NCURA’s YouTube Tuesday

Today’s offering by NCURA is directed to the “America Invents Act,” which will dramatically change the way in which both businesses and universities protect their Intellectual Property.  We discuss IP’s importance in research administration more than you probably like, but disposition of ownership and licensing rights is one of the major negotiation points for any contract.  Consequently, the move from ‘first to invent’ to ‘first to file’ will certainly affect not only your institution’s tech transfer initiatives, but also how your PIs will publish and otherwise disclose potentially proprietary material.

Don’t forget to visit NCURA’s YouTube page for even more instructional and helpful videos!


SWFI Monday

When it comes to a sponsor seeking input and, in general, connecting with its ‘customers,’ there may be none better than NIH. The last few days have been no different, with several notices and helpful publications made available to the public. Here are a couple that may be particularly worthwhile for you and/or your PIs.

First up is a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the proposed modification concerning NIH’s BioSketch component of all grant, cooperative agreement and fellowship applications.  Many feel that the BioSketch as currently offered limits a PI’s ability to adequately and accurately describe the breadth and impact of their previous efforts, as well as puts undue weight on an applicant’s publication record.  As such, NIH formed a Working Group to discuss possible modifications to the BioSketch that would address these issues, and is asking for input to assist them in their endeavors.  Everyone is encouraged to participate, so check out the RFI and then submit your comments accordingly.

Moving to the post-application phase, NIH’s monthly Peer Review Notes  includes an article directed to those who were unsuccessful in their A1 applications and some helpful information regarding how, and whether, to resubmit.  With fewer funds available and more applicants seeking to pull from the governmental coffers, ensuring that your re-application is proper and ready for submission is more important than usual, so take a few moments to review NIH’s advice and see if you’re moving in the right direction.

**SWFI – Stuff we find interesting**

Sheldon’s Fun-day Friday

Stop 9  – Winterset, Iowa

Distance from previous location: 1,004 miles

Total distance traveled (on purpose): 10,606 miles

Minions, I need to vent.

I’m in Iowa.

Winterset, Iowa, to be exact, and I’m here because it’s the home of John Wayne.  We were about 2 days (or 13 John Wayne movies) into our trip to New York (to watch a Triple Crown winner next week) when suddenly I had this unrelenting urge to visit the birthplace of my new idol “The Duke.”  So, we decided to make a quick side trip Iowa.

I was even more excited when I found this shirt. The only thing better than John Wayne’s home state is a state full of only extremely attractive people.  As we got close, I began practicing my model face and moves, though, let’s be honest, I am the turtle version of Mr. Universe so there isn’t a whole lot on which I need to improve.

Then we got to Iowa. . .


I have never been so disappointed in my entire life. I mean, there are a ton of attractive Iowans, but I was under the impression that EVERYONE would look like glamorous movie stars.  Instead, I’ll have to keep searching for a place where I’d live with only the coolest, best lookin’ folks.  But for dashing my hopes, I hate you, Iowa. If hate were people, I’d be China.

Anyway, so hatred boredom had me stumbling like a crazy person and I’m here to cure your Friday afternoon Facebook stalking with my own assemblage of awesome animal things. You’re welcome.  I hope you gain laughter from the fruits of my pain and suffering.

You’re jealous your offspring aren’t this cool.

Fighting through FFATA and FSRS

When the Transparency Act side-swiped everyone with FFATA and the new FSRS reporting system, the schools at Johns Hopkins banded together to develop a basic plan for how to handle the new regulations and maintain compliance.

For a while, our system worked. We (the ORA) entered data into FSRS during even months (February, April, et al.) and updated purchasing during odd months (January, March, et al.).  Despite the occasional kinks, we were able to keep current and generally seemed to have everything under control.

Little did we know that the federal government would expand its FFATA reporting responsibilities.  At that point, we started to see our system’s cracks, as bins started overflowing with files waiting to be entered.  The volume in and of itself was one thing, as it was and is relentless.  However, two larger issues have appeared that grind things to a halt but, unfortunately, are largely out of our control:

  1.  What do you do when the prime award has not been uploaded into the FSRS system by the sponsor?  In our case, USAID seems to be behind in its upload duties, which keeps us from being able to add our subrecipients in a timely fashion.  For the time being, we are simply documenting our attempts and crossing our fingers that USAID gets their act together.
  2. What do you do when your subrecipient is waiting for a DUNS number? Now that every subrecipient is required to have a DUNS number we find ourselves in a strategic waiting game. Agreements are executed and waiting to be entered into FSRS, but the subrecipients (usually foreign) are still waiting to receive a DUNS number.  However, even when our sub has received its ID number, it regularly is not recognized in the system. Once again, we document our attempts and cross our fingers that everything will be straightened out soon.

When it comes to compliance, we want to do everything in our power to make sure we practice what we preach to our PIs.  While we believe our methodology to be sufficient for our efforts, we also believe that our colleagues may have discovered additional ways to combat any issues that arise.

So, we want to know your processes for FFATA.  How is your office handling FFATA entries and the problems that arise? Are we the only institution having trouble uploading prime agreements from USAID?  And are there other issues out there that your office has encountered?

NCURA’s YouTube Tuesday (aka How To Make Things Easier For Us)

Today’s installment of NCURA’s YouTube Tuesday deals generally with the topic of “business” issues that frequently get in the way of an ORA’s work on the substantive issues involved with each grant or contract.

While we do our best to process awards as efficiently, many times we must stop our negotiations to address more procedural intra-institutional concerns that prevent us from continuing with our efforts.  Last January, we published a Top 10 list of information we wanted PIs to know, and those nuggets will certainly assist us in our work.  To piggyback off of those exhortations, today we’ve compiled a more general list of suggestions that will make our lives less complicated and, more importantly, allow us to efficiently complete your agreement.


Top 10 (For Now) Suggestions For Keeping ORA Movin’

1.            Make sure that the PI flows their agreement through their department instead of going to ORA directly.  The department will eventually have to be brought in anyway, so bypassing them at the outset only adds to the turnaround time.

2.            Unless asked specifically, allow ORA to perform all of the negotiating.   We appreciate that the PI wants their subcontract to be executed yesterday, and that they’re not concerned about who owns the intellectual property.  However, like most other institutions, we must keep consistent with standard University contract parameters, as well as, in general, ensure that anything ‘legal’ is handled solely by the appropriate personnel.

3.            Engage ORA as early as possible.  A simple heads-up email is always appreciated, but if you have any questions arise even before the formal award, it doesn’t hurt to run them by our office as soon as you can so that we can make plans accordingly for the negotiation process.

4.            When possible, give us an idea of the Intellectual Property that will be used and/or created during the project, any publication expectations, etc.  IP is frequently one of the main sticking points in negotiations, so the earlier we know exactly what is transpiring, the faster we can discuss appropriate terms with the sponsor.

5.            Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If you know that the period of performance is different than what’s in the contract, let us know ASAP.  If the budget has changed since it was uploaded into COEUS, let us know ASAP.  We can’t address an issue of which we’re not aware, so keep us in the loop as much as possible.  Correspondingly, if you’re unsure how to move forward, let us know BEFORE you take any action.  Five minutes figuring out what to do is a lot better for everyone than three days figuring out how to clean up a mess.

6.            Make sure you send us ALL sponsor documentation.  If you would like us to review and sign a proposal, we need to see a copy of the RFA so that we know to what exactly we’re agreeing.  Along those lines, if there’s been a change in the budget, make sure to send us any related correspondence from the sponsor confirming the adjustment.

7.            Any time you wish for us to sign an MTA where the materials are coming in to the University, you MUST also include an executed MTA Request Form that details the other party, sponsor and contemplated uses.  Without this document, we will not proceed with review.

8.            For just about any contract, as well as complex grants that now include more legal terms, please obtain a Word copy of the draft agreement and send it to us as early as possible.  There are times where we will be able to sign the first offer from a sponsor, but, more often than not, we will need to request changes to the draft, and it’s much faster to send a red-lined copy back to the sponsor versus a listing of our various concerns.

9.            When dropping off a hard copy of an agreement for signature, make sure to include all applicable paperwork that provides the background of the contract, what exactly we’re signing, why we’re signing it, etc.  “Because it’s important and is due today” is rarely sufficient to provide comfort in lieu of actual documentation and support, so be sure that you’ve given us enough information to make an informed decision.  And then add more.

10.          Keep tabs on our blog and utilize the ‘Search’ function.  Okay, so this is somewhat of a cheapie.  But we post articles that address specific issues and questions that we regularly encounter.  Not sure what type of proposal to select in COEUS?  Bookmark our handy chart.   Unsure about effort reporting?  Check out our overview.  Admittedly, we likely can’t write about every possible concern that arises, but we generally try to hit the major topics, or at least those that are occurring with high frequency.  And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, see #5.

Sheldon’s Fun-day Friday

Stop 8 – Roswell, NM

Distance from previous location: 1,281 miles

Total distance traveled (on purpose): 9,602 miles

Minions, I have a confession to make. Skinny

I love aliens.

Not the eat-people-for-fun-taking-over-the-universe aliens but the super cool Martian/ET aliens.  You know the type: oblong heads, long thin bodies, big eyes. Opposites obviously attract, because I’m all about some aliens.

Naturally, I came to the home of the alien lovers, Roswell, New Mexico.  At first, I was going to wait for the big UFO Festival in July, but although, I love aliens I’m not sure that an entire festival of alien lovers is my cup of tea. Especially after I saw their pictures from last year’s costume contest…

It takes some major dedication to know that you are going to be dayglow green and blueberry blue for the better part of the year and still agree to it.  So congrats to you, alien dog.  I admire your spunk, but lord knows I don’t envy your girlfriend.

To Mod or Not to Mod

As skilled as your institution’s PIs are at their respective concentrations, more often than not, he or she will need to bring in outside organizations to perform certain portions of a given award.  Consequently, properly contracting with subrecipients is one of the lynchpins of ensuring an effective and efficient Research Administration office, and we’ve previously discussed many sub-related issues.

Today we’ll focus on a sub-specific concern about which we’ve recently received a large uptick in questions: Whether additional work that we will ask a subrecipient to do should be addressed under a modification of an existing subagreement or a new subagreement.  So, without further ado, here is JHU’s protocol:

 Are you adding more of the same type of work, or perhaps a “Phase 2” related to the existing work being performed by the Sub?

If so, you can simply modify the existing subagreement.   Within JHSPH, you should submit a separate, supplemental SOW (Exhibit A-1); a separate, supplemental budget; and a separate, supplemental Payment Schedule that applies to the additional SOW activities (Exhibit B-1 if fixed-price or Exhibit D-1 if cost-reimbursable).  Also, you need to extend the period of performance, if necessary.  That’s it.

 Are you asking the Sub to do an entirely new, separate SOW from the existing statement, or perhaps you need to track this new SOW under a separate IO#?

In such cases, it is best to do a new subagreement.

 Are you changing the existing SOW, perhaps because the sponsor requested it, or because things are not going as planned and you need to re-group and change course?  Or perhaps the sponsor is reducing the obligated funds available and you have to reduce the subrecipient’s SOW? 

 In such cases, such changes would be addressed by a modification to the existing subagreement.  HOWEVER, in these specific cases, you would delete and replace the existing SOW and Payment Schedule with revised versions.

NCURA’s YouTube Tuesday

Have you checked out today’s installment of NCURA’s YouTube Tuesday?  Researchers generally like to stick with the status quo when it comes to their projects, which is why you’ll see Universities collaborating with the same “major” research facilities from project to project.  However, it’s important to remember the importance and capabilities of Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), who can usually offer similar work with a modicum of the issues involved with negotiating and working with larger institutions.


Don’t forget to visit NCURA’s YouTube page for even more instructional and helpful videos!

Social Media Spotlight

As much as we would like to believe we are the Lewis and Clark of Research Administration when it comes to social media, there are a handful of Universities whose efforts predate ours in some form or another.  Additionally, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of other offices and Universities using social media to share information and links to that which they find helpful. So, in the spirit of community, teamwork, showing we know how to share, and camaraderie, Social Media Monday will periodically focus on a colleague who is particularly active within the SocMed arena.

We’ll begin with a trip out West to the Office of Grant & Research Development at Washington State University.  We immediately took to OGRD because they regularly maintain their platforms (both Facebook and Twitter), and, in general, publish a great deal of information from myriad sources. OGRD post tips and guidelines almost daily for students, faculty and staff, and further will include articles from various blogs and other news outlets. OGRD will also upload photos from their own events and status updates about the goings on relating to their research.

Besides being a gateway to vast amounts of worthwhile information, OGRD has contributed to the growth of our own platforms.  Thanks to their efforts, we discovered a blog tailored specifically to grant writing, and also began contemplating how to include content specific to student researchers, which we had previously not posted.  (In the spirit of openness, we also should point out that OGRD frequently posts funny cartoons relevant to Research Administration that manage to find humor in an admittedly dry field.)

In generally, we appreciate OGRD’s light-hearted yet substantive approach to Research Administration’s integration with social media, and their ability to include information directed to each group with whom they interact.  The Director of OGRD, Dan Nordquist, also happens to be the President of NCURA, which provides encouragement that NCURA will continue to increase its social media footprint in the coming months.

Sheldon’s Fun-day Friday

Stop 7 – Butte, MT

Distance from previous location: 931 miles

Total distance traveled (on purpose): 8,321 miles



Dearest minions, I have big news.  Huge news.  It’s basically gigantic.

One of my favorite office minions is saving the world.  One of our very own from Hoppy-Hopkins is riding in a big race this weekend for charity – 140 miles in 2 days on a bicycle from Ocean City to Baltimore, and they’re so awesome that they don’t need a stupid yellow shirt to make it worthwhile (take that France!).

Apparently we have some concern for “budget” or something equally irrelevant, so the office is not flying me back east for the big weekend.   (Thanks, guys.)  So, instead, I’ve decided to travel to Butte, Montana, the home of the most LEGENDARY rider in the history of the world, Evel Knievel!

Thinking about it now, it was probably not the best plan ever. While I should be concerned about the safety of our dear rider, I’ve been laughing hysterically at the many fails of The Last Gladiator.  Seriously, how was bike riding his career if he could barely stick a landing?!  Naturally, I’m now envisioning what my minion would look like eating pavement and, well, it’s all I can do to keep myself composed.

In other news, Montana doesn’t seem to have much going on at the moment, at least outwardly. People mainly just talk about the “big sky,” which I take to mean that there’s not a lot to do on land.  Montana is full of, um, weirdly-named towns, only a couple famous exports (none as hip as Color-plant), and a crap ton of elk. ELK ARE SCARY. You think they are just oversized, happy, santa-towing reindeer but you’re wrong. And if you call one Rudolph for giggles you will almost get STOMPED TO DEATH. You’ve been warned.