Federal Contract Award Acceptance

Overview

Awards are typically received by the Office of Research.  However, sponsors may sometimes notify the Principal Investigator directly that an award has been funded.  Awards will require the signature of an authorized University official and, if received directly by a Principal Investigator or his/her department, the award should be forwarded immediately to the Office of Research for review and processing.

Only the Authorized Official or designee can endorse an award/agreement on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh.

Before an award can be accepted by the University of Pittsburgh, the Office of Research (OR) completes a comprehensive review of all of the terms and conditions of the award, which includes the terms and conditions of the award (including terms and conditions incorporated by reference of the Federal Acquisition Regulations, FAR clauses, which can be quite labor intensive due to government shorthand). The Office of Research is responsible for conducting all negotiations with sponsors to obtain mutually acceptable terms and conditions that will allow the University to accept the award.

Examples of terms and conditions that require negotiation include, but are not limited to:

  • Provisions that prohibit publication of the results of the project
  • Provisions that require us to assign copyright ownership
  • Provisions that do not allow the University to own the data from the project
  • Provisions that deal with indemnity for the project
  • Provisions that deal with confidentiality
  • Provisions that are not consistent with University policies or procedures, such as a requirement for the use of Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) vs. good laboratory practices
  • Provisions that are inconsistent with government regulations
  • Awards that include non-standard patent and/or licensing terms
  • Awards that fail to include all previously agreed upon elements
  • Provisions that impose Export Controls
  • Provisions that impose the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), Information Security (IT Security), or Privacy Act
  • Provisions that require certification of Organizational Conflict of Interest

Once the award has been accepted by the Office of Research, Account Activation is completed and the account number is assigned by Sponsored Projects Accounting.

Next Steps and What to Expect after Account Activation:

  • If ANY changes to the award (budget, SOW, etc.) are desired, please contact OR to determine if prior approval (i.e., Contracting Officer's Authorization Process) is needed.
  • OR should be the main point of contact when corresponding with the Contracting Officer (or equivalent) since OR is authorized to negotiate on behalf of the University and can assure that all areas of the University are represented.
  • If a change to the award is received from the Technical Representative, then the Contracting Officer’s approval is needed PRIOR to making the change.  (The Contracting Officer is the only one authorized to make changes.)
  • If the University of Pittsburgh is a Subcontractor,  our sponsor may need to go back to the prime sponsor to approve certain changes.

After the contract is signed, is there anything else that will require my collaboration with the Office of Research?

Once an award has been made, the sponsor may ask for an additional proposal within the awarded contract.  The Office of Research refers to this as a "Midstream Proposal."  It has requirements similar to an Initial Proposal.  Please refer to the Midstream Proposal section for specifics. 

Alternately, there may be a need to request changes to an award or even request permission for certain actions or items listed within a certain award.  Typically, there is a need to gain prior authorization from the sponsor before taking action.  Requirements for prior authorization vary by award, agency, and even Contracting Officer, so please ask your Federal Contract Services contact for guidance regarding your particular award or see Contracting Officer's Authorization for more information.

There may also be a need to Issue Third Party Agreements under the signed contract.  The department is responsible for initiating this process.  The Issue Third Party Agreements section provides further details.

Departmental Responsibilities after Award is Signed:

Once an award has been signed, the Principal Investigator, the Department Administration, and the Office of Research are each responsible for certain activities.  The Roles and Responsibilities document outlines these roles.  Some of the duties of the Department Administration include, but are not limited to:

  • Submitting necessary paperwork to the Office of Research for Midstream Proposals, Contracting Officer’s Authorizations, and Third Party Agreements.
  • Notifying the Office of Research via orfedcon@pitt.edu and Human Resources (if the E-Verify clause is contained in the award) prior to assigning new staff on the project.  (Note: if the award is subject to the E-Verify clause the department will be copied on the initial notice OR provides to HR via email.)
  • Requesting subsequent funding increment from the sponsor that will result in an award modification; please copy orfedcon@pitt.edu on this sponsor request.
    • Conditions for requesting subsequent funding increment:
      • if the award is incrementally funded and,
      • the award states that the recipient must notify the sponsor upon reaching or anticipation of reaching a certain threshold of the current funding and,
      • if there are no changes to the approved budget. 
    • Please Note:
      • the department is responsible for reviewing the agreement for this kind of language and it may be highlighted within their Initial Activation Memo from the Office of Research.
      • If changes to approved budgets are being requested, it may require a Contracting Officer's Authorization.  Please see that section for more information.

Can the University act under Expanded Authorities to make budgetary changes and authorize no-cost extensions to Federal Contracts?

No.  Under its grants policy statement, the NIH has waived cost-related and other prior-approval requirements for many activities and expenditures, and provided authority for these activities and expenditures to the grantee.  This is known as “Expanded Authorities.”  Expanded Authorities do not apply to Federal Contracts, and in fact, the University has very little latitude to make changes without the prior written approval of the government or our sponsor.  For example, most Federal Contracts do not allow for the carry-over of unobligated balances into a new program year.  Further, No-Cost Extensions are very rarely granted for Federal Contracts.