Research Administration Frequently Asked Questions & Resources
Research Administration Frequently Asked Questions
I NEED TO KNOW WHAT AN ACRONYM MEANS?
WHAT IS UNIFORM GUIDANCE?
The U.S. government requires recipients of federal grants to adhere to specific terms and conditions. The overarching requirements recipients must follow are outlined in the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, 2 CFR Part 200, often referred to as Uniform Guidance.
Uniform Guidance is a government-wide framework for grants management and provides an authoritative set of rules and requirements for federal awards. It is the foundation on which federal agencies develop their policies for grants and cooperative agreements. Individual agencies and/or programs may have policies or requirements which may deviate in some instances from Uniform Guidance. Those deviations will be clearly noted in the agency or program guidelines.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS?
Federal regulations as described in 2 CFR 200 Uniform Guidance provide definitions of the types of costs that are normally defined as direct costs vs. indirect (F&A) costs. Those regulations also require that costs incurred for the same purpose in similar circumstances must be treated consistently as either direct or indirect (F&A) costs. Direct costs are those costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, instructional or other institutional activity, and can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.
Indirect costs are those that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, instructional or other institutional activity. Identification with the sponsored work rather than the nature of the goods and services involved is the determining factor in distinguishing direct from indirect (F&A) costs.
HOW ARE INDIRECT COST RATES DETERMINED?
The University’s F&A rates are determined through a complex accounting, reporting, and negotiation process with the Department of Health and Human Services. Rates can change as often as annually, but are often extended for up to four years through an extension process. The current rate agreement is available here
WHO DO I CONTACT IF I WANT TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL?
WHO CAN SERVE AS A PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (PI)?
WHAT IS THE UNIVERSITY’S MINIMUM EFFORT POLICY FOR SPONSORED PROJECTS?
WHAT IS UNC CHARLOTTE’S DEADLINE FOR PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS TO UNIVERSITY OFFICES?
HOW DO I ACCESS NINER RESEARCH AND FIND NINER RESEARCH TRAINING MATERIAL?
Niner Research is the electronic research administration (eRA) system for management of UNC Charlotte’s research and research compliance activities. This system integrates the diverse aspects of our research enterprise, including proposal and contract administration, conflict of interest management, the use of laboratory animals, biosafety, and human subjects research.
WHAT IS EFFORT AND HOW IS IT MEASURED?
Effort is the amount of time spent on a particular activity. In the case of grants it is normally measured in terms of person months, which may be listed as calendar months, summer months or academic months, as applicable, and depending on the person’s appointment type (e.g. 12 month, 9 month, etc.) and when the effort will take place. For personnel on 12 month appointments only calendar months should be used.
WHAT IS A PERSON-MONTH?
A person month is a metric for measuring the effort devoted to a specific project. It is calculated based on the assumption of a standard 40 hour work week, which equates to 2,080 hours annually for full-time employees. One person month is therefore calculated at 1/12 of 2080 hours or 173.3 hours.
WHAT ARE FRINGE BENEFITS AND HOW ARE THEY APPLIED?
Fringe benefits are allowances and services provided by employers to their employees as compensation in addition to regular salaries and wages. Fringe benefits include, but are not limited to, the costs of leave (vacation, family-related, sick or military), employee insurance, pensions/retirement contributions, and unemployment benefit plans. Fringe benefits are part of an employee’s compensation and are applied proportionally to the funding source supporting their effort.
Contracts and Negotiations
No Cost Extension
WHAT IS A NO-COST EXTENSION (NCE)?
A No-Cost Extension (NCE) is an extension of the period of performance of an award beyond the current end date. NCEs require the sponsor formal approval, often in the form of a written modification to the funding agreement or an updated notice of award. NCEs are designed to allow the project team to complete the project if it cannot be completed within the previously designated time frame. As the phrase “no cost” suggests, there is no additional funding provided by the sponsor for this period, but any remaining funds on the award are normally available for use during the NCE period. Note: NCEs cannot be requested simply to spend down remaining project funds and NCE requests must have reasonable programmatic rationales. NCEs can be requested for varying lengths of time, but usually no more than one year.
WHEN SHOULD I REQUEST A NO-COST EXTENSION?
NCEs are usually requested within the last 90 days of the award’s period of performance. Some sponsors may accept NCEs before that, and some may only accept them much closer to the end date. Consult with your ORS representative to confirm the appropriate and/or required timeline for submission.
HOW DO I REQUEST A NO-COST EXTENSION?
To request an NCE please contact your Award Management Specialist in ORS or submit a ticket via the Division of Research Ticketing system. You will be contacted with details on the information needed for the NCE request, which may vary depending on the sponsor’s guidelines and the submission timeline (late requests often require additional justifications). Since a no-cost extension requires a formal modification to the award, an authorized University official has to submit the NCE request to the sponsor. Note: PIs are not authorized to request an NCE from the sponsor on their own.
Post-Award Management FAQs
WHAT IS AN ASSUMPTION OF RISK (AOR) ?
Externally sponsored awards can have start dates that precede the finalization or receipt of formal award documents or agreements. When time is of the essence or when a fund number is required to develop position descriptions and job announcements, the PI can request an AOR. The AOR authorizes the establishment of a fund number for the project (in the case of new awards) or keeping the current fund number open and active (in the case of continuing awards).
AORs are commonly requested for the following scenarios:
– Pre-award expenditures (if allowed by sponsor)
– New awards
– To keep an award active and open in University systems between the end date of the current budget period and the receipt of an expected next increment of funds or extension of the project period (for multi-year or multi-increment projects).
HOW DO I REQUEST AN AOR?
Requests for AORs are processed through Niner Research and your Award Management Specialist in ORS will work with you on compiling the necessary documents and submitting the request. AORs require the following minimum documents and information (additional documentation or justifications may be required in some instances):
– Communication from the sponsoring agency regarding when the award is expected to arrive
– Proposed AOR dates (up to 3 months)
– Guarantee fund number
– AOR Line Item Budget (cannot exceed $30,000 in direct costs)
Exceptions to the 3 month time limits and $30,000 in direct cost limits are rare, but are possible in unique circumstances with the approval of the Vice Chancellor for Research.