Sponsored Programs & Research Compliance

Frequently Asked Questions

NOTE: For FAQs related to the Research Integrity Office (RIO) programs, please visit the RIO FAQ website.

Not finding the answer to your question?  Contact the Specialist assigned to your department - SPARC Directory

Proposal Development

  • Does my proposal need to go through SPARC?

    The short answer is yes. If you are requesting funds for a given purpose whether it is in the form of a contract, grant or cooperative agreement, the proposal must be approved by SPARC.

    Going through SPARC works to your advantage in a number of ways. SPARC will help develop your budget and guide you through the submission process as well as check to ensure that your proposal complies with sponsor guidelines, and any other relevant policies and regulations. Submitting without SPARC’s assistance can result in detrimental budget errors and delays on the post award side.

    Preliminary proposals or white papers do not require SPARC approval if no budget is included. If a budget is included the proposal must be routed through SPARC and RAMSeS.

    You are encouraged to contact SPARC if you’re ever unsure about whether a proposal should go through the SPARC office. Trying to avoid running a proposal through SPARC is against University policy and often causes long delays on the post-award side and could even result in the decline of an award.

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

    Yes. You do not need to register as an individual but as an affiliate of UNCW. 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 Grants.gov.

    If you register in grants.gov 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, or basic research is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind. The objective of basic research is to gain more comprehensive knowledge or understanding of the subject under study. It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding the field of study and provides the basis for technological advancement.

    Basic research analyzes properties, structures, and relationships toward formulating and testing hypotheses, theories, or laws. In industry, basic research is defined as research that advances scientific knowledge but does not have specific immediate commercial objectives, although it may be in fields of present or potential commercial interest.

    Source: National Research Council. 2005. Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press (pgs. 44-45). doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/11177.

    Fundamental research is important to expand the pool of knowledge in any discipline. Findings of fundamental studies are usually applicable in a wide range of cases and scenarios. Fundamental studies usually do not have strict deadlines and are usually driven by the curiosity of the researcher.

    Opposite to fundamental research is applied research that aims to solve specific problems, thus findings of applied research do have immediate practical implications.

    It is important to note that although fundamental studies do not pursue immediate commercial objectives, findings of fundamental studies may result in innovations as well as generating solutions to practical problems.

    Source: Dudovskiy, J. (2018). Fundamental research, Business Research Methodology. Available at: https://research-methodology.net/research-methodology/research-types/fundamental-research/.

  • What is the difference between a pre-proposal and a Letter of Intent (LOI)?

    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 letter, usually no more than 2 pages, 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 required to go into RAMSeS if a budget figure is included and/or an institutional signature is required.

  • How far in advance do I need to submit my proposal in RAMSeS?

    Routing your proposal in RAMSeS should not be your first interaction with the SPARC office. Ideally, you will be working with SPARC’s Proposal Development team along the way and submitting your proposal in RAMSeS is the last step in the pre-submission process.. We recommend you allow at least 5 days for routing with 1 – 2 weeks being optimal. We cannot guarantee approval of proposals submitted in RAMSeS with less than 72-hour notice. Proposals including cost-share, subrecipients/subawards, international travel/organizations or multiple departments usually take longer, especially with teleworking.  

    SPARC instituted a “menu of services” that further details the SPARC review process based on the amount of time our office has to review all finalized documents pertaining to your proposal. Please see that document here.

  • 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.

  • Who is eligible to be a Principal Investigator (PI)?

    External awards are made to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on behalf of University faculty, staff and students. The University is legally responsible for complying with all regulations and requirements guiding the implementation of these sponsored projects and thus it is incumbent on UNCW to ensure that such projects are conducted by the proper personnel. All full-time tenure or tenure track faculty are eligible to be a PI. If you are not a full-time tenure or tenure-track faculty member but are full-time faculty you may apply for a PI eligibility waiver to be granted approval to serve as a PI.

  • I am applying for a subaward on another University’s proposal. What do I need to do?

    The lead institution that you are collaborating with should provide some direction on what is needed from you. From an administrative standpoint, you will put a budget, budget justification, and scope of work into RAMSeS the same you would if you were applying for a grant that was not in the form of a subaward. The SPARC office will work with you and the prime sponsored programs office and/or PI to ensure all required documents are submitted in a timely fashion.

  • I am working on a collaborative proposal and will have subawards on my project. What do I need to do?

    Since UNCW will be the lead, UNCW will be responsible administering the grant and ensuring the subawards are in compliance as well. We will need a letter of commitment, scope of work, budget, and budget justification approved by the subrecipient institution’s office of sponsored programs. These documents must be included with your budget, budget justification, and scope of work for UNCW in RAMSeS. Additionally, all required documents for the proposal (if additional to the documents mentioned above) must be obtained from the subrecipient sites and included in RAMSeS.

  • I need UNCW’s Federal Wide Assurance number, DUNS, CAGE, TIN, F&A rate agreement, IRS tax exempt status letter, etc.

    Please consult our Frequently Needed Information page. If you don’t see a particular item you need, contact the SPARC office.

Budget Preparation

  • Who can help me develop a project budget?

    SPARC’s Proposal Development Team is happy to help answer any and all budget related questions and will even help you put the budget together. Give them a call if you have a quick question about a budget related issue or set up an appointment if you would like more budget preparation support.

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

    Indirect costs, also known as Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs or overhead, are costs associated with maintaining the necessary infrastructure to conduct research. These are costs that cannot be readily identified to a specific project. Some examples of F&A include utilities such as electricity and water, telecommunications, building and equipment depreciation and the administrative functions necessary to comply with regulations and conduct business.

     

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

    The university has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate agreement, which can be found here.

    This Agreement reflects an understanding reached between UNCW and the Department of Health and Human Services Cost Allocation Services concerning the rate(s) that may be used to support UNCW’s claim for F&A costs on grants and contracts with the Federal Government. The rates approved in this agreement are for use on grants, contracts, and other agreements with the Federal Government, subject to the conditions in Section III.

    The correct F&A rate should be applied to each project. The rates apply to on-campus and off campus organized research, instruction, and other sponsored activities. Please reach out to your assigned pre-award specialist if there are questions on which F&A rate to apply to your current project.

    To calculate indirect costs, simply multiply your project’s total direct costs by the appropriate percentage rate outlined in the F&A Rate Agreement. Indirect costs are not charged on certain line items such as tuition, equipment over a certain value, etc.

  • Does my F&A rate change to off-campus rate when I am working remotely?

    No Changes to F&A Rate for COVID-19 Remote Working

    UNCW recognizes that many sponsored project personnel are still working remotely during our response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Please be advised that such work is not eligible for an off-campus Indirect Cost rate. All personnel working from home or other remote locations right now are still using University computing resources such as common servers and their back-up features, the VPN which requires maintenance, HR services, and the campus is still required to pay applicable administrative salaries in order to continue to operate. Facility services including electricity, security, and maintenance are still being carried out at all buildings on campus.

    We hope this situation will be relatively short-lived, and most sponsored project proposals are for periods greater than one year, thus all sponsored project proposal budgets will include the assessment of full Indirect Costs as allowed by the sponsor according to the applicable rates in our federally negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement.

    In addition to the information included above for new proposals, please be aware the same F&A rate that was approved at the time of your grant or contract was award will continue to be applied.

  • What is cost-share?

    Cost share essentially means the University is “donating” money, employee effort or tangible goods towards the direct costs of a sponsored project and is only allowed when it is explicitly required by a sponsor and/or is in the best interest of UNCW. Any quantified commitments are considered cost share and should not be included in your proposal unless you have obtained official University approval. Please consult UNCW’s Cost Share Policy for more information and speak with your department chair or dean along with SPARC’s Proposal Development team for recommended ways to cost share, or if you have any questions.

  • When is a cost share fund needed?

    A cost share fund is needed when the grant proposal indicates UNCW will pay a portion of the grant’s expenditures towards completion of the award’s objectives. See also UNCW's Cost Sharing and Matching Policy.

    Grant expenditures typically shared by the university regardless of the source of funds include:

    1. salary for faculty and/or
    2. stipends for graduate students
    3. supplies for the project
    4. food for the project
    5. travel
    6. start-up funds

    Cost share identification and tracking is required by federal law to ensure research facilities & administrative expenditures do not include cost shared expenditures in calculating the F&A federally negotiated rate.

    Cost share funding always comes from a general or trust fund. As the PI, if your proposal indicates the university will pay a portion of the grant’s expenditures, please be sure to enter a fund number in Ramses.

    Step 1 and 2

    Step 3

    NOTE: Even when funded by the Graduate School, funding must be transferred into and spent out of a cost share fund. This lets the university track the total amount contributed to any given project.

    In short, cost share serves as a way to track grant expenses paid for by the university.

  • What is employee effort and how is it calculated?

    “Effort” is the amount of time personnel commit to a project. For a faculty member on a 9 month contract, effort is calculated as a percentage of the faculty member's 9-month salary (base salary). Percent effort can be calculated as a proportion of effort committed to a grant over the number of months on the faculty member’s contract.

  • What are fringe benefits and how are they calculated?

    Fringe benefits are the employer’s portion of required federal payroll taxes and state retirement/workers comp/health care that a contract or grant must pay for each employee paid on a contract or grant, based on employee status. The fringe benefit calculator will help you find the proper rate based on your salary and time of year (summer rates are different than academic year rates). Graduate students and other part-time workers should budget 8.65% for benefits year round.

Award Management

  • What is the difference between a grant, contract, and cooperative agreement?

    A grant is distinguished from a cooperative agreement in that it does not provide for substantial involvement between the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity and the non-Federal award entity in carrying out the activity contemplated by the Federal award. (Uniform Guidance §200.51)

    A cooperative agreement is distinguished from a grant in that it provides for substantial involvement between the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity and the non-Federal entity in carrying out the activity contemplated by the Federal award. (Uniform Guidance §200.24)

    The principal purpose of a contract is to acquire property or services for the direct benefit of the federal agency. Extensive involvement is expected throughout the activity between the agency and the recipient. (Uniform Guidance §200.22)

  • How do I know if my award is a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement?

    Award specifics, including award type can be found by logging into Banner and accessing the Grant Maintenance form titled FRAGRNT. Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators receive access to the Banner Finance upon receipt of their award.

    If you would like more training, check out UNCW’s finance training options.

  • Who are UNCW’s primary federal sponsors?
    • Department of Commerce
    • National Science Foundation
    • Department of Defense
    • National Institutes of Health
    • Department of Education
  • When are meals an allowable expense on a federal award?

    Meals are an allowable expense on a federal award when they fall within one of these direct cost categories:

    In addition to the above, the food-related expense charged to a federal award must be allowable under:

    1. The Uniform Guidance
    2. Terms and conditions of the award
    3. Sponsor policy
    4. UNCW policy

    If your meal expense does not meet the above conditions but is fundamental to the success of your project, please contact your grant officer for more information.

  • What is the difference between a subaward and a subrecipient?

    A subaward is an award provided by a pass-through entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of a Federal award received by the pass-through entity. It does not include payments to a contractor or payments to an individual that is a beneficiary of a Federal program. A subaward may be provided through any form of legal agreement, including an agreement that the pass-through entity considers a contract. (Uniform Guidance §200.92)

    A subrecipient is a non-Federal entity that receives a subaward from a pass-through entity to carry out part of a Federal program; but does not include an individual that is a beneficiary of such program. A subrecipient may also be a recipient of other Federal awards directly from a Federal awarding agency. (Uniform Guidance §200.93)

  • What is an independent contractor?

    An independent contractor is someone who follows an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the public and is neither a paid state employee nor a student. However, whether such a person is an employee or independent contractor depends on the facts in each case. Please visit the Independent Contractors page provided by Purchasing Services for more information.

    Contact your grant officer to confirm your available budget.

  • What if my Award has a Subcontract?

    Because of possible restrictions imposed by the sponsor, all subcontracts must be closely coordinated with the UNCW Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance Office. A letter of commitment, scope of work and detailed budget with budget justification will be needed from the principal investigator to prepare a subcontract. The information is then forwarded to the other institution and a signature obtained by an signing official.

    Original agreements are retained in the SPARC Office. This is also where invoices are received. The principal investigator will be asked to review the invoices and notify SPARC to process them for payment through university channels. The principal investigator is also responsible for authorizing a requisition to encumber the funds.

  • What budget items are exempt from F&A (indirect cost)?

    The applicable F&A rate is not applied to certain costs or expenses often found within a sponsored project budget. The Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) base shall exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships and fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

  • Can a grant's mileage rate differ from that of the NC Office of Budget and Management?

    For both mileage and per diem reimbursements, UNCW will reimburse current rates set by the NC Office of State Budget and Management. Visit the UNCW Travel website for current posted rates. Do not use rates or policy that predates policy posted on the landing page.

    If a grant budget is written with a rate over the current year rate, UNCW will reimburse at the current rate and no more. If a grant budget is written with a rate below the current year rate, UNCW will honor the lower reimbursement rate of the grant.

    To process this in Chrome River:

    1. Enter the details of the lower reimbursement rate and the calculation in the comments section
    2. Add the grant's budget justification as an attachment
    3. If you need a copy of the grant's budget or budget justification, contact your grant officer