The RAT Pack

Look around your research administration office – How did all of your colleagues get there?  When you take stock of the research administration field, most people are transplants, and hardly anyone came into this field with a well-rounded knowledge about the entire research administration process.  Instead, new hires possessed experience in a handful of the facets of the area (e.g. contract negotiations, budgeting), and learned on the job how to utilize these talents in a university research setting.  In an effort to groom future research admin personnel and provide a glimpse into the responsibilities of each office, Johns Hopkins developed the Research Administration Trainee Program, or the RAT Pack.

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Confidentiality: When and Why?

Many of the agreements we execute (e.g. MOUs, subcontracts) contain a provision that we keep information disclosed to us from the other party confidential.  In such cases, we have a duty of care for handling that information – We are obligated to use a reasonable degree of care to protect and preserve the confidentiality using procedures no less rigorous than those used to protect our own proprietary information.  Consequently, we are agreeing that we won’t share or disclose the confidential information (CI) of the other party to any third parties, nor use the information outside of what is required by the contract, without the consent of the other party.

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Getting To Know You (err, Your Awards)

Funding may take several forms, and the type of award will determine not only the obligations of your school, but also which member of ORA will be reviewing and processing your agreement.  One of the most common errors we encounter is a grant being routed as a contract, or vice versa, so here’s a quick rundown of the different award types.

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Federal Money and Intellectual Property

Given the breadth of the research programs originating from Johns Hopkins, it’s not surprising that our office handles contractual opportunities from sponsors of myriad scope and size.  For every Gates Foundation, we’ll talk turkey with a small, limited-resource organization whose funding activities are not nearly as frequent as those of their larger colleagues.  Generally, we’ll push for roughly the same obligations for a project regardless of sponsor.  However, there are a few contractual terms that do vary depending on the nature of the funding party, and one such clause is that which relates to the ownership of any intellectual property created during the course of the funded project.

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Is it a Consultant or a Subrecipient?

In keeping with our FAQ theme, one query that our office receives with some regularity relates to whether a proposed third party is a consultant/independent contractor or a subrecipient.  To answer the question, we generally consult OMB Circular A-133, which is the legal basis upon which ORA determines whether an entity providing services to us is a vendor (aka a consultant or independent contractor) or a subrecipient.  Accurate classification is critical to ensure proper accounting for costs and compliance requirements, so here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you make the correct determination.

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Communication in the Technology Age

Communication is key; ask anyone, especially anyone in a service-oriented office like ours. In this information hungry world, the average person texts, IMs, tweets and posts more than they spend handling a pen. However, most of the today’s workforce probably spent more time learning how to properly form a cursive E than how to craft an electronic message.  Emails have all but replaced “snail mail,” but formatting acceptable for an email is different than that used by Grandma to send you your birthday money.

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