The Award Life Cycle
Investigators can search for funding opportunities using databases like Community of Science Pivot and Grants.gov. There are also a number of internal awards available. The Office of Sponsored Programs maintains a comprehensive listing of state, local, not-for-profit foundation and federal sources of funds. Investigators should notify their department when deciding to apply for sponsored funding.
In conjunction with their department’s research administrator, the investigator prepares a proposal package for submission to the sponsor. For federal agencies, there are standardized forms and processes in place for proposal submission. For all other sources, including state, local and foundation sponsors, a variety of submission mechanisms are used. The investigator and research administrator work with the School of Medicine Dean’s Office and the Office of Sponsored Programs to prepare an accurate and comprehensive proposal.
Office of Sponsored Programs is responsible for negotiating terms and conditions of an award with sponsors. A sponsor may request budget revisions at the time of award, particularly if the budget has been reduced. The PI and research administrator should work with Office of Sponsored Programs to review and comment on any changes. The department should make sure the scope of work, budget and payment terms are acceptable for carrying out the project. An updated scope of work may also be required as a result of a severe budget reduction. Industry Clinical Trials in particular typically require significant input from the investigator and the department in the budget and contract negotiation phase.
Once Office of Sponsored Programs receives an award notification from the sponsor or finalizes negotiations, it will officially award the proposal in VCU’s InfoEd system. The PI, the department, and Grants and Contracts Accounting will receive official notification from Office of Sponsored Programs when the award has been fully processed. The PI should work with their department or center RA to establish a start-up plan for the project, including a financial plan and clear assignment of roles and responsibilities for project staff and support staff.
The PI carries out the project according to the scope of work, directing project staff and reporting progress to the sponsor as required per the award. The PI also works with the department RA and other department/center/school administrators to accurately and compliantly financially and administratively manage the award. The National Institutes of Health provides several resources for the PI regarding the responsible conduct of research in addition to VCU’s Research Compliance Matrix.
- VCU Research Compliance Matrix
- DHHS Office of Research Integrity
- NIH’s bioethics resources
- Award management
The RA should work with the PI to review monthly expense reports and ensure appropriate back-up documentation is maintained in the department files to support charges allocated to the sponsored project. All changes in project effort should be documented and carried out in a timely manner. The Research Dashboard is a tool for both the RAs and the PIs to use in project management. It is the PI’s responsibility to submit all technical and progress reports to the sponsor on a timely basis. The RA and PI should work together to plan out future and ongoing project expenses in order to capture an accurate picture of the award’s progress to date.
Beginning 90 days prior to the project’s end date, the PI and RA work with Grants and Contracts Accounting to either close out the project and return any remaining funds to the sponsor, close out the project and pool any remaining funds (if project is a fixed price agreement), or request a no-cost extension or continuation year of the project end date. In closing out an award, the investigator works with their RA and Grants and Contracts Accountant to review, certify and submit all required final financial reports to the sponsor. It is the PI’s responsibility to submit all required final technical reports to the sponsor.