Types of Sponsored Projects
External sponsors, primarily governmental, provide a large fraction of research support, particularly in the natural sciences. This research often requires specially built and equipped laboratories and facilities in addition to offices, telephones, conference rooms, libraries and computer and network facilities. Ordinarily, sponsors provide support by funding project proposals which have been conveyed to them by the university on behalf of a PI and any Co-PIs or Co-Investigators. Awards are made to the University of Idaho (never directly to the PI), and the university accepts responsibility for assuring that each principal investigator will perform each funded project in accordance with all terms of the agreement, all university policies, and all applicable laws and regulations.
Sponsored projects that support research or other sponsored activities (e.g. instruction or public service/outreach projects) may be in the form of grants, contracts or cooperative agreements. A grant or a contract is an agreement based on a university-authorized proposal or application submission. The university accepts the award or agreement in writing and by doing so assumes an obligation to provide a deliverable in exchange for agency funding. Examples of a deliverable include the following: performing specific research, accomplishing a specific objective, providing a service or producing a product. Separate accountability for the funds received is required.
Grants have fewer conditions than other sponsored projects. Sponsors award grants to support research which has been described by PIs in proposals submitted often, but not always, in response to solicitations. The proposal describes what the PI or team hopes to accomplish (the “project scope” or “scope of work”) with the awarded funding and outlines a general course of inquiry. Within the scope specified in the formal grant agreement, the PI controls the direction of the inquiry process. Ordinarily, grants do not include commitments to provide specific products (deliverables). Not all grants are for research. Some provide support for other sponsored activities, such as conference or symposia, editing a series of papers, developing curriculum, and so on.
Cooperative Agreements are similar to grants and contracts, but typically involve a significant level of sponsor participation in the administration and direction of the project.
Contracts are most often awarded on the basis of proposals submitted in response to requests from sponsors, often called Requests for Proposals or RFPs. A contract proposal typically includes commitments to provide specific deliverables such as data analysis, surveys or website design. Because contracts may include restrictive terms (frequently specified in the RFP) and because they require deliverables, PIs should alert OSP as soon as possible when contemplating the preparation of a contract proposal. Objections to contract terms must be identified at the proposal stage, and OSP will need time for the Contract Review Officer to prepare a letter that addresses any requested exceptions to these terms well in advance of the submission.