Five common myths about sponsored projects
March 3, 2011 Laura Huenneke
Benefits of Grant and Contract Services
Myth: Grant and Contract Services (OGCS) is just a
technical hurdle; I'll do my own negotiating with the funder and leave OGCS out
of it until the end - maybe even sign the paperwork myself.
Fact: OGCS administrators are professionals at
working with funding agencies and sponsors – they also are less vulnerable to
pressure from a program director. Only certain individuals are authorized to
sign agreements or contracts on behalf of the university, and OGCS should always
be the formal contact for negotiations and signatures.
Myth: Indirect cost is simply the university's
slush fund, and I'm better off if I avoid including it in my budget.
Fact: Indirect costs of research are just as real
as the direct costs. These include:
- financial management and reporting
- research compliance activities
- administrative support
research activities are dependent on recovering as much as possible of the
indirect costs. Colleges, departments, and individual investigators all benefit
from requesting and recovering as much indirect cost in grant budgets as is
allowable. OGCS can help in ensuring that your budget goes as far as possible
in funding the work while ensuring maximum recovery of indirect costs.
Myth: It doesn't matter when I do the work relative
to getting paid for it - as long as it roughly balances out, it's okay.
Fact: Federal agencies require that we track and
report accurately the time spent by employees who are receiving salary from a
grant – and the date of payment needs to match the date of effort. OGCS and
Sponsored Project Services can help with effort reporting and with planning the
best possible way to match time spent with the mechanism for payment.
When to spend grant money
Myth: When I get a grant, I should save the money
for a rainy day and postpone spending it as long as possible (though I may go
ahead and do the work).
Fact: Grants and contracts are agreements to
perform certain work and produce certain outcomes. Both the university and the
investigator look unproductive and unprofessional if grant funds are not spent
promptly and effectively, and if projects routinely take longer than the
original estimated period.
Spending all of the grant money
Myth: If the end of a grant is truly coming, we
must not under any circumstances leave a dollar on the table - we must spend
out without sending any dollars back, even if it means making large purchases
or purchases unrelated to the original project toward the end of the project period.
Fact: Federal agencies require that grant funds be
spent on the proposed project, and not on supplies purchased for later use or
for items not related to the original project. Often, federal auditors will closely
examine the expenditures made in the last few weeks of a project. If circumstances
(such as lower-than-estimated costs, or delays in hiring) result in unused
funds toward the end of a project, it may actually be better to leave those
funds unspent (or return them to the funder) than to make unjustified or
unrelated purchases. OGCS and Sponsored Projects Services administrators may be
of assistance during the course of a project in helping you manage expenditures
so that you are not left with large amounts near the end of the project