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Module 6: Grant and Contract Administration

1.1 The nature of research grants

1.1.1 Common features of research grants

Please note: if you have held research grants as a CI you will be familiar with information in this topic and can move to the next topic

You will find that all research grants have some characteristics in common. Whether you have been awarded a small seeding grant by your institution, or you have won a large competitive research grant as a result of your application to an external funding agency, your grant will have the following features:

  • Offer and acceptance. If you are successful in obtaining a research grant, the funding body will provide you with a letter of offer. Typically the letter will be addressed to the administering institution, who will be asked to forward it to the first-named CI/PI. The letter will refer to the funding application, and will include the project title and the amount awarded. In some instances the letter will be in duplicate and the institution will be asked to sign and return one copy signifying acceptance. As first-named CI/PI, you must advise your Research Office if you wish to accept the award. (There may be instances when you do not wish to accept the grant, and such a scenario is covered under Topic 2: Managing the research grant.) Once you have advised your Research Office that you wish to accept the grant, the Office will send a formal letter of acceptance to the funding body. On receipt of the notification of acceptance, the funding body will forward a funding agreement or similar to the institution for signature.
  • Funding agreement. The agreement to fund your research will be a legal document which, once signed by the institution and the funding body, places contractual obligations on all parties to the agreement. Large national and international funding bodies usually have standard funding agreements containing clauses that have been developed, tried, and tested over many years, and individual institutions have little opportunity to request any changes. Smaller organisations may ask institutions to sign Conditions of Award, or may set out the conditions of acceptance in their Letter of Offer. Institutions will take all necessary steps to protect themselves and their researchers from the imposition of unreasonable conditions, and their in-house lawyers will review all agreements prior to execution. Where necessary, the lawyers will negotiate with the funding body to safeguard the institution’s and the researcher’s interests. The funding agreement will cover issues relating to the term of the agreement and the period of funding, the use of project funds, specified personnel, conduct of the research, intellectual property, confidentiality, indemnity, insurance, financial acquittal, and reporting requirements. The Table of Clauses at the commencement of an agreement lists the items covered in the agreement.
  • Specified personnel and their responsibilities. Your funding application will list the names of one or more investigators. All research grants must have at least one named investigator who is either an employee of the institution, or who holds a formal honorary position with the institution. It is the first-named investigator, usually styled Chief Investigator (CI) or Principal Investigator (PI) who will be responsible for the conduct of the research project. Where additional investigators have been named on the application, it is expected they will fulfill the roles and responsibilities detailed in the proposal description.
  • Period and level of funding. All research grants will specify the amount of money awarded to the institution for the project. In addition, the funding body will specify the commencement date of the project and the period for which funding is provided. The commencement date may coincide with the beginning of the calendar or financial year, or may be dependent upon execution of a funding agreement. In some instances funding bodies will nominate a date after which it will no longer be possible to commence the project.

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