Frequently Asked Questions

Support Services Available

Nova Southeastern University's Office of Sponsored Programs, a unit within the Office of Research and Technology Transfer, provides technical administrative support in each phase of obtaining and managing awards from proposal development/submission (pre-award) through the project's implementation and close-out (post-award).

Pre-award services include identification and dissemination of funding opportunities; serving as liaison to funding sources; review/interpretation of grant application guidelines; assistance with proposal preparation (forms completion, budget preparation, proposal review prior to submission); submission of proposals; and completion of assurances/certifications.

The Grant Writing Laboratory, a unit within the Office of Research and Technology Transfer, provides a variety of pre-award proposal development services to NSU faculty and professional staff including brainstorming, grant/project planning, funding research, and review/editing.  The services offered in the Grant Writing Laboratory are closely coordinated with existing services offered by the Office of Sponsored Programs, and are intended to provide faculty members with additional support in their grantseeking efforts.

There are many resources available to NSU faculty and staff.  Pivot is a software tool that includes a database of thousands of funders (with customized search capability and alerts available) that is accessible to anyone with an NSU login. The Office of Sponsored Programs also searches and reviews grant announcements and posts them on its web site under Funding Opportunities. The Foundation Directory Online grant search engine is available within the Alvin Sherman Library.  Staff in the Office of Sponsored Programs and Grant Writing Laboratory are also available to assist you in completing a customized funding search.  

Your assigned OSP Grant Officer will help you in all aspects of grant preparation and submission, including budget preparation. Each OSP Grant Officer is assigned to specific colleges and centers. To find out your assigned OSP Grant Officer please visit the Staff page on our web site.

Proposal Development/Submission

  • Does my idea match the funder’s priorities?
  • Have I read the complete proposal solicitation and instructions?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Do I have support of my dean/director?
  • Will I need collaborators or partners?
  • Is special access required for an electronic proposal module?
  • Do I have enough time to complete the proposal and obtain stakeholder support prior to the deadline?

The time necessary for pre-submission review of an application varies with its size, complexity, completeness, and accuracy, care taken in its preparation and prior review, and availability of OSP staff. To allow for necessary corrections and revisions and for greater assurance that sponsor deadlines will be met, allow at least five full working days for OSP to review the proposal.

Proposals which contain exceptional or unique features including cost sharing commitments, conditions that necessitate legal review, etc., may require additional lead time.

The Office of Sponsored Programs should be contacted as soon as possible in the process to learn if any other university units intend to submit a proposal to the same competition. The OSP will contact all parties to determine if there are opportunities for collaboration and attempt to have parties reach consensus on which unit should take the lead and/or submit the proposal. If no decisions can be reached, the issue will be brought to the attention of the respective deans for resolution.

The method of submission is governed by (1) the sponsor's guidelines and (2) timing. Proposals may be submitted electronically through Grants.gov or another web-based system, mailed through the US Postal Service, sent by Federal Express, hand-delivered, faxed, or emailed, depending on sponsor requirements.  All submissions through Grants.gov must be submitted by the Office of Sponsored Programs.   For hard copy submissions, when the OSP has received the proposal well in advance of the deadline, the investigator may request that it be transmitted by the OSP. Submission arrangements should be discussed and decided during the initial stage of working with OSP.

  • Completed and signed Proposal Approval Record (PAR) Form
  • Completed and signed PI/PD's Responsibilities Form
  • Completed and signed Financial Interest Disclosures form as applicable
  • Completed and signed Waiver of Facilities and Administrative Costs if the sponsor has a cap on F&A cost rates
  • A budget which reflects appropriate F&A and fringe benefits have been applied.
  • Special forms, biographies, publications, site description, experience, and letters of commitment/support.

Budget Information

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. 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.

Indirect cost rates, also known as Facilities and Administration (F&A), cost rates, are Federally negotiated rates that allow a grantee institution to recover certain costs incurred for joint or common objectives and therefore cannot be specifically identified with a particular sponsored project. These costs include general administration, building operation and maintenance, depreciation, and similar costs.

NSU's Facilities and Administrative costs rates are based on salaries and wages which exclude fringe benefits.

You will need to fill out a form Waiver of Facilities and Administrative Costs which should be signed by the appropriate individuals granting approval to waive NSU's negotiated F&A rates.

Current fringe benefit rates may be found on the OSP Web under NSU Fact Sheet.

College and non-sponsor resources provided in support of sponsored programs; includes contributed effort and matching funds.  Generally, voluntary cost sharing is not permitted under university policy.  Contact your OSP Grant Officer for additional information.

OSP policy #37 provides information related to conditions when cost-sharing is permissible.  If you have additional questions please contact your OSP Grant Officer.

A salary cap is defined as a maximum annual rate of salary for full-time effort that can be charged to a grant.

Since 1990 Congress has been legislatively mandating a limitation periodically on direct salary (excluding any fringe benefits and F&A costs) for recipients of NIH (and other selective agencies) grants. Salary limits on grants, cooperative agreements and contracts described in (NOT-OD-14-043) for FY 2014 NIH grants. The current salary cap is $181,500 effective January 12, 2014.

In addition to the NIH, the agencies that enforce salary cap are HRSA, SAMHSA, CDC, and AHRQ. At NSU, salary cap limitation applies to all awards that NSU receives from NIH, HRSA, SAMHSA, CDC, and AHRQ.

If a faculty member on a sponsored project has a salary that exceeds the cap, the department will have to cover the difference proportionate to the percent effort on the project.

For example, a PI’s current institutional base salary is $200,000. She is requesting 10% effort on an NIH grant. The salary cap is $181,500.

In this case, salary requested in the grant budget capped at 10% of $181,500 ($18,150) instead of 10% of $200,000 ($20,000). The difference ($1,850) is the amount that will need to be covered by the department. OSP Grant Officers will assist PI’s in interpreting application of salary cap limitations on their proposal budgets.

The Grant Officer assigned to your college/center can assist you in the preparation of the proposal budget. Please allow reasonable lead time.

To get commonly requested institutional information, such as F&A rates, Fringe Benefit rates, DUNS number, etc., please visit the Resources link (Pre-Award Tab) and click on “NSU Fact Sheet”.

Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs

The Federal Office of Management & Budget’s OMB Circular A-21 defines organized research as all research and development activities of an institution that are separately budgeted and accounted for. It includes:

  1. Sponsored Research: All research and development activities that are sponsored by Federal and non-Federal agencies and organizations. This term includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques (commonly called research training) where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities and where such activities are not included in the instruction function.
  2. University Research: All research and development activities that are separately budgeted and accounted for by the institution under an internal application of institutional funds. University research, for purposes of this document, shall be combined with sponsored research under the function of organized research.

"Other sponsored activities" means programs and projects financed by Federal and non-Federal agencies and organizations which involve the performance of work other than instruction and organized research. Examples of such programs and projects are health service projects, and community service programs. However, when any of these activities are undertaken by the institution without outside support, they may be classified as other institutional activities.

Research and scholarly activities conducted at NSU incur two types of costs. For every grant dollar the University spends on the direct costs of conducting research or other projects, the University incurs additional costs to maintain the facilities used for the projects and to support the administration of those projects i.e. Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A).

Direct costs pay for the resources that a single research project uses. They 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. These costs may include salary for a research assistant, a chemical for a specific experiment, or the travel costs associated with the implementation of a specific project. They are the costs that researchers readily identify as the cost items in their contract or grant budgets.

Recovered F&A Costs pay for the costs of research that cannot be easily identified with or billed to one project. The federal Office of Management and Budget has studied this for many years and in one of its official Circulars, OMB Circular A-21, F&A are defined as costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. F&A costs are synonymous with "indirect" or “overhead” costs. These are real costs that may include the costs of electricity to run the building in which a sponsored project is conducted, equipment shared among researchers, salaries to pay for department staff assistants, or library subscriptions to academic journals. It is very tempting not to think of these services as part of the real costs associated with a project, but they constitute a significant portion of the total resources consumed by any sponsored project.

In order to recoup some of these expenses, F&A costs are included as a specific line item in sponsored project budgets. NSU recovers these costs through the application of F&A rates to all grant budgets.

At NSU direct costs and Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs are extracted from the University’s independently audited financial statements and categorized into direct and indirect cost pools representing basic University functions. This process is governed by federal regulations.

NSU’s rates are negotiated with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the agency responsible for approving the University’s F&A rates on behalf of all federal agencies. Predetermined rates are negotiated to simplify the administration of cost type research and development contracts and grants, to facilitate preparation of budgets, and to permit more expeditious closeout of awards when the work is completed. NSU’s rates are generally negotiated for a three-year period, although regulations permit a two- to four-year period when experience indicates F&A rates would be essentially stable during the ensuing periods.

NSU negotiates separate on-campus and off-campus rates for HPD, Oceanography, and the main campus to account for the varied aspects of their programs, operations, and research facilities. When projects are completed off-campus, negotiated F&A rates are lower, since they exclude office space, equipment, and maintenance. Both on-campus and off-campus F&A rates are applied to direct salaries and wages minus fringe benefits to determine the amount allocable to each individual agreement. NSU’s rates can be found in the NSU Fact Sheet available at http://www.nova.edu/osp/resources/pre-award.html.

These rates are derived from our audited financial statements and represent the costs of doing business here at NSU. With the exception of Oceanography, our rates are commensurate with other institutions, as the average for all universities in the country is about 50%.
Most agencies that fund sponsored programs have F&A costs associated with their own operations and therefore would anticipate F&A costs when they make awards for a research grant.  Although it may not be very obvious, Principal Investigators who obtain very small grants or use very little space and equipment still incur indirect costs, which are often a greater percentage of their awards than larger grants.  While it is true that the actual F&A incurred varies from project to project, the cost of calculating these actual costs in detail would far exceed the savings that could be generated for any given project. It is therefore a cost saving measure to charge each project an average represented in the approved rate.

As part of our negotiations with DHHS, NSU gave the Federal Government the assurance that awards issued by the Federal Government will not be "used to subsidize the F&A costs allocable to non-Federal awards." Each time we waive indirect costs on a non-federal project, we inadvertently subsidize the F&A costs allocable to that project with F&A costs recovered from federal grants and contracts awarded at the negotiated rate.

Arbitrary waiving of F&A costs also leads to inconsistency in the treatment of sponsored projects and principal investigators. This type of inconsistency can generate a disincentive to participation in sponsored project activities and may become counterproductive to the development of sponsored research.

Principal Investigators who ask for waivers of F&A costs frequently do so in an attempt "to reserve enough funds for the execution of the project," instead of funding the "administration" of the project. While this point has its own merits from the perspective of the Principal Investigator, it amounts to a false economy, in that it invariably leads to the undocumented supplementation of the costs of a project from other sources of revenue. It amounts to inadvertent cost sharing on the part of the University. Since the University provides cost sharing, when appropriate, for a number of projects that are carried out by our Principal Investigators, we need to treat all cost sharing, including the "waiving of F&A costs," in a similar fashion.
While it is the university’s policy that F&A costs are not to be waived on sponsored projects to support research, teaching, and service, it is recognized that some federal, state, and local government funding programs, as well as some private foundations, professional associations and corporations have an established policy that restricts the rate of F&A cost payment. There may be instances in which it would be beneficial for the University to accept a limitation on reimbursement of the F&A cost rate rather than its federally negotiated rates, or to waive F&A cost recovery.  In these instances, a proposed project/program may be beneficial to the University, for a number of reasons, and therefore, such benefits may outweigh the recovery of full F&A costs.

In instances where a sponsor will not reimburse the university at the negotiated F&A cost rate, the Principal Investigator/Dean of the school to which the project has been offered may request a waiver of F&A costs.  The waiver is normally reviewed and approved, subject to sponsors restrictions and policies directly by the Dean of the school; final authority rests with the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer or the Executive Vice President and COO or his/her designee, and for Health Professions Division (HPD), the Chancellor.  In the event the Dean of the school refuses a waiver request, the Principal Investigator of the proposed project may appeal directly to the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer. Once a waiver has been approved, it is retained in the proposal/project file maintained in the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Principal Investigators should discuss the budget needs of their proposed project with their respective Dean/Department Head and the Office of Sponsored Programs staff before submitting a final budget or before informally discussing project costs with a potential sponsor. All proposals requiring F&A cost rates that differ from NSU’s negotiated rates must be consistent with the provisions of the University's Policy on Application of Facilities and Administrative Costs Rates to Proposal Budget & Facilities and Administrative Cost Waiver, which may be found at http://www.nova.edu/osp/policies.index.html.  The Waiver of Facilities & Administrative Cost form is available at http://www.nova.edu/osp/resources/pre-award.html.

All the preceding questions and answers are aimed at clarifying the need for including F&A costs as a legitimate line item in the budget of every sponsored project.

It is the policy of NSU to use recovered F&A costs to cover the costs of its research-related infrastructure. It is also the policy of the University to use available funds from recovered F&A costs to support and catalyze additional basic applied, and clinical research, training and community service.  F&A costs recovered from all externally funded grants, contracts and other agreements are allocated as follows:

  • 45% will be allocated to administrative costs in support of sponsored projects at the University. The University President will maintain control and monitoring of this account.
  • 30% will be allocated to support research in the college(s) of the Principal Investigator(s) who generated the F&A costs. 
  • 20% will be allocated to the research activities of the Principal Investigator(s) who generated the F&A costs. Where there are two or more Principal Investigators (“Co-PIs”), amounts allocated to each Principal/Co-Investigator will be proportional to the percent of effort included in the approved funding agency budget. An unrestricted account will be set up for each Principal Investigator; the Principal Investigator will be responsible for managing the account. In the event the Principal Investigator leaves the University, all monies remaining in the account, minus encumbrances, will revert back to the Principal Investigator’s college.
  • 5% will be allocated to the University Research Reserve account for the support of research development initiatives and intellectual property development. The University’s President will maintain control and monitoring of this account.

The Facilities and Administrative Cost Recovery Policy may be found at http://www.nova.edu/osp/policies/index.html.

Key Grant Terms

The interval of time, usually 12 months, into which the project period is divided for budgetary and funding purposes.

The total time for which support of a project has been programmatically approved. A project period may consist of one or more budget periods.

Effort expended on a sponsored project the sponsor does not compensate for; a form of cost-sharing.

The one individual designated by the applicant organization to direct the project or program to be supported by the grant. The principal investigator also referred as Project Director is responsible and accountable to applicant organization officials for the proper conduct of the project or program. Typically, this is a faculty member or administrator, who submitted a proposal that was accepted and funded by an external sponsor.

In addition to the principal investigator, Key Personnel are defined as individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of the project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not salaries are requested.   Generally, key personnel are identified in the proposal and a biosketch is provided.

Third-Party Agreements

Consultant payments on sponsored projects must represent compensation to individuals who are NOT NSU employees and who render independent services that are needed for the performance of a particular project. Normally, consulting needs can be met from resources within the University community. However, if the expertise needed for the project is not available within NSU, then an outside consultant may be charged if all of the following criteria are met:

  1. The consultants have professional skills or other special expertise related to the specific work on the sponsored project.
  2. The skills or expertise of the consultant are not available within the University.
  3. The consultant has a written agreement that clearly states the nature of the services to be provided; and
  4. The amount paid to the consultant is reasonable in relative to the services provided, (some agencies cap the daily rate that can be paid for a consultant, and therefore, the OSP Grant Officer should be contacted for further guidance.)

Principal Investigators are advised to explain in the proposal narrative or budget justification that the specific skills or expertise of the consultant either do not exist within the university or are not readily available.

Also referred to as a subcontract or sub-recipient agreement, a subaward agreement is a contract issued under a prime contract, agreement, purchase order, or grant for the procurement of purchased program-related tasks. Issuance of Sub-award agreements under a federal prime award is subject to compliance with federal law and all sub-award agreements are subject to the terms and conditions of the prime award and the normal purchasing requirements of Nova Southeastern University.

Obtain documentation from each sub recipient's authorized official, including an itemized budget, with justification, a statement of work to be performed, and description of the sub recipient's qualifications to do that work, along with a letter of commitment signed by the authorized official. Many federal agencies require a completed cover sheet, certain certifications signed by the sub recipient's authorized official, and a completed budget form for the subcontract budget. The total cost of the subcontract is rolled up into your budget on a subcontract line (other costs).  Your OSP Grant Officer can assist you with this process.

Subcontract: a formal agreement with an organization (not an individual) to perform specific tasks in support of the proposed project independent of the PI.

Consultant: an outside expert (i.e., non-NSU employee) in some aspect of the scope of work of the proposed project who serves on the project for a limited amount of time as an individual under the supervision/coordination of the PI. NSU personnel normally cannot serve as consultants on an award made to the University. Discuss any requests for exception to this policy with the Office of Sponsored Programs well in advance of submitting the proposal

Service Agreement: an agreement that generally results in the delivery of a product to the University, such as translations, reports, position papers, abstracts, training, and web pages. Service agreements may be issued to either individuals or companies.

Subcontract: proposal (including statement of work), signed by person authorized by organization to make the commitment; detailed budget, including subcontractor's fee (if allowable) and indirect costs. Such documentation generally must accompany the proposal to the sponsor.   The OSP Grant Officer will assist you in obtaining this information.

Consultant/Collaborator: letter of collaboration (expertise to be provided, rates) and C.V.   Documentation must accompany the proposal to the sponsor.

Training

Yes. Training is available from the Grant Writing Laboratory and the Office of Sponsored Programs.  For information about available training, please click on Training on our website.

Other

If your project involves research with human subjects, please visit the Institutional Review Board (IRB) website or contact your IRB Center Representative further assistance.