From The Vault: 10 Things the ORA wants a PI to know

[Occasionally, we like to revisit posts from days gone by that either (1) are always relevant, or (2) are the subject of recent questions received by our office.  In today’s From The Vault, we revisit information we want out PIs to know.]

[Originally published January 5, 2012.]

With the new year comes new goals, a new outlook and optimism. There’s something about this time of year that allows a common thread of hope to take hold and we make changes to ourselves and our environment with the goal of having a better, more productive year. As an organization, we embrace those changes and really work to improve our relationships with department administrators and faculty. Here are the top 10 things we want faculty to know when dealing with ORA and sponsored funding. Because in the end, it’s the little things that matter.

1. Communication is key!

Be sure to utilize the people available to you. We all have a shared interest in the PI’s success. The earlier you get in contact the better!

Talk to your department administration about budget and payment issues before going to the sponsor. You want to make sure costs are adequately covered and that the risks and milestones are reasonable.

Before writing a proposal, contact the sponsor’s program officer. They can often provide tips on what they are looking for or even refer you to a more appropriate program.

Always write a clear and concise statement of work.

PIs should communicate with ORA and not directly with the sponsor grants and contracts office. ORA does the negotiating. The PI should never negotiate with the sponsor and then bring a “negotiated” agreement to ORA.

Do not tell a subrecipient to start work before the subaward is fully executed.

2. A grant or contract is awarded to the institution, not to the individual. A PI should never sign a proposal or award.

Only certain officers have been authorized by the Board of Trustees to bind the University. If someone other than those authorized signs, the proposal or award isnot considered valid.

3.Timing is everything.

ORA needs adequate time to review a proposal. There are a lot of steps in this process so please make sure to get your proposal in early.

Both your department administration and ORA will have a deadline to meet, so be sure to check what your department’s requirements are.

4. All awards or agreements that include money coming to the University must be entered into Coeus.

Coeus records should always be created at the proposal stage, ie. the first time you send a sponsor a statement of work and budget.  If an award comes in that hasn’t yet been entered into Coeus, work with your department to enter it immediately before forwarding to ORA.

Don’t hand an award/agreement to your department administrator or ORA contact and say “can I have an account for this?” if it’s not in Coeus. Account set up will take a lot less time if things are done in the proper order.

In every circumstance where money is coming to a PI to perform research or other sponsored activity that will be managed by the University, a Coeus record must be created.

5. The School has specific titles that enable a faculty member to act as a PI.

6. Any changes to a contract must be in writing.

Be aware of the sponsor’s “scope creep”. Extra work means you will need extra money! That’s why it’s important to have a clear SOW, so both parties are on the same page.

7. We cannot agree to waive or reduce F&A arbitrarily.

See the JHSPH Application of F&A rates to Sponsored Projects Policy on our website.

8. You must go to IRB or IACUC if you are working with human subjects or animals.

The ORA can’t issue an account number until your protocol has been approved. Even if you think your research is exempt, only the IRB can make that determination.

9. An agreement is not a done deal until an award is received, reviewed, approved and signed by both parties.

The program officer at the sponsor does not make final decisions. They can’t make a commitment on the part of the sponsor, just as the PI cannot commit the University.

10.  ORA, department staff and the PI are a team.

We all have the same objective – to facilitate research. It may seem that policies, required forms or deadlines are arbitrary or onerous, but they are in place so that we can ensure compliance with laws, effectively collect and manage the money we need to conduct the research, and keep everyone out of jail.  If you have a question always call or email. We will be happy to help you, all you have to do is ask!