Overview of Post Award Management

Awards are usually received as the final step of a lengthy process. First, a funding agency (or "sponsor") will issue a solicitation or call for proposals. One or more faculty members (led by a "Principal Investigator") will prepare a proposal in response to the call.  As part of the proposal process, the Principal Investigator (PI), in coordination with his or her research administrator, completes an Internal Approval Form (IAF) at the time of submission, which is routed through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP).  All proposals must be approved by an authorized organization representative.   This assures that the proposal is in compliance with University and sponsor policy, that the university is capable and willing to support the project, and that the F&A and fringe rates used in the proposal budget are appropriate.  If the sponsor decides to issue an award to Penn State, it will issue that award through OSP, which will review the contractual terms and conditions to make sure they are acceptable to Penn State.

A Principal Investigator sometimes will receive an award without ever having submitted a proposal. This generally results from a more informal conversation with a sponsor (such as the submission of a "white paper"). In such cases, the PI should work with his or her Research Administrator to complete an IAF which will be submitted to OSP, along with a copy of any prior correspondence with the sponsor that resulted in the award. At a minimum, a Statement of Work, Budget, and Budget Justification are required to be submitted with the award documents.  OSP will then review the terms and conditions of the award.  

Once OSP has determined that the award is acceptable to Penn State, a copy of the award documents will be scanned and distributed electronically to the PI, the College Research Administrator and Research Accounting, and are retained in SIMS.  The College Research Administrator will request an account number (also known as a "budget/fund" number) in which the PI can charge project-related expenditures.  Research Accounting is responsible for setting up the award account, invoicing against the award, preparing financial reports, and eventually closing the award account.

It is imperative that the PI carefully review any reporting requirements (also known as "deliverables") associated with the award. Dissatisfied sponsors can suspend awards, refuse to make payments, and demand refunds of previously provided funds. In extreme cases, sponsors can threaten to have Penn State debarred (which would make Penn State ineligible to receive federal funds). Different awards have different reporting requirements, but the most common report types are progress reports, technical reports, patent reports, property reports, and financial reports.

If a portion of the award is to be subcontracted to another institution, a Subaward/Subcontract Request Form will have to be completed.  For more detailed instructions on this process see Issuing Subawards and Subcontracts Overview.

The PI has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that project funds are allowable, allocable, and reasonable within the period of performance set forth in the award.  Expenditures on an award are always subject to audit by internal and external auditors.  It is therefore essential that expenditures, award modifications, and special instructions are diligently recorded and documented. Faculty members can monitor their expenditures and balances at myResearch.   Separate projects must be accounted for separately. In some cases it may be appropriate to split the cost of an item between two or more projects (such as when a large piece of equipment will be used on multiple projects), but in such cases it is crucial that the cost be allocated appropriately among the projects. (i.e, it may be appropriate to split the cost of an item based on usage rates, but never simply because one project had a larger remaining balance.) See Penn State's basic cost principles.

The terms and conditions of the award frequently include additional instructions on allowable costs. Some projects will not permit the purchase of any item not included in the original proposal budget while other projects require the sponsor's prior approval before purchasing certain items. Many sponsors require prior approval for expenditures outside of the terms and conditions of the award; for example: issuing subcontracts, purchasing capital equipment, authorizing foreign travel, and re-budgeting.

It is always a good idea to keep the sponsor well informed of any unforeseen problems. For more information on extension requests, budget revisions, changes in project personnel (especially when changing the PI), and changes in the scope of work see Extensions and Revisions.

Upon completion of a project, the College Research Administrator will send Research Accounting an Account Close or Extension (ACE) Form.  This form prompts Research Accounting to confirm final expenditures and submit a final invoice and any applicable final financial reports to the sponsor.  When all invoiced amounts have been received, Research Accounting will close the award account. 

You may proceed to the main award administration page.