Grants Assistance

Help available

Julia Apodaca, the departmental research administrator (DRA) for the School of Human Ecology (SoHE), can help you with grants-related matters.  Please contact her well in advance of your deadlines.  During times of high demand, assistance will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Often-used acronyms

ECS      Effort Certification System
F&A     Facilities and Administration
IDC      Indirect costs (same as F&A)
MTA    Material transfer agreement
MTDC  Modified total direct costs
NDA     Non-disclosure agreement
OSP      Office of Sponsored Projects
PI         Principal Investigator
PRF      Proposal Review Form
RMS     Research Management System
SDCP   Sensitive Data Control Plan

Getting started

Any time you plan to apply for sponsored funding, a PRF must be submitted via RMS in order to alert OSP that you are going to submit a grant application.  If you would like for Julia to create, fill out, and submit (“release”) the PRF for you, just let her know; she is happy to do it.

OSP requires FOUR WORKING DAYS to review and approve proposals.  Thus, your INTERNAL DEADLINE to have your grant proposal COMPLETED is a minimum of four working days prior to the sponsor deadline.

Julia will be happy to help you develop your budget, proofread your documents, assist with compliance issues, or any other proposal-related tasks.  If you want her assistance, please contact her months or weeks ahead of time, not days or hours.

Please remember that the FIRST items OSP will review are the FINAL budget, FINAL budget justification, and project summary.

If your proposal is large and complicated or has subawards to other institutions or must be submitted in hard copy, add an appropriate number of days or weeks to your internal deadline.

Here is OSP’s quick-start guide for new faculty.

Commonly used tools

Cayuse (third-party provider that UT uses to submit grants to federal agencies via Grants.gov)
FastLane (NSF online website for researchers, reviewers, and research administrators and their organizations)
eRA Commons (NIH online interface for signing officials, principal investigators, trainees, post-docs)

If you are not registered (or don’t remember if you’re registered) in these systems, contact Cathie Simpkins at OSP so she can register you (or determine if you’re already registered or reset your password if you forgot to record it).

Julia can create your application in Cayuse (and give you access to it), fill out embedded forms, and upload documents.

For FastLane, the PI has to create the application and then give Julia access so she can help you fill out and/or upload.

She can also help you with other online submission tools as well as email or hard copy applications.

Commonly used references

SF424 R&R Guidebook to the NIH version of the standard form used for many federal applications
NIH GPS (Grants Policy Statement)
NSF PAPPG (Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide)

Critical compliance issues

Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI) and Financial Interests Disclosure (FID)

  • Covered individuals have to take FCOI training every four years.
  • Covered individuals have to submit a FID every year (plus, if a change in financial interests occurs, within 30 days of the change).
  • PIs decide who is a covered individual.
  • If no human subjects are involved, a covered individual is someone who is RESPONSIBLE for the research.
  • If human subjects are involved, a covered individual is someone who is INVOLVED in the research.

If you have collaborators at other institutions who are covered individuals, they also have to comply with this policy, in one of two ways: http://www.utexas.edu/research/rsc/coi/co_pis.html

Effort Certification

Effort certification on sponsored projects is a significant compliance risk for UT-Austin.  All PIs are responsible for certifying their effort twice a year.

Common grant issues

Facilities and Administration (F&A) (indirect costs)

UT-Austin has a federally negotiated F&A rate that changes over the years; please be sure you use the rate that will be in effect when your project starts.  UT’s policy is that when you request multiple years of funding, whatever rate is in effect when the project commences will be used for ALL budget periods.

If a sponsor does not allow indirect costs or if it caps indirect costs at a rate that is lower than UT’s negotiated rate, you must adhere to the sponsor’s policy or guidelines.  (Upload the policy or guidelines to your PRF.)

If you apply for funds from a for-profit entity, you can use the “adjusted industry F&A rate,” but you must request AT LEAST the federally negotiated F&A rate.

Fringe benefits

UT-Austin does not have a fixed or negotiated fringe benefits rate; it varies depending on the employee.  For purposes of grant budgets, we recommend estimating fringe at about 30% of salary.  Some employees have a higher rate and some have a lower rate, so using around 30% tends to even out and ensure that you don’t come up short of funds once the grant is awarded.  (Exception:  For undergraduate students, we recommend estimating fringe at about 10%.)  In your budget justification, you can use boilerplate language such as the following:

Fringe benefits are calculated based on historical data and are estimated at [xx]% of salary in this proposal.  Actual costs for fringe benefits are charged to the sponsored project at the time the cost is incurred, based on salary, selected benefits package, and other variables applicable to the individual employee.

Cost-sharing

Cost-sharing means donating effort or resources to a grant-funded project.  Mandatory cost-sharing (required by sponsor) is becoming increasingly rare, especially for federal funding opportunities.  Voluntary cost-sharing should usually be avoided.  If a person commits effort to a sponsored research project but that effort is not paid by the grant, the effort is cost-shared.  OSP strongly discourages cost-shared effort. If you are a PI, you have to commit a minimum of 1% effort to the project, even if you are not paid salary by the grant.  Any time you have committed cost-sharing, you have to fill out OSP’s cost-share form and include an account number from which the cost-shared effort or other cost-sharing is paid.  (Voluntary UNcommitted cost-sharing is okay; you simply have to be sure that you DO NOT QUANTIFY the effort or whatever resource is being donated in the proposal.)

Graduate students

TAs (Teaching Assistants) and AIs (Assistant Instructors) are employed to teach (and related duties).  GRAs (Graduate Research Assistants) are employed to conduct research, usually on grant-funded projects.  TAs and AIs normally have 9-month appointments, while GRAs normally have 12-month appointments.  We use two different rates:  “pre-candidacy” and “advanced.”  Check with Julia or Sakena for current rates.  Graduate students are usually appointed for 20 hours a week, but other amounts are possible.

If you include GRAs in your budget, you also have to include their tuition in your budget—or you have to cost-share the tuition from another source (and you have to fill out OSP’s cost-share form and include an account number that the tuition will be paid from).  A 20-hr/wk appointment is considered a full load for a student, so if the GRAs in your grant budget are appointed at 20 or more hours per week, you must include ALL their tuition, not half of it.

Consultants

In grants administration, a consultant is, by definition, paid.  You cannot be a consultant on the grants of other people in your own department (see UT policy on faculty consulting).  When you include consultants in your grant budget, OSP requires a letter from them (addressed to you) on letterhead stating their qualifications for the work and their fee (rate x time + travel if applicable).

Course buyout

If you want to use grant funds for a course buyout, you must follow the policies and procedures of the College of Natural Sciences for Faculty Leave of Absence or Release from Instructional Budget.

Important reminders

Grants are awarded to an institution, not an individual.

If you apply for funding from an outside source, you need to go through OSP/OIE or Development, regardless of how small or large the amount is.

Read the RFP [request for proposal] / RFA [request for application] / FOA [funding opportunity announcement / application guidelines and follow instructions.

A budget shows how much. A budget justification tells what for.

Most research-intensive faculty have a research allotment of 25% of their effort.

NIH (National Institutes of Health, part of PHS, Public Health Service):
Be sure the FOA (funding opportunity announcement) has not expired.
Be sure that the Institute/Center (IC) to which your proposal responds is actually participating in that FOA.
NIH does not use the role Co-PI.  You can have a PI, multiple PIs, and Co-Is but not Co-PIs.

NSF (National Science Foundation):
Does not allow more than 2 summer months of salary for PIs.
Does not allow cost-shared effort.  At all.
Does not normally allow “letters of support” but requires letter for “unfunded collaborations.”

Useful information

Responsible Conduct in Research

Boilerplate information for proposals

NIH salary cap

UT practice regarding NIH salary cap

How to request PI status for someone whose appointment does not automatically confer PI status

Sponsored project or gift?

Sponsored project goes through OSP:

  • A specific program of work or research is proposed to or required by the sponsor;
  • The sponsor requires an authorized institutional signature;
  • The sponsor requires or expects one or more progress reports, a final report, financial reports and/or a formal accounting of how the funds were expended;
  • There are intellectual property, confidentiality and/or publication conditions associated with the receipt of funds.

Gift goes through Development Office (Corporate Relations or Foundation Relations):

  • Gifts are unrestricted funds provided by a donor to the University without any terms, conditions or other obligations to support the general research of a PI.  (Gifts are NOT subject to F&A charges).

OSP or OIE?

If your sponsored research is funded at least partly by a non-profit entity (government, foundation, etc.), the sponsored research agreement will be negotiated by the Office of Sponsored Projects.

If your sponsored research is funded solely by for-profit private industry, the sponsored research agreement will be negotiated by the Office of Industry Engagement.