When a Proposal Is Accepted
Once a proposal has been reviewed and recommended for funding, a sponsor's program official will often notify the Principal Investigator (PI) directly. Such preliminary or informal 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.
The prospective sponsor may recommend or require changes of various kinds to the PI before making a final decision, for example, revisions in the scope of work, staffing or facilities. The PI should bring the latter to the attention of the chair or director and the local research administrator, as well as OSP. Usually these "negotiations" concern budgetary items and funding constraints rather than the actual terms of award. Budget revisions, however, must have the same school and institutional approvals required of other proposals (see Submission Procedures).
Sponsors use a variety of legal instruments in funding a sponsored project. Generally these fall into one of three categories -- grant, contract, or cooperative agreement -- and the terms and conditions attaching to such awards vary accordingly. Public agencies distinguish between awards for assistance, which are usually based on unsolicited proposals, and awards for procurement, normally based on proposals responsive to a defined set of specifications. Most grants convey a standard set of terms and conditions, but cooperative agreements and contracts can be considerably more complicated and therefore impose additional obligations on the University and the PI. (A comparative description of these funding instruments, Comparison on Grants, Contracts and Cooperative Agreements, is available from OSP.) All official award documents should be sent to OSP for review and distribution to appropriate University offices.
The acceptance of an award, once official notification has been received, represents a formal obligation by the University; therefore the PI, OSP and the Contract Officer must review the provisions of each offer before acceptance. The PI should ascertain that the scope of work and budget are consistent with his or her proposal and review the schedule for reporting progress or other deliverables. OSP and the Contract Officer are responsible, respectively, for ensuring that the academic and financial provisions of awards do not conflict with University policies and procedures for sponsored programs.
Should changes be required in a sponsor's offer, OSP will coordinate the University's response, in consultation with the Contract Officer, PI and other school and administrative offices of the University as appropriate, and otherwise serve, with the Contract Officer, as the University's principal representatives in negotiations with sponsor officials. Award documents that require a signature for acceptance are to be signed by an authorized University official, usually the Contract Officer. The PI may not make commitments on behalf of the University. (See Contractual Authority for R&D Agreements available from OSP.) The processes that follow formal acceptance of an award are covered in OSP's Manual for Administration of Sponsored Research and Training