Frequently Asked Questions
Since the category of my research is ‘exempt,’ must I submit an IRB application?
My survey is not considered human subjects research, is it?
I’m conducting research that requires me to look at school records. Do I need to submit an IRB application?
If I am just analyzing existing data, do I need to fill out an Institutional Review Board (IRB) form?
What resources are available to help me locate funding? The website http://www.grants.gov is a great resource for locating federal grants private grants may be found at the Foundation Center website http://foundationcenter.org . You may also contact Jennie Vitty-Rogers the Pre-Award specialist at the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) at (678) 915-3174.
What should I be familiar with before I begin preparing my proposal? Read the complete program solicitation and description. It contains information such as the deadline for submission, total number of awards to be given, typical dollar range of awards to be given, proposal requirements, submission requirements, and funder contact information. It is vital to contact the funder’s program officer prior to beginning work on any proposal. They are happy to listen to your project ideas and make recommendations as to whether it is a project that falls within the scope of their solicitation. If it does not fall within a particular solicitation they may recommend a program that might be interested.
I plan to submit a proposal to a program that only accepts one (or a limited number of) proposal(s) per institution. What should I do? Researchers should always contact the Office of Sponsored Programs as soon as you decide to proceed with any proposal. If, by chance, you are planning on responding to a solicitation that limits the number of proposals from a single institution OSP must be notified immediately so that your proposal can be considered for submission by the University. If multiple proposals are brought to the OSP they will be submitted to the Deans Council for a merit review and the decision of which proposal the University will submit will be made at that time.
How do we team with investigators at other schools? Collaborative proposals are encouraged by the federal granting authorities. Many researchers collaborate with faculty from other institutions that they either have done previous work with or have met at professional conferences. Professional networking is an important key to collaborations!
How late can I bring my proposal to OSP and still get it out? The most important thing is to let OSP know that you intend to submit a proposal as soon as possible, preferably one month or more in advance of the submission date. They will work with you to set up a schedule for preparing the proposal. OSP can actually be working on different aspects of the submission package before they see the text of the proposal but only if you let them know about it in advance.
The time required for review of a proposal varies with its size, complexity, completeness, accuracy, and care taken in its preparation and prior review. If the proposal is in response to an announcement or a solicitation, the OSP needs advance notice so that we can review the solicitation’s specific instructions. Proposals containing unconventional or unique features, including cost sharing commitments, fixed price agreements, or conditions necessitating legal review, may require additional lead time. Time is required to prepare the certifications and other required documents to be included in the proposal, and for the Director to review the proposal to ensure that everything is in accordance with University policies and solicitation instructions.
The time to review any particular proposal also depends upon the amount of work already in the OSP and the staff availability when it is received. If the proposal is large and complicated, or the proposal is going out on a big deadline day when many other proposals are going out, there is a physical limit to how many can be approved and submitted. To allow for necessary corrections and revisions and for greater assurance that sponsor deadlines will be met, we urge you to contact the Office of Sponsored Programs as soon as you are aware that you intend to submit a proposal.
How do I prepare a budget? The OSP has budget worksheets available to you to map out your budget plan. Please make an appointment with Betsy Adams, Director, Office of Sponsored Programs at (678) 915-3156, EAdams@spsu.edu, as early as possible in your project development to get the budget approved and to ensure there is enough time to complete the required federal budget forms and required grant compliance documents.
What are allowable costs? That depends on the funder and/or program. It is essential to forward the grant solicitation to OSP so that budget restrictions can be identified in advance of developing the working budget. You should not assume that costs allowed in one solicitation will be allowed in another.
What is an Indirect Cost or Overhead Rate? Indirect cost rates, also known as Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, are federally negotiated rates that allow a recipient to recover certain support costs that cannot be specifically identified with a particular sponsored project. These costs include general administration, buildings, building operation and maintenance, depreciation, and charges for the use of equipment and facilities, and libraries.
Do I have to include Indirect Costs? The simple answer is yes. Indirect costs are real costs of conducting research. There are however, some solicitations that restrict the amount of indirect costs that are recovered such as off campus training grants. These solicitations will be reviewed and the decision as to whether the University wishes to accept a lower rate will reside with the VPAA and/or the Deans Council.
What does “my” Indirect cost buy for me? As stated above these costs are to recover general administration, building operation costs, and chares for the use of equipment and facilities. A portion of these costs are given to the Dean and Department Chairs to spend at their discretion. They may choose to spend some of these funds to support you but, you are not automatically entitled to these funds.
What is the difference between a subcontract and a consulting agreement? The primary difference is that a subcontract is almost invariably with another Institution or with a company, and a consulting agreement is almost invariably with an individual (non-SPSU employee). Sub-contractual effort usually entails the transfer of a portion of the primary project to be performed at another institution (non-SPSU). The agreement usually involves the other institution’s full project costs, including its negotiated Indirect Cost (Facilities & Administrative) Rate, and comes to us with a statement of work, full budget and a "letter of intent" to perform the assigned task should an award be made.
Consulting effort is usually limited to the performance of an “advisory” type activity by one individual. Activity is generally short term or infrequent and the pay line is usually determined by a rate per day which includes travel, expenses, and any other overhead. Consultants set their own hours, use their own equipment and materials, choose their work methods, and are responsible for paying taxes on their earnings as consultants. They will receive Tax Form 1099 from SPARC or SPSU.
What is an NDA and who is authorized to sign them? Non-disclosure agreements are intended to allow for the sharing and protection of proprietary information. An inventor or research may want to work with you on the condition that you do not reveal their proprietary information to anyone else. It is important that you know that if you sign such a document, you are doing so on your own behalf and not on behalf of the school, the department, your students or anyone else. Our policy is not to sign NDA’s for the school. We also advise caution in signing NDA’s because you may be agreeing not to share something that you have independently conceived of on your own.
I am the principal investigator and I have just signed a nondisclosure agreement with my sponsor. What do I do now?PI’s should not enter into NDA’s for sponsored research. Those who do may be politely warned that they could be personally liable for any agreement they sign.
Where can I get training on using various electronic tools that apply to research administration? The Office of Sponsored Programs is happy to provide training on the various electronic tools used in sponsored programs. To schedule your personal training session please contact Betsy Adams at (678) 915-3156.
What does the Contracting Officer need in addition to my proposal? The proposal narrative is only one part of the package that is submitted to funders. Most funders require: Biographical Sketches of the project team, Current and Pending Support information for the project team, a listing of campus facilities that are available to the researcher to conduct their project, a Data Management Plan, letters of support from the University administration and collaborators, a completed budget and justification, and of course the long list of required federal certifications. Please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs early on in your proposal preparation, as we can assist you in completing this long list of requirements. Some of these items are already on file with our office.
Where can I obtain information electronically about my proposal or project? If you have submitted your proposal through NSF Fastlane you will be able to sign on using your last name, NSF ID Number and Password that you set up with the OSP. If you forget your ID number or password, please contact the OSP for assistance.
Isn’t a PI the Authorized Official? No. A formal proposal to conduct research or a training project with support from an external agency represents an offer to perform services by the Southern Polytechnic Applied Research Corporation (SPARC) on behalf of Southern Polytechnic State University. It is necessary, therefore, that any such proposal has the endorsement of those individuals authorized to commit the University’s resources and/or enter into a legal contract for services as well as the endorsement of those individuals responsible for carrying out the project (i.e., the P.I.) as well. Prior to submission, all sponsored project proposals, grants, sub-contracts, and contractual agreements must be reviewed by the Office of Sponsored Programs to ensure institutional eligibility, conformity to sponsor guidelines, accuracy of budget, applicability of cash match and cost-sharing, human subjects or animal use approvals, etc. Proposals are also reviewed to ensure that any commitments included are consistent with Institute policies, as well as to ascertain approval of proposal by department chairs, deans, and center directors.
What is our Fiscal Year? A fiscal year is a 12-month period used for accounting purposes. For example, the federal fiscal year is October 1 through September 30, while the state of Georgia, SPSU and SPARC use July 1 through June 30.
How will I know that my proposal has been awarded? Funders normally notify the Office of Sponsored Programs of the award, and may copy you on the notice. There is normally additional paperwork and negotiations that the OSP completes prior to the final Award document being received from the funder. For awards that are not funded in full the OSP will notify you immediately for your decision on whether you can complete the work as funded or need to reduce the scope of work initially proposed.
Once my proposal is awarded, what is the role of the Contracting Officer? The Contracting Officer will review the progress of your project, review your progress reports and is the person to contact if you need to change the scope of your work or have any major changes to your approved budget.
When can I begin expending funds? You can start spending the first day of the performance period indicated in the official notification and project number has been assigned from OSP. Incidentally, the project will keep the same number throughout its life.
An award letter came directly to me from an agency. How fast can I get a project number (so I can use the funds)? All of the funding actions differ in terms and conditions. Grants generally have standard terms and conditions although any outstanding issues from the proposal stage (eg: human subjects or animal care and use approval) may delay an award indefinitely. The final terms of contracts must be negotiated and documents executed by both parties. Therefore, a project number may be issued as quickly as within one day or as long as a week, depending on the complexities of the award (i.e., subcontracts, liability provisions and laws of other states, intellectual property rights, or a need for a submission of an adjusted budget). It is not unusual for large contracts or those with complex intellectual property provisions to require a couple of weeks.
How do I make purchases and charge them to the grant or contract? The Office of Sponsored Programs has an Expenditure Request Form that will need to be completed for all grant and contract expenditures. You will meet with the Post-Award Specialist, Kathy Roddy, and Betsy Adams for an orientation of SPARC purchasing procedures and to go over the budget that has been awarded.
How will I know how much money I have left? Monthly detailed financial reports will be sent to the Principal Investigator. If you have questions in between reports you may contact Kathy Roddy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (678) 915-3713.
What if I chose to leave SPSU before my project is finished? All awards are made directly to the Southern Polytechnic Applied Research Corporation for Southern Polytechnic State University. Any transfer of an award requires a three party agreement negotiated between yourself, SPARC/SPSU, and your new place of employment.
What is our procedure for submitting deliverables? It depends upon the deliverable. Most deliverables are in the form of yearly and final reports to your Contracting Officer/Funder. If the deliverable is an object the submission will be outlined in your award agreement.
Once my project is complete, what is done to close out my contract? Final financial and progress reports must be completed and accepted by the funder. You may also need to submit an invention/patent disclosure form to the funder. This form may be obtained from the OSP.
What is the Southern Polytechnic Applied Research Corporation (SPARC)? SPARC is a non-profit, tax exempt corporation chartered in the State of Georgia to serve as cooperative Organization of Southern Polytechnic State University and operates under an agreement with the Board of Regents. SPARC is the legal entity that negotiates and accepts grant awards and sponsored service contracts on behalf of Southern Polytechnic State University.
Since the category of my research is ‘exempt,’ must I submit an IRB application? Yes. The investigator may not make a determination of exemption for research with human subjects. All research activities involving human subjects must be reviewed by SPSU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). This policy applies to all faculty, staff, and student projects, regardless of whether the project is funded externally, internally, or receives no funding support. This policy includes reviewing research that may be considered exempt from federal regulation. The IRB is the only committee that may determine whether a protocol falls into the category of exempt from further review, expedited review, or full board review.
My survey is not considered human subjects research, is it? It depends. Research with human subjects does include surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. The federal regulations state that research with human subjects includes any intervention or interaction with the subjects. Yes, some surveys would not really be considered research. However, you are advised to contact the IRB Chair to be sure (IRB@spsu.edu).
I am conducting research that requires me to look at school records. Do I need to submit an IRB application? Yes, you do need to fill out and submit for review an IRB application because you are collecting data about humans. The IRB application package is located in the Research P & P area of the SPSU Policies and Procedures web site at: /pandp/600/604_0.pdf
If I am just analyzing existing data, do I need to fill out an Institutional Review Board (IRB) form? Yes, due to federal regulations, you do need to fill out and submit for review an IRB application package.
Does anybody have to approve what I publish based on my research? It depends on the details of the contractual agreement that was signed when your project was awarded. Some funders request written permission and the chance to review all publications resulting from the grant or contract. If you have any questions regarding the contractual agreement please contact Betsy Adams at (678) 915-3156 and she will review any prior approval requirements included with your funding agreement with you.
Are there limits on what and where I can publish my results? Once again it depends on the details of the contractual agreement. Some funders may restrict where the results of research may be published. If you have any questions regarding the contractual agreement please contact Betsy Adams at (678) 915-3156 and she will review any publishing limits included with your funding agreement with you.