Policy on the Administration of Sponsored Programs

Effective: 11/01/2020


Sponsored Programs Office provides significant benefits to the University and furthers its educational mission by facilitating research, workshops, conferences, and other projects that enrich the scholarly endeavors of faculty and students and enhance the services provided by the University to California communities and the nation. This document delineates or refers to policies, procedures and organizational structures for the administration of grants and contracts denoted as sponsored programs/projects. All procedures and actions are designed to conform to federal and state laws and regulations, CSU, University and Corporation policies. In the event that a given contract or grant contains terms and conditions that are not in conflict with, but are more restrictive than, those provided in the campus policy, the more restrictive terms and conditions of the grant or contract shall prevail. The intent of this policy is to ensure that the administration of sponsored projects maximizes the benefits of these programs; effectively supports faculty, students, and administrators in securing funding for and carrying out sponsored activities; and is in compliance with CSU policy including  https://calstate.policystat.com/policy/8543209/latest/ or its successor.


  1. “Auxiliary” means an Auxiliary Organization as defined in https://calstate.policystat.com/policy/8543209/latest/      
  2. “CEI” means the Corporate Engagement and Innovation (CEI) unit, within the division of Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Education (R-EDGE) serves as a single point of contact for all for-profit research and development engagement activities. CEI provides the pre- and post-award oversight related to industry sponsored projects.  https://cei.calpoly.edu
  3. “Contract” means a written agreement between the University or the Corporation and a sponsor to provide an economic benefit to the sponsor, generally in the form of services, for compensation. The agreement is binding and creates a quid pro quo relationship between the parties. Contract activity includes research, public service, and educationally related project proposals and awards, whether solicited or unsolicited, which are either submitted to or received from federal, state, municipal, or county agencies; public or private corporations; and private Corporations or individuals.
  4. “Corporation” means Cal Poly Corporation.
  5. “Electronic Signatures” Cal Poly uses Adobe Sign to route forms and facilitate electronic signatures. Adobe Sign can be accessed from any internet-connected device and is secure, trackable, legally-binding and approved for confidential information (including Level 1 data).
  6. “Grant” means a financial award to a recipient to carry out an approved project or activity. A grant generally anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement of the sponsor with the recipient during performance of the project or activity, but sponsors usually request an accounting of the use of funds and of results of the project or activity. The University or Corporation may commit resources or services as a condition of the grant. Grant activity includes research, public service, and educationally related project proposals and awards, whether solicited or unsolicited, which are either submitted to or received from federal, state, municipal, or county agencies; public or private corporations; and private Corporations or individuals.
  7. “Principal Investigator” (PI) means the individual (whether referred to in the contract or grant as a PI, Project Director or other similar term) designated by the University or Corporation to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the academic, scientific, technical, financial and administrative aspects and for day-to-day management of the sponsored project. 
  8. “Recipient” means the University or CSU auxiliary awarded a contract or grant. The recipient at Cal Poly is usually the Corporation but could be either the University or the Corporation, even if an alternative administrative component is designated in the award document, and shall not be an individual, department or other constituent unit.
  9. “Relevant Post-Award Administrator” means either the Sponsored Programs Administrator or the CEI Administrator, as appropriate for that unit’s assignment, designated by the Recipient to administer the sponsored project. At Cal Poly, the Corporation is designated as the primary Sponsored Programs Administrator for the University.
  10. “Sponsor” means the party paying for the services or other economic benefit under a contract or providing the financial award for a project or activity under a grant.
  11. “Sponsored Programs Office” or “Sponsored Programs” means the campus department that provides post-award oversight of sponsored projects funded by public and nonprofit sources.
  12. “Sponsored projects)” means all work performed under grants or contracts funded by non-CSU funding sources, including non-CSU funded contracts and grants that are subsequently sub contracted to another campus.
  13.  “Sponsored program records” include, but are not limited to, accepted proposals and applications; contracts or grant agreements; project reports and data; correspondence; budgets and supporting financial documentation; supporting human resources documentation; and other records relating to receipt, review, award, evaluation, status and monitoring of the sponsored project.
  14. “Sponsored program work product” means any work created in the performance of a sponsored project. Unless the contract or grant states otherwise, sponsored project work product does not include journal articles, lectures, images, books or other works that are subject to copyright protection and have been created through independent academic effort even if based on the findings of the sponsored project.
  15. “University” means California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).

Responsibility for the Administration of Sponsored Programs

The President is ultimately responsible for the educational effectiveness, academic excellence, and general welfare of the campus over which they preside. The President requires that the University and the Corporation operate in conformity with applicable law and the policies of the CSU and the campus when proposing and administering sponsored programs. Sound management and administration of sponsored projects require coordination among organizationally separate units and individuals on the campus. The President has identified a campus official responsible for implementing each area of this policy.

The University has delegated the role of Sponsored Programs Administrator to the Corporation for the majority of sponsored projects. A Master Operating Agreement, executed between the University and the Corporation, which sets forth the roles and responsibilities of each party with regard to the administration of sponsored projects. The Supplemental Operating Agreement  further delineates the roles and responsibility of the Corporation in the administration of externally sponsored projects and related activities in accordance with the requirements identified in  https://www.csudhfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Section11000.pdf

Proposal Generation, Submission, Review, and Approval

All grant and contract proposals to external sponsors must be submitted through either the Grants Development Office, for proposals to public and nonprofit funders, or Corporate Engagement and Innovation, for proposals to for-profit funders.  The appropriate pre-award staff will submit proposals to the sponsor, after campus approval has been obtained. Proposals shall be routed under cover of a Proposal Approval Form (PAF) for approval by the relevant pre-award director, the university Budget Office, the PI’s department chair(s)/head(s), and the PI’s college dean/division head.  Additional approvals may be required, as identified by the relevant pre-award office, depending on the staff/faculty involved in the project, affiliation with a Center or Institute, or significant use of resources or facilities outside of the PI’s college/division.   The approvals of the department chair/head and the college dean/division head (or their delegates) on the PAF certify that the project is consistent with the mission of the unit or university, and that any proposed departmental/unit/college/division commitments, financial or otherwise, will be honored, if the proposal is awarded.

In accordance with CSU policy, proposals for sponsored projects shall not be submitted to the Sponsor without prior approval of the University president or the president's designee for the technical proposal and support of the University mission and of the University chief financial officer of or the chief financial officer's designee for the cost proposal and compliance with campus budget requirements. Other approvals may also be required.

All proposals and applications for grants or contracts shall specify the recipient of the grant or contract as the Corporation or University.

Qualifications and Responsibilities of the PI

Normally, individuals who serve as “PIs” shall be full-time faculty, MPP (management personnel plan), or staff employees at Cal Poly or the Corporation. Faculty participants in the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) may apply for or serve as PIs on sponsored projects only when the project can be accomplished during the period of active employment under FERP. Exceptions may be made for PIs who are not employees of the University or Corporation, but who are officially affiliated with the University, such as individuals with emeritus status or visiting professors or researchers. Other exceptions may also be made on a case-by-case basis. Such individuals shall not receive an appointment to a faculty classification based on their PI status alone. In addition, they must have a sponsoring department and college, whose chair/department head and dean/division head will provide the required approvals for the proposal. In cases in which the PI is not an active, full-time faculty or staff member, a Co-Investigator with project responsibility may be required.

The PI is the individual responsible for all aspects of the grant/contract both programmatic and fiscal. In general, the responsibilities of the PI, beyond those that may be imposed by the sponsor, include but are not limited to:

    1. Assuming overall responsibility for meeting the requirements, goals and objectives of the sponsored project as originally proposed, or subsequently modified;
    2. Working closely with the Relevant Post-Award Administrator or University as the case may be, to ensure that funds are spent appropriately and in accordance with the terms of the grant/contract and the allowable cost principles identified in the OMB Uniform Guidance;
    3. Complying with applicable federal and state laws and University and Corporation policies and procedures.
    4. Preparing and submitting reports at the times indicated in the grant or contract;
    5. Maintaining a close working relationship with the Relevant Post-Award Administrator or University as the case may be, to manage the grant/contract funds;
    6. Distribution of responsibilities among PIs on multi-institutional sponsored projects. Some grant and contract activities require the participation of more than one institution. In such cases, the responsibilities of all participating institutions and PIs shall be defined in written agreements signed by the institutions' respective authorized agents. Representative examples of acceptable agreement instruments include subcontracts and memoranda of understanding (MOU). All such agreements shall stipulate that all parties will adhere to appropriate institutional policies governing grant and contract administration and any specific sponsor requirements.

Acceptance of Awards

Awards of contracts or grants shall not be accepted, or spending cannot begin on a particular segment of the award, without prior approval by appropriate officials of the University and Corporation responsible for the following areas, as applicable: (a) Academic/programmatic; (b) fiscal; (c) health and safety; (d) human and animal subject research; (e) space; (f) major technical resources and equipment; and (g) risk management (h) other compliance requirements.

In addition, prior to acceptance of an award by the Relevant Post-Award Administrator the information identified below must be provided. This information should either be included in the specified contract, grant, or master agreement, or provided in the PAF:

  1. Identification of the PI and staffing needs for the sponsored project;
  2. Identification of the funds and resources available or needed, the projected budget, and other fiscal and administrative requirements.

The Relevant Post-Award Administrator, in collaboration with the PI, shall be responsible for negotiating any terms and conditions that differ substantially from those initially proposed. In accordance with CSU policy, all allowable costs, both direct and indirect, shall be recovered to the extent possible.

The final award document resulting from all grant and contract negotiations must have final approval of the CEO of the Corporation or his/her designee if the Corporation is to be the recipient of funds, or the University Chief Financial Officer or his/her designee when the University is to be the recipient of funds. Only the University or the Corporation designees, not the PI, may accept an award.

Upon acceptance of an award, the PI assumes responsibility for security, custody and retention of the Sponsored Project Work Product and programmatic/technical records after completion of the sponsored project.

Upon acceptance of an award, the Relevant Post-Award Administrator shall notify individuals and organizational units affected by the award.

Performance of Work on Grants and Contracts

Corporation shall be the employer of the PI and other employees with regard to work performed on a sponsored project. In cases where the University is the employer and the University transfers by agreement the administration of the project to the Corporation, the Corporation becomes the de facto employer.

The Corporation is responsible for the assignment, evaluation, and termination of employees on sponsored projects and for other employer obligations associated with performance and payment under the grant/contract, in accordance with campus policy for the administration of contracts and grants. This applies regardless of whether the employee is being paid directly by the Corporation or whether the University is being reimbursed by the Corporation for the reassignment of an employee from selected University duties to work on the contract or grant.

PIs, consultants, and project staff shall not be hired on any project until the terms and conditions of employment, particularly salary, have been determined, agreed to, and confirmed in writing between individuals and the Corporation/University administration (whichever is the employer).

All recruitment and appointment activities shall adhere to applicable Federal, State, CSU, University and Corporation policies and procedures (as applicable), including the CSU policy on nepotism.

In the event that the PI is incapacitated, resigns, fails, or refuses to perform the normal and reasonable duties of the position, or engages in unprofessional conduct, the Relevant Post-Award Administrator, after consultation with the Dean of the applicable college/unit (or comparable responsible administrator), the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel (for faculty PIs) or the Director of Human Resources (for staff PIs), and the VP of Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education (R-EDGE), may remove the individual from the grant or contract and terminate the agreement, assign another individual as PI, or take other appropriate action. In the case of sponsored projects that require scholarly research and/or technical effort, which cannot be overseen by the Relevant Post-Award Administrator, suspected problems in performance will be referred to the VP of R-EDGE, who will confer with the PI and appropriate University administrators to evaluate the problem and recommend remedial actions if necessary. The Relevant Post-Award Administrator shall obtain prior sponsor approval, as required.

Additional employment
Additional employment refers to any CSU employment that is in addition to the employee’s primary appointment, regardless of funding source. CSU employment includes all CSU, Corporation, and other CSU auxiliary employment. The Relevant Post-Award Administrator and the relevant University Human Resources or Personnel office  shall monitor additional employment and shall comply with the limits established by the CSU additional employment policies. http://www.calstate.edu/hradm/policies/hr2002-05.pdf

All employees involved in grant/contract work are subject to the campus Policy on Scientific Fraud and Serious Misconduct.

All employees shall be subject to appropriate sanctions for unprofessional behavior, failure or refusal to perform duties adequately, or other misconduct pursuant to the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement and/or University policies.

Conflict of interest

The campus Policy on Conflict of Interest in Externally Funded Research governs the identification and management of conflict of interest in the conduct of sponsored projects and other research activities.

Human Subjects Research

All sponsored projects that involve research with human subjects must conform to federal guidelines and campus policy for research involving human subjects. These guidelines and policy exist to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects involved in research in which the institution (University or Corporation) is engaged. The institution is engaged when its employees, students, or other individuals performing institutionally designated activities or exercising institutionally delegated authority or responsibility: (i) intervene or interact with living people for research purposes or (ii) obtain individually identifiable private information for research purposes. (See federal guidelines)

campus policy on Human Subjects in Research conforms with all applicable laws and regulations, including but not limited to, Title 45, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 46. The campus has a Federal Wide Assurance for protection of human subjects and an Institutional Review Board (the Cal Poly Human Subjects Committee), both approved by the federal Office of Human Research Protections.

Sponsored projects that involve research on human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the Human Subjects Committee prior to acceptance of an award. Campus policy provides for annual review on multiyear awards. The President or designated official will take appropriate action, including termination of a project, if appropriate to ensure protection of human subjects and compliance with requirements of funding and regulatory agencies for the protection of human subjects in research.

Animal Subjects Research

All sponsored projects that utilize live non-human vertebrate animals must conform to federal guidelines and campus policy on the use of such animals. The campus policy on Animal Subjects in Research regulates the procurement, housing, care, and use of live non-human vertebrate animals in research and instruction by employees of the University or Corporation in the regular course of their employment, in educational and research activities of students in satisfaction of University requirements, and in research or instruction using any University property or facility. The policy is consistent with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (institute for Laboratory Animal Research, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council), and applicable federal regulations.

Cal Poly has an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), appointed by the President and charged with the review and evaluation of animal facilities and procedures (procurement, housing, care) and research and teaching protocols. Sponsored projects that involve research using live non-human vertebrates must be reviewed and approved by the IACUC prior to acceptance of an award. Campus policy provides for annual review on multi-year awards. The President or designated official will take appropriate action, including termination of a project if appropriate, to ensure protection of the welfare of animal research subjects and compliance with requirements of funding and regulatory agencies for the protection of live vertebrate animals in research.

Other Compliance Requirements

Sponsored projects that must conform to other federal and/or state policies and requirements are reviewed to ensure requirements are met.  Such requirements may include, but are not limited to, training requirements, export restrictions, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Cannabis/Hemp research, and other requirements and regulations.

Fiscal Administration

The Relevant Post-Award Administrator is responsible for final certification of post award project budgets, and budget change review procedures. The PI for a contract or grant shall be responsible for executing the project in conformance with the approved budget, sponsor regulations, and University and Corporation policies and procedures. Pre-award disbursements are allowed, on a case-by-case basis, if the awarding agency policies and procedures permit, in accordance with the following:

  1. Pre-award disbursement is required for the proper and timely execution of the award objectives, as determined by the Relevant Post-Award Administrator.
  2. Verbal, electronic or written confirmation, from the Sponsor of the pending award is obtained by the relevant pre-award office, and
  3. An “Open Account Memo” is established and executed by the appropriate individuals. This will ensure that the appropriate department will cover the costs associated with pre-award spending should an award not be issued.

Account Management
The Relevant Post-Award Administrator is responsible for the timely establishment of accounts in accordance with the terms and conditions of the grant or contract. The Sponsored Programs Guide identifies the Corporation’s policies and procedures relating to the administration of sponsored projects. All expenditures shall be made in accordance with Corporation, University and sponsoring agency guidelines, policies and procedures. All accounting and control of cash receipts from contract or grant billings are maintained on a fund accounting basis and are in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, OMB Uniform Guidance sponsoring agency terms and conditions, and University and Corporation policies and procedures as applicable. All grant and contract expenditures require the written or electronic authorization of the PI or designee and the Relevant Post-Award Administrator, and must be submitted on appropriate forms. Reimbursement for personal expenditures by the PI will be approved by the PI’s immediate supervisor. Authorization of a designee by the PI will be done in writing or electronically on the Signature Authorization Form (SAF). The PI’s signature on expenditures certifies program appropriateness and compliance with the approved budget and the Relevant Post-Award Administrator approval certifies availability of funds and compliance with the Sponsoring Agency terms and conditions.

Reporting Requirements
The Relevant Post-Award Administrator shall ensure that all fiscal and technical reports and billings are prepared and submitted on a timely basis in accordance with the terms and conditions of the grant or contract. The PI is responsible for the timely submission of accurate technical and project progress reports. The Relevant Post-Award Administrator shall monitor compliance with technical, project, and financial reporting requirements.

Cost Recovery
All appropriate indirect and direct costs shall be recovered for sponsored projects in accordance with CSU policy, University and Corporation policies, and/or other funding agency requirements.

Cost Sharing
In some cases, the University may waive a portion of direct or indirect costs as a means of cost sharing. When there is cost sharing or matching in connection with a sponsored project, the Relevant Post-Award Administrator, in conjunction with the PI, must document actual costs shared or matching contributions in a manner consistent with the campus cost allocation plans, sponsor requirements OMB Uniform Guidance , if applicable. All cost sharing shall be documented at the time of proposal submission on the PAF and/or the “Grant-Matching Request Form.”

Work Product
Ownership rights to data, materials, records and any other form of intellectual property developed on sponsored projects will be specified in the terms of the contract or grant. Any contract or grant that provides for ownership or license of intellectual property developed on a sponsored project shall provide the University with a free-of-cost, non-exclusive license to use said intellectual property for purposes consistent with the educational mission of the University (see the 
campus Intellectual Property Policy).

Records Retention
All necessary records and reports pertaining to a grant or contract shall be maintained by the Relevant Post-Award Administrator and the Grants Development Office while the project is ongoing. Records shall be maintained for a minimum of three years after the end date of a sponsored project, unless sponsor requirements differ, in which case the longer retention period shall prevail. Some records may need to be retained for a longer period to protect future intellectual property interests or when records may have historical, artistic or other value. In these cases, the materials will be turned over to the appropriate University or Corporation official for retention or preservation.

The PI is responsible for retaining laboratory notebooks and other primary data records, whether paper or electronic, as necessary to meet sponsor requirements or to protect intellectual property interests.

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