Updates from Sponsored Research Services

2015 Upcoming Agency Deadlines
NIH Online Portal for Proposal Submissions
NIH Announces New Policies Regarding
1) Inclusion of Sex as a Biological Variable and
2) Improvement of Reproducibility in applications and progress reports.
NSF Issues FAQ’s for Uniform Guidance
Cost Transfers Involving Sponsored Projects
Research Administration Roles & Responsibilities Committee
TAMUS OMB Uniform Guidance Tools Now Available
Travel – 90 Day Reimbursement Policy
Customer Service Liaison
Proposal Budgeting Update
Contract Negotiation Customer Satisfaction Mini-Surveys
Closeout Procedures – Final Bill to Sponsor
Payments to Human Subjects
Customer Satisfaction Mini-Surveys
Industry Negotiations Initiative
Adjustment to Proposal Submission Process

Fall 2015 Upcoming Agency Deadlines

In preparation for a busy Fall, SRS would like to update you on upcoming agency deadlines.

  • NIH
    • October 5 – New R01 Submissions
    • October 16 – New R21/R03 Submissions
    • November 5 – Renewal and Revised R01 Submissions
    • November 16 – Renewal and Revised R21/R03 Submissions
  • NSF
    • Engineering programs – Beginning September 15
    • Chemistry Programs – Beginning September 30
    • Physics Programs  – Beginning October 28
    • Mathematics  – November 1-15
  • CPRIT
    • October 13

NIH Online Portal for Proposal Submissions

NIH is moving towards an online portal for proposal submissions. The Application Submission System and Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST) portal has been used for the submission of NIH Center Grants since 2013.  NIH opened the portal to all R01, R21 and R03 grants in May and Training and Career Grants in July.  The benefits of using the ASSIST portal include:

  • Secure web-based data entry
  • Collaboration of multiple users
  • Pre-submission validation of many NIH and Grants.gov business rules
  • Pre-population of data from eRA Commons profiles
  • Pre-submission print/preview of application in NIH format
  • Submission status tracking for both Grants.gov and eRA Commons within a single system
  • Ability to import subaward budget data from external sources
  • Ability to copy application data (excluding attachments) from a previously prepared application

NIH Notice regarding ASSIST

National Institutes of Health (NIH) announces new policies regarding 1) Inclusion of Sex as a Biological Variable and 2) Improvement of Reproducibility in applications and progress reports.

Beginning with applications due January 25, 2016, PIs will have to demonstrate strong scientific premise, rigorous experimental design, and consideration of sex and other biological variables in the Research Strategy section of their applications. Reviewers will factor this information into their overall impact scores.

PIs will also have to include an attachment in the Other Research Plan sections to authenticate their key resources. Reviewers will not factor this information into their overall impact scores.

Further, PIs will report on sex differences in their progress reports and publications.

For more information and links to resources that explain NIH’s intent and expectations, read the June 9, 2015 Guide notices:

Consideration of Sex as a Biological Variable in NIH-Funded Research

Enhancing Reproducibility Through Rigor and Transparency

An overview and guidance of Rigor and Reproducibility and FAQs on this topic are available on the NIH OER website. The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health also has published additional guidance regarding Consideration of Sex as a Biological Variable.

NIH will provide instructions for applicants and reviewers later this year.

NSF Issues FAQ’s for Uniform Guidance

National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Foundation’s implementation of 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance).  These FAQs are available on the DIAS/Policy Office website. The FAQs will be updated periodically as additional questions arise.

If you have any questions, please contact the DIAS/Policy Office on (703) 292-8243 or by email to policy@nsf.gov.

Cost Transfers Involving Sponsored Projects

The Continuous Research Operations Improvement (CROI) committee established a subcommittee to develop one process for approving/tracking payroll and other non-payroll expenses. The subcommittee was tasked with developing a uniform process for obtaining required approvals in a timely manner as well as determining the necessary supporting documentation to justify the transfers.

The Cost Transfers Involving Sponsored Projects procedure is effective April 6, 2015. This process is only valid for corrections submitted prior to the term date of the project. Any items submitted after the end date will require additional approvals and is not guaranteed to be approved.

Research Administration Roles and Responsibilities Committee

The Research Administration Roles and Responsibilities Committee has been developed to review research administration processes and then design, construct and implement a revised shared service model that, in priority order, meets the needs of principal investigators, research administrators and Sponsored Research Services (SRS).

The committee is following a process developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) that includes a detailed mapping of research administration roles and responsibilities. This process will serve to determine roles and responsibilities, provide input into operating procedures, and delineate reporting metrics.

As the committee completes its initial review of sections of the roles & responsibilities matrix, SRS will post the results of the committee’s deliberations along with meeting minutes on its website. Any recommended changes to current processes, roles, or responsibilities will not be implemented until the committee has completed its review. Once the committee has completed its initial review of all sections of the roles and responsibilities matrix, the committee will do a summary review of all sections to ensure consistency throughout the document. Senior leadership of the system members and the system office will review the completed roles and responsibility matrix before implementing potential changes through a modified shared service model for research administration.

The committee’s goal is to complete its review of the roles and responsibilities matrix by April 7, 2015.

TAMUS OMB Uniform Guidance Tools Now Available

The Texas A&M University System OMB Uniform Guidance Committee has posted two new reference tools on the SRS website for PIs:

TAMUS Uniform Guidance PI Quick Guide

TAMUS Uniform Guidance PI FAQ’s

SRS will continue to post updates and implementation plans regarding the OMB Uniform Guidance as they become available.

Travel – 90 Day Reimbursement Policy

The Texas A&M University System has announced a September 1, 2014 start date for the implementation of a safe harbor rule of 90 days for the taxation of employee reimbursements (travel, purchase, business meals, etc.) that exceed a 90 day submission. The System Disbursement of Funds Guide has been updated to include this policy.  The Sponsored Research Services Travel Procedures will be updated to reflect this policy as well. Please be aware that reimbursements must be submitted within 90 days to avoid paying taxes on the reimbursement.  Sponsored Research Services will begin taxing payments December 1, 2014 that exceed the 90 day policy.

Customer Service Liaison

Kristi Billinger is available to attend your departmental or staff meetings to address customer service questions or concerns regarding SRS. Please contact her (kristib@tamu.edu) or Stacey Rugh (srugh@tamus.edu) to schedule.

Proposal Budgeting Update

Budgeting for tuition and fees is normally included as part of the cost of employing a graduate student on a sponsored research project. Texas A&M University tuition and fees rates, provided by Student Business Services, will now vary by college; this is a change from previous years.

When preparing proposal budgets, Sponsored Research Services (SRS) will use the tuition and fees amount based on the college for the graduate student. If, at the time the proposal is prepared, the college of the proposed graduate student is not known, the rate of the college for the lead Principal Investigator will be used.

The tuition and fees rates are available at:
http://sbs.tamu.edu/media/387801/2014-2015gr-res.pdf

Contract Negotiation Customer Satisfaction Mini-Surveys

Sponsored Research Services (SRS) has added contract negotiation mini-surveys to our customer satisfaction feedback efforts. Lead PIs will receive an email with a mini-survey link for any SRS contract negotiation that was fully executed during the previous week. These contract negotiation mini-surveys are only sent for feedback on new award negotiations (not for minor modifications or amendments). Through your participation in these mini-surveys, SRS receives immediate feedback and has the opportunity to work on resolving any issues that may arise in a more timely fashion.

Closeout Procedures – Final Bill to Sponsor

Sponsors, in particular federal and state sponsors, are more aggressively enforcing deadlines for submitting all financial and non-financial documents as required by the terms and conditions of the awards. In order to ensure that Sponsored Research Services (SRS) submits final financial reports to the sponsors in a timely manner, we have established a timeline for approving final project expenses.

Final Project Expense Approval Timeline – SRS requires that all expenses be entered into the payment process 45 days prior to the reporting deadline. Expenses are considered as entered into the payment process in the following ways:

  1. If processing through an electronic system, the invoice should be in the routing and approval process;
  2. If a hard copy invoice, the invoice should be received by SRS Accounts Payable by the deadline.

For example, if the project has a 90 day reporting deadline (per federal closeout procedure-Title 2, CFR, Section 215.71) all expenses are to be entered into the payment process no later than 45 days after the funding period ends.   The project expenses should be approved and certified by day 60. The project account will be frozen at day 60 so that additional expenses are not allowed to post to the account. Projects with a 60 day reporting deadline are to have all expenses entered into the payment process no later than 15 days after the funding period ends and the project expenses should be approved and certified by day 30. The project account will be frozen at day 30 so that additional expenses are not allowed to post to the account.

It is important that the timelines are followed as prescribed so that all reasonable and allowable expenses are correctly charged to the project. Procedures do not allow for charging encumbrances to the sponsor; only actual expenditures will be invoiced to the sponsor.

This procedure is effective August 1, 2014. However, early implementation is encouraged by the system members’ departments and units.

Payments to Human Subjects

In an ongoing effort to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules and to reduce administrative burden, Sponsored Research Services (SRS) is implementing the following procedure for paying human subject and survey participants. The new forms, along with Frequently Asked Questions, are available on the SRS website https://srs.tamu.edu/forms/srs-forms/.

The Payment Certification Form and the Human Subjects Payment Log are to be used when the department is paying the human subjects or survey participants with cash or gift cards obtained with working funds. Only the Human Subject Payment Log is to be submitted to SRS for charging the project account. No human subject names are to be submitted to SRS that will tie the human subject to the actual research project account. The Principal Investigator (PI) is to keep the Payment Certification form with their confidential files.

The form for paying human subjects by check is the Research Participation Payment Request form. In order for this form to be compliant, the following procedure must be followed:

  • The department will pay the human subject from a departmental clearing account. When ready to reimburse the clearing account from the actual research project account, the Human Subjects Payment Log will be submitted to SRS.
  • The form will only contain the ID number the PI has assigned to the human subjects; no human subject names are to be submitted to SRS. This process keeps the human subjects’ names from being tied to the actual research project account for which the individual has participated, making it compliant with HIPAA privacy rules.

This procedure became effective July 1, 2014.

Customer Satisfaction Mini-Surveys

Sponsored Research Services (SRS) is committed to improving responsiveness and communication with Principal Investigators. One such effort is the implementation of a mini-survey regarding proposal administration that is sent to the lead PI to receive immediate feedback regarding the service they received on their most recently submitted proposal. This feedback gives SRS the opportunity to work on resolving any issues that may arise in a more timely fashion. Our intent is to implement similar feedback surveys for contract negotiation and project administration in the near future.

Industry Negotiations Initiative

SRS has segregated the contract negotiators on industry-sponsored projects from those on federal, state, and non-profit projects. There are significant differences in how these categories of contracts are negotiated and having negotiators for industry as well as having negotiators focused on non-industry negotiations will prove beneficial to faculty researchers, member administration and project sponsors.

The industry team will negotiate contracts sponsored by for-profit entities, as well as any federal flow-through funds coming from for-profit entities. Exceptions to this generalization include testing agreements and other standardized negotiations in the following areas: Energy Systems Lab, Food Protein, Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, Crisman Institute, commodity groups (AgriLife) and the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies.

The governmental/non-profit/non-industry team will negotiate all federal, state, and local governmental contracts, as well as any non-profit sponsored agreements and the exceptions listed above.

All of the departments/centers/institutes served by SRS will have two contract negotiators assigned to them; one for industry and one for non-industry. These assignments are available on the SRS website in the ‘Who Do I Contact? – Contract Negotiation’ drop down menu.

Click here to view original notice.

Adjustment to Proposal Submission Process

In an effort to reduce the administrative burden on Principal Investigators (PIs), SRS has adjusted the process for use of the Late Submission/PI Acknowledgement form. The original process required the PI to complete a Late Submission/PI Acknowledgement form and submit it to their proposal administrator if they were not able to comply with the proposal deadlines established by SRS. Feedback from PIs indicated that completion of the form took valuable time that was better spent on completing the proposal.

SRS has heeded that feedback and adjusted our process. Under the adjusted process, if a PI does not submit proposal information within the allotted timeframe that has been established, they will be emailed a statement from their SRS proposal administrator informing them of the risks of not complying with lead times. These risks include SRS not having time to quality check the proposal and risks inherent with last minute submissions. The receipt of the email serves as the PI’s acknowledgement and no action on the part of the PI is required.

The lead time requirements have not changed:

  • Initial notification to SRS of intent to submit a proposal – a minimum of 4 business days prior to the sponsor submission deadline; and
  • Receipt of the proposal (in its complete and finalized form that is ready for submission) – by 3:00 p.m., 2 business days prior to the sponsor submission deadline.

The lead times allow time to review the sponsor’s requirements and complete the proposal preparation, while also allowing time to conduct a quality check of the proposal against the sponsor requirements. In addition, submitting by the SRS lead times will also provide the opportunity for SRS to submit the proposal early and to hopefully overcome potential problems encountered during the electronic submission process (power outage, internet availability issues, etc.) that could lead to proposals being rejected.

SRS will continue to keep track of the late submissions and report to members.

Click here to view original notice.