Best Business Practices -- Division of Research and Innovation

May 26, 2020

To: UNT Faculty 

From: Dr. Mark McLellan, Vice President for Research and Innovation 

RE: Change in approvals for all Grant and Contract proposals including: grants, contracts, letters of Intent, white papers, pre-proposals, etc. 

Grants and Contracts Administration (GCA), is responsible for the review and submission of proposals for contracts, grants and cooperative agreements to federal agencies and other sponsors. 

Research Commercial Agreements (RCA), formally known as the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, is responsible for the negotiation and execution of contract agreements and sub awards, intellectual property licensing, and cooperative agreements with companies and other institutions. 

To continue progressing towards national research university status, as defined by the State of Texas, in Fiscal Year 2015, GCA adopted a standard of best business practices typical with those of our peer institutions and of those institutions we aspire to emulate. The purpose of this memorandum is to review with you those changes to those practices and responsibilities that ensure a more effective proposal submission process. 

Beginning July 1st, Department Chairs, Deans, and Institute Directors (if applicable) will be included into the electronic review and approval steps to allow for more robust Departmental and College oversight and to ensure the most effective use of Departmental and College resources. It is your college Dean’s and your department Chair’s responsibility to confirm that financial commitments made in a proposal, as well as the personnel and facilities referenced in a proposal, are reasonable and available to carry out the proposed project. UNT’s Cayuse SP software system allows PIs to enter proposal-related information into a web-based form and submit it to the appropriate reviewers and approvers for electronic authorizations. 

The Deans, Chairs, and Directors (if applicable) are expected to review and approve electronically the proposals from their College, Departments and Institutes in a timely manner to ensure sufficient time for the thoughtful consideration and review of the proposal by GCA for sponsor and institutional requirements prior to the proposal submission to federal agencies and other sponsors. 

Deadlines for Proposal Review 

GCA will maintain the four business days deadline for receipt of proposals. A complete proposal package, including all approvals, must be received by GCA at least four full business days prior to the sponsor's due date. 

  • The sponsor's due date is defined as the date and time after which the sponsor will no longer accept proposals. For cases in which UNT is a subcontractor, the sponsor's due date will be determined by the submitting institution. For cases in which there is not a set sponsor due date, the sponsor’s due date will be the target submission date, set by the PD/PI.
  • A complete proposal package should be routed in Cayuse SP and obtain all needed Department, College, and Institute approvals before the four-day internal deadline. A complete proposal package includes all proposal materials or a PDF of the assembled application from a sponsor’s portal, as well as all internal forms, such as the UNT budget tool, budget justification, cost sharing forms, sub awardee documents and other required documents as applicable. If applicable, all proposal materials must also be uploaded in Cayuse 424 or into other agency electronic proposal systems (i.e., FastLane) and access to the assembled proposal should be granted to GCA for review. 
  • A reasonable draft of the narrative portion of the proposal (i.e., Project Description; Research Strategy, Narrative, etc.) can be provided in lieu of the final narrative to meet the four-day deadline. However, the narrative must be sufficient enough for GCA to review for compliance and formatting. Edits to the narrative will be accepted by GCA until 8am on the sponsor’s due date.The Vice President for Research and Innovation and GCA staff members will continue to focus on professional, efficient and effective service to all faculty interested in submitting proposals for funding from external sponsors. Principal Investigators (PIs) who wish to have a department or college assist in preparation of the proposal should request such assistance far enough in advance to meet required deadlines. Grant writing assistance may also be provided by some of the Colleges on a case-by-case basis, especially for new or inexperienced investigators. 

The following summarizes the roles and responsibilities of PIs, departments, colleges and GCA based on best business practices for proposal submissions of our peer and aspirational institutions. 

Principal Investigators 

PIs are responsible for: 

  • Knowing and understanding the four-day submission deadline and for providing the completed proposal with all needed approvals to the GCA by that deadline. 
  • Reading the Request for Proposal (or Broad Agency Announcement, etc.) and any related proposal preparation guidance from the funding agency and for preparing a proposal in compliance with the requirements and objectives laid out in these sources. If the Pl feels that grant writing assistance is necessary for preparation of her/his proposal, then assistance should be requested from their college (if their college provides that support) far enough in advance of the deadlines to enable such assistance to be effective. 
  • Engaging their department, college and GCA as early in the process as possible and preparing the proposal in sufficient detail and sufficiently in advance to allow for adequate reviews. 
  • Identifying any need for cost sharing early in the proposal development process.
    • Cost sharing should most frequently be made via allocation of investigator time and effort or other in-kind exchange.
    • When the sponsor has requirements for cost sharing, these requests should be made as early as possible in the development of a proposal and well before the four-day GCA submission period. 
    • A request for cost sharing in the form of a commitment of funds from VPRI, a department, a college or other university unit should be made 10 days prior to the Agency Deadline and well before the four-day GCA submission deadline. Matching funds from the Division of Research and Innovation must be approved in advance by the Vice President Research and Innovation (VPRI). It is important to note that some departments/colleges may implement their own internal deadline for proposal submission that may require these commitments be secured earlier than 10 days prior to submission. 
  • Knowing the elements of proposals that could necessitate review and approval by other UNT offices and obtaining those approvals before the GCA deadline. 
  • Ensuring the proposal is complete, accurate, and meets all the programmatic, administrative, and compliance requirements. 
  • At no time is it acceptable for a Principal Investigator to enter into discussions with a sponsor regarding possible changes to the university’s federally negotiated overhead rate (F&A). 

Departments and Colleges 

Departments and colleges are responsible for: 

  • Reviewing proposals to ensure they are consistent with departmental and college policies and procedures. 
  • Confirm that financial commitments made in a proposal, as well as the personnel and facilities that are referenced in a proposal are available to carry out the proposed project, including those that may extend beyond the duration of the project. This confirmation is provided by electronic authorization of the Cayuse SP record. 
  • Those departments and colleges that have staff available for assisting in the development of the proposal narrative and/or the preparation of budgets and other forms should:
    • Assist PIs in preparation of required documents needed to make the proposal complete.
    • Assist PIs, where needed, in drafting budgets, obtaining sub-recipient documents, completing forms or inputting information into electronic systems and carrying out a preliminary review of the proposal. 
    • Review a proposal, typically including an assessment and approval of the various components of the budget for:
      • Allowable direct costs 
      • Qualifications and availability of personnel 
      • Availability and appropriateness of facilities 
      • Proposed cost-share to ensure it is adequately documented and accurate 
      • Appointment information to ensure it is accurate and the Institutional base salary is accurate 

The above referenced actions should occur before the 4-day internal deadline. 

Grants and Contracts Administration 

GCA is responsible for: 

  • Reviewing the proposal documents for accuracy and compliance with all applicable guidelines and regulations (institutional, local, state, federal, etc.) pertinent to the specific submission. 
  • Obtaining any needed Authorized Organization Representative signatures that may be needed for submission. 
  • Facilitating the final submission of the proposal to the sponsor according to the agency requirements. 
  • Assist in coordinating approval for any variance from UNT’s federally negotiated indirect cost recovery rate unless an indirect cost restriction is required by a Sponsoring Agency’s written policy. Approval must be obtained in writing (e-mail or memo) from the Vice President for Research and Innovation or his/her delegate at least 10 days prior to the agency deadline. 
  • GCA will assist PIs prior to the four-day deadline on a "first come/first serve" basis as workload allows with other items such as translation of budget items into the sponsor forms and completion of other forms required by sponsors. In addition, during the four-day review period before the sponsor submission deadline, GCA will check the proposal package for all required elements and for compliance with UNT and sponsor requirements, provided that a complete proposal package was received by the four-day deadline. 
  • If GCA identifies compliance issues or missing proposal documents that did not receive appropriate department or college review/approval, GCA may reach out to obtain appropriate approvals or re-initiate the approval process in Cayuse to ensure appropriate approvals are obtained for the submission. 

As a reminder, all proposals requesting funding from an external sponsor must go through GCA, in coordination with RCA (if applicable), which are the only offices on campus that have the legal authority, delegated by the President, to submit proposals on behalf of the Institution. 

Late Submission of Proposals 

If a complete proposal package is received after the four-day window (including required department and college approvals) it will be considered a late submission. 

  • Best efforts will be made to complete the proposal submission process as time and staff availability allows. 
  • A limited review of the proposal will be provided based on the GCS’s availability. However, late proposals will not receive priority over proposals complying with the required lead times. 

GCA does not guarantee the submission of proposals that do not allow for sufficient time to complete the necessary review and navigate an appropriate sponsor submission. If an award is made based on a late submission of a proposal, the Pl and the department or other university unit may be responsible for covering costs incurred by UNT as a result of any proposal errors. Such costs might include cost sharing commitments, inaccurate rate calculations for indirect costs, or unallowable commitments of UNT resources. 

UNT reserves the right to review and request changes prior to acceptance of an award or to decline an award, if the budget or other commitments contained in the proposal do not conform to UNT specifications or requirements. 

GCA will continue to adopt best practices ensuring outstanding professional service and assistance to PIs, while providing the appropriate level of review of proposals and contracts. We also recognize the important partnership that departments, colleges, and institutes play in reaching this goal. 

Should you have questions about submission standards or deadlines, please contact Chuck Tarantino, Assistant Vice President, Grants and Contracts Administration by MS TEAMS, by phone 940-565-3940 or by e-mail: charles.tarantino@unt.edu

Cc: Deans, ADs for Research, Department Chairs