FAQ

Office of Sponsored Programs Frequently Asked Questions – Pre-Award

    Proposal Submission

  1. When do I contact OSP if I am interested in submitting a proposal to an external sponsor?
  2. When are proposals due in OSP?
  3. Which proposal documents must OSP review and sign?
  4. What does OSP mean when they say proposal should be full and complete when they arrive for review?
  5. How do I know whether to submit the proposal through WVU or the WVU Research Corporation?
  6. How do I know whether to send a proposal through OSP or the WVU Foundation?
  7. What is a white paper?
  8. What is a pre-proposal?
  9. Do pre-proposals and white papers need to be routed through and reviewed by OSP before they are submitted?
  10. What signatures do I need on a blue sheet for a pre-proposal?
  11. What other types of grant requests need to be reviewed by/submitted to OSP?
  12. When or why would I need to submit a new blue sheet?
  13. Who do I contact to inquire about the status of a proposal and /or award?
  14. Budgets and Costing

  15. What is an allowable cost?
  16. What are direct costs?
  17. What are indirect costs?
  18. What is WVU’s Indirect Cost Rate (F&A)?
  19. What budget items are exempt from indirect cost?
  20. How do the federal agencies know the amount of indirect costs that WVU is permitted to charge?
  21. What F&A rate should use in my proposal to a foundation or corporation sponsor?
  22. What are the University’s currently approved fringe benefit rates?
  23. Are fringe benefit rates applicable to students? How should I estimate my salary in a proposal?
  24. How do I reflect the percentage of effort that will be devoted to the project?
  25. What is Cost Sharing?
  26. How do I document cost sharing commitments?
  27. What is the monetary threshold for items of equipment?
  28. What are participant costs?
  29. What is the difference between traineeship and participant costs?
  30. In which budget category should I put tuition expenses and student health benefits?
  31. Is there a website that lists the federal government’s approved per diem rates?
  32. Should I round my budget expenses to the nearest dollar?
  33. Electronic Submissions

  34. What is grants.gov?
  35. What is FastLane?
  36. How can I obtain access to NSF FastLane?
  37. What type of access do I need to provide to OSP when I submit a proposal into FastLane?
  38. What is the eRA Commons?
  39. What is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) salary cap?
  40. Sub-awards

  41. What is the difference between a sub-award and a subcontract/service agreement?
  42. What documents are required for sub-awards?
  43. Compliance

  44. My project involves human subjects, how do I proceed?
  45. My project involves animal subjects, how do I proceed?
  46. My project involves the use of biohazard substances, how do I proceed? 
  47. My research may contain export control issues, who do I need to contact?

  1. When do I contact OSP if I am interested in submitting a proposal to an external sponsor?

    The Principal Investigator, i.e., project director, should contact OSP if the sponsor requests an estimate of expenses or a draft budget. Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs and talk to a Pre-Award Grant Specialists. Based on your needs, they will describe the resources available to help you find funding, guide you on proposal preparation procedures, and then work with you on submitting your proposal when you are ready to apply for a grant.

    You can learn more at Research

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  2. When are proposals due in OSP?

    The OSP requires that all proposals be submitted  at least FIVE WORKING DAYS PRIOR to an agency deadline. The proposal should be full, complete, and approved by all appropriate parties.

    The primary reasons for requesting five working days to review proposals are:

    To assist the PI in creating and submitting a proposal that is within sponsor guidelines including: assistance with an appropriate and accurate budget, assistance with format to ensure that the proposal is complete and that it represents the University and the Investigator in a positive way.

    Since the proposal document is submitted and the award is made to the University, not to the Principal Investigator (PI), OSP has the legal and fiduciary responsibility to ensure that all University, sponsor, State and Federal regulations, laws, and policies are met.

    Because the actual proposal development process can take days, weeks, and even months, we recommend that the PI contact the OSP very early in the proposal process, so the administrator can help facilitate the overall process.

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  3. Which proposal documents must OSP review and sign?

    A suggested format for a novice proposal should include:

    • Abstract and/or Executive Summary
    • Background and/or Overview of the Existing Base of Knowledge
    • Statement of Need
    • Project Description
    • Budget
    • Organizational Information
    • Conclusion-Statement of Outcomes

    Always follow the sponsor’s guidelines, adhering to stated rules regarding format, section length, budget limits, and related requirements.

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  4. What does OSP mean when they say proposal should be full and complete when they arrive for review?

    A complete proposal includes all of the following:

    1. The final scope of work or technical description of the project often referred to as the project description, research plan, project narrative etc.
    2. A budget and budget justification in compliance with sponsor requirements and institutional policies. Budgets must include fringe benefits and facilities and administrative costs at our current federally negotiated rates. Proposed cost sharing must be approved by an individual authorized to commit the unit’s [support may come from College or Provost areas] funds. If third party cost sharing is included, an endorsement of the cost sharing commitment must be included with other documentation. Restrictions on Facilities and Administrative costs must be in accordance with official policies of sponsoring agencies or have the approval of the Vice President of Research.
    3. All ancillary components of the proposal such as the biographical sketches, facility descriptions, voluntary or mandatory letters of support and appendix materials.
    4. All administrative components of the proposal must be complete. This means all required forms must be filled out and ready for signature. Required forms vary by agency and are often specific to a funding announcement.
    5. The above described proposal components must be assembled in the final format required by the sponsor . In the case of grants.gov applications all files must be converted to .PDF and loaded into Pure Edge form. The individual must also invoke the check error icon and correct any errors that appear. In the case of a FastLane application (not via grants.gov) all files must be uploaded to FastLane, the check function must be used to determine if there are missing documents and to determine errors that need to be corrected; application must be error free, OSP must be given submit access.

      Note: In both of these examples the tasks must be completed at least 5 full working days prior to the sponsor’s deadline. A pre-check of the administrative components of the application including the budget and budget justification is recommended. However, the final proposal application is due no later than 5 full days before the sponsor deadline.

    6. A fully signed electronic proposal routing form. This includes all faculty members, key personnel and their designated department officials. If you are using the paper version of the proposal routing form the paper forms must be fully signed by all required individuals.
    7. Proposals with collaborators (sub-recipients) must include the following:
      • final scope of work for the organization UC will contract with if an award is forthcoming
      • budget and budget justification consistent with sponsor requirements for the sub-recipient.
      • approval /endorsement from an authorized representative of the collaborating entity. This authorization is critical to OSP’s approval of your proposal.

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  5. How do I know whether to submit the proposal through WVU or the WVU Research Corporation?

    The standard practice is for all proposals to be submitted through the Office of Sponsored Programs using WVURC’s contact information. If the potential funding source requests the grant be submitted through an institution of higher education or has no option for a non-profit, this is a flag to contact the Research Corporation to determine the best course of action.

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  6. How do I know whether to send a proposal through OSP or the WVU Foundation?

    The WVU Foundation and the West Virginia University Research Corporation are separate 501(c )(3) organizations (i.e., non-profit). WVU Foundation can accept gifts and non-federal grants with no “strings” attached and which do not constitute exchange transactions (i.e., where something of value is given in exchange for a gift or grant). WVURC submits proposals for and receives grants, contracts, and agreements in support of all research projects at WVU.

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  7. What is a white paper?

    A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that often addresses problems and how to solve them. They typically do not include budgetary information. White papers are sometimes requested as an early step in the proposal process and after review, some applicants are invited to submit full proposals.

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  8. What is a pre-proposal?

    Pre-proposal, like white papers, are sometimes requested as an early step in the proposal process. They may take many forms, but typically the agencies request a brief summary of the project, personnel, and an overall budget estimate. The agencies review these summaries and some applicants are invited to submit formal applications.

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  9. Do pre-proposals and white papers need to be routed through and reviewed by OSP before they are submitted?

    Pre-proposals, and/or white papers do not require OSP review and endorsement unless budgetary information is provided, institutional certifications/assurances are required and/or grants.gov submission is required.

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  10. What signatures do I need on a blue sheet for a pre-proposal?

    If the pre-proposal contains budgetary information, or contains institutional certifications / assurances, the Principal Investigator, Department Chair and Dean must sign the blue sheet. If the pre-proposal does not include budgetary information and does not require institutional certifications, than the Principal Investigator’s signature will suffice.

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  11. What other types of grant requests need to be reviewed by/submitted to OSP?

    All new competing proposals, competing renewals, noncompeting renewals, supplemental requests, and NIH progress reports must be submitted to and reviewed by OSP.

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  12. When or why would I need to submit a new blue sheet?

    If there are significant budget changes, the principal investigator or co-investigators change, the percent of effort changes, or the cost shared amounts change, then a new blue sheet, with new institutional signatures, must be submitted to OSP before the proposal can be submitted.

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  13. Who do I contact to inquire about the status of a proposal and /or award?

    The Pre-Award staff members do not track the status of submitted proposals. Award Initiation & Management staff members can answer questions about the status of a proposal and / or award.

    Budgets and Costing

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  14. What is an allowable cost?

    As it relates to sponsored programs, the simple definition of an allowable cost can be determined by applying a three-pronged test. An allowable cost for a specific grant is one that is acceptable if (1) it is incurred solely to advance the work under the sponsored agreement; (2) it benefits both the sponsored agreement and other work of the institution, in proportions that can be approximated through use of reasonable methods, or (3) it is necessary to the overall operation of the institution and is deemed to be assignable in part to sponsored projects.

    In addition, there are some special or unique terms or conditions related to allowable costs and sponsored programs. The follow two scenarios are the most common to sponsored programs:

    1. Where the purchase of equipment or other capital items is specifically authorized under a sponsored agreement, the amounts thus authorized for such purchases are assignable to the sponsored agreement regardless of the use that may subsequently be made of the equipment or other capital items involved.
    2. An allowable cost for a sponsored project cannot be shifted to other sponsored agreements in order to meet deficiencies caused by overruns or other fund considerations, to avoid restrictions imposed by law or by terms of the sponsored agreement, or for other reasons of convenience. In addition, any costs allocable to activities sponsored by industry, foreign governments or other sponsors may not be shifted to federally sponsored agreements.

    If you should have additional questions about allowable costs on a sponsored project or agreement, please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs at (304) 293-3998.

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  15. What are direct costs?

    Direct costs are those costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, or that can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy. Some examples of direct costs include salary and wages for people working on the proposed grant projects, travel, materials, and supplies for specific activities associated only with the grant project.

    Costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances must be treated consistently as either direct or F&A costs. Where an institution treats a particular type of cost as a direct cost of sponsored agreements, all costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances shall be treated as direct costs of all activities of the institution.

    For more information about the Federal guidelines that address the various areas of a budget related to sponsored research, the following documents serve as an excellent resource on the numerous regulations:
    • Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21: Cost Principles for Educational Institutions
    • Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110: Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and other Non-profit Organizations

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  16. What are indirect costs?

    Indirect costs as it pertains to a sponsored project or agreements are allowable items of cost that are directly related to the project, but cannot be directly attributed to that specific project. Examples of indirect costs can include depreciation of buildings and equipment; research administration; accounting; and, custodial services.

    Indirect costs are known by many different names, such as “Facilities and Administrative Costs”, “Overhead Costs” or simply “Administrative Costs”. Even though these costs cannot be directly attributed to a sponsored project, they are a very real fiscal cost to this institution. In addition, indirect costs are viewed by the Federal Office of Management and Budget as real and legitimate costs that may properly and legally be billed to a funding agency.

    At West Virginia University, Facilities and Administrative rates (indirect costs) must be applied and charged on all sponsored projects and agreements. The only exception to this policy is when a program or an agency has been granted a legislatively endorsed restriction on the F&A rate that is to be charged or, in the case of private agencies, an established written policy exists which limits F&A rates. In these rare instances, it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to furnish the Office of Sponsored Programs with the written, established policy.

    If you should have additional questions about allowable costs on a sponsored project or agreement, please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs at (304) 293-3998 or visit our Policies and Regulations page.

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  17. What is WVU’s Indirect Cost Rate (F&A)?

    The follow chart demonstrates the current facilities and administration rates (F&A) that must be charged for all sponsored programs unless a program or an agency has been granted a legislatively endorsed restriction on the F&A rate that is to be charged or, in the case of private agencies, an established written policy exists which limits F&A rates.

    F&A Rates FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
    Research on campus 48% 49% 49% 50% 50%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%
    Instruction on campus 55% 55% 55% 55% 55%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%
    Other Sponsored Activity on campus 32.50% 32.50% 32.50% 32.50% 32.50%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%

    The F&A costs are calculated on a Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) base. This means that the applicable F&A rate is applied to all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies services, travel and sub-grants and sub-contracts up to the first $25, 000 of each sub-grant or subcontract (regardless of the period covered by the sub-grant or sub-contract) in the proposed grant/sub-contract/agreement budget.

    We have provided our F & A policy guide here

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  18. What Budget items are exempt from 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 sub-grant and sub-contract in excess of $25,000.

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  19. How do the federal agencies know the amount of indirect costs that WVU is permitted to charge?

    West Virginia University has negotiated an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) with the Federal government. Specifically, the Indirect Cost Rate Agreement is negotiated and approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources; this agency is often referred to as the cognizant agency who establishes F&A rates and fringe benefit rates for sponsored projects. F&A agreement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources lists the indirect cost rates that the university can charge for research, instruction, and other sponsored activities conducted on- and off-campus. It also lists the budget categories that are exempt from indirect costs and the fringe benefit rates that this institution is permitted to charge the government. All federal agencies have copies of the WVU/WVURC indirect cost/F&A rate agreement and are required to honor its fringe benefit and indirect cost rates.

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  20. What F&A rate should use in my proposal to a foundation or corporation sponsor?

    The correct rate is the maximum amount allowed by the agency for the type of activity that is being proposed by the Principal Investigator. Please refer to the follow chart that demonstrates the various F&A rates based upon the type of sponsored program activity:

    F&A Rates FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
    Research on campus 48% 49% 49% 50% 50%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%
    Instruction on campus 55% 55% 55% 55% 55%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%
    Other Sponsored Activity on campus 32.50% 32.50% 32.50% 32.50% 32.50%
    off campus 26% 26% 26% 26% 26%

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  21. What are the University’s currently approved fringe benefit rates?

    The current, approved fringe benefit rates for all personnel categories are as follows:

    FRINGE BENEFIT RATES effective July 1, 2017

    Current Rates
    Full time 23.50 %
    Part time 8.00 %
    Undergraduate Student 2.00 %
    Graduate Assistant 6.00%

    For some proposals, the agency might request details or a breakdown of the fringe benefit rates. In those instances, here are the details you might need:

    Fringe Benefit Rate Details :

    FY18 Fringe Benefit
    Rate Components
    Full-Time Part-Time Undergraduate
    Student
    Graduate Assistant
    Social Security/Medicare 7.00% 7.10% 1.60% 0.32%
    Worker’s Compensation 0.40% 0.40% 0.40% 0.40%
    Unemployment 0.05% 0.50% - -
    Insurance 9.86% - - 5.28%
    Retirement 5.98% - - -
    Child Care 0.01% - - -
    Terminated Annual Leave Pay-out 0.20% - - -
    Total 23.5% 8.00% 2.00% 6.00%
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  22. Are fringe benefit rates applicable to students? How should I estimate my salary in a proposal?

    Fringe benefits are applicable to WVU students. The fringe benefit rate for graduate students effective July 1, 2017 is 6.00% and the undergraduate student rate is 2.00%. Faculty and Staff should estimate their salary on a grant funded project consistent with the percentage of effort expended on that project within a fiscal year.

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  23. How do I reflect the percentage of effort that will be devoted to the project?

    WVU faculty and staff are generally salaried at 100% effort. Funding agencies vary in how effort should be reflected on a grant proposal. Some agencies request that effort be demonstrated in months expended on a project, while others prefer that effort be shown as a percentage of personnel’s salaried assignment. A faculty or staff member’s salary cannot exceed100% of his/her assigned effort.

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  24. What is Cost Sharing?

    Institutional commitment, including cash and 3rd party in-kind contributions may meet the definition of cost-share. Funding agencies have restrictions on what is cost-share allowable so it is important to pay close attention to agency-specific requirements. Generally speaking, cost-share is any item devoted to the project that runs through the WVU accounting system. I.E. personnel services; supplies; equipment; tuition, and unrecovered F&A. In-kind contributions are those committed to the project by a 3rd party entity. These may be in the form of real property; equipment; supplies; and the value of goods and services specifically identifiable to the grant project.

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  25. How do I document cost sharing commitments?

    Cost-share accounts will be established at the same time the granting agency award is made. Items devoted to cost-share will be maintained in cost-share accounts and will be expended at the rate outlined in the terms and conditions of the award contract or agreement. WVU EBO’s will verify and retain cost-share tracking accounts.

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  26. What is the monetary threshold for items of equipment?

    In order for an item to be classified as equipment within a sponsored project budget, it should have a single unit purchase price (including any attachments or accessories that are necessary to make the item useable) of $5,000 or more and a useful life of more than one year. If the item does not meet the above criteria, then the aforementioned item(s)of cost should be classified as Materials and Supplies within the sponsored project budget.

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  27. What are participant costs?

    Participants are the recipients of service or training provided for a particular purpose such as a workshop, conference, seminar, symposia, or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity. Participant support costs are program specific expenses such as stipends, subsistence allowances, travel allowances and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects.

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  28. What is the difference between trainee-ship and participant costs?

    Participants may include students, national scholars and scientists, private sector representatives, agency personnel, teachers, and others who attend and participate in the conference, workshop, or training activity.

    Trainees may be recruited to participate in the organization’s training program. For each individual to be trained, costs may include a stipend and tuition and fees incurred within the period of grant-supported training.

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  29. In which budget category should I put tuition expenses and student health benefits?

    Some agencies provide a formatted budget page that includes a line item for these expenses, such as NSF, which should be entered where indicated; otherwise these expenses should be included in the “Other” category and listed as a line item in the detailed budget.

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  30. Is there a website that lists the federal government’s approved per diem rates?

    Yes, you can find the most current per diem rates on the U.S. General Services Administration website for both domestic and foreign travel.

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  31. Should I round my budget expenses to the nearest dollar?

    Yes.

    Electronic Submissions

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  32. What is grants.gov?

    Grants.gov is a website developed by the federal government to serve as a central storehouse for information on grant programs. This website includes federal grant opportunities and provides an outlet for institutions to apply and submit to these opportunities.

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  33. What is FastLane?

    FastLane is a website developed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to facilitate the exchange of information and transactions between NSF and the research community.

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  34. How can I obtain access to NSF FastLane?

    Contact the OSP pre-award staff, provide the information listed in question 36, and an account will be created for you.

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  35. What type of access do I need to provide to OSP when I submit a proposal into FastLane?

    Name (first, last, and middle initial), department, degree type and degree year – specify what area the degree is in, campus address, city, state, zip, email address, business phone, and fax number.

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  36. What is the eRA Commons?

    eRA Commons is an online interface where grant applicants, grantees and federal staff at NIH and grantor agencies can access and share administrative information relating to research grants.

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  37. What is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) salary cap?

    The most current information regarding the NIH salary cap is available here.

    Sub-awards

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  38. What is the difference between a sub-award and a sub-contract/service agreement?

    A sub-recipient as defined in Circular A-133 is a “non-federal agency that expends federal funds received from a pass-through entity to carry out objectives of the federal program or award.” A sub-recipient, unlike an independent contractor or vendor, is responsible for a portion of the work that is essential to the project. Therefore, a sub-recipient is likely to make programmatic decisions, have their own principal investigator, meet specific program objectives through performance measures stipulated in the grant, and comply with applicable federal sponsor requirements.

    In most instances, the sub-recipient is identified at the outset in the original proposal to the funding agency. In the rare instances, when this in not the case, sponsor approval of the sub-recipient is generally required prior to the subcontract being awarded. Sponsor approval is also required to change the sub-recipient named in the original proposal. ds are provided to the sub-recipient by means of a sub-award. Sub-awards are defined as “financial assistance in the form of money made under an award by an award recipient (also called a pass-through entity) to conduct a fundamental section of the scope of work for the sponsored project.” For further assistance in determining if what you are proposing is really a sub-recipient relationship, refer to the checklist for determining sub-recipient vs. vendor and consultant services.

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  39. What documents are required for sub-awards?

    Sub-recipient will be conducting a substantive portion of the proposed project. A detailed budget breakdown for the proposed sub-award, including any cost share requirements, will be included as part of the application total budget. This will include any Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs to be passed down to the sub-recipient, which will necessitate the verification of any applicable fringe benefit and F&A rates. The proposal should also include a well-defined scope of work with clearly defined performance and/or outcome measures, and plainly delineate deliverables and deadlines. The sub-recipient’s institutional official must approval by forwarding a letter along with the approved scope of work and budget.

    Compliance

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  40. My project involves human subjects, how do I proceed?

    The agency guidelines will indicate whether approval prior to submission of your proposal is necessary. If so, please contact the Office of Research Compliance at (304) 293-7073 or visit the Human Research Protections Program and the IRBs page.

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  41. My project involves animal subjects, how do I proceed?

    The agency guidelines will indicate whether approval prior to submission of your proposal is necessary. If so, please contact the Office of Research Compliance at (304) 293-1050 or visit Animal Research page of Office of Research Integrity & Compliance.

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  42. My project involves the use of biohazard substances, how do I proceed?

    The agency guidelines will indicate whether approval prior to submission of your proposal is necessary. If so, please contact the Office of Research Compliance at (304) 293-7073 or the Biosafety page.

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  43. My research may contain export control issues, who do I need to contact?

    Initial contact should be with the Export Control Office, which is part of the Office of Research Integrity & Compliance at (304) 293-3084 or exportcontrol@mail.wvu.edu.

    Additional information regarding export controls: http://exportcontrol.wvu.edu