by Leslie Schmidt
What is a sponsored project
The term "sponsored project" typically refers to monetary awards including grants, contracts,
subcontracts and agreements that are funded by external sponsors such as the National Science
Foundation or the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct specified research, training
or public-service projects. Sponsors expect that work conducted with their funds will be in
accordance with the proposal that was submitted and any negotiated award that resulted from
the proposal. External sponsors can be state or federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit groups,
or private enterprises including businesses.
How do I submit a proposal?
The first step in submitting a proposal to a potential funding agency, once the proposal is
written, is to complete the MSU Proposal Clearance Form. Forms can be found on the Grants &
Contracts web page.
This form is used for internal purposes only and provides the basic information regarding
projects. As it is an internal form, handwritten forms are acceptable and are requested to be
in the Grants & Contracts office at least 24 hours prior to the due date at the agency or
sponsor. The Proposal Clearance Form signifies that certain regulatory obligations have been
taken into consideration such as conflict of interest, human subjects or animal use, data
rights and other approvals prior to the proposal being submitted to the external agency.
Signatures need to be obtained from the department head and dean prior to submission to
Grants & Contracts.
What is the difference between a grant and a contract?
Grant - "A type of financial assistance awarded to an organization for the conduct of research
or other program as specified in an approved proposal. A grant, as opposed to a cooperative
agreement, is used whenever the awarding office anticipates no substantial programmatic
involvement with the recipient during the performance of the activities."
Contract - "A mechanism for procurement of a product or service with specific obligations for
both sponsor and recipient. Typically, a research topic and the methods for conducting the
research are specified in detail by the sponsor, although some sponsors award contracts in
response to unsolicited proposals." (Sources: National Council of University Research
Administrators and the University of Minnesota.)
The difference between a grant and a contract is basically a determination by the funding
source as to the type of funding mechanism they prefer.
Grants are awarded to the organization for research programs and typically are less
restrictive than a contract or "co-op" agreement. A sponsor will typically issue a
contract or cooperative agreement when it anticipates more involvement or wishes to have
more control over a project. Hence, contracts are more restrictive in nature with specific
deliverable products spelled out in the contract.
Anyone with questions regarding these or any other grant and contract topics should feel free
to contact our office at 994-2381.
Leslie Schmidt is director of the MSU Grants and Contracts Office.