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Glossary of Research Administration Terms

Commonly Used Terms Related to Grants, Contracts and Proposals

Allowable Costs Project costs that are eligible, reasonable, necessary and allocable to the proposed project. For federal projects, these are defined by law.
Approved but not Funded An official response to a project/program proposal indicating that the project was approved by the Review Panel but for which funds were not available, often due to the prioritorization of projects and funding targets.
Assurances Official statements made on behalf of the Institution guaranteeing the ability of the Institution to comply with certain federal regulations, often related to equal employment, persons with disabilities, and ethical treatment of human and animal subjects. Individual investigators have specific responsibilities regarding these assurances and so although PI's may not be signatory, they accept these responsibilities by virtue of participating in the funded activity. It is always wise to check with the funding entity to see what your responsibilities are if you're using human subjects.
Authorized
Institutional
Official
The person designated by the Institution who has the authority to legally obligate the Institution to a proposed project. At ODU, this is usually either the VP for Research or a designated staff member at the ODU Research Foundation. In some cases, the funding agency will require a specific person (e.g. the President or the Executive Director of the Foundation). If in doubt, contact the Office of Research or the Research Foundation.
Board Agency
Announcement
(BAA)
A general announcement by a federal agency of research interests, including selection criteria, that solicits the participation of all offerors capable of satisfying the agency's needs. BAAs are most commonly used by agencies within the Department of Defense.
Catalogue of Federal Domestic
Assistance (CFDA)
The online Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance gives you access to a database of all Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally -recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi-public, private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals. Any program that has specifically been authorized and funded by the federal government will have a CFDA description and number. Some applications require that the CFDA number be identified on the cover sheet. It can usually be found in the solicitation.
Challenge
Grant
A type of grant that provides funds only in conjunction with funds from other sources, usually according to a formula. A challenge grant may, for example, offer two dollars for every one dollar that is obtained from a fund drive. The grant usually has a fixed upper limit and may have a challenge minimum below which no grant will be made. This form of grant is fairly common in the arts and humanities but less common in the sciences.
Conflict of
Financial
Interest
A clash between the sponsor's interest and the private interest of the
individual(s) concerned. An example would be if the principal investigator is applying for funding from a corporate sponsor in whom the PI has substantial stock interest or a formal professional relationship (e.g. paid consultant, employee, etc).
Community of
Science (COS)
A web-based database for finding funding opportunities and academic expertise. This service is available to all ODU faculty, staff and students from University-based servers and is supported through the University Office of Research.
Cost
Reimbursement
A type of contract/grant arrangement that provides for payment of costs and expenses to the contractor/grantee after the expenses have been incurred. Expenses are first incurred and then billed to the sponsor, usually on a quarterly or monthly basis. Most federal grants use the cost reimbursementmechanism.
Cost Sharing An explicit arrangement under which the contractor/grantee bears some of the burden of the allowed project costs. These costs may not require cash outlays but may include efforts of faculty or allocation of institutional resources or services that have some value or cost to the institution. Cost sharing requirements are usually stated in the solicitation and for some agencies a standard percentage is expected (e.g. NSF = 10%) unless explicitly stated that none is required.
Direct Costs Clearly identifiable costs related to a specific project. General categories of direct coasts include (but are not limited to) salaries and wages, fringe benefits, supplies, contractual services, travel, equipment, and participant support costs.
Extramural
Research
For the federal agencies, this refers to research conducted by other than federal personnel. For example, the National Institutes of Health have both intramural (federal employees at the NIH with their own research programs) and extramural programs (research dollars that feed outside of the NIH for universities, etc). From the university perspective, the term refers to research activities funded by dollars from outside the institution as opposed to from the institutional core funds, internally generated funds, or the institution's operating budget.
Facilities and
Administrative (Costs)
(F&A)
Also called "Overhead", "Indirects", "IDC's"; F&A costs are those that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. F&A costs are broad categories of costs. "Facilities" is defined as depreciation and use allowances, interest on debt associated with certain buildings, equipment and capital improvements, operation and maintenance expenses, and library expenses. "Administration" is defined as general administrative expenses, departmental administration, sponsored projects administration, student administration and services, and all other types of expenditures not listed specifically under one of the subcategories of Facilities (including cross allocations from other pools). The federal government acknowledges the importance of the backup infrastructure that is required for research to take place. Once received by the institution, these funds are utilized to support the research enterprise at the discretion of the institution. Most institutions have formulas for the distribution of these funds throughout the institution at all levels, including the departments. A formal agreement between the institution and the federal government establishes the "rate" at which these costs will be charged. While the institution can, in good faith, accept less than this negotiated rate, they may not charge more, and are encouraged not to accept variable rates from different sponsors (e.g. charging the federal government more than another sponsor) unless F&A is unallowable, as is the case with some private, charitable foundations.
Face Page Usually the cover page of a proposal, provided by the sponsor, and requiring the signature of the Authorized Institutional Official (IO), along with summary information related to the proposal. Information usually includes institutional contact information, tax ID number, project title, project dates, basic budgetary information, and compliance assurances. Most require signature of the PI and the IO. Some require all investigators to sign.
Faculty
Release Time
The amount of time and effort that an investigator will be relieved of
teaching responsibilities in order to perform the activities related to the sponsored project. Faculty time and effort must not exceed 100% of their effort unless exceptional allowances have been made. Most institutions have request mechanisms for such overages. Faculty effort is auditable by the agencies, and faculty need to realistically consider how their efforts are distributed. This often means discussing and obtaining approval from the department chair to assure that adequate time is provided.
Federal
Acquisition
Regulations
(FAR)
The primary document in the acquisitions regulations system containing uniform policies and procedures that govern the acquisition activities of all federal agencies. Most of these can be reviewed by the research administration staff, but they occasionally need to consult with faculty to make sure that particular activities (e.g. transfer and ownership of data, software, and other products) are consistent with FAR rules stipulated in a grant or contract.
FastLane Earliest electronic proposal submission system created by the National
Science Foundation (NSF). Use of FastLane is REQUIRED for submission
to NSF. Pre-award staff can assist in the process, but PIs submitting to NSF need to familiarize themselves with the system. Workshops are held regularly for this purpose.
Federal Rate
Agreement
The official document stating the percentage of designated cost categories that are to be used in the calculations of the Facilities and Administration costs (indirect costs) and in some cases, the fringe benefits that an institution may charge on federally sponsored projects.
Flow-Down
Clauses

Clauses proscribed by the Sponsor that are included in the rights and
responsibilities of the primary (prime) contractor to the subcontractor. As an example, clauses from the Federal Acquisition Regulations may be "flowed down" to the subcontracting academic institution from a corporate grant recipient of federal funds.


Gift A gift is an award that is bestowed upon the institution with few or no conditions or constraints. Gifts may be provided to establish an endowment, to support existing programs, or may be given to the university for entirely discretionary use. Although gifts might be targeted to a particular area of endeavor, or a benefactor's favorite topic (e.g. to support research on the Chesapeake Bay), there are usually no prescribed conditions beyond that for how the money may be used. There is not usually a detailed budget required beforehand and, once awarded, there are no formal reporting requirements for progress in a particular project, although a benefactor may enjoy hearing informally of the good results of the gift. Most institutions voluntarily provide such information. Flexibility and lack of restrictions make gifts attractive sources of support. At Old Dominion University, gifts are managed by the Office of Development. One might occasionally encounter gray zones in the nature of funding - "Is it a gift or a grant/sponsored program?," especially in dealing with some of the private foundations. Assistance in making these distinctions can be found within the Office of Research (683.3148) and the Office of Development (683.4471).
Grant An award to an organization in the name of a principal investigator to assist the organization in the conduct of research or other program as specified in an approved proposal. A grant is philosophically different from a contract, and therefore usually has more flexibility. For a grant, the idea and the activity originate with the PI and the agency deems it worthy of pursuit. The PI has the freedom to perform the research and alter it at her/his own discretion as results dictate. A contract usually has a prescribed work task that the agency wants done and therefore, there is less independence granted to the PI.
Guidelines The part of a program description that describes how the program will be administered as the basis on which applications will be judged. They should be followed carefully if a proposal is to be seriously considered.
Indirect Costs
(IDC's)
See Facilities and Administrative (F & A) Costs
In-Kind
(Contribution)
Non-cash contributions provided by the contractor/grantee/subcontractor. Contributions may be in the form of personal property, real property, or services. Some "matches" may allow in-kind services.
Institutional
Official (IO)
The individual who is authorized to endorse and attest to the Institution's ability and intent to perform the activities in the proposed project. Some agencies request a letter from the IO attesting to commitment. Other times, a signature on the cover sheet is all that is required. PIs, Chairs, and Deans are not considered institutional officials.
Letter of
Intent (LOI)
A letter sent to an agency to notify them of one's intent to submit a proposal. Some RFP's require these and sometimes it is optional. It is usually good form to provide one regardless of whether it is required. In some cases, an agency will need to make a preliminary "approval" to go forward with submission based on whether the LOI is deemed appropriate to the goals of the program. But in other cases it is for informational purposes only. The LOI usually has a deadline as well - some time before the proposal submission deadline.
Matching
Grants
A grant that requires a specified portion of the cost of a supported item of equipment or project to be obtained from other sources (in some cases the institution). The required match may be more or less than the amount of the grant. Matching grants are common in the sciences, especially for equipment. They are standard practice in some government agencies.
Modified Total Direct
Costs (MTDC)
The categories and limitations of the direct costs that can be used as the base from which the calculation of indirect costs is performed. Typically equipment, participant support costs, patient care costs, tuition, alterations and renovations, and any excess of $25,000 of outgoing sub-contractual costs are excluded from the total direct costs on which the indirect costs are calculated.
Office of Management &
Budget (OMB)
The office within the US Government with policy and legal oversight over grant and contract expenditures.
Overhead Indirect costs; see Facilities and Administrative (F & A) CostsIndirect costs; see Facilities and Administrative (F & A) Costs
Overrun The amount that the actual costs of a project exceeds the amount estimated by the parties to the agreement.
Program
Announcement
(PA)
A general announcement, usually with a lifetime of several years, which is issued when a new federal funding program is initiated (similar to a BAA, used by Dept. of Defense). The National Institutes of Health commonly use this mechanism to announce opportunities.
Pre-Proposal A brief description, usually 2-10 pages, of research plans and estimated budget, which is submitted to determine the interest of a particular agency prior to the submission of a formal proposal. Many agencies are going to two-stage processes such as these to reduce the number of full proposals that require a full review process.
Post-Award Activities related to the management of the project after the award has been made. An investigator will be assigned a post-award administrator from the Research Foundation that usually will work with you for the life of the award. Activities include purchasing, reporting, close outs and other budgetary management actions.
Pre-Award Activities related to proposal preparation and submission. Pre-award ends when an award is made or the proposal is denied for funding.
Principal Investigator (PI)
Project Director
The individual who will direct the project and who is designated by the institution as responsible for completing the project. The PI has responsibilities to the institution and to the agency in the conduct of the research. Some agencies recognize Co-PIs if multiple faculty participate or if faculty from various institutions have primary roles for subcomponents of a project.
Program Officer/Project
Director
A designated individual within an agency officially responsible for the technical, scientific, or programmatic aspects of a particular grant or contract opportunity. It is always useful and considered mandatory by some agencies, such as Army Research Office and Office of Naval Research, to contact this person prior to submission to discuss your project in the context of the needs of the agency. These conversations can save much time and effort by keeping you from heading down paths with your project that are not consistent with their program goals.
Proposal Trasmittal
Form
The institutional checklist and sign-off sheet for all responsible parties (investigators, chairs, deans) that is required before the proposal submission. This is the formal documentation and commitment by these parties in the event that the proposal is funded and will delineate and document any costsharing or matching commitments. It should be completed in a timely fashion to assure that signatures can be obtained. Proposals will not be submitted until the completed document is received by the Pre-award staff.
Representations &
Certifications
Attestations related to the university's compliance with various federal regulatory issues which usually includes issues such as smoke-free workplace, non discrimination, disclosure of lobbying activities, protection of human and animal subjects, as well as environmental compliance. It must be signed by the Institutional Official. The PI is responsible for obtaining any approvals from appropriate committees as required by the solicitation. Some agencies require committee approvals prior to or within a discrete time frame after proposal submission; others only require it if awarded (usually some months later).
Review Panel A group of peer reviewers assembled for the purpose of evaluating proposals. This group usually makes a recommendation to some form of board or council for final decision, but is usually the group that will prioritize proposals for funding likelihood.
Request for
Applications (RFA)
A solicitation or call for proposals. This document should tell you everything you need to know about submitting to the program for funds, including programs goals, institutional and PI eligibility, formatting of the proposal, budget limitations, cost sharing, etc. It must be read very carefully several times to assure appropriate and timely submission.
Request for
Proposals (RFP)
A solicitation or Call for Proposals. See RFA.
Research Foundation (ODURF) The Old Dominion University Research Foundation was established in 1965 as a private not-forprofit 501(c)3 corporation. The corporation was organized and conducts its operations for the exclusive benefit of Old Dominion University, a Commonwealth of Virginia institution of higher learning. The purpose of the corporation is to serve as the administrative, financial, and fiscal agent for Old Dominion University in research and sponsored program administration.
Small Business
Innovative Research
Grant (SBIR)
A federal program that many agencies participate in to inspire the development and commercialization of new technologies. It may be grants or contracts and have 3 distinct phases. While academic institutions can be partners on these proposals, the submitters MUST be a small business. The institution is usually a subcontractor and the budget amounts are specific to all parties.
Small
Business
Technology
Transfer
Research Grant (STTR)
Similar to SBIR, but an academic partner is a requirement rather than an option. Submission is by (and award is to) the business entity.
Solicitaiton The formal announcement of the availability of funds for a specific program.
Sponsored
Program
A sponsored program is an award to an organization to fund, under the guidance of a principal investigator, a specific project, program, or center of research or other scholarly activity. Award is contingent on many constraints including judged merit of a project, consistency with the agency's objectives, a timed cycle for the use of funds, restriction of funds to "allowable" cost categories (which may vary depending on the agency), and a formal reporting requirement as to progress and at the end of the funding period. There is less, or in some cases, no discretion as to how funds may be used and the use of funds must be auditable by the agency, upon request. Hence, the onus for the proper use of funds and the documentation of such is much greater for a sponsored program, increasing the administration that is necessary to assure that all of the requirements are met by the recipient institution. All proposals/contracts for sponsored programs, whether they be from a company, federal agency, or profit/ non-profit organization, are submitted via the ODU Research Foundation.
Technology
Transfer
The process where technology or know-how developed during the course of a research project can be conveyed to other areas and/or implemented on a commercial level. Click here for ODU Technology Transfer/Intellectual Property Website.
Unsolicited
Proposal
Proposals submitted to an agency that are not in response to a particular program or contract announcement but are research projects that the proposer believes the agency might be interested in funding. Many federal agencies accept unsolicited proposals and have mechanisms for this submission. For example, the NIH has the "R01" which is their basic mechanism for an independent investigator award. There are routine cycles throughout the year for these grants and the investigator submits to the relevant institute. Sometimes the same grant can be submitted to more than one institute if the topic has cross relevance.