively. For human subjects use, the petition form and relevant information are found at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/subjects.html. For laboratory animal use, the petition form is found at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/subjects.html#animals. And for biohazards the petition form is found at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/IBC/biohazards.html. If your research involves radiation-producing devices or radioactive materials, you would need to submit an approval form to the Radiation Safety Committee (see http://www.wright.edu/administration/ehs/safety/radforms.html).

    Does RSP offer training?

    Yes. RSP staff members offer regularly scheduled training on use of the Community of Science database. In addition, general Grants.gov workshops and NIH-related Grants.gov workshops will be scheduled on an as-needed basis. A faculty orientation is held annually in the fall quarter, and RSP will conduct other specially designed sessions by invitation. A Proposal Writing Workshop, conducted by an outside consultant, is generally planned on an annual or bi-annual basis. All workshop opportunities are announced via listserve and RSPís quarterly newsletter.


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    I'm not sure how to initiate transactions against my sponsored project funds. Whom do I contact for help after I receive funding?

    The best place to start is with your college/school Business Officer. RSP can also help. For general questions, please contact Yun Wu, Associate Director for Post-Award (yun.wu@wright.edu, 775-2651). For specific questions, go to http://www.wright.edu/rsp/pubs/RN/rsp-staff.html and scroll down to the Post-Award section of our staff listing. Then locate the Grants Accountant that has responsibility for your department or sponsor.

    How do I monitor my funded award activity?

    You can get information on current activity by accessing Wings Express (Banner Finance Self-Serve). Instructions may be found at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/Banner_instr.html. If you donít have access to Wings Express, please contact your college/school Business Officer, who can also assist with other grant/contract financial questions you might have.

    Who owns supplies or equipment purchased with my grant/contract funds?

    Under most awards, these are owned by the university. Some awards, particularly federal contracts, have special rules for purchases of supplies or equipment, and may even require approval from the sponsor for such purchases if they were not listed in the approved budget. If you need assistance interpreting the terms and conditions of your grant or contract, please contact RSP.

    What if my grant ends and there is an over-expenditure in the account for F&A (indirect costs)?

    In accordance with Wright Way Policy 5302, "...any portion of the Facilities and Administrative (F&A) cost that is greater than the originally budgeted F&A will be canceled."

    What happens to any residual balance once a sponsored project under a fixed price agreement ends?

    After adjusting for any F&A obligations (either under or over budget), RSP will request the college/school Business Officer to provide a departmental org/fund number into which the residual funds can be transferred. Typically this will be your RIF account.

    Why is effort reporting required?

    Effort reporting on federal grants/contracts is a requirement of OMB Circular A-21. For each quarter that you work on a federal project, you will receive a form to complete (see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/effort.html). In some sense an effort report is a federally- mandated timecard for faculty.

    I need to spend award funds differently from what was proposed and awarded. Is this okay?

    It depends on the terms and conditions of your award. Fixed price agreements would virtually never have restrictions; cost-reimbursement type awards often do. Most federal research awards are very flexible, as are most industry-funded and other private agreements. Most state-funded awards are heavily restricted. If you are unsure of what the restrictions might be in your particular case, please contact Yun Wu, Associate Director for Post-Award (yun.wu@wright.edu, 775-2651).

    Can alcoholic beverages be charged to a federal award under any circumstances?

    No. Nor can any university funds be so used under most conditions. As a general rule, it is best to find gift funds for this purpose.

    What is the Fly America Act? Do I have to do anything special when traveling to a foreign country?

    Please see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/faact.html.

    What do I do with invoices from a subcontractor?

    You should review the invoice to see if the charges appear to be consistent with the work that was done and reported to you by your counterpart at the subcontractor institution. If so, and if you are satisfied with the work, the invoice should be signed, dated, and returned to RSP. If there is a problem and/or you are not satisfied with the work being done, contact RSP immediately.

    How can I get expenses that were mistakenly charged transferred to the correct award?

    Your departmental or college/school business manager can initiate the transfer. Be sure to include the original purpose of the expenditure to enable expeditious RSP review for allowability and protect against future disallowances by auditors.

    What is the difference between cost sharing and matching?

    Both cost sharing and matching achieve a similar objective: to provide funds in addition to the sponsor's award toward the total costs of a project. Typically, cost sharing occurs when the university uses its own funds for this purpose, while matching takes place when the university raises funds from another source. Matching can also occur in situations where a sponsor requires the university to "match" what it provides on the basis of some prescribed formula (e.g., one-for-one match).

    When charging salary to my federal award, I have to sign A-21 Effort Reports. Why?

    When proposals are submitted to a sponsor, the university is promising that, should the award be made, certain things are going to happen. One of those things is typically the devotion of effort by personnel who are key to the project. The Office of Management & Budget Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions, Sect. J.8.c (e) requires a formal personnel activity reporting system as a means of documenting such promised effort has taken place. The university uses A-21 Effort Reprots to fulfill that obligation. For further information, please see http://www.wright.edu/rsp/effort.html.

    I'm meeting with a colleague to go over research during lunch. Is that paid for by my award?

    Unless the colleague happens to be a WSU employee who also is on official travel status for the university, working on the same award and, therefore, entitled to be reimbursed under the travel budget of that award, the meal would not normally be considered an appropriate business meal; i.e., only your meal would be allowable.

    Who prepares the financial reports required by my grant?

    RSP prepares the reports, with assistance from your department or college/school as needed.

    My grant is going to end but I'm not finished the work, what can I do?

    Send an e-mail to the Yun Wu, Assoc. Director for Post-Award, at yun.wu@wright.edu. Explain that you need a no-cost extension, provide a valid reason (simply having funds left over is not a valid reason!), and put in the new end date that you are requesting (usually up to twelve months after the current end date). We will then contact the sponsor and you will be notified if and when the request has been approved.

    I will be leaving the WSU. Can I transfer my grant?

    Yes, usually with the sponsorís permission, although typically what happens is that the sponsor terminates the award to WSU and makes a new award with the remaining funds to your new institution. For information on transferring equipment, please see http://www.wright.edu/wrightway/5404.html.

    I have some biological material I want to share with a colleague from another institution. What do I do?

    You will need to have the Technology Transfer Office in RSP prepare a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). Download the MTA Request Form (http://www.wright.edu/rsp/TechTrans/MTAReq.rtf), complete it, and follow the instructions for returning it. The same form would also be used if you contemplate receiving biological material from outside the university. MTAs are normally signed by a university official (at WSU, the Director of Technology Transfer), though some commercial sites (e.g., ATCC) do not require this.

    What do I do if I invent something while working on a sponsored project?

    Please see the information provided at http://www.wright.edu/rsp/TechTrans/index.html

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