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.