Broadly defined, an award is financial support for a specific research project, training or educational program, equipment purchase, or other activity. Federal agencies and many private research sponsors categorize awards into the four basic types described below. The categories determine how the funds are allocated and controlled and each type of award carries with it a set of regulations and responsibilities to which PI’s must adhere.

  • Grants are transfers of funds to support scientific projects in which the sponsor has an interest but does not play an active role. The grant is given without expectation of delivery of a specific product or service other than periodic reports and/or a final written report. Grants are written documents with general terms and conditions that usually stipulate a project period and minimal reporting requirements. Grants typically fund basic research, fellowships, and training.
  • Contracts are entered into to provide support for a specific, often narrowly focused, set of tasks for the direct benefit of the sponsor. Contracts are legal documents by which a non-Federal entity purchases property or services needed to carry out a project or program under a Federal or private award. Contracts vary from subcontracts or sub grants, also known as “subawards.”
  • Subawards/subcontracts/subgrants are grants and awards provided by the prime recipient to a subrecipient to carry out part of a Federal award. Subawards are typically subject to the terms and conditions of the prime award. MSU maintains policies on subawards that must be adhered to. For further guidance on Subcontracts/Subawards, consult OSP’s Subaward page.
  • Cooperative Agreements are legal instruments of financial assistance between a Federal awarding agency and a recipient wherein there is substantial involvement between the two parties in carrying out the funded project.
  • Testing Agreements are for the purpose of third-party requests to use MSU laboratories, equipment, and expertise to perform fee-based testing using protocols specified by the third party, and performed primarily for their benefit. Testing agreements are not considered sponsored research and MSU has adopted a policy for when these agreements are appropriate as well as developed forms to be submitted. Contact the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) for information related to testing agreements.

1010.00 Receipt of Award

The Vice President for Research or his/her designee has authority to accept an award on behalf of MSU. MSU requires that all sponsored awards be processed, and all award documentation be sent to OSP to be reviewed and accepted on behalf of the University. Any documents sent directly to the PI must be sent immediately to OSP upon receipt.

1020.00 Negotiation and Acceptance of Awards

OSP reviews all terms and conditions of an award and assures Legal Counsel and Technology Transfer before acceptance to ensure that the sponsor’s requirements are compatible with law and MSU’s policies and procedures. A sponsored award binds both the sponsor and MSU to certain commitments, it is important that the terms are clearly understood and that all concerns are resolved before the award is accepted. OSP assumes primary responsibility and takes the lead in negotiating terms between MSU and the sponsor. PI’s are not expected or encouraged to negotiate with external sponsors, although they may be asked to participate in discussions with the agency concerning programmatic issues. If a PI is contacted directly by a sponsor regarding the terms of an award under discussion, the sponsor should be referred to OSP.

1030.00 Signature Authority

Many sponsors require the signature of an authorized institutional official to formally accept the terms and conditions of the award. OSP is responsible for obtaining the appropriate institutional signature. Investigators are cautioned against signing any University agreements or material transfers. These agreements bind the University to certain obligations and, as such, can only be signed by those who have delegated authority signature. Please visit the Delegation of Authority Policy for information.

1040.00 Account Set-up

Once an award has been accepted, an index/fund number is established by OSP to allow expenditures to be incurred. This signifies that the fund is active under the management of OSP and is subject to restricted use as determined by the award terms and MSU policies and procedures. Once notified of the index/fund number, PI’s may charge allowable project expenses against the account within the start and end date, and purposes justified in the proposal budget.

1050.00 Pre-Award/Late Award Account Set-up

Under certain conditions, a PI may request an account prior to the actual receipt of the award. Most Federal grants permit the incurrence of pre-award costs and MSU permits expenditures which conform to MSU’s Cost Transfer Policy as well as Uniform Guidance, Section 200.458 which details the conditions upon which pre-award expenditures may be allowed. MSU’s OPAS Committee is authorized to award these expenditures and upon verification of the expected award and award start date, a request for pre-award spending may be submitted to OSP via the OPAS forms. However, if it is determined that funding is not ultimately available, the PI and Department shall assume responsibility for all expenses posted to the grant.