Calling all scientists cozy with NSF! As the May and June deadlines for significant NSF proposals approach, take a moment to stop and smell the policy changes. As of March 26, NSF has made major changes to new user registration, as well account information maintenance. Research.gov and Fastlane users will now have a single profile and a unique identifier (i.e., NSF ID) for signing in to FastLane and Research.gov for proposal and award activities. Here’s where to go from here:
- New users are now able to register directly through Research.gov. As such, it is no longer necessary to have SPA register a basic username, though some specialty roles will still need SPA approval in the system.
- Existing users in Fastlane will be migrated to the new system. To this end, you will sign in to FastLane or Research.gov and verify information; this is a simple migration and should only take you a few minutes.
- Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID, or retrieve passwords that may have been forgotten.
For the full rundown on the new requirements, take a look at the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (NSF 18-1), Chapter I.G.4. Still need a little help? NSF has provided a step-by-step job aid. Bear in mind the PI and all co-PIs Grants.gov proposal must all be registered with NSF prior to proposal submission. NSF IDs for the PIs and all co-PIs listed (and your GCO) will need to be included in the proposal submission.
NSF is steadily revising their submission policies and procedures. If you haven’t yet glanced at their summary of changes from January, now may be a good time. You will notice changes to collaborator templates, the addition of an “Intellectual Merits” section to the Project Description, and an increased page limit on the Budget and Budget Justification, among other things. In the March changes, you’ll also notice that valid DUNS numbers are required for subs at time of submission. If you’re not sure how one of these changes may affect you, please feel free to contact your GCO at any time!
The words “site visit” can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned investigator. If you’re getting ready to welcome your funder, fear not: a little preparation and team work will have all of your hard work shining like a diamond and leaving ‘em wanting more.
Start at home:
Once you have identified a site visit location, perform a thorough review of the project activities taking place there. Don’t freak yourself out; address questionable items, but remember that site visits are expensive, so your funder would not be visiting your lab unless it considered your research promising. Beyond visual presentation, be sure to look for any audit issues (are the people working on your project the ones you said were committing effort? What about the equipment being used? etc.). If you find something you’re unsure of, communicate potential issues with SPA and Internal Audits so you can work together for a resolution.
I’ve got just the place; now what?
Your department will facilitate logistics of on-campus visits. You’ll set up the tours, and, depending on the visiting funder, lodging and travel arrangements. Once your guests arrive, be prepared to discuss all programmatic aspects of the program. Have a mock visit with your lab; expound on experience review, address questions, and discuss possible follow-up. Collaborate on audit responses, and ask other faculty about their site visit experiences.
How can SPA help me?
SPA will act as a liaison between the site visitors (auditors), your department and Internal Audit. Please forward all site visit requests to SPA as soon as you receive them so they may start to prepare for the visit. They will correspond with Internal Audit. SPA will acquire, review and provide all financial data associated with your project, and clarify questions about financial activity. SPA will also help you to address any audit findings that require clarification and work with you and Internal Audit on responses.
Why do you keep saying “Internal Audit?” That sounds scary!
Internal Audit is not scary. It is their job to oversee the overall audit, and follow up on information requests. While you’re focusing on the science, they write and issue audit responses and follow up on the implementation of audit recommendations.
You must have all of your financial and programmatic ducks in a row before your site visitors arrive, so you can be prepared to highlight work without being hit with questions for which you are unprepared. The best insurance for a successful site visit is for PIs to get themselves and their research team members prepared, mentally and physically. Think of the site visit positively, and to try to find out in detail what issues the visitors will want to address. Your mission is to find out as much as possible about the items of concern to the site visit committee, and what the site visitors expect you to provide. With some help from your department, SPA and Internal Audit, you will be solidly prepared to make your site visit a powerful tool in your quest for continued funding!
When Wayne State and another organization love each other very much, they enter into a mutually binding agreement that is enforceable by law. Once you’re ready, be sure to use Evisions; email can be dangerous and lead to unpleasant results.
SPA has a very specific procedure for the establishment of contracts, which ensures a beneficial, manageable relationship for all parties involved. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the steps to ensure efficient, expedient establishment (read: you’ll get your money faster).
SPA’s Procedure for Processing (non-clinical/pharmaceutical) Contracts:
- Before the Contract Officer* can begin a review, the Administrator and/or PI must enter a complete proposal into Evisions and route for approval. A complete proposal consists of a PI certified eProp submission as well as the following attachments: (1) the contract/agreement, (2) an affirmation memo signed by the PI, (3) the negotiated and sponsor approved budget (if not attached to the contract), (4) the completed contract checklist, and (5) any misc. information needed to process the contract (e.g. sponsor contact information). The SPA Contracts Team reviews all proposals entered into Evisions to determine if there is a contract associated. If there is not a contract, “Timothy Foley” will be selected as the Contract Specialist in Evisions and the appropriate Grant and Contract Officer will proceed with their normal course of review. If there is an associated contract, the proposal will move to Step 2.
- Once received via Evisions (not via email!) the Contract Officer will be selected as the “Contract Specialist” in Evisions, review the complete proposal, and begin the negotiation process. The Contract Officer will then establish a negotiation in the COEUS Contracts module to enable the Administrator and/or PI to track the contract negotiation via Researcher’s Dashboard. The contract and affirmation memo will be sent to the Office of General Counsel (OGC) within 3 business days (if necessary).
Note: If a proposal was submitted without a contract, but a contract is received by the GCO at the time of award, the GCO should notify the Contracts Team as soon as possible, by way of Patty or the appropriate Contract Officer (if known), so that the Contract Officer can proceed with contract negotiations.
Hooray for you! You’ve steadied your course! Evisions has been navigated! When the GCO approves your contract (or it was previously approved) , the Contract Officer will request and obtain the necessary signatures and return the contract to the sponsor.
But maybe your contract WON’T be approved OGC . [Insert sad trombone music here] What now?
If the contract comes back NOT APPROVED by OGC:
- The Contract Officer will handle all contract negotiations. The Contract Officer will email the sponsor with the requested changes. The PI and/or Administrator will be copied on the correspondence with the sponsor as appropriate.
- Once the Contract Officer receives a response to the requested changes from the sponsor, the Contract Officer will review the contract, get input from the PI or Administrator if necessary, and return the updated contract to OGC for review. If the contract has further requested changes, the Contract Officer will continue the negotiation process until a mutually agreed upon contract is confirmed. The end result is a fully executed approved contract.
So you have a fully-executed contract. Now what?
Once your contract is executed:
- Once the contract is fully-executed and IRB or IACUC approval has been received by the Contract Officer (if necessary), the contract and relevant documents will be turned over to the Grant and Contract Officer for index establishment.
- The index number and fully executed contract will be available on Researcher’s Dashboard.
Questions? Concerns? You know where to find us!
* Note: “Contract Officer” is the Grant/Contract Officer on the Contracts Team, it is referred to as “Contract Officer” here for clarity purposes.
You may occasionally ask yourself, “I wonder what’s up with the Federal Register these days?” Well is this the post for you! On March 14, that bastion of registries federal posted the Final Notice of Research Terms and Conditions (RTC) To Address and Implement the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards Issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and man, is it ever widely applicable. Except to the Department of Defense. They march to their own drummer.
- Department of Agriculture / National Institute of Food and Agriculture (June 1, 2017)
- Department of Commerce (October 1, 2017)
- Department of Energy (April 3, 2017)
- Department of Health and Human Services / National Institutes of Health (April 3, 2017)
- Department of Homeland Security (to be determined)
- Department of Transportation (October 1, 2017)
- Environmental Protection Agency (December 2017)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (October 1, 2017)
- National Science Foundation (April 3, 2017)
Again, notice DoD is not on this list. They fully intend to comply UG in their own way, and they can do that presumably because of the “you and what army” rule.
The RTCs will make all awards from the above agencies subject to the administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements set forth by the UG. If you’ve been preparing for this moment since 2014, congratulations on your big day: it’s finally arrived.
Be on the lookout! In addition to the RTCs, three companion resources will be developed: Appendix A, Prior Approval Matrix; Appendix B, Subaward Requirements Matrix; and Appendix C, National Policy Requirements Matrix. Questions about how this affects your award management going forward? Your GCO will help you find answers!
With so many research opportunities to sift through, it’s no wonder that some agencies try to be as focused as possible in the projects they consider. One method used is the “limited funding opportunity,” in which the potential funder will only consider a finite number of applications from any given institution (often, that finite number is “one.”)
Here at Wayne State University, Sarah James is your go-to person for limited funding opportunity administration. In order to ensure the highest likelihood of proposal acceptance, it is Sarah’s office in the Division of Research that ensures the best-fit candidate from Wayne State is matched with the limited opportunity, and prevents extra work from being done on an opportunity that has already been claimed. Many limited submission opportunities are listed on a dedicated website, but the list is by no means exhaustive: if you run across an opportunity that limits the number of applications from a single university, you must contact Sarah James before you submit, whether the opportunity is listed on WSU’s site or not.
If multiple parties from WSU are interested in a limited opportunity, the Division of Research will hold an internal competition to consider whether a pre-proposal meets all eligibility requirements specified by the funding organization RFA, are scientifically and technically strong, and promote the greater WSU research mission. Every situation is unique, so don’t waste your time: contact the Division of Research right away if you find a limited submission of interest!