There are a variety of types of sponsored awards and agreements in which an institution or department could engage. Understanding the fundamentals of each, and the factors that distinguish them, will help your office better understand how to better manage each type of sponsored award. While not an exhaustive list, the most common awards take the form of: grants, cooperative agreements, fellowships, and contracts. We will explore contracts in greater detail in the next installment of this blog series. However, we will chronicle and contrast the rest throughout this article as well as detail some of the underlying constants.
A grant is awarded to a recipient to accomplish a public purpose that supports the advancement of knowledge in a particular field of research or subject area. The important takeaway here is that a grant is not distributed to create a widget or service. However, if in pursuing this higher level of knowledge a team has to produce a device, then that is acceptable. A grant usually sees limited involvement by the sponsor. This allows for greater autonomy and flexibility on the recipient’s part, as long as they stay within the scope of the work. In awarding a grant there is a mutual agreement and standardized terms outlining how the research team will progress from point A to point B. The details of these agreements, and other commitments made to the sponsor, can be tracked in an institution wide grant management system. This allows not only those in the department to interact with and update relevant information, but also those in the sponsored programs office to access pertinent documents.
Grants management software can also be used to monitor and store deliverables. The grant award will define the period of performance as well as outline when deliverables will be due. Deliverables usually consist of reports that provide status updates on the grant as well as data on newly acquired information. A grant management software system will not only provide alerts of upcoming deadlines, but allow for more streamlined communication with stakeholders and storage centralized portal of all submitted reports.
The next installment among the list of types of sponsored awards is cooperative agreements. A cooperative agreement is awarded by the sponsor in order to transfer money, property, services, or any other item of value for a public purpose or shared goal. The sponsor and recipient hold a mutual desire to achieve some task, and utilize a joint effort to expedite the process. A classic example of these joint effort undertakings are partnerships between the USDA and land grant recipients.
Unlike a grant, sponsors are substantially involved with the work on a cooperative agreement. From the outset, the PI and a sponsor representative collaborate to define the project, scope, and performance period. There are standard terms and responsibilities, but the handling of deliverables will be dependent on the arrangement.
A fellowship is one of the types of sponsored awards that focuses on education. It is bestowed to support the advancement of a scholar or researcher’s knowledge or professional skills. Instead of supplying the individual with a salary, they receive a stipend. Additionally, the recipient is not expected to pursue any research functions on behalf of the sponsor. Instead the award focuses on experiential learning, professional development with an incentive in the form of compensation.
A clinical trial is a prospective medical or behavioral research study using human subjects that is designed to answer specific questions. Since a clinical trial is a medical or behavioral study that involves human subjects it is heavily regulated. There are several considerations that are mandated, and the research team must gain IRB approval. The sponsor must accept the site at which the recipient will conduct the trial, and the researchers must enact a confidential disclosure agreement. A common example of a clinical trial is determining whether a new pharmaceutical intervention is safe and effective.
The final category of the types of sponsored awards discussed in this blog is gifts. Gifts are donated for either a general or specific purpose, but without conditions regarding use. The research team is not held to predetermined agreements, a period of performance is not defined, and there are not reporting requirements. In other words, a gift has no strings attached – a research office and PI can do as they please. There is essentially no involvement from the donator, other than defining the purpose of the gift.
Distinguishing Types of Sponsored Awards
One of the more difficult distinctions to make across types of sponsored awards is discerning a gift from a grant. When trying to determine which your office has received, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are there deliverables expected?
This could include product, service, technical, or financial reports.
- Is there a written agreement that is legally enforceable?
This could include admin terms, provisions for intellectual property, or other legal provisions.
- Is there a specific and expected return in exchange for the funding?
Ultimately, if you answered yes to these questions then you are working with a grant, not a gift. Remember, a gift has no strings attached.
Whether a gift, grant, or other sponsored award, remember to investigate how a grant management system could improve your project management. Contact IT Works to learn how to tailor our software to your needs, and watch for the second installment of this blog series, covering sponsored research contracts.