13.2 Categories of Sponsored Projects

Illustrates the major categories of sponsored projects, i.e., organized research (including both sponsored research and University research), sponsored instruction, and other sponsored activities. Establishes procedures to meet the requirements of July 15, 1993 revisions to OMB Circular A-21, and the incorporation of the Uniform Guidance effective December 26, 2014 regarding the definition of University Research. Definition of Industry-Funded Clinical Trials clarified in October 2009. 


Questions about this policy can be answered by:

Wong, Thomas


Cost and Management Analysis

(650) 723-9020

1. General Categories of Sponsored Projects

Sponsored projects at Stanford University are categorized under the following general headings:

  1. Organized Research, including Sponsored Research and University Research

  2. Sponsored Instruction

  3. Other Sponsored Activities

Classification of a sponsored project into one of these categories affects the calculation of Stanford’s Facilities & Administrative (F&A), i.e., indirect cost rates, and determines the appropriate rate to be charged. See Facilities & Administrative (Indirect Cost) and Fringe Benefit Rates: Definitions and Calculations, in the Research Policy Handbook.

Definitions and examples of these categories follow below.

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2. Definitions

A. Organized Research

Research and scholarship activities include the rigorous inquiry, experiment or investigation to increase the scholarly understanding of the involved discipline. Organized research activities are funded by both external sponsors (Sponsored Research) and by Stanford University (University Research), and must be separately budgeted and accounted for. Together, these categories comprise the Organized Research distribution base, used to calculate the Organized Research F&A rate.

Any research and development activity that does not meet the criteria to be defined as Sponsored Research or University Research (Sections A.1 and A.2, below) shall be classified as Departmental Research, and shall be accounted for separately from Organized Research. Examples of Departmental Research include: new faculty start up funds which are provided on a non-competitive basis, funds from a faculty member's designated gift accounts expended for research that are not used to cover costs incurred on behalf of externally or University sponsored research, and University support of faculty salaries for non-sponsored research.

1. Sponsored Research

Research activities are properly classified as Sponsored Research if the research activity is sponsored (funded) by an external organization, i.e. a federal, state, or private organization or agency. The following are examples of sponsored research projects and, in all cases, these awards are made to Stanford University:

  • awards for Stanford faculty to support their research activities
  • external Faculty "Career Awards" to support the research efforts of the faculty
  • external funding to maintain facilities or equipment and/or operation of a center or facility which will be used for research
  • external support for the writing of books, when the purpose of the writing is to publish research results
  • awards to departments, units or schools for the support of the research activities of Stanford University students or postdoctoral scholars, e.g., research training grants

NOTE: Externally-funded research training grants are categorized as Sponsored Research (rather than Sponsored Instruction) where the primary activities of the trainees will be research.

The following characteristics indicate that a sponsored agreement should be treated as a research training grant:

  • The primary purpose of the sponsored agreement is to provide research training to selected Stanford University students or postdoctoral scholars

  • The award is made to Stanford University, with the provision that Stanford may name the trainees

  • If a trainee leaves Stanford, the university may reassign the support to another qualified trainee

  • Funding is normally provided to support the trainee, rather than to accomplish a specified statement of work or research project. Note that a research project may be described in a proposal for research training grant support, but the primary purpose of the award is to support the trainee.

2. University Research

Research activity is properly classified as University Research if the activity is supported by either of the following:

  1. Funding that is derived from Stanford institutional funds (e.g. gifts, endowment income, interest income, technology licensing income, operating budget) through a competitive application and award process, and where the proposed activity is characterized by the same factors which generally distinguish sponsored projects (see RPH:  Definition of Sponsored Projects and Distinctions from Other Forms of Funding), such as:

  • Existence of a statement of work

  • Detailed financial accountability such as:

    • a line-item budget related to the project plan

    • a specified period of performance, typically defined with “start” and “stop” dates

    • a requirement to return any unexpended funds at the end of that period

    • regular financial reporting (beyond an acknowledgment of funds),

    • Terms for the disposition of properties, OR

  1. Cost sharing expenditures which are committed to be borne by Stanford rather than by the sponsor.

Research awards that are administered and funded by Stanford departments or programs are examples of University Research, e.g., G-CEP awards for energy research projects.

B. Sponsored Instruction

Sponsored Instruction is defined as teaching and training activities funded by grants and contracts from federal or non-federal sponsors. Sponsored Instruction includes agreements which support curriculum development as well as teaching/training activities (other than research training) whether offered for credit toward a degree or certificate, on a non-credit basis, or through regular academic departments or by separate divisions, summer school, or external division.

Sponsored Instruction includes:

  • curriculum development projects at any level, including projects which involve evaluation of curriculum or teaching methods; such evaluation may be considered "research" only when the preponderance of activity is data collection, evaluation, and reporting

  • projects which involve Stanford students in community service activities for which the Stanford students are receiving academic credit

  • general support for the writing of textbooks or reference books, video, or software to be used as instructional materials.

C. Other Sponsored Activities

Other Sponsored Activities (OSA) are defined as projects funded by sponsors that involve the performance of work other than Sponsored Instruction or Sponsored Research.

OSA may include:

  • Travel grants

  • Support for conferences or seminars

  • Support for University public events such as "Lively Arts"

  • Publications by Stanford University Press

  • Support for students, staff, or teachers in elementary or secondary schools, or the general public, through outreach-related activities

  • Projects that involve Stanford faculty, staff, or students in community service activities (where the Stanford students are not receiving academic credit for their involvement)

  • Support for projects pertaining to library collections, acquisitions, bibliographies, or cataloging

  • Programs to enhance institutional resources, including data center expansion, computer enhancements, etc.

3. Accounting

A. Accounting for Organized Research

Sponsored activities that qualify as either Sponsored Research or University Research shall be assigned to the Sponsored Research or University Research task service types in the University's accounting system. All University Research shall be separately budgeted and accounted for. Space used in the conduct of Sponsored Research or University Research shall be coded to Research (R) in the University's Space Inventory System.

All other research activity that is not defined as either Sponsored Research or University Research shall be considered Departmental Research.

Expenditures for Departmental Research shall be assigned to the Instruction and Departmental Research task service type in the accounting system. Space used in the conduct of Departmental Research should be coded to Departmental Research (L) in the University's Space Inventory system. See Related items below for the Service Type Determination Matrices.

B. Accounting for Sponsored Instruction

Activities that qualify as Sponsored Instruction shall be assigned to the Sponsored Instruction task service type in the University’s Accounting system. Space used in the conduct of Sponsored Instruction should be coded to Instruction (I) in the University's Space Inventory system.

See Related items below for the Service Type Determination Matrices.

NOTE: Research training grants are not categorized as Sponsored Instruction, but as Sponsored Research (see Section 1.A., above).

C. Accounting for Other Sponsored Activities

Activities that qualify as OSA shall be assigned to the Other Sponsored Activities task service type in the University's Accounting system. Space used in the conduct of OSA should be coded to Instruction (I) in the University's Space Inventory system. See Service Type Determination matrices for more information.

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