Definition of a Sponsored Project

Guideline Date: August 2017     Revision: 1     Last Review: August 2017

A sponsored project is a grant, contract or other arrangement formalizing the transfer of money or property from a sponsor to the University with the intent to either carry out a public purpose or provide a direct benefit for the sponsor. Sponsored projects can come in various forms, including but not limited to grants, contracts and cooperative agreements. Sponsored projects are enforceable by law, and specified objectives are usually accomplished within a specified time frame, with payment being subject to revocation. Most sponsored projects also include indirect costs. Sponsored project documents that set forth terms and conditions and require a signature must be signed by an authorized signatory of the University.

Sponsored projects are funded by sponsors based upon the technical expertise of the principal investigators submitting outcome-driven proposals. The formal award is made in the name of the Board of Regents, Nevada System of Higher Education on behalf of the University of Nevada, Reno. When the award is accepted, the principal investigator (PI) assumes responsibility for conducting and completing the technical work and for administering the project in accordance with federal, state, University and sponsor requirements. While the PI is responsible and accountable for performance of the sponsored project, the University provides infrastructure to support the investigator and promotes a research culture that adheres to the highest standards of research ethics. The PI and the University have a mutual interest in carrying out the project for which the funds are awarded.  

Sponsored Project Characteristics   

Projects or activities that require administration by Sponsored Projects may include any or all of the following general characteristics:  

  • The sponsor may be a federal, state or local government (includes subawards in which flow-through funds are from a federal, state or local government source); a private, for-profit entity; or a non-profit entity such as a foundation.  
  • The proposal or award requires proprietary, non-public deliverables to be rendered to the funding entity (often referred to as a contractual obligation) or funds (directly or indirectly) research, scholarly, creative and/or entrepreneurial activity.  
  • The proposal or award requires a signature from an authorized official binding the University to the terms and conditions of the proposed project.  
  • The award contains terms of use for the funds such as budgetary restrictions, states the programmatic objectives to be achieved and defines the responsible individuals and the period of performance.
  • The award is typically the result of an outcome-driven proposal.
  • Detailed programmatic and/or fiscal reporting for sponsor approval is required during the life of the project and at the end of the project.  
  • Payment is contingent upon programmatic accomplishments or detailed fiscal reporting.
  • The award includes a provision for audit.  
  • Prior sponsor approval is required for significant programmatic and/or fiscal deviations.  
  • The award contains language regarding the sponsor's right to revoke funding and that unused funds may need to be returned to the sponsor.  
  • The award addresses intellectual property, patent, and publication and/or data rights.
  • The award requires protection of confidential information.  
  • Project studies are to be conducted on substances/products/processes that are owned by the sponsor or involve similar quid pro quo arrangements.  
  • The project involves the use of human subjects, vertebrate animals, radioisotopes on humans, radioactive materials, recombinant DNA, human body substances, etiologic agents, restricted biologics or chemicals, or proprietary materials.
  • The sponsor may hope to gain economic benefit as a result of the activity to be conducted.  

Excluded from this classification are the following:

  • Contracts entered into by faculty for scholarly writing and artistic creation
  • A subset of service agreements administered by the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
  • Fee for service contracts administered by the Controller's Office
  • Service agreements and facilities and equipment use agreements administered by the Nevada Center for Applied Research

If none of the above characteristics of a sponsored project are present, such awards may be treated as gifts. Final determination of a sponsored project rests with the vice president for research and innovation.