Sponsored Research Terminology

501(C)(3): The Section of the Internal Revenue Code which defines nonprofit, charitable, tax-exempt organizations. Most foundations limit their giving to organizations which have 501(c)(3) status.

990-PF: A report submitted by all private foundations to the Internal Revenue Service each year. Foundations are required by law to make this report available in their offices for public inspection up to 180 days after filing. The 990-PF includes financial information on the foundation, a list of grants or contributions made during the year, and the names and addresses of foundation staff.

Boilerplate: Those parts of a contractor or grant proposal which are standard and do not relate to the specific project for which the application is made. These include such things as capabilities statements (facilities available, number of staff, past experience), general statements on the organization, or the negotiated indirect cost rate.

Capital Support: Funds provided for buildings, construction, or equipment.

Contract: A written statement that records the mutually agreed promises of the contracting parties and which gives rise to legally enforceable rights and duties. Contracts generally outline very specific goals and requirements for a task to be completed by a certain date. They are subject to an extensive body of law and regulations which govern, among other subjects, the manner of contract information, terms and conditions, and remedies and sanctions available to the parties. Contract types may include: AEC Special Research Support Agreements; Cost-Plus-a-Fee contract; Cost Reimbursement Contract; Fixed Price Contract; Letter Contract; Prime contract; Subcontract (any contract entered into which relates to the performance of another contract. A contract for materials or equipment for use in performance of another contract or for the performance of a task required to be performed by another contract is a subcontract of the original contract.)

Contracting Officer: An agency official who is authorized to develop, enter into, and administer contracts on behalf of the agency that he or she represents.

Cooperative Agreements: Agreements that generally involve no exchange of funds but involve either the use of an agency’s services, equipment, facilities, or significant technical collaboration.

Cooperative Giving Program: A grantmaking program established and administered within a profit-making corporation or company. Corporate giving programs do not have a separate endowment, and their annual grant totals are generally directly related to the previous year’s profits. They are not subject to the same reporting restrictions as private foundations. Some companies may make charitable contributions through both a corporate giving program and company-sponsored foundations.

Cost Sharing: The university’s support of a project through either cash or in-kind services, required by some sponsors. Cost sharing requirements vary, but they generally represent a percentage of the total cost.

Deadline: the date by which an application must be submitted to an agency to be considered for funding.

Deadline types are:

  • Postmark Deadline: Date by which an applicant must be postmarked.
  • Receipt Deadline: Date by which an application must be received by an agency.

Declining Grant: A multiyear grant which grows smaller each year in the expectation that the recipients home institution will raise other funds to make up the difference.

Direct Costs: all costs that can be directly attributed to the conduct of the project and are specified in the proposal budget.

Discretionary Funds or Programs: Programs or parts of programs whose funds are awarded from the national office based on priorities established in that office.

Endowment: Funds intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization.

Fellowship: Awards that enable individuals to pursue study in their fields or to introduce them to related fields. Although not consistently defined, some sponsors place their emphasis on contribution to the individual’s own scholarly development. A fellowship often advances, synthesizes, or enlarges the applicant’s special area of interest. Or, it may enable the recipient to study in a different area which will extend his or her competence. The salary support provided by a fellowship may be referred to as a stipend. Fellowship types may include: Research Fellowship; Training Fellowship or Traineeship.

Formal or Full Proposal: An expanded version of the preliminary or preproposal which provides a detailed statement of the Proposed work. The formal proposal constitutes a final application to an agency.


  • Challenge Grant: A grant award that will be paid only if the recipient organization is able to raise additional funds from another source(s).
  • Consortium Grant: A grant made to one institution in support of a project which is carried out through a cooperative arrangement between or among the grantee institution and one or more participation institutions. The cooperative agreement is subject to approval by the grantor and should be negotiated prior to submission of the proposal.
  • Continuation Grant: Money awarded for the continuation of a previously funded project. Usually, a continuing grant is not competitive with other proposals; however, it is contingent upon successful performance in the previous year.
  • Demonstration Grant: A grant, generally of limited duration, made to establish or demonstrate the feasibility of a theory or approach.
  • Institutional Grant: A grant awarded generally on some type of formula basis which takes into consideration the volume of grants and contracts in one or more fields or disciplines at an institution. Detailed proposals are normally required. The national Science Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services are the primary sources of institutional grants. The scope of work is very broad.
  • Step-Funded Grant: A project grant, usually for a period of three years, with the initial grant providing 100 percent of the funds for the first year, 2/3 of the funds for the second year, and 1/3 for the third year. A year later, if the project is to be continued, the grant provides 1/3 of the funds for the second year, 1/3 for the third year, and 1/3 for the fourth year.

In-Kind Contribution: A contribution of equipment, supplies, or other property in lieu of a dollar contribution. Some organizations may also donate space or staff time as an in-kind contribution.

Indirect Cost Rate: The device for determining the proportion of an organization’s general expenses each of its projects should bear. The indirect cost rate is a percentage rate negotiated by the university, normally with the federal agency most involved with research at the university. When the rate is applied to a base of the project’s direct costs, it determines the maximum reimbursable indirect costs of the project. A single indirect cost rate is usually negotiated for use on all federally funded projects at an institution.

Investigational New Drug Application (IND): A request for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization to administer an investigational drug to humans. Such authorization must be secured prior to interstate shipment and administration of any new drug that is not the subject of an approved new drug application.

Letter of Intent: Initial contact with sponsor which indicates intent to apply.

Matching Funds: Funds which must be supplied by the grantee in an amount equal to or a percentage of the award amount in order to receive the award. In the case of a federal grant, the matching funds must usually come from non-federal sources. (An institution often tries to obtain matching funds from an outside organization, such as a foundation; however, it may use its own funds for this purpose.)

Non-confidential disclosure: a public writeup of an invention that can be used to generate interest among potential licensees and/or demonstrate the University's technology portfolio. If a potential licensee is interested, they will usually ask for a confidentiality agreement and then get access to the proprietary aspects of the patent application.

Payout Requirement: The amount of funds that foundations are required to expend for charitable purposes (includes grants and the administrative cost of making grants). Currently, foundations are required to pay out five percent of the average market value of their assets, or of their full net income for the year, whichever is greater.

Preliminary or Preproposal: A preliminary or brief outline of the proposed work and budget for review by a sponsor to evaluate the appropriateness of a formal proposal to its program. The preproposal is also referred to as a concept paper or prospectus.

Project Director or Principal Investigator (PI): The designated staff member of the university whose proposed project is approved and funded by the awarding agency and who is responsible for the conduct of the project.

Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Application (RFA): Agency requests for proposals from individuals or institutions to perform a specific task. The Resulting award is in contract form. RFPs and RFAs are published in the Commerce Business Daily.

Research Types:

  • Applied Research: Research which studies the relationship and/or applicability of theories or principles to the solution of a problem. Example: Studying how the regeneration of cells relates to tumors.
  • Basic Research: Research which adds something new to the body of knowledge in a particular field. Example: Research on the regeneration of cells.

Zero-Based Budgeting: A budgeting technique that generally attempts to analyze budget requests without an implicit commitment to sustaining past levels of funding.