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.

1. Contracts

Contracts are legal agreements used for procuring a specific service or product. (When another organization subcontracts to JHU, it is also done via a contract, but it is classified as a ‘subcontract’ for record-keeping purposes.) In the case of fixed-price contracts, a set lump-sum payment is established in advance for performance of a specified set of tasks or delivery of a certain service (e.g., $/lab test per completed patient), and payment is limited to such price multiplied by the number of units performed. Cost-reimbursement contracts provide for payment of actual costs incurred, up to a ceiling amount equal to the total estimated cost stated in the contract. The contractor may discontinue work on the project after costs reach this upper limit, unless the sponsor increases the total contract. However, the reporting and record-keeping necessary to document the expenses on a cost-reimbursement contract usually outweigh the advantage of working with a more flexible cost ceiling.

2. Cooperative Agreements

This form of federal assistance involves both the Government and the grantee sharing responsibility for programmatic management of the project. Cooperative agreements anticipate “substantial federal involvement with the recipient during performance of the contemplated activity.”  Specific terms of collaboration are spelled out in individual agreements, which your friendly neighborhood ORA will review carefully with the investigator. In all other respects, cooperative agreements follow the policies applicable to grants.

3. Grants

Grants and Cooperative Agreements are usually awarded to support or assist projects, whereas contracts procure a definite service or product. Grants are less restrictive than contracts, although technical and financial reports are generally required. Grants may be awarded by foundations, corporations or agencies of the federal government. Amounts and types of awards vary from sponsor to sponsor, and many agencies offer several sorts of grant opportunities.

One of the biggest providers of grants is the National Institutes of Health, and their two major types are:

— Research Project Grant (R01): awarded to an institution on behalf of a Principal Investigator to facilitate research in the area of an investigator’s interest and competence.

— Program Project Grant (P01): for support of a broadly-based, long- term research program involving several projects and investigators with a common objective.