1.1 Terms Used in This Course

Listed below are many of the terms that are used throughout the course. We will discuss and clarify them in the upcoming modules.

1. A-21

Circular No. A-21 Cost Principles for Educational Institutions is an OMB (Office of Management and Budget) document that sets forth the government regulatory costing principles which must be followed by educational institutions conducting Government Sponsored Research. As of 12/26/2014 the Uniform Guidance replaced OMB Circular A-21 for all new awards and increments with effective dates on or after 12/26/2014.

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2. Award

The award is the official agreement document notifying the grantee, recipient, and others that an award has been issued and stating the terms and conditions of the award.

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3. Compliance Training Requirements

Principal Investigator (PI) responsibilities include directing research and managing financial aspects of research in compliance with Stanford policy, federal and state laws, and sponsor requirements.

Training that addresses these responsibilities is available, and in some cases, it is required. PIs are responsible for ensuring that they, their students and staff meet compliance training requirements.

View required classes


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4. Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is that portion of the project costs represented in the proposal budget borne by Stanford rather than the sponsor. Cost sharing must be proposed and accepted by the sponsor and must be accounted for in its own task. Any direct cost that is allowable, allocable, reasonable and consistent can be cost shared. However equipment cannot be offered as cost sharing unless it is specified in the award announcement.

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5. Direct Cost

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. Direct costs include, but are not limited to:

  • salaries
  • travel
  • equipment
  • material and supplies directly benefiting the sponsored project or activity

According to Stanford policy and federal regulations, an expense qualifies as a direct cost for a sponsored project when it meets all four cost principles: allowable, allocable, reasonable and consistent.

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6. Early PTA

A PTA (Project-Task-Award) is set up, in the SeRA Sponsored PTA Manager module, to establish a new project or activity. An Early PTA is an internal option to allow spending in advance of a fully executed award.

When it is necessary to request an early PTA, the PI must identify a guarantee PTA with unrestricted funds to cover the costs in the event that the award does not materialize. 


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7. Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A)

F&A (Facilities & Administrative) costs are related to expenses incurred in conducting or supporting research or other externally-funded activities but not directly attributable to a specific project.

Federal agencies use different terms to describe these costs. The terms F&A costs and IDC (Indirect Costs) refer to the same thing.

F&A rates are established in accordance with federal policy. They are negotiated between Stanford and ONR (Office of Naval Research), the cognizant federal agency overseeing the administration of sponsored agreements at Stanford.

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8. Guarantee PTA

A guarantee PTA is an unrestricted source of funds that could cover the costs in the event that an award does not materialize. 

A guarantee PTA is used when requesting an Early PTA for spending in advance of a fully executed award. 

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9. Institutional Official (IO)

The IO (Institutional Official) is an individual named by Stanford, who is authorized to act for the institution, and to assume the obligations imposed by federal, state and local laws, regulations, requirements and conditions, as well as Stanford policy that applies to a proposal and award.

The IO reviews, endorses, signs and submits proposals to the sponsor on behalf of Stanford. In signing a proposal and in accepting a corresponding award, this individual certifies that Stanford will comply with the assurances and certifications referenced in the application. 

This individual's signature further certifies that Stanford will be accountable both for appropriate use of funds awarded and performance of the sponsored project activities resulting from the application.

IO Responsibilities by Central Office

OSR (Office of Sponsored Research) 

RMG (Research Management Group)

ICO (Industrial Contracts Office)


All  Stanford University proposals except the School of Medicine School of Medicine proposals None


All awards except those handled by RMG and ICO Basic grants, fellowships and industry sponsored clinical trials for School of Medicine Industry sponsored contracts except clinical trials


All, except those under industry sponsored clinical trials Industry sponsored clinical trials None


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10. NIH Notice of Award

The NIH Notice of Award is the legal document issued to notify the grantee that an award has been made.

It is issued for the initial budget period. If subsequent budget periods are also approved, it will include a reference to those budgetary commitments. Funding for subsequent budget periods are generally provided in annual increments following the annual assessment of progress. This funding is also contingent on the availability of funds. 

The NIH Notice of Award includes all applicable terms of award either by reference or specific statements. It provides contact information for the assigned program officer and grants management specialist.

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11. Preaward Spending

It is possible to spend before the anticipated award start date if the sponsor authorizes it in writing.

Most federal sponsors allow preaward spending for grants 90 calendar days prior to the anticipated award start date.

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12. SeRa Award Approval Notification (AAN)

A SeRA Award Approval Notification (AAN) is a SeRA system generated e-mail notification to the PI and PTA Manager advising that a sponsored project award has been accepted on behalf of Stanford University and the Account Setup is in progress. 

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13. SeRA Notice of Award (NOA)

The SeRA NOA is an email to the PI and PTA Manager generated by the SeRA system which indicates that a sponsored project award has been fully set up in Oracle financials and contains the Oracle PTA account number.

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A sponsored award notification is a communication (formal or informal) from an external sponsor to the University or to a PI (Principal Investigator) that their proposal has been selected to be awarded.

It may be an informal communication between an external sponsor and a PI. Some agencies like NIH have a formal mechanism. See NIH Notice of Award.

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A sponsored project is an externally funded activity governed by terms and conditions specified in a written agreement between the sponsor (e.g., a federal agency, a foundation or a corporation) and an entity such as Stanford University. The sponsored agreement (referred to by many sponsors as the award) is the legal instrument that binds the University to perform the Statement of Work under the direction of a PI (principal investigator) and further specifies the level of funding.

Se RPH 13.1 Gift vs. Sponsored Projects and Distinctions from Other Forms of Funding

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16. Subaward

A subaward is a formal written agreement made between Stanford University and another institution or organization to perform an intellectually significant portion of the SOW (Statement of Work) under a Stanford sponsored project.

A subaward must include a clearly defined, intellectually significant SOW to be performed by the subrecipient's personnel, using its own facilities and resources. The subrecipient takes full responsibility for adhering to the terms and conditions of the subaward including those flowed down from Stanford's sponsor, and assumes creative and intellectual responsibility and leadership as well as financial management for performing and fulfilling the subrecipient's SOW within the subrecipient's approved budget. 

A subaward SOW may include fabrication of specialized equipment to be used for the Stanford sponsored research project as a project related asset or as a deliverable to the sponsor. 

Subawards differ from procurement contracts used to acquire goods or services from vendors.

View RPH 16

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17. Uniform Guidance

The Uniform Guidance, issued by OMB (Office of Management and Budget), streamlines and supersedes guidance that was previously contained in eight different OMB Circulars for all new federal awards and increments with effective dates on or after 12/26/2014. 

Included in the new guidance are definitions, uniform administrative requirements (both pre- and post-award), cost principles, and audit requirements. From Stanford's perspective, the Uniform Guidance supersedes OMB Circulars A-110, A-21, and A-133.

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