The type of award a research office receives can impact how the sponsored project negotiations proceed. In preparing for these negotiations it is important to understand how the award instrument influences what is expected of each party. The National Council for Research Administrators invited John Hanold, the Associate Vice President for Research, Director, Office of Sponsored Program at Pennsylvania State University, to review the differences between assistance awards and procurements, and how each impacted one’s leverage during the sponsored project negotiations. His perspective and suggestions have been summarized here.
Some negotiations pass quickly as they follow a sort of commonly used template, while other projects require more time to properly review the terms and conditions. There is a great deal of correspondence that requires documentation and diligence. As such, research administrators should preemptively invest in the right tools. To increase efficiency and institutional access to relevant information and forms, consider using a grant management software system. It will not only store contact information and notes from previous discussions, but provide alerts and reminders for follow up or upcoming deadlines.
Grants are often the most desirable type of award a research university can receive. They fund projects that have a beneficial impact on society and/or fulfill a public purpose. This desire to fulfill a public purpose can take a variety of forms, including researching cancer treatments or developing a new technology that could improve the economy. The nature of the project and its goals usually originates from within the institution. The sponsor agency’s mission is congruent with the institution’s objective, which makes establishing an agreement that much smoother.
Sponsored project negotiations tend to be streamlined and uneventful. Most of the terms and conditions set out by the sponsor are standard and pose few problems to the institution. Members of the central and research offices can simply “nod their heads” and continue through the process, usually focusing on documenting any tasks that need to be completed. Once the sponsored project negotiations are completed and the partnership is formed, the sponsor takes a step back and engages less with the research team and their proceedings.
Another type of assistance award is a cooperative agreement. Cooperative agreements function largely in the same manner as a grant. One of the main distinguishing factors is that the project’s idea and scope may not originate from within the institution. There is a substantial amount of collaboration between the sponsor agency and the recipient during a cooperative agreement, so some project objectives are developed in tandem. Sponsored project negotiations can be folded into these conversations.
Procurements arise when a group is trying to buy an item, property or assistance for their direct benefit. Institutions act as contractors, providing services or tangible deliverables. Often procurements come in the form of contracts. When engaging in a contract, ensure clarity regarding terms and conditions. There may be differing viewpoints on topics such as confidentiality, publications, national restrictions, and warranties. One can expect an ongoing extensive involvement between the funding agency and the recipient.
Sponsored Project Negotiations Leverage
During sponsored project negotiations the institution holds greater leverage with a contract than with a grant. When funding a grant, the sponsor agency has a variety of institutions from which to pick. While they may hope to partner with a particular university, there are many eligible research institutions to which the sponsor could choose to reallocate their funds, if grant negotiations grow too tedious with this first choice. Thankfully, most of the terms and conditions set out in a grant are common and used in past research projects. Thus, research administrators will have few problems accepting them.
In a contract, there is a distinguishing factor about the research office that entices the sponsor. The institution has been uniquely identified by the funding agency as the group best suited to produce the desired service or good. Therefore, the research office holds more leverage as it does not have to worry about being replaced. If the research team can identify what criteria brands them as invaluable they will have an easier time accomplishing their negotiation goals.
To learn more about how to track and prepare for sponsored project negotiations contact the IT Works team today.