Super Circular, Super Fun

It’s been around for nearly six months now, but the OMB Super Circular (also known as the “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, Final Rule”, and “Mega Circular”) is receiving some more attention as opportunities for its application increase.  Many of you who attended the most recent SPA meeting most likely received a copy of the Huron Group’s chart, “Assessing the OMB Uniform Guidance: Major Changes and Impacts.”  If you did not, it is available here and offers helpful visual reference as to how your strategies may change.  Some of the highlights include:

Length of Opportunity: The guidance indicates that RFAs and PAs have to be available 60 days before the opportunity closes.

Accountability – Performance vs. Compliance: Results and outcomes that can be shared with other award recipients have strong emphasis in the new guidance.  Noncompliance is not merely overlooked, of course; but the government ostensibly does not wish to create oppressive rules that prevent an investigator or a collaborating team from attaining their research aims. As you read the guidance, you’ll see that this is the goal.

Administrative Costs as Direct Costs: Specific information is given on how to manage administrative costs as a direct cost. Administrative costs are usually charged as indirects, so this can be tricky.  If you’re unsure on how to do this, please contact RAS and we’ll help you figure out how you should be charging your admin costs.

Increasing Minimal Threshold for Indirect Costs to 10%:  Organizations that cannot afford to negotiate an indirect rate can budget a 10% de minimis indirect rate with the federal government (as opposed to the previous rate of 8%).

Payment Management : The super circular provides new information on maintaining consistency in cost allocation, and at what point you need written approval for assigning a cost to an award. The cost principles and audit sections assert that there is now a limit of three years for the federal government to review awards in order to disallow costs.  There is also a new 90 day rule for reporting on awards at the end of the project period.  Taken together, there is much latent encouragement to spend your money before it is taken back.

Family-Friendly Policies: The new guidance encourages federally-funded organizations to implement family-friendly policies, including family-friendly issues such as costs related to the identification of day-care providers, and allowance of parents to document out-of-workforce time on biosketches.


Fanfare for the Common Access

There are many journals that are moving toward requirements closer to the NIH Public Access policy (notable and recently: the American Heart Association; be sure to note the exceptions!).  There has been some confusion as to the difference between open access journals, public access requirements, and how they apply to the mandates imposed by funded research over published results.  So, what is the difference between “open access” and “public access?”

Public Access: Public access sits somewhere in between these poles, encouraging broader readership by limiting access control periods, while ensuring that the use of the material remains subject to the copyright and/or related license terms of the respective authors or publishers. Many research funders considering access policies have viewed public access as a manageable first step toward full Open Access. Public access, unlike Open Access, usually does not demand the immediate availabilityof peer‐reviewed articles. Rather, it recognizes that the realities of the current publishing system allow for publishers to embargo access for some period of time (six to twelve months) in order to retain their subscription revenue stream. After that time, articles following the public access model are made freely available to readers in a trusted, persistent repository such as the NIH’s PubMed Central archive.

Open Access: Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of peer‐reviewed research results, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software and/or use them for any other lawful purpose. SPARC has good information on open access for further reading.


A journal, then, can be open access and by default automatically comply with a public access policy; but a journal does not have to be open access in order to comply.  In order to demonstrate compliance, many of you are becoming familiar with NIH’s NCBI system.  But what if you need to demonstrate compliance to a non-NIH funder?  Luckily, most non-NIH funders adopting the public access policy do so through participation in the Health Research Alliance (HRA) Public Access initiative.

Demonstrating Compliance for Non-NIH Research: Once your funder has uploaded the required information about your grant to the Grants in the Health Research Alliance Shared Portfolio database (gHRAsp), you will receive a reminder to visit the HRA Authentication Portal page in gHRAsp. Here, you will be asked to log in with your Gmail address or eRA Commons account (Google and eRA Commons both use the same Open ID technology). Once you log in, you will be asked to search for your grants, which will link them to your gmail or eRA Commons account. When you have an accepted manuscript to deposit to PubMed Central, you will use the NIH Manuscript Submission System just as you do for manuscripts resulting from NIH grants. When you log in with your gmail address or eRA Commons Account, you will then search for your grants in the NIH Manuscript Submission system. Your grant from your HRA-member funder should appear for you to link your publication to that grant.


If your funder requires adherence to a Public Access policy but does NOT participate in the HRA Public Access initiative, contact RAS and we’ll help walk you through your specific compliance issues.  If you need a refresher on the NIH Public Access and how to comply, check out our previous post: The ABCs of PMCID!


Choose Your Own (Submission) Adventure

With the changes to the NIH resubmission process (if you missed it, check out “A1 Is Not Just A Steak Sauce” from April 23), it is helpful to understand the types of submissions that exist.  To get you started, take a look at some of the federal submission categories below.  If you have questions, please contact us anytime and we’ll walk you through!


Submission Type   Characteristics
New Submissions: Submitted to an agency/sponsor for the first time.
Simultaneous Submissions of a New Application:  Some federal agencies will not review an application submitted simultaneously to another federal agency; some WILL allow simultaneous submissions but each agency must be informed of any others reviewing the application.Each submission to a different agency must be submitted to SPA (via eProp) and must undergo the same reviews as the original application.
Award Transfers for a New Faculty Member: There are two ways to transfer new faculty’s funded projects to WSU:  the entire award may be reissued to WSU, or segments of the award may be transferred to WSU via subaward or subcontract.
Resubmissions (also known as Amended):  If an application is rejected, the PI may use the feedback from reviewers to revise and resubmit the application (agency policies can differ on what is allowed). Note: under the new NIH policies, do not directly state that you are addressing comments from previous reviews if you are submitting a former A1 as an A0!Resubmissions are processed as new applications in eProp.
Continuations (also known as Non-Competing Renewals and Progress Reports): Funds typically awarded one year at a time, based on availability, with the expectation that the entire project will be supported. Some agencies require that the PI submit a new application for each year of the project. These continuation applications are not subject to competitive review beyond the initial application.A note on RPPR: In an attempt to streamline the process for most non-competitive renewals, NIH developed this process for submitting most non-competitive renewals. A PI must have an eRA Commons user name account within the RPPR module of eRA Commons.
Competing Continuations (also known as Renewals): Request for additional funds for a current award to expand the scope of work.Applications for renewal must go through SPA (via eProp).
Competing Supplements (also known as Revisions):  Some federal agencies offer supplements to successful research projects for auxiliary programs (i.e. research experiences for undergraduates).Applications for supplements must be submitted through eProp and approved by SPA.
Collaborative Applications: Employed when investigators at two or more institutions desire to work together on a project, but want to receive separate funding directly from the sponsor (read: no subcontractual relationship). In this case, each collaborator must submit a separate application. The applications, which must have the same title, are linked by a cover letter which accompanies each proposal and asks that they be reviewed as a unit.Federal agencies that allow the submission of collaborative proposals will provide guidelines. Talk to RAS about the best way to submit to SPA through eProp for a collaborative application.
Subaward Applications:  If another institution is preparing an application which includes WSU as a subrecipient, it will need a subaward application from WSU to incorporate in its submission to the prime sponsor.WSU’s subaward applications must undergo the same SPA submission and review process as any other application.

Guns for Hire

You’re working on a proposal in which it is necessary for some of the work to be done outside of your lab.  Maybe the work is ancillary to your specialty and the expertise of another facility is required for reliable data.  Maybe you don’t own the necessary equipment and you can’t justify the purchase.  Maybe you’re short on manpower.  In any case, resources from the sought award are going to have to be spent to bring in some power from the outside.  Or, alternatively, YOU have been asked to perform work for an entity that is not Wayne State University.  Is it a subcontract?  Fee-for-service? Consulting agreement?  As you may by now suspect, it depends, and more than one term may apply.  To begin your determination of which type of agreement to pursue with the Office of General Counsel here at Wayne State (because you must, must, must make sure your agreements comport with WSU regulations and policies), it may help to be familiar with the structures of agreements that exist:


Research Services Agreement: This type of agreement is usually entered into with outside funding sources which may include Federal, State or industry sources. In these agreements, there is no definite product to mark its completion; the outcome remains unknown.  With all research service agreements, care must be taken to ensure the intellectual property rights remain with Wayne State University.


Collaborative Research Agreements:  Here, the university and a company (or group of companies) in the same field agree to work together in research and development activities collaboratively; to perhaps oversimplify, everyone is working on all aspects together. The structure of a CRA must denote  in advance the ownership of any invention or discovery before starting the project.


Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA):  A CRADA is used by federal labs to engage in collaborative efforts with non-federal partners, especially when there are central matters of  technology transfer.  CRADAs will included payment terms, IP ownership, termination clauses, etc.  As a rule the scope of work is separate and references the CRADA as the governing document for the scope of work. This type of agreement is often used between VA and university labs, and is seen as highly advantageous in moving federally funded R&D into the private sector.


Business Services Agreement: These agreements are usually considered work for hire.  In other words, the funding source  has engaged the services of your staff or faculty to perform certain tasks (many times this is testing or similar work, with a relay of  results to the funder).  All results in these types of agreements belong to the funding sponsor.


Independent Contractor Agreement:  As part of the overall research project, a PI may choose to enter into a contractual agreement with an independent contractor.  This person possesses specific expertise or knowledge to expedite research efforts.  A contractor may operate outside of the university, or may be part of the campus activities on an as needed basis. Compensation for an independent contractor is routinely quoted as an hourly rate or project rate with no benefits of a university employee, including tax withholding. An independent is considered a subcontractor to the university receiving the prime agreement. All of the requirements of the prime agreement should be passed onto the independent contractor so that the Wayne State remains in compliance with the terms of the prime award.


If you find yourself in need of an agreement either as the PI of a prime award or as a contracted service provider, be sure to contact your GCO to begin all proper channels of review.  Contracts and agreements ensure the protection of your work and the University as a whole; use all of the resources at your disposal!  For an interesting perspective on the merits of employing one type of agreement over another, check out SRA International’s column on Research Service Agreements.