More Than One Way To Carve A Turkey

Let’s face it: budgeting for a proposal is an educated guess.  You have a good grasp on the salary requirements of personnel, and a rough idea of supply and space requirements, but there comes a time in the life of most awards that a PI or grant manager realizes that money is just not being spent as originally anticipated; and, further, it can’t be spent as originally anticipated in order for the project to do what it was intended.  After a grant or contract has been awarded, the PI may request the formal reallocation of funds from one spending category to another that better reflects the project requirements (“rebudgeting” or “budget revision.”)  Rebudgeting requires the approval of SPA (and, in most cases, the funding agency), but never fear – your Grant and Contract Officer is able to help you with approval, and RAS can help with your rebudget.

 

Much rebudgeting affects F&A (indirect) cost. Some does not.  Budget categories that do NOT generate F&A are:

  • Capital equipment equal to or greater than $5000
  • Tuition/Scholarships/Fellowships
  • Subcontracts over the first $25,000
  • NSF participant support
  • Rental costs of an off-site facility

The transference of these items may increase or decrease your F&A, however. Remember the following when a rebudget includes non-F&A generating items:

  1. If the rebudget transfers money from a NON-F&A bearing budget item (such as equipment) to an F&A BEARING item (such as materials), the F&A dollar amount will increase in order to maintain the contracted F&A percentage. For example, suppose a grant has a capital equipment budget of $10,000 and an F&A rate of 52%. If only $8,000 was spent for equipment the PI would most likely want to spend the remaining $2,000 on other materials. This is acceptable; however the $2,000 balance in equipment will need to be rebudgeted between materials and F&A since the materials purchases will generate F&A (note: RAS can assist with these rebudgeting calculations). In this scenario, the $2,000 would be rebudgeted so that $1,316 would be added to materials and $684 added to F&A ($1,316 + $684 = $2,000)
  2. If the rebudget transfers money from an F&A BEARING budget item (such as materials) to a NON-F&A bearing budget item (such as equipment), the F&A dollar amount will decrease in order to maintain the contracted F&A percentage. Consider a grant that has a capital equipment budget of $10,000 and an F&A rate of 52%. If $12,000 was spent on equipment, a rebudget would be required to reduce the F&A dollar amount since the additional $2,000 spent on equipment does not generate F&A (remember, RAS can assist with the rebudgeting calculations!). In this case, the F&A budget would be reduced by $1,040 (52% of $2,000) that could be reallocated to the equipment budget.

And don’t forget, NIH (and many other funding sources) requires an explanation when there is a change in budget that affects key personnel effort by more than 25%, as well as reasoning and a plan for balances greater than 25% of the current year’s total budget (including any carry-forward).  If you are unclear as to your award’s requirements for rebudgeting due to balances, carry-forwards or personnel, RAS is happy to help you sort it out.

 

Funding of any sort is absolutely something for which to be thankful, and you can consume your resources as needed provided you follow a few simple rules.  If you find yourself needing a little less drumstick and a little more wing, RAS is here to walk you through the process whenever you need us.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Opportunity Knocks

We know that funding is getting increasingly difficult to come by, so RAS herds and corrals everything that comes across our path (and those we actively search at as well) in attempt to make departmental life a little easier.  In addition to the regular funding announcement emails sent out by the RAS director, available funding opportunities are also listed on the SOM Office of Research and Graduate Programs “Current Research Opportunities” page:

research_ops_screenshot

The “Agency Notices and Highlighted Funding Opportunities: This Month”  listing is updated on a monthly basis as notification of new funding opportunities are received or discovered.  Announcements are listed in order with the most current deadlines at the top.  The funding opportunities that have no deadlines are at the bottom of the page.  To obtain details on a specific funding opportunity, click on the Sponsor’s name or the Website/URL link.

 

If you have any questions about application requirements for funding opportunities – both internal and external –  please let RAS know and we will walk through the process with you.  Good luck!

It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod(ular) World

Modular construction is increasingly a go-to, efficient choice to create a building where there once was none; it eliminates waste, offers flexibility and speeds up timelines.  For this reason, the NIH employs a modular requirement on a subset of their grant applications.  Modular budgets are required on new, competing continuation, and revised (amended) applications, as well as for competing supplements that request up to a total of $250,000 direct costs (less consortium F&A) and are research project grants (R01), small grants (R03), Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) grants (R15), exploratory/developmental research grants (R21), and the Clinical Trial Planning Grant program (R34) (some RFA/PAs also require modular budgets). There are two ways to create a modular budget here at Wayne State:

 

Sync with Detailed Budgets

  • In COEUS, create a Detailed Budget, and with a Final COEUS detailed budget marked Modular on the Budget Summary screen, select Modular Budget on the Budget menu to sync the data for Direct Costs, Consortium F&A (subcontractors), and Indirect Costs data for the PHS form.
  • Select the Sync with Detailed Budget link. When asked if you want to Sync the budget, select OK.
  • Review the data defaulted in each of the Period tabs.  Select Save button.
  • Select the Budget Versions link from the left side navigation, and change the Budget Status to Complete; select Save.

 

Manual Creation

If a Detailed Budget is not prepared in COEUS, manually enter required costs in the Modular Budget Screen (you must still check the Modular option on the Budget Summary screen):

  • Check the Modular Budget check box on the Budget Summary Screen, then select Save
  • From the left side navigation click the Modular Budget link. For Period 1, enter the Direct Cost less Consortium F&A amount in the provided field. Enter Consortium F&A costs (if any). Select the Add Indirect Cost link to create an entry line for the Indirect Cost data.
    • Enter Indirect Cost Type: MTDC, or as appropriate (SPA keeps WSU’s updated Fringe Benefits and Indirect Cost Rates here)
    • Enter IDC Rate (%) – this field is expressed as a percentage, so be sure to enter whole numbers
    • Enter IDC Base (from your non-Coeus Detailed budget)
    • Enter Funds Requested ($)
    • Select the Save button
  • Repeat entries as needed for all remaining periods by clicking the Period 2 tab, Period 3 tab, etc.
  • Review the Cumulative screen to confirm totals
  • Return to Budget Summary by selecting the Budget Summary link from the left side navigation
  • Mark your budget final by checking the Final check box; change the Budget Status to complete, then select Save.

 

For more information from NIH on modular budgeting, check out their Modular Applications page.  As always, RAS is here to help if you find yourself in a modular dilemma!

You Don’t Bring Me Warnings Anymore

Sometimes, relationships that we have been in for a very long time start to change and before we know it, we find ourselves asking, “do I even know you anymore?”  This can happen with friends, family, neighbors… and NIH submission forms.  Yes, our beloved Forms B package has evolved to Forms C, and the new Forms C set has stopped taking out the trash, calling when it’s going to be out late, and allowing our little quirks to slide.

Here are some of the issues the RAS office has seen this week:

  1. Problem: The “PD/PI” classification generates an error kickback. Possible source: In the past, we have been allowed to choose “PD/PI” from the drop-down menu to classify personnel on the application, and then use a similar drop-down menu further into the application to classify the PD/PI again in a different section.  In the new Forms C set, subsequent PD/PI classification is now done with a text box in which you type the classification instead of selecting it from a drop-down menu.  The sticky wicket here is that the NIH error bot searches by string; therefore, you must type exactly “PD/PI” in the text line to precisely match the selection in the drop-down from the previous section’s classification.  Selecting “PD/PI” and then later typing “Principal Investigator,” for instance, will result in your application being returned with an error.
  2. Problem: Your budget justification generates an error. Possible source: You used boxes or tables.  In the past, boxes and tables were a great way to organize the information in your budget justification.  The new bot in the NIH system, however, does not recognize this formatting and will return it as an error.
  3. Problem: You receive and error indicating that your attachments must be PDFs, but they are all PDFs.  Possible source: You may have accidentally included editable fields in your PDF document; the NIH systems do not allow these.  Be sure to “flatten” your PDF documents before upload

 

What Is The Difference Between an Error and a Warning?  An “error” is any anomaly that will prevent the application from going forward to further consideration. Errors usually indicate significant inaccuracies, inconsistencies, omissions, or incorrect formatting that have been identified in the body of the application. “Warnings”, on the other hand, indicate discrepancies that are acceptable, but are considered worthy by the NIH of bringing to the applicant’s attention due to the high possibility that it is a mistake. It is the applicant’s choice whether to make a change based on the warning.

For more detailed information about errors and warnings generated by the NIH validation system, we have adapted this Errors and Warnings document for your use.

 

How Do I Correct Errors in my Application?  NIH provides a detailed list of instructions for how to correct any errors your application may generate.  Be sure to submit your application well before the deadline to allow time for error correction; an application with errors is considered not submitted and you will not be given extra time to make changes.

 

With a little time, patience and understanding, you, too, can fall in love with your NIH submission forms all over again!