Classifying The Work Of Your PI

JHSPH’s PIs are often asked to furnish expertise to outside organizations.  Accordingly, ORA is frequently asked, “Is this work considered consulting or sponsored activity?  And what difference does it make?”

“Consulting” agreements are arrangements where a PI is asked for his/her professional advice or opinion.  Examples include reviewing someone else’s test results and giving an opinion on their meaning, or reviewing a proposed publication and providing edits.  This work is outside the scope of the PI’s employment with the University, and is therefore extracurricular.  In those cases, a Consulting Agreement is signed by the PI personally (i.e. in their own name, with advice of personal legal counsel if he/she so chooses).  The income is earned by that individual, goes into his/her personal bank account and he/she will have to pay taxes thereon.

An activity would be considered sponsored and flow through JHSPH if:

  • JHU facilities, staff, resources are used; or
  • Deliverables are required, including (but not limited to) original work, final report or a tool or assessment.

If either of the cases above apply, the agreement would be issued to JHU, not the PI.  The  agreement would require the applicable F&A, submission through Coeus, review and approval by ORA, and signature of the Associate Dean for Research Administration, on behalf of JHSPH.  A sponsored account would then be set up in the University financial system.

Other than a true consulting agreement that the PI would sign in his/her own name, all incoming agreements or contracts issued by an outside organization – a letter agreement, purchase order, professional services agreement, teaming agreements, research agreement, MOU, data use agreement, confidentiality (non-disclosure) agreement, or  any other type of agreement – should be sent to ORA for review and handling.  When in doubt, it is best to ask.

Note that an incoming purchase order (PO) is still an agreement that would be reviewed, negotiated and signed by ORA.  PIs do not have the authority to sign any contractual documents on behalf of the School.  JHU’s Purchasing Department handles only outgoing  requests to purchase goods and services.

ORA’s review is critical to ensure that the terms are acceptable and consistent with JHSPH policies such as securing a license to use data or deliverables and the right to publish.  Also, following the University’s procedures for setting up accounts and properly tracking funds reduces the risk of compliance issues.