Managing an Award

Sponsored Research at Harvard

Sponsored research, one of the primary missions of Harvard University, is defined as funding from outside sources for scholarly inquiry performed by University faculty and staff. Sources of funding can include the federal government, state and local agencies, hospitals, foundations, corporations and foreign entities. Examples of sponsored research projects at Harvard range from laboratory research on AIDS at the Medical School to an Executive Leadership Program for government officials at the Kennedy School of Government.

Sponsored research funding at Harvard represents approximately 21.6% of the University's operating budget. In FY11 Harvard reported $833 million in sponsored research expenditures.

Maintaining the Public Trust

Managing the regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities of sponsored research funds is a complex undertaking as this funding is highly regulated. Additionally, there are multiple internal parties involved and many phases within the "life cycle of an award" from searching for funding opportunities to setting up the account to monitoring of expenditures to reporting and closing out the account.

Sound financial management of these sponsored funds is critical in maintaining the public trust in research results and outcomes, its trust as research participants, and its trust in how millions of dollars of public funds are spent every year.

Stewardship and Compliance

Proper stewardship of these funds is a responsibility that must be shared among many individuals within the University, which presents a particular challenge within a decentralized environment such as Harvard. Our primary sponsor, the National Institutes of Health, is becoming increasingly involved in dictating guidelines around systems and controls for grantees to follow in overseeing their funding. At the same time, the federal government has created an environment where we are required to conduct research administration business with them electronically.

Proper stewardship results in the effective management of public funds to maximize research outcomes and higher standards of research integrity, especially with regard to the protection of research subjects (both human and animal). Managing these funds properly will also decrease serious cases of fraud, institutional mismanagement, and poor management of federal funds.

Providing grant managers, Principal Investigators and central and school administration officials with the tools and the data to encourage and facilitate the management of sponsored funds is a primary focus of the Office for Sponsored Programs (OSP) and Financial Administration Systems Solutions (FSS).

Specifically, OSP, SPH-SPA, and HMS-SPA:

  • Provide tools to assist faculty members in their search for funding opportunities, reviewing proposals, negotiating awards, maintaining accounts and records, seeking reimbursement for expenses from sponsors, and fulfilling sponsor reporting requirements.
  • Monitor sponsored projects for compliance with sponsor terms and conditions, University policies, and federal regulations and standards.
  • Work closely with tub financial officers to prepare and implement financial and administrative policies, procedures, and sponsor and regulatory compliance issues of interest to the research community.
  • Provide training┬áto the University in the application of new and existing policies and regulations.