Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions regarding the different processes within the Office of Sponsored Programs. Select the desired FAQ section in the square on the right. If you do not see an answer to a question you have, please contact Office of Sponsored Programs with the question.

What is Sponsored Research?

Sponsored Research is all research and development activities that are sponsored by federal or non-federal agencies and organizations.

What is Sponsored Instruction?

Sponsored Instruction is teaching and training activities funded by grants and contracts from federal and non-federal sponsors.

What are Other Sponsored Projects?

Other Sponsored Projects are projects funded by sponsors that involve the performance of work other than Sponsored Instructions or Sponsored Research.  These projects may include travel grants, conference support, outreach-related activities.

Proposal FAQs

What does OSP’s Proposal Team do?

OSP is the coordinating office for externally sponsored funding. We assist faculty in submitting proposals for funding; negotiate and accept awards; and assist with post-award issues and requests.

What are OSP's business hours?

OSP's core business hours are 8:30AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Please note: All proposal submissions to sponsors will be made during these hours. OSP staffing levels do not permit the office to provide submission services after 5:00 PM.  If there is an extenuating circumstance that requires submission after normal office hours, please contact your assigned Proposal Research Administrator directly.

How is staff assigned in OSP and what do they do?

OSP's administrative structure divides the OSP staff into teams including Proposals, Contracts, and Awards. The Proposal Team assists primarily with the review and submission of proposals. The Contracts Team assists with negotiating contracts and with subawards for funds and collaborators. The Awards Team reconciles proposal and award data and transmits the award details to the Sponsored Projects Accounting (SPA) office.

Who is my contact in OSP?

On our website, we have a full listing of constituency assignments on the OSP contacts page. However, you should send all inquiries, award documents, requests for contracts, etc. to

What is a sponsored project?

A sponsored project is a project that is funded by a 3rd party external to the University. Generally, the project is funded by means of an award agreement that requires some kind of deliverable (technical report, financial report, milestones, etc.).

Who is authorized to sign proposals, award agreements and invoices/financial statements?

The authorization to sign proposals, awards and other non-financial official documents related to sponsored programs is vested in staff within OSP. Researchers should not sign any documents as the authorized University signatory. The Office of Sponsored Projects Accounting (SPA) signs invoices, financial statements and other documents related to financial activities on sponsored awards.

Am I authorized to commit University resources?

Faculty members are not authorized to commit University resources in a contractual arrangement. Department heads, Deans, Vice Presidents, the Provost and the President may have the ability to commit resources, but any such commitment for a sponsored project must be approved by University officials via the SPARCS Funding Proposal and authorized for submission to the Sponsor through OSP. Review the University's policy on authorized signatories.

Which proposals need to be processed through OSP?

Any proposal requiring an authorized university signature and involves a project that commits University resources, proposes deliverables, requires a budget, involves a subrecipient, involves human subjects, animal subjects, radiation or biohazards. Contact the OSP Proposal Team ( if you have questioned whether your proposal should be submitted through OSP.

Can I submit a proposal without OSP review?

All proposals to external funding agencies must be reviewed and authorized by OSP before they can be submitted to a Sponsor, regardless if the Sponsor requires a signature.

Can my Dean or Department Head submit a proposal on my behalf?

It depends on the department and college requirements. If such an arrangement is required or permitted, it is recommended the Principal Investigator provide the Head or Dean with written or emailed approval to submit the proposal under the PI's name. Make sure OSP is provided a copy of the written approval.

What forms are required by CMU in order to submit a proposal?

The University currently utilizes the Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance System (SPARCS) to obtain information about your project. You should submit a SPARCS Funding Proposal which requires the approval of the submitting department. Once approved, the proposal should be routed to OSP. If you need access to the SPARCS system, please contact the SPARCS Help Desk.

What attachments does OSP need in order to approve a Funding Proposal?

The following items must to be attached to the Funding Proposal in order for an OSP Specialist to approve:

□ PI Assurance Statement signed by the PI
□ Completed Budget file (uploaded)
□ Budget Justification, regardless of sponsor requirements
□ Abstract/Project Summary
□ Solicitation and/or Sponsor's guidelines
□ Other Documents for Signature (i.e. Statement of Intent, Face Page, etc.)
□ Commitment of Additional Resources, if applicable
□ Subrecipient, if applicable
  - Statement of Intent signed by subrecipient 
  - Scope of Work
  - Budget
  - Budget Justification
  - Source and Price Justification form or Bid Checklist
  - Indirect Cost Agreement
  - Small Business Subcontracting Plan, if applicable
  - Certified Cost and Pricing Data, if applicable
  - Data and/or Software Rights assertion, if applicable
   - Cost-share forms, if applicable
□ Contractor Documentation, if applicable
  - Scope of Work
  - Quote for service from contractor
  - Bid Checklist
  - Small Business Subcontracting Plan, if applicable
  - Certified Cost and Pricing Data, if applicable
  - Data and/or Software Rights assertion, if applicable

 Why does my Head/Dean need to sign off on my proposal?

Your Head and Dean are required to approve your proposal so that they are aware of the research and sponsored activity taking place in their department and college; their signatures are obtained via the routing sheet. Additionally, the Chair and Dean are permitted to commit University resources including cost share to the proposal if required. Their signatures authorizing such commitments are necessary for the University's records.

What do I do if my Department Head or Dean isn't available for signature?

A Department Head and/or Dean may delegate their approval to others within their school or department. 

How do I prepare a budget?

The easiest way to develop a budget is to work with your department/center business manager or research administrator(s). If you want to develop your own budget, you should consider including the following items which are included in most budgets:

  • Salaries & Wages
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Students
  • Undergraduate - hourly rate (fringe benefit rate does not apply)
  • Graduate/Doctoral - stipend, tuition remission, health insurance fee (fringe benefit rate does not apply)
  • Post-doc - salary and fringe benefits
  • Equipment
  • Travel
  • Materials & Supplies
  • Other direct Costs (including subrecipient and services agreements)
  • Current Facilities & Administrative Costs

OSP will review your budget prior to submission to the Sponsor to ensure compliance with Sponsor, University and CMU requirements.

Do I have to include my salary in a prepared budget?

Principal Investigators should include salary and fringe benefits in the proposal for effort that they will apply to the project. The salary can be paid by the Sponsor or can be donated by the University (cost-sharing). Principal Investigators typically must obtain Head and Dean approval for cost-shared salary.

What are fringe benefits?

Fringe benefits are retirement and health insurance benefits associated with salaries. Medicaid and workers compensation are also included in fringe benefits.

I am an employee with an academic year appointment. Do I need to include fringe benefits for my requested summer salary support in my budget?

Fringe benefits are directly tied to your salary. Anytime salary is requested, fringe benefits need to be included also.

What are F&A or indirect costs?

"F&A"stands for Facilities and Administrative, and the term is used interchangeably with "indirect costs"or "overhead." These terms are defined in the Uniform Guidance §200.56 as "those costs incurred for a common or joint purpose benefitting more than one cost objective, and not readily assignable to the cost objectives specifically benefited, without effort disproportionate to the results achieved." In universities, F&A costs are incurred for general support and management of the mission-related research/teaching/service enterprise. They are sometimes referred to as "pooled costs" because they are accounted for and controlled centrally. Examples are clerical support, library costs, utility costs, costs of operating and maintaining facilities, computers and laptops and the cost of general administration of the institution.

University F&A rates are negotiated with the federal government (in CMU’s case, the Office of Naval Research). Once the rate is set, it must be charged on all federal grants and contracts. CMU has a separate rate for other Sponsors, which cannot be lower than the rate charged to the government. Research conducted in off campus facilities may have different F&A rates.

What is cost sharing?

Cost sharing is the provision of internal university funds or third party funds in support of a project funded by a sponsor. Most sponsors do not require cost sharing; if it is not required, you should not provide cost sharing as part of your budget to the sponsor.

If the sponsor requires cost sharing, you can cost share in two ways - cash or in-kind. Cash cost sharing is in dollars. In-kind cost sharing is typically a provision of services.

What do I need if I need funds for cost sharing for my project?

Faculty may cost share a portion of their effort if they are not 100% committed to teaching and other academic duties.

In addition, third parties can provide cost sharing. The researchers should obtain a letter from the third party on letterhead from an authorized official that indicates that party will provide cost sharing in the amount that is required. If the cost sharing is in-kind, then a description of the services; equipment;or other items to be provided on the letter.

I'm not sure if my project involves human subject research. Who can give me a definitive answer?

You should contact CMU's Institutional Review Board (IRB) and ask for assistance. The IRB under the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance (ORIC) conducts the review of human subjects' research. Information about human subject protocol submissions and review procedures can be found on the IRB website.

I may have a conflict of interest or commitment. What should I do?

You should contact CMU's Conflict of Interest officer and ask for assistance. ORIC has additional information regarding Conflict of Interest on the COI website.

What is Export Control and why is it important to me?

"Export Control" is a term describing the application of export control regulations to data and equipment, and in some circumstances, to faculty, staff and students working on a project.

Knowledge of export regulations may be important to know about if you:

  • Send data, technology, intellectual property or tangible items (i.e. equipment) out of the country.
  • Employ non-U.S. citizens in your laboratory, and you perform applied research in a sensitive area or you work with third party's data, technology, intellectual property or equipment especially if the third party is a corporation.
  • Work with embargoed countries or countries with OFAC sanctions. Visit the U.S. Department of Treasury website for a list of countries with sanctions.

Visit the University's Export Control website for more information.

If, as part of a sponsored project, you intend to transmit or ship anything outside of the United States or if you anticipate performing non-fundamental research with non-U.S. citizens, please let your OSP contact know. OSP will notify ORIC, which will review the export aspect of your project for compliance with federal law and regulation.

What is a limited submission?

A limited submission is when a sponsor or a donor limits the number of proposals an institution can submit to an opportunity. OSP is responsible for managing a peer-review selection process for limited submissions. Most limited funding opportunities are announced via email to a distribution group. Please visit the Limited Submissions page to find out if there is an open competition running for an opportunity.

How are candidates selected for a limited submission?

The selection process will be outlined in the email announcement and is conducted by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

What happens if I miss a deadline for a limited submission but I want to submit?

If OSP does not receive any interest from campus during the internal competition, applications will be processed in order of receipt until the maximum number of proposals has been submitted.

What part of my application does OSP prepare?

OSP reviews the proposal application with particular attention to the cover sheet, representations and certifications, and certain other required forms. Principal Investigators must provide OSP with all needed forms and materials three days prior to the submission deadline for OSP to provide this service. OSP can provide a signed transmittal letter to accompany proposals if needed.

How do I submit an electronic application?

This will depend on the Sponsor. There are many different systems that sponsors can use. Most systems require data and files related to the proposal to be uploaded into the Sponsor's system either through the use of a sponsor-created software package, through various central internet portals such as or the Sponsor's own online portal. Typically, your solicitation will instruct you on which system is to be used. If you are unsure, your OSP Proposal Team contact can assist you with determining which system and if additional requirements are needed.

When should I submit my electronic application?

You should submit your full application, which includes the signed routing forms and final completed application, three (3) business days prior to the Sponsor's due date. This will result in a full review of your application and increase the likelihood that your proposal will be submitted error free by the agency deadline. For proposals submitted close to the deadline for submission, OSP will provide as much review and service as possible, given other proposal submissions and workload. Due to bandwidth issues beyond CMU's control, applications submitted late in the day on deadline days may have difficulties being processed through sponsor electronic systems. Please be aware that on deadline days with large numbers of submissions, OSP submits proposals in the order they are received with the current due date taking precedence.

Does OSP need my complete application before signing?

OSP requires a complete copy of your proposal application prior to signing or authorizing submission.

Who in OSP will review/submit my application?

OSP staff will review and sign the final proposal. Most hard copy proposals also require the Principal Investigator's signature. Some electronic systems will permit the Principal Investigator to submit the final version of the proposal. However, the Principal Investigator should not submit without OSP authorization. Your OSP Proposal Team contact should be able to determine who will need to submit the final proposal.

How do I submit my electronic application to OSP for review and submission?

Send the final, fully-completed application via email to the OSP inbox.

What happens if I submit my application the day it is due to the agency?

This will vary depending on the workload OSP is experiencing at the time. As a general rule, applications submitted after 12:00PM the day of the deadline will be submitted to the Sponsor with a review of only the budget  amounts and university risk. Therefore, OSP cannot ensure the application will pass the validations in the system being used (i.e.

Can I submit my application after 5:00PM?

Your application most likely cannot be submitted on time if it is received after 4:30PM due to the limitations of the electronic systems being used by sponsoring agencies. Depending on the Sponsor, it could take 30 minutes or more to submit the application. According to some sponsors, proposals are not considered "received" until it has passed the sponsor's validation, which is different from the validation process.

Does the Principal Investigator and/or Business Manager need to register with the Sponsor's system?

This depends on the Sponsor. If necessary, the Principal Investigator will need to make sure that s/he has registered with the appropriate system. If you need to register with the Sponsor's system, please submit a request to OSP. It is also beneficial for the Business Manager to register with the Sponsor's system.

What information should I provide when requesting an agency USER ID?

This depends on the Sponsor. You will need to read the Sponsor's system guidelines. For our most common sponsors, send an email to OSP and include the following:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

First Name

First Name

Last Name

Last Name

Email (

Email (

User ID

Degree Type

Alternate User ID

Degree Year


As a Principal Investigator, do I need to register with

Yes, applicants can apply for grants using Workspace, a web-based form which separates the application package into individual forms. In order to use Workspace, a user must register with To do this, go to and click "Register" in the top right corner. Users should choose "Register as an Organization Applicant" and enter CMU's DUNS number, 05-218-4116.

What version of Adobe should I use?

We recommend you check's recommended software link to find out what version of Adobe to use. If you do not have the recommended version, please notify your department's IT contact for assistance. It is very important you use the correct version of Adobe when working on a application. Anyone (including subaward sites) opening the application package or any of its components in a non-compatible version of Adobe may cause your file to become corrupt.

Will the application file be pre-loaded with any information?

The top of the first page of the application will contain information specific to the Request for Proposal (RFP). No other information will be pre-loaded in the application file.

How can I find a Request for Proposal (RFP)? has a Search Feature. You can search by using the Funding Opportunity Number, the CFDA Number or Keywords.

What should I enter for Application Filing Name?

This field is used to identify the proposal. OSP requests you start this filing name with CMU, the SPARCS Funding Proposal ID, and the PI's name (i.e. CMU_123456_PIName_Brief Title).

Why are some fields highlighted?

These are required fields and must be completed in order for your application to be submitted. if they are not completed, will not be able to accept your application. Keep in mind, the sponsor may have additional requirements. Please reference the sponsor's guidelines to make sure you have addressed all required fields.

Are the required forms the same for each agency?

No. Each sponsor may have different forms. Please read the sponsor's application instructions thoroughly to ensure you have completed the application to the sponsor's specifications.

Are all files required to be in PDF format?

Yes, but be sure to follow the Request for Proposal (RFP) for special instructions.

Is there a specific naming method I should use to name the files I upload?

Yes, there are specific guidelines that need to be followed:

  • Save all files with descriptive filenames of 50 characters or less and be sure to only use the standard in the file name: A through Z; a through z; 0 through 9; underscore (_); hyphen (-); space ( ); and period (.).
  • DO NOT use any other special characters (e.g. "&"; "*"; "%"; "/"; "#"; etc.) in the file name as this will cause your application to be rejected.

In the "RESEARCH & RELATED Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded)" form, what do I enter for "Credential e.g., agency login"?

This is the Principal Investigator's login or USER ID specific to the sponsor (i.e. NIH/eRA Commons) and is only required by some sponsors. Please reference the sponsor's guidelines to determine if this is a required field.

What is the process for submitting a application to OSP?

The process is the same for all applications.

Who in OSP submits proposals?

The process is the same for all applications.

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Contracts FAQs

Grants vs. Contracts

What is the difference between a grant and a contract?

Both grants and contracts are agreements that document the terms and conditions of research sponsorship. Generally, a grant is awarded by the federal government as a means of assisting researchers in developing research for the public good. Grant terms are more flexible than contract terms and do not generally require specific deliverables. Grant agreements tend to need less negotiation by OSP and generally do not contain problematic terms. Contracts are issued by the federal government or other entities (including Foundations and Companies) as a means of sponsoring work with the expectation of specific outputs or deliverables. Contracts typically contain stricter terms and are more heavily negotiated by OSP.

What types of contracts does OSP negotiate?

OSP negotiates contracts for funded research (“sponsored research agreements”) and a number of other contracts that facilitate research and education, some of which are non-monetary.

Examples include: Non-disclosure agreements, material transfer agreements, equipment loan agreements, data use agreements, executive education agreements, and educational project agreements. These other agreements are also negotiated by OSP and, depending on the terms, maybe heavily so (in particular data use agreements and some educational agreements).

Intellectual Property and Open Source

What is Intellectual Property?

The term “intellectual property” as used in sponsored research refers to the results of research that may be protected by patents and copyrights. These may include patentable inventions, software, data, creative works, and the associated know-how.

Can I use/incorporate 3rd party open source software or other software obtained via a "click-through" license in my sponsored project?

Generally speaking, grants do not have restrictions on the use of open-source or other 3rd party materials (provided that such materials are not otherwise prohibited for security reasons). However, many contracts do. Therefore, prior to agreeing to any "click-through" agreement or open source license for use on a sponsored project, please check with your OSP Contract Officer. Some funding contracts prohibit the use of such software and/or require certain flow downs to be included in any 3rd party contracts (which would include "click-through" agreements and open source licenses). In addition, some funding contracts require software developed as a result of the sponsored project to be released under particular open sources licenses. Because not all open source licenses are compatible with each other, further analysis may be required in order to ensure compliance with the funding contract. Additional information and assistance related to "click-through" agreements can be found via the Contracts Office. Additional information on common terms of open source licenses can be found at The Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC).

Can I use/incorporate technology (inventions or software) that I have previously developed (Background IP) in my sponsored project?

Generally speaking, grants do not have restrictions on the use of Background IP, although doing so may subject the Background IP to any IP rights granted to the government under the government’s standard agreement terms (FARs). However, many contracts do have such restrictions. Therefore, prior to using/incorporating any Background IP, please check with your OSP Contract Officer to make sure the associated funding contract does not prohibit the incorporation of such Background IP, or require the reporting of such Background IP to the sponsor prior to use/incorporation in the sponsored project.

Will the sponsor have rights to my developments from the sponsored project?

Generally speaking, YES, rights to intellectual property developed from sponsored work is one of the primary factors that separate sponsored work from a gift. Even in the case of a federal grant, the federal government is entitled to a government purpose license to inventions and software developed using government funds. In the case of contracts (both federal and corporate), additional rights (including commercial rights) are often part of the contract terms.

Can I “open source” the results of my research?

CMU has a culture of open research and if a faculty member wishes to make outputs, results, and intellectual property developed from research activities widely available to the public, that is generally supported by the institution. However, as stated above, many sponsored agreements require that certain rights to research outputs and intellectual property be granted to the sponsor. The requirements of a sponsored agreement may or may not conflict with these other modes of dissemination. However, sometimes it will. It is very important to discuss this issue with your OSP contract officer if you desire to provide outputs, results, and intellectual property freely to the public, so that they may negotiate appropriately with the sponsor.

Can I give a company a free commercial license to my IP (commonly referred to as a NERF)?

Granting a non-exclusive, royalty-free license (or NERF) to intellectual property developed on a sponsored project for commercial purposes for no fee generally sets the value of the intellectual property at $0; meaning, any subsequent commercial licenses must also be for $0. Payment by a sponsor for the cost of research does not constitute payment for commercial intellectual property licenses, as research budgets are based on direct and indirect costs. CMU does not generally agree that the value of intellectual property developed on sponsored projects is $0, and therefore CMU does not generally grant these licenses for no fee or royalty to sponsors or to any other commercial entities. A commercial license provides a financial advantage to a 3rd party and, as a not-for-profit research and educational institution, CMU does not wish to give such commercial advantages to one party over another without fair market value compensation. CMU does offer a number of standard commercial licensing terms that usually satisfy a sponsor’s need for access to intellectual property developed on a sponsored project for commercial purposes, including; (a) granting a non-exclusive or exclusive option to the intellectual property developed on a sponsored project, (b) granting a non-exclusive license for a set fee of 10% of the project price (or $25,000, whichever is greater), or (c) making all of the results of a project (including any intellectual property) available to all under an open license model (in which case, there is no associated fee). Please contact your OSP Contract Officer or your CTTEC Licensing Manager when IP licensing questions are raised by sponsors or potential sponsors.

Who is CTTEC and why are they reviewing my agreement?

The Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC) at CMU is responsible for managing intellectual property for CMU. OSP works very closely with CTTEC to resolve any intellectual property issues that arise in contracts.


Can a sponsor limit my rights to publish the results of a sponsored project?

The academic mission of the university is to create an environment that promotes the free exchange of ideas and facilitates the dissemination of knowledge.  This mission requires members of the university to be able to publish research results in a timely manner. The university recognizes, however, that premature publishing of information concerning scientific or technical developments conceived or first actually reduced to practice in the performance of a project may adversely affect the patent, copyright, or proprietary interests (incorporation of confidential information) of a sponsor.  Normally, we will not agree to a delay beyond 30 days prior to the submission of a publication for sponsor review.

Although we can agree to some delay on faculty publication (by university policy, total delays cannot exceed 90 days), we cannot agree to any delays on student theses. We cannot jeopardize our students’ careers by entering into an agreement that might delay their graduation or their ability to seek employment.  We can, however, address concerns by providing drafts of a thesis for the company to preview prior to thesis publication.

Warranties and Indemnification

Why can’t CMU provide warranties or indemnification to a sponsor?

CMU cannot offer a company warranties or indemnification.  CMU is an educational institution incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.  As such, we have a fiduciary responsibility regarding our endowment as well as to present and future students and faculty.  In the simplest terms, we cannot place our endowment at risk in a possible litigation suit brought against a company for their use of research results (especially for commercial purposes) that may be provided under a contract.

Why does CMU insist that other partners indemnify CMU?

In any commercial license to a company or any work for hire agreement, CMU will require an indemnification from the company to protect CMU against any claims by a third party made against it as a result of company’s use of CMU technology. This is due to the same concerns as above. In the case of commercial licenses, these claims could come from any of the companies’ customers or partners that make use of commercial products incorporating CMU’s technologies. In the case of work for hire agreements, a contractor is asked to protect CMU from any claims resulting from third party use of any technology they are providing to CMU that may end up in a research deliverable.

Tax Free Bond Financed Facilities

I have been told that I need to perform work on my sponsored project in a “clean” or “non-bonded” space; what does this mean?

CMU is an exempt organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  Because of its status under the Code, CMU may benefit from issuing tax-exempt bonds, meaning that the holders of the bonds are not taxed on the interest paid to them by CMU.  There are very specific rules concerning the exempt organization’s use of tax-exempt bond financed facilities, and if CMU were to violate the rules, then the interest on the bonds would become taxable.  All of CMU’s bond documents require CMU to compensate the bond holders for the additional tax due on the interest if the bonds become taxable.  Because tax-exempt bonds were so significant in the financing used by CMU to build, acquire and renovate property, such a penalty amount would be substantial and would amount to many millions of dollars.  Further, CMU would have difficulty issuing tax-exempt bonds in the future because its credibility in the marketplace would have been damaged.  Thus, it is imperative that CMU operate in accord with the rules with respect to the use of bond financed property.

The rules with respect to using bond financed property for sponsored research are set forth in Rev. Proc. 2007-47.  Because the amount of tax-exempt bonds has been so significant, most research space at CMU was financed with outstanding tax-exempt bonds in some manner.  Thus, the rules in the Rev. Proc. should generally be applied to all sponsored research undertaken by CMU.

As an initial matter, only “basic research”, as defined in the Rev. Proc., may be undertaken in tax-exempt financed facilities.  Basic research is defined as any original investigation for the advancement of scientific knowledge not having a specific commercial objective.  This would generally permit research through the prototype stage to be undertaken in bond financed facilities, provided the research falls under one of the exceptions described in Rev. Proc. 2007-047.  On the other hand, product testing of any type would not be permitted in bond financed facilities.  The pre-determined assignment of or granting of an exclusive license to intellectual property developed in a sponsored research project would also not be permitted. The reason for this requirement is that basic research is deemed to be related to CMU’s tax-exempt purpose while research having a specific commercial objective is not.  This requirement applies whether there is one sponsor or a cooperative research project.

Restricted Research

I have been told that I need to perform my research project at an “off campus” location or “semi-autonomous unit”, what does this mean?

If a sponsored project is deemed to be “restricted research” under CMU’s Restricted Research Policy [link], then, per the Policy, you may be required to perform the project at an off campus location. Currently, the only locations that qualify for this type of work are NREC and SEI.

Compliance Issues

I have been told that my contract is being held up due to a compliance issue (export, IRB, IACUC, data security, conflict of interest/commitment); what does this mean/ who should I contact?

The OSP Contract team works very closely with the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance. Should a compliance issue arise in a contract negotiation, the OSP Contract Officer will send the issue to the relevant ORIC department for review. Additional information regarding research compliance at CMU and relevant contacts is available on the ORIC website.

In addition, specific compliance issues involving secure computing environments are referred to the Information Security Office (ISO).

Master Agreements

Can I use an existing agreement/contract CMU has with a sponsor instead of starting from scratch?

In some cases, CMU has negotiated Master Agreements with certain sponsors and these agreements may be available for use under their specified terms. Using a Master Agreement can provide the benefit of a quicker execution of a project agreement; however, the terms are typically pre-defined and not subject to further negotiation. Please consult your OSP Contract Officer or the Business Engagement Office [link] for further information on Master Agreements. Typically, in order to initiate a Master Agreement, there should be at least one project scope and budget approved for funding. In addition, it is the expectation of CMU that companies with a Master Agreement are prepared to fund multiple projects, and there may be minimum spending thresholds required.

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Awards FAQs

I submitted an application without a SPARCS proposal and now I have an award. What do I do?

Work with your department’s Business Manager or Research Administrator to initiate a SPARCS proposal. OSP will review the submission for compliance with University rules. 

How will I be notified if I receive an award?

If the award comes to OSP, we will send you a copy of the agreement after it has been fully executed by the Sponsor and CMU. If the award needs to be reviewed and/or modified, you will receive an email identifying who the award was assigned to.

You may receive the award directly from the Sponsor. If you do, deliver the award to OSP so that we can review and sign the award, as required, and have SPA set up your account number. If a proposal was not routed for the award, it should be completed prior to signature and set up of the award account.

Can I accept an award from the Sponsor?

CMU policy requires OSP to accept awards on behalf of the University.

I just received a check from my grant. What should I do?

Deliver the check to the Office of Sponsored Project Accounting (SPA) for deposit. Do not send the check by campus mail.

How do I get an account number for my award?

When an award has been signed by both the Sponsor and OSP, it is ready to receive an account number. SPA will enter budget, invoicing and financial reporting information into the university's accounting system and will generate an account number for your award. It usually takes a couple of days for an account number to be generated after the award has been signed by both the Sponsor and OSP. SPA will notify you of the account number by email.

I know I am going to get an award. Can I start spending?

If you have been notified by the Sponsor that an award is imminent, let OSP know. There is a process to set up an early award account for many types of awards so you can begin spending in advance of the receipt of the award. It is important to know the intended start date of the award so spending does not occur prior to this date. Please note that funds for external 3rd party agreements may not be issued prior to receiving an award from the sponsor.

What is an early account and can I get one?

An early award account is an account that can be set up for you in advance of receipt of your award. Your unit business manager can assist you in making this request to OSP. Please check with either OSP or your unit’s research administrator to discuss what types of expenditures are allowable under early accounts.

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Subcontracts FAQs

What is a Subcontract?

A subcontract is a legally binding agreement that is issued when a substantive portion of a sponsored project will be performed by another entity. A subcontractor has programmatic involvement in the project, including decision-making and adhering to program compliance requirements. A subcontractor can also be a director considered to be the Principal Investigator at the participating institution. Additionally, they have teh right to publish or co-author anve have the option to develop patentable technology and share intellectual property created in the project.

What is a Professional Services Agreement?

A Professional Services Agreement is a legal document used in situations in which the University retains ownership to the results of a project. A Professional Services Agreement outlines the terms and conditions CMU deems appropriate and necessary for a contractor to complete. A contractor is generally considered an expert advisor, an individual using their own equipment or materials and is not involved in the programmatic work. A Professional Services Agreement is also referred to as a Consulting Agreement.

How do I include a Subcontractor in my application?

To include a Subcontract in an application, references to the Subcontractor by name in both the statement of work (and describe their activities) and in the budget and budget justification under Subcontracts.

What do I need from a Subcontractor in order to include them in a proposal?

Please request the following from the Subcontractor:

  • Subcontractor's scope of work, detailed budget, and budget justification.
  • A signed statement of intent from the Subcontractor's authorized official indicating institutional endorsement of the proposal and willingness to participate in the project.
  • Additional documents may include a current and pending report, federally negotiated rate agreements and bio-sketches.

I've received an award and an associated Oracle string and now I need to request a Subcontract or Professional Services Agreement be issued. Who do I contact?

Please send an email to the Subcontracts Team requesting that an agreement be established. Items to include are the following:

  • Oracle Project/Task/Award
  • Period of Performance (overall and incremental)
  • Funding amount (overall and incremental)
  • Any deliverables or reports that are required
  • Confirmation that the vendor is listed in Oracle
  • A Source and Price Justification or Bid Summary and Checklist
  • Insurance certificate (if PSA)
  • Confirmation of any COI disclosures, financial or otherwise
  • Confirmation of any confidential information being disclosed by either party
  • Confirmation of any export controlled instances

How much F&A is charged on a Subcontract or Professional Services Agreement?

F&A is charged on the first $25,000 of a subcontract. F&A is charged on the entire amount of a Professional Services Agreement.

How do invoices get paid?

Invoices for both Subcontracts and Professional Services Agreements should be sent to Sponsored Projects Accounting for processing. SPA will contact the Principal Investigator/Department for approval and then coordinate payment with Accounts Payable. Do not send invoices to OSP.

How do I know whether to contact UCO or OSP for a Professional Services Agreement?

Agreements for services performed under sponsored research agreements are completed in OSP. Agreements charged to faculty discretionary or internal funds are completed by UCO.

I would like to issue a subcontract that was not included on the original budget. What do I do?

Review the terms of the prime agreement. Most agreements require that the addition of any subcontracts not originally budgeted require prior approval.

How do I inform OSP a subaward should be prepared for my collaborators on the award?

You should complete the OSP Subrecipient/PSA request form [DOC].

I am working with a subrecipient on my project. What are my responsibilities?

The CMU Principal Investigator is responsible for monitoring subrecipients' performance of the work they agreed to perform. In addition, the Principal Investigator should review all subrecipient invoices for correct billing, including any required cost-sharing. The Principal Investigator is also responsible for ensuring the subrecipient submits all deliverables and technical reports as required under the subrecipient agreement.

Can I set up an outgoing subcontract or professional services agreement under an early center award?

OSP cannot issue an outgoing subcontract or professional services agreement under an early center since Carnegie Mellon is not be able to invoice the Sponsor for expenditures until the award has been finalized.  In addition, Carnegie Mellon may be required to  flow down certain terms and conditions from the prime award.  Those terms and conditions may not be available until the award has been received by OSP.

I am having trouble getting a subrecipient to provide reports/deliverables. Can anyone help me?

You should contact OSP if a subrecipient is not performing adequately and describe the situation. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, OSP may contact University Counsel to assist in resolving the situation.

I see the world Subcontract. Who should I contact?

You should contact the Subcontracts Team.

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Miscellaneous FAQs

My award is going to end but I'm not finished with the work. What can I do?

You can ask the Sponsor to extend the period of performance. How you submit such a request depends on the Sponsor. There may also be separate requirements if you have previously requested an extension for the project. In all instances, you will need to provide a justification of why the extension is necessary (spending out the account is not a valid reason to extend a project). In some cases, the request is automatically approved. OSP will approve or submit the request to the Sponsor. Once the extension is approved, OSP will notify SPA of the update.

I am waiting for approval on my No-Cost Extension, how do I keep my award open?

The Request for Approval for Award Extension [PDF] form should be completed, signed and sent to OSP. Once OSP approves the form, it will be sent to SPA. Please keep in mind that if the extension is not approved by the Sponsor, all charges incurred will be the responsibility of the Department.

Who prepares all paperwork associated with personnel, purchases, travel, etc. on my award?

Departmental/Center Business Managers and/or administrative staff should assist you in preparing any paperwork associated with your project.

Do I need approval from the Sponsor to rebudget funds for specific items or services?

You should review the terms and conditions to determine the appropriate process for requesting changes to your award budget. Submit your rebudget request to OSP with justification of the proposed changes. OSP will forward the request to the sponsor and/or generate an amendment to the award. Upon receipt of Sponsor approval, OSP will transmit the approved budget revisions to SPA. SPA Will then update the budget in the university's accounting system.

Can I move equipment purchased on a sponsored project to an off-campus location?

Please review CMU's equipment disposition policy.

I will be leaving CMU. Can I transfer my award?

In many cases you can transfer your award. Discuss transfer with your department chair and if s/he approves the transfer, contact OSP. OSP will review Sponsor requirements for transferring the award. You should finalize all expenditures on the project if the transfer is approved. Additionally, if you anticipate transferring, materials, equipment or data, please let OSP and SPA know the details. You must let Property Accounting know if you are transferring equipment so that inventory can be updated.

Does OSP need a copy of my technical reports required under the award?

No, but you should send a copy to SPA. You should also retain a copy for your records in case the Sponsor misplaces the report.

Who prepares the financial reports required by my award?

Usually, your SPA accountant will prepare financial reports required by the Sponsor. In unusual cases, you may be asked to assist with preparation of the reports, especially if receipts for expenditures are required or when the reporting documentation is extensive. Additionally, Sponsors sometimes would like a copy of the technical report to be sent with the financial report - your SPA accountant will coordinate submission of the financial report with your technical report in those cases.

On the SF424 form, whose information do I enter for "5. Applicant Information"?

This section is specific to the University (not the PI).

The Legal Name/Address of the applicant is:
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3589
Please leave the Department and Division Information blank

The person to be contacted on matters involving this application is your OSP Proposal Team contact.

On the SF424 form, what type of applicant is Carnegie Mellon University?

Use the drop-down box to select "O: Private Institution of Higher Education".

On the SF424 form, do I need to complete "18. SFLLL or other Explanatory Documentation"?

In most coases, no. Please refer to your Request for Proposal Announcement for special instructions.

On the SF424 form, whose information do I enter for "19. Authorized Representative"?

The Authorized Representative for CMU is:
Christine Bedillion
Executive Director, Office of Sponsored Programs
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
WQED Building
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3589
osp-preaward@andrew.cmu.eduP: (412) 268-8746  F: (412) 268-6279

How do I enter an additional budget period in the Research & Related Budget form?

On the last page of the current period (before the Cumulative Budget), you will find a button labeled "Add Period". Once you select this, the next page will start your new budget period. Some agencies have special budget options. See the sponsor specific instructions.

How do I delete an extra budget period I didn't intend to include?

On the first page of the unwanted budget period, locate the buttom labeled "Delete Period". Use caution because once the information is deleted, it can not be retrieved. You will need to re-enter any mistakenly deleted information.

How are Subcontracts included in the application (not to be confused with Collaborative Proposal)?

Most application packages will contain an "Optional" form which you can select on the first page of the application. This will provide you with an attachment form where you can download the subaward budget form. You should then send this form to the subcontractor to complete and return. You will then need to upload it into the attachment form page within your application.

What happens if my application is rejected or receives an error?

Your OSP Contact will notify the PI and Business Manager as soon as possible and work with you to quickly correct any errors.

  • For this reason, please be sure that the PI (or someone knowledgeable of the application) is available to make any required changes until you are either notified of the successful submission and (if applicable) transmission to the agency.

On my NIH proposals, how long do I have to correct "Errors" and "Warnings"?

You will have 2 (two) business days or until the application deadline (whichever comes first) to make any changes to your application.

  • Example: The application is due Friday, February 5th at 5:00PM. If the application is submitted at 1:00 PM on Monday, February 1st, you would have until 1:00 PM on Wednesday, February 3rd to make corrections. If the application is submitted at 1:00 PM on Thursday, February 4th, you would have until 5:00 PM on Friday, February 5th to make corrections.

What is the difference between an "Error" and a "Warning" on my NIH proposal?

  • An Error will not allow your proposal to be accepted by the eRA Commons. Errors must be fixed in order for our application to be reviewed by the NIH.
  • Warning will not prevent your proposal from being accepted by the eRA Commons; however, a warning may cause a non-compliance issue that has the potential to cause your application to be not reviewed or rejected during the review.

How do I link a Collaborative Proposal to my application packet for NSF proposals?

Unfortunately, you will not be able to use to submit this application. Please use FastLane.

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