Office of Sponsored Programs & Research Compliance


Proposal Development

Sponsored Programs

Proposal Development

Do I need to register in Grants.Gov to submit a proposal?

No. The SPARC office is the only office on UNCW campus authorized to submit proposals for externally sponsored projects as such we have registered UNCW in

If you register in as an individual, the award will be issued to you individually and UNCW's name cannot be used. You may be subject to taxes please check with your tax professional.

What is fundamental research?

Fundamental research is basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research and from industrial development, design, production, and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reasons.

Source: NSDD-189 - 1985 National Policy on the Transfer of Scientific, Technical and Engineering Information.

A pre-proposal is a brief description, usually 2-10 pages, of research plans and estimated budget that is sometimes submitted to determine the interest of a particular sponsor prior to submission of a formal proposal. Pre-proposals may become awards depending upon agency specifications.

As most pre-proposals require a scope of work, budget justification and detailed budget information, pre-proposals are required to be entered and approved in RAMSeS

A letter of intent (LOI) is a short, usually no more than 2 page, letter stating intent to submit a proposal in response to a request for proposals. A LOI is not binding. The predominant reason for its use is to help agency program staff to gauge the size and range of the competition, enabling earlier selection and better management of reviewers and panelists. In addition, the information contained in a LOI is used to help avoid potential conflicts of interest in the review process.

A LOI normally contains the PI's and co-PI's names, proposed title, list of possible participating organizations (if applicable), and a synopsis of the work in sufficient detail to permit an appropriate selection of reviewers. A LOI is not externally evaluated or used to decide on funding. The requirement to submit a LOI will be identified in the program solicitation and such letters are submitted as specified in the program solicitation.

A letter of intent is not required to be entered and approved via RAMSeS.

Does UNCW require different information to be entered into RAMSeS depending on whether I am seeking a grant versus a contract?

UNCW requires the same information be entered into RAMSeS and routed for approval for competitive awards as it does for the funding you seek by partnering with another institution or private organization for contractual research. At a minimum, a scope of work, detailed budget and a budget narrative are required to be uploaded into RAMSeS and all appropriate questions in RAMSeS be answered. SPARC is available to help with review of documents and any issues you encounter with RAMSeS. A link to RAMSeS is located on the Research webpage

For more information contact:

What is "Facilities and Administrative" costs (F&A) or "Indirect Costs" (IDC)?

Overhead is how university Facilities & Administrative cost are recovered. Each grant reimburses the university for a portion of the university F&A. F&A are cost incurred by the university. Office space, office supplies, clerical and administrative personnel, facilities, buildings are all cost incurred by the university. Grants are charged with direct cost which are cost unique to the research, and that are necessary to carryout research.

Source: OMB Circular A-21 Cost Principles for Educational Institutions. Link:

Sponsored Programs

When are MEALS/FOOD an allowable contract or grant expense?

Meals are an allowable expense when:

  • in conjunction with conference
  • Are included in the written agenda
  • There is substantial dissemination of technical information
  • Participants are non-UNCW employees

Meals are NOT allowable expense:

  • If occur before and after conference
  • If meeting is for UNCW staff
  • Are deemed "socials" or "networking" events

For more information, please contact your grant officer.

Source: OMB Circular A-110, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-Profit Organizations. Link:

What constitutes a "sub-recipient" for contract and grants?

Sub-recipient versus vendor relationship.

Sub-recipient means the legal entity to which a subaward is made and which is accountable to the recipient for the use of the funds provided. The term may include foreign or international organizations (such as agencies of the United Nations) at the discretion of the Federal awarding agency.

Source: Office of Management and Budget Circular A-110

A sub-recipient serves as a co-investigator, is responsible for the end results of the research effort equally with the principal investigator where federal funds are being passed through to another entity. By definition, a sub-recipient relationship can only be established where federal funds are involved.

A vendor provides ancillary goods or services that the principal investigator needs to conduct the research effort. A vendor is not responsible for the research results.

Source: ResearchOnline:

Is it permissible to have an employee start work on my sponsored project without Human Resources paperwork being completed?

No. Individuals cannot start work of any kind until UNCW's Human Resources has received a completed I9 with appropriate backup documentation. It is illegal in North Carolina for an individual to start work without a completed I9.

The I-9 has been created by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to verify that an individual is indeed eligible to work in the U.S. Therefore, all employers are required by the government to obtain the information on this form before hiring an individual.

Source: NC Office of State Personnel Link:

How do I advertise a post-doctoral position for a grant that will be awarded in the next 4-6 week? Do we have to have the fund in place? Or, can we advertise with one fund and then use a second fund for hiring documents?

The answer will depend on benefits. If you want the post-doc position to be a benefit-earning position, the position will need to be established in order to recruit (funding sources can be switched however). Non-benefit earning positions can be advertised without funds immediately identified (they aren't tied to a position number).

It is best to have a risk fund established while waiting on an award.

A quick guide to the recruiting process (for benefit-earning positions) is online at:

Human Resources (2-3160) can help you with any questions.

What is the Umstead Act?

DEFINITION: In general, the Umstead Act (the "Act") prohibits North Carolina government agencies from competing with the private commercial activities of North Carolina citizens. NC State University and its employees must comply with the Act. Violations may be punished as a criminal misdemeanor. G.S. 66-58(a).

The Act specifically prohibits North Carolina government agencies from:

  1. directly or indirectly selling goods in competition with N.C. citizens;
  2. rendering services to the public that are ordinarily provided by private businesses;
  3. leasing space in a state owned or operated building for purposes of selling goods or rendering services in competition with private business;
  4. contracting with anyone to sell goods or render services in competition with private business.



Five of the exceptions specifically permit the university to conduct certain commercial activities.

  1. The first statutory exception (G.S. 66-58(b)(8)) allows state universities to sell several things:
    1. utilities and other services operated prior to January 1, 2005;
    2. items that are incident to educational research or the operation of instructional departments;
    3. food, books, and minor merchandise to employees, students, and their families;
    4. food and merchandise to guests invited to the university for meetings or conventions;
    5. anything incident to operation of the coliseum;
    6. anything related to Centennial Campus operations;
    7. student health services;
    8. activities that serve students and employees and their immediate families or guests;
    9. activities that further the mission of the university;
    10. activities that provide university related services or market university related merchandise to alumni of the university and their immediate families;
    11. activities that enable the community or people of the state to utilize the university's facilities, equipment or expertise; and,
    12. operation by the university of an inn or hotel and dining and other facilities connected to an inn or hotel.
  2. A second exception allows the sale of learned journals, works of art, books or publications of the university. G.S. 66-58(c)(2).
  3. A third exception allows state universities to operate campus stores where profits are used for student scholarships. Campus stores may sell educational supplies, gift items, and personal use items. However, a campus store may only sell to students and their families, employees and their families, and individuals who are on campus for a purpose other than just to buy goods from the university store. Only educational supplies, gift items, and personal use items may be sold. G.S. 66-58(c)(3).
  1. The General Assembly created the UNC Umstead Review Panel to review and determine whether or not a proposed activity violates the Umstead Act. The University may rely on the determination made by the panel. Therefore, if you want to start a new activity, please discuss with the Office of General Counsel to determine if a presentation to the Review Panel is appropriate. You may read more about the Umstead Act and the Review Panel.
  2. The simplest defense is to establish a clear connection between the goods sold or the service rendered and the University's educational purpose. In 1986, the NC Attorney General stated that activities which are incidental to the legitimate function of a state agency are not violations of the Umstead Act. (Attorney General's Opinion, March 4, 1986, 55 NCAG 101). The function of the university is to educate, so the law permits any sale of goods or services that are a function of educational operations.
  3. A federal court in North Carolina has ruled that the Umstead Act creates an exclusive remedy. This means that although an agency or employee may be found criminally guilty of a misdemeanor, a private citizen cannot sue in civil court. (See Bd. Of Governors v. Helpingstine, 714 F. Supp. 167 (M.D.N.C. 1989)).
  4. For employees of state institutions, the statute applies only when they act in their capacity as employees. G.S. 66-58(a).


  1. Is the activity a direct or indirect sale of goods, wares or merchandise?
  2. Does the activity offer a service that is normally performed by private businesses?
  3. Is the activity directly related to the university's educational function?
  4. Would the activity fall under any other exception, such as a product of an experimental station or test farm, a learned journal or other exception?

**If the answer to 1 or 2 is "yes," then proceed to answer 3 and 4. If neither 3 or 4 is "yes," then the activity is likely prohibited by the Umstead Act.

MOST IMPORTANT: Consult with the NC State Office of General Counsel if there is any question about the applicability of the Umstead Act.


An activity that is acceptable under the Umstead Act may still be inappropriate or raise other legal issues. For example, revenue from an activity that is not substantially related to the educational mission, as determined by the IRS, may be subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT).