OSP Glossary

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A-21 Functional Categories

A21 codes are three-digit values assigned as attributes to Activities which reflect the function or purpose of the expense. These codes are often reported in the Activity Description and they are required for all University expense transactions. For sponsored activities, the following codes are commonly used:

A01 – Instruction and Departmental Research

A02 – Organized Research

A03 – Other Sponsored Activities

A15 – Scholarships

For detailed definitions of all A-21 codes, please refer to this list of A-21 code definitions.


Account is the unique combination of a fund, activity and subactivity as set up in GMAS and charged in the general ledger.

Account Group

Numeric identifier that groups accounts (fund/activity/subactivity) together for financial reporting purposes. A new account group is created for each budget year when year logic is used. The subactivities (i.e., main, part of, and subcontract) are reported in aggregate by account group.

Acquisition Cost

Acquisition cost is the cost to purchase an asset and make it available for use. Acquisition cost includes the purchase price of the item and costs necessary to obtain and prepare the asset (e.g., shipping costs or any expense necessary for placing the item in location and bringing it to a condition necessary for normal or expected use). Acquisition cost does not include repairs, service contracts, or supplemental warranties. (§200.2, Capital Equipment Policy)

Action Memo

Action Memos are produced by the Office for Sponsored Programs and distributed (by GMAS) to the PI and Departmental Administrators who will have post-award responsibility for managing an award. Action Memos are issued whenever an "official" change is made to the award (i.e., more or less money; more or less time; internal approval of pre-award or advance account status; or an administrative change such as the addition of a new Subactivity or correction, etc.). The Action Memo provides a summary of the account string information, as well as funds awarded to date and funds anticipated.


A six-digit required value in the Harvard Chart of Accounts that captures the purpose or use of funds. (Chart of Accounts term)

Administrative Salary

Compensation paid for non-technical services that support departmental, institute, or center activities or objectives, including services such as clerical support, financial management, procurement of materials and services, business services, budget and planning, and personnel management. Administrative salary is typically not permissible on a federal award unless unlike circumstances exist that comply with the Administrative and Clerical Salaries Charged to Federal Awards Policy.

See Administrative and Clerical Salaries on Federal Awards.

Advance Account (At-Risk Account)

An account string established for charges on a sponsored project before the award has been formally set up (usually because the award has not been fully signed). Advance accounts allow PIs and departments to incur, record, and track expenditures, while eliminating the need to temporarily charge other, unrelated accounts. In the majority of cases, OSP, HMS SPA or HSPH SPA will establish an advance account upon request of a PI’s department or school.

See At-Risk Account Guidance.

Advance Payment

Advance payment means a payment that a Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity makes by any appropriate payment mechanism, including a predetermined payment schedule, before the non-Federal entity disburses the funds for program purposes (§200.3)

Affiliate Organization

Separately owned and operated institution that maintains a formal affiliation arrangement with the Harvard. Affiliate organizations include: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Hebrew Senior Life, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker’s Children’s Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, VA Boston Healthcare System, and the Forsyth Institute.


One of the basic conditions that must be met in deciding whether a particular expenditure is appropriate to a particular federal account. In order to define if a charge is allocable, the purchase of this good or service must relate specifically to the project being charged.


Allocation means the process of assigning a cost, or a group of costs, to one or more cost objective(s), in reasonable proportion to the benefit provided or other equitable relationship. The process may entail assigning a cost(s) directly to a final cost objective or through one or more intermediate cost objectives (2 CFR §200.4)


One of the basic conditions that must be met in deciding whether a particular expenditure is appropriate to a particular federal account. In order to define if a charge is allowable, federal regulations must allow the use of federal funds for the purchase of such an item or service.

At-Risk Account

See Advance Account.

Audit Finding

An action that appears not to comply with regulations and is deemed sufficiently significant to warrant mention in an auditor's report. Audit finding means deficiencies are reported in the schedule of findings and questioned costs (2 CFR §200.5, §200.516)

Authorized Institutional Signatory

An employee of the University authorized to sign legal documents on behalf of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Authorized signatures on research proposals and sponsored research agreements are established by the Declaration of Signing Authority.

See Negotiating and Signing Authority for Agreements Related to Research.


Umbrella term used to include sponsored grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. A federal award is any form of financial assistance received from a federal awarding agency directly or indirectly from a pass-through entity.

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Bayh-Dole Act

United States legislation which gives U.S. universities, small businesses and non-profits intellectual property control of their inventions and other intellectual property resulting from research.

Bond Covenant

An agreement between the issuer and holder of a bond, requiring or forbidding certain actions of the issuer. Positive covenants require actions while negative covenants forbid them. The exact terms of a bond covenant must be written in the bond indenture.

See Consulting or Related Service Agreements.


Budget means the financial plan for the project or program that the awarding agency or pass-through entity approves during the award process or in subsequent amendments to the award. (2 CFR §200.8)

Budget Period

Interval(s) into which a grant project period is divided for funding and reporting purposes, usually 12 months.

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Capital Assets

Capital assets means tangible or intangible assets used in operations having a useful life of more than one year and a value of more than $5,000 which are capitalized in accordance with the Financial Management of Property, Plant and Equipment Policy. Capital assets include land, buildings, equipment, and software. (2CFR §200.12)


Carryforward is the ability granted by a sponsor – either permitted automatically or requiring approval – to the grantee to move funds previously unspent in a past budget period into the new budget period while also obligating the fully anticipated amount for the new budget period.

Note: Despite having different impacts on the budget, carryforward and carryover are both referred to as “carryforward” in GMAS. Also, in addition to funds being applied from previous budget periods into subsequent budget periods, it can also apply across non-sequential budget periods and even cross segments.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number

The CFDA number means the number assigned to a Federal Program in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Programs (“CFDA”). Each federal assistance program has a unique identifying CFDA number comprised of a two-digit prefix that identifies the federal agency followed by a period (dot) and a three-digit number that identifies the specific program, e.g., 84.011). Some programs are subdivided into smaller, free standing programs by affixing a letter (A, B, C, etc.) to the end of the standard CFDA Number. The CFDA Number is required to be included on all subawards. (2 CFR §200.10)

Central Service Units

Separate operating units that are generally not part of academic tubs and provide services to the entire University community. Examples of central service units include University Dining Services, Harvard University Information Technology, and Harvard Real Estate Services. Central service units are not covered under the service center policy.

See the Academic Service Center Policy.

Certification Period

For effort reporting, the certification period is the 30 day time interval for PIs, proxies or designees to certify annual effort or that of the individuals who work on their projects. Certification is the assertion that salaries charged to a sponsored project reasonably reflect the effort expended and work performed.

See the Effort Reporting Policy.

Chart of Accounts (CoA)

A 33-digit code that accompanies every financial transaction. The Chart of Accounts is comprised of 7 Segments (Tub, Org, Object, Fund, Activity, Subactivity, and Root) that are used as Harvard’s organizational framework for budgeting, recording, and reporting on all financial transactions.

Circular A-110

An OMB publication entitled “Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Other Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-Profit Organizations” that describes the required minimum management systems and institution must have in order to administer federal grants. OMB Circular A-110 was incorporated into the OMB Uniform Administrative Requirements, which became effective December 26th, 2014

Circular A-133

An OMB publication governing audits of “States, Local Governments and Non-Profit Organizations. OMB Circular A-133 was incorporated into the OMB Uniform Audit Requirements, which became effective December 26th, 2014.

Circular A-21

An OMB publication governing the cost principles for universities. OMB Circular A-21 was incorporated into the OMB Uniform Cost Principles, which became effective December 26th, 2014.

Class of Federal Awards

Class of Federal awards means a group of Federal awards either awarded under a specific program or group of programs or to a specific type of non-Federal entity or group of non-Federal entities to which specific provisions or exceptions may apply. (2 CFR §200.15)

Clinical Trial

A contract to test drugs, devices, or other controlled substances for Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approval. Most Clinical Trials are focused on generating safety and efficacy data for use in an FDA approval process. Clinical trials usually involve the use of human or animal subjects.


The act of completing all internal procedures and sponsor requirements to terminate or complete a research project. Most awards have strict deadlines for completion of closeout activities. Failure to complete within the deadline can result in non-payment of the final amount due or may affect the ability to obtain another award from the sponsor. (2 CFR §200.16, §200.343)

Cognizant Agency for Audit

Cognizant agency for audit means the Federal agency designated to carry out the audit supervision responsibilities described in 2 CFR §200.513. Since Harvard’s primary source of federal support comes from the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), the cognizant agency is the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”). A list of cognizant agencies for audit may be found at the FAC Web site.

Cognizant Agency for Indirect Costs

Cognizant agency for indirect costs means the Federal agency responsible for reviewing, negotiating, and approving cost allocation plans or indirect cost proposals developed under this part on behalf of all Federal agencies.

Committed Effort

Amount or percentage of time an individual has communicated to the sponsor that he/she will work on a specific sponsored project over a specified period of time. Commitments are made in the award proposal and may be documented by the sponsor in award documents. Changes to reduce committed effort may require sponsor approval.

See Effort Reporting Policy.

Companion Account

An account in the Harvard Chart of Accounts that records cost-shared expenses. It is created by pairing a sponsored activity and subactivity value with a non-sponsored fund value in the Harvard chart of accounts. Companion accounts are required for all university cost-shared direct expenses.

See Cost Sharing Policy.

Competing Renewal

Request to the sponsor for funding that builds upon a previous project in the sponsor peer review process. If the competing renewal is awarded, there is usually a new period of performance and level of funding. Normally, this generates a new segment in GMAS within existing project.

Compliance Supplement

The Compliance Supplement is a guide created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used in auditing federal assistance and federal grant programs, as well as their respective recipients. In the Uniform Guidance, the Compliance supplement is Appendix XI to Part 200—Compliance Supplement (previously known as the Circular A-133 Compliance Supplement) (2 CFR §200.21)

Computing Devices

Computing devices means machines used to acquire, store, analyze, process, and publish data and other information electronically. Computing devices less than $5,000 are generally considered supplies and can therefore be directly charged to a federal award as long as they are essential and allocable to the performance of a federal award. (2 CFR §200.20)

Conflict of Interest (COI)

A situation in which an employee has the opportunity to influence a university or sponsor decision that could lead to a financial or other personal advantage or that involves other conflicting official obligation that could directly and significantly affect the design, conduct, or reporting of research.

Harvard must disclose in writing any potential conflict of interest in procurement to the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.


A legal protection for an original piece of work, such as art, film, software, or writing. At Harvard, the University holds any patents that come about as a result of sponsored research, but the individual faculty member often holds the copyrights. Sponsored research agreements may specify other, or additional, provisions. Questions about copyright may be addressed to either the Office of Technology Development (OTD) or the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). See the University's Statement of Policy in Regard to Intellectual Property (IP Policy). The OGC also has a helpful guide on Copyright and Fair Use.


Consistency is one of several basic considerations that determine whether an expense is appropriate to charge to a specific federal award. In order to determine if a charge is consistent, the charge incurred for the same purpose or in similar circumstances must be treated in the same manner.


An individual or business whose expertise is required to perform work on a sponsored award. Services are temporary, special, or highly technical. A consultant may not serve as senior personnel (e.g., Co-Investigator, Principal Investigator).


A professional activity related to a person's field or discipline, where a fee-for-service or equivalent relationship with a third party exists.

See Consulting or Related Service Agreements.

Continuation (aka Non-competing Continuation)

A request or proposal type submitted to request funds for subsequent budget periods after the first budget period, when a discretionary multiyear project is approved for a project period of more than 1 year.

Continuation Grant

Additional funding awarded for budget periods following the initial budget period of a multi-year discretionary grant or cooperative agreement.

See also Continuation (Non-competing Continuation)


Contract means a legal instrument by which a non-Federal entity purchases property or services needed to carry out the project or program under a sponsored award.


Term used in 2CFR200 to refer to a vendor.

Cooperative Agreement

An award mechanism used when there is substantial programmatic involvement between the awarding agency and the non-federal entity carrying out the award activity.

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI)

Harvard faculty or staff member who shares equally with another faculty or staff member the responsibility for directing the technical and administrative work of a sponsored project. Each person can be named in the proposal and on project documentation as a co-PI, provided this role is accepted by the sponsor (note that not all sponsors, for example, the NIH, allow co-PIs to be named on projects).

Corrective Action

Corrective action means action taken by the auditee that corrects identified deficiencies, produces recommended improvements, or demonstrates that audit findings are either invalid or do not warrant auditee action.

Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB)

An independent board in in the Office of Management and Budget that has the exclusive authority to prescribe, amend, and rescind cost accounting standards (CAS) governing the measurement, assignment, and allocation of costs to contracts within the federal government.

Cost Allocation Plan

Cost allocation is when a central group of costs are charged out in proportionate manner to individual accounts.

Cost Sharing (or Matching)

Cost sharing is any project cost that is not reimbursed by the sponsor to support the scope of work defined by the sponsored (federal or non-federal) award. There are different types of cost sharing:

  • Mandatory cost sharing - Project costs that are not borne by the sponsor, but are required as a condition of the award
  • Voluntary cost sharing - Cost sharing not required by the sponsor as a condition of award but provided at the discretion of the institution.
  • In-kind cost sharing - Non-cash contributions of time, talent, or resources from Harvard or donated by third parties for which Harvard is responsible.

Cost Transfer

A cost transfer is a journal entry that transfers an expense onto a federally funded sponsored award that was previously recorded elsewhere on Harvard's General Ledger and requires institutional approval before it can be posted to the General Ledger.

See Cost Transfer Policy.

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Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number

DUNS number means the nine-digit number established and assigned by Dun and Bradstreet, Inc. (D&B) to uniquely identify entities. A non-Federal entity is required to have a DUNS number in order to apply for, receive, and report on a Federal award.

Debarment and Suspension

A certification assuring the Federal agency that the research personnel and the institution are not presently declared ineligible for receiving federal support, have not been convicted of fraud or a criminal offense in the performance of a federal award, are not in violation of federal or state statutes, are not presently indicted for criminal or civil charges and have not within a three-year period preceding the application had one or more federal, state or local transactions terminated for cause or default.

DHHS Modified Total Direct Costs

Overhead basis specifically used for Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) training grants and some programs. Some examples are “T” Awards, “K” Awards, and some “D” Awards, if there are trainees.

Direct Costs

Expenses incurred during the course of a research project that can be attributed directly to the project. Some examples include salaries of researchers, equipment, and scientific supplies.

Disallowed Costs

Disallowed costs means those charges to a Federal award that the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity determines to be unallowable, in accordance with the applicable Federal statutes, regulations, or the terms and conditions of the Federal award.

Disclosure Statement (DS-2)

A forms description of Harvard’s cost accounting practices. The DS-2 explains the methodology for distinguishing direct from indirect costs and identifies the methodology for accumulating and allocating indirect costs.

See Disclosure Statements.

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Effort Reporting

The mechanism used to provide assurance to federal or other external sponsors that salaries charged or cost shared to sponsored awards are reasonable in relation to the work performed. Effort reports are also referred to as “certifications” or “statements.”

See Effort Reporting Policy.


Equipment means tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost which equals or exceeds $5,000. Equipment is a type of capital asset.
  • General purpose equipment means equipment which is not limited to research, medical, scientific or other technical activities (e.g. office furnishings, copiers)
  • Special purpose equipment means equipment which is used only for research, medical, scientific, or other technical activities (e.g. microscopes, spectrometers).

Expanded Authorities

The permission that many federal agencies give research universities to approve certain types of changes to grants without obtaining the sponsor’s authorization. These changes include pre-award spending, no-cost extensions, and rebudgeting of restricted expense classes such as equipment. Internal approval of most actions under expanded authorities is handled through GMAS.

Export Controls

Federal laws and regulations that restrict the unlicensed flow of certain materials, devices, and technical information related to such devices outside the United States or to foreign persons in the United States. These laws include, but are not limited to:

  • ITAR: International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are administered by Dept of State (Controls Defense related items)
  • EAR: Export Administration Regulations (EAR) are administered by Dept of Commerce (Controls most other items)
  • OFAC: Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) are a part of the U.S. Department of Treasury that administers and enforces economic embargoes and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

See Provost Export Controls Policies and Procedures.

External Users/Commercial Customers

An entity or person that is legally separate from Harvard that typically purchases goods or services for reasons of convenience, quality, or uniqueness of goods or services offered. Examples include PIs at affiliated hospitals, commercial research labs, collaborators at other institutions and non-consolidating tubs.

See Academic Service Center Policy.

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Fabrication/Fabricated Equipment

Equipment constructed or developed by combining parts and/or materials into one identifiable unit. The aggregate cost of all parts in the completed unit must meet the $5,000 capital equipment threshold and must have a useful life of one year or more.

See Capital Equipment Policy.

Facilities and Administrative (F&A)

Costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. F&A costs are sometimes called "indirect" costs or “overhead.”

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)

The FAR is a system of uniform policies and procedures governing the acquisition or contracting actions of all federal executive agencies. All federal contracts are subject to the FAR.

Federal Audit Clearinghouse (FAC)

FAC means the clearinghouse designated by OMB as the repository of record where non-Federal entities are required to transmit the reporting packages (such as audit results) required by the Uniform Guidance.

Federal Award Date

Federal award date means the date when the Federal award is signed by the authorized official of the Federal awarding agency.

Federal Awarding Agency

Federal awarding agency means the Federal agency that provides a Federal award directly to a non-Federal entity.

Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP)

A large consortium of universities, nonprofits, federal agencies, and affiliate organizations that works with the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to streamline the administration of federal sponsored awards. Expanded Authority is an example of a simplification that all institutions have been allowed to use after a successful demonstration by an FDP pilot project.

See the FDP website.

Federal Financial Assistance

Federal financial assistance means assistance that non-Federal entities receive or administer in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, non-cash contributions or donations of property, direct appropriations, and other financial assistance.

Federal Interest

Federal interest means the dollar amount contributed from the awarding agency to the cost of real property, equipment, or supplies under a federal award. Federal interest may be applied to the current fair market value of the property, improvements, or both, to the extent the costs of acquiring or improving the property were included as project costs. (2 CFR 200.41)

Federal Share

Federal share means the portion of the total project costs that are paid by Federal funds.


An award made directly to an individual in support of specific educational pursuits either proposed by the Fellow or by a Principal Investigator’s fellowship program. The individual cannot be an employee of the granting organization.


An action that appears not to comply with regulations and is deemed sufficiently significant to warrant mention in an auditor's report.

Fixed Amount (Fixed Price) Awards

Fixed amount awards means a type of grant agreement under which the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity provides a specific level of support without regard to actual costs incurred under the Federal award. Fixed amount awards are appropriate when the work that is to be performed can be priced with a reasonable degree of certainty. A fixed amount award cannot be used in programs which require mandatory cost sharing or matching.

A fixed amount subaward is a form of a subagreement that may be issued with prior written approval from the federal awarding agency on fixed amounts up to the Simplified Acquisition Threshold. Fixed amount subawards have a distinct statement of work and are priced for the work and deliverables due under that subaward.


When subawards are created, the specific terms of the prime award that must be incorporated into these documents are called flowdowns —that is, the terms “flow down” from the prime award to the subaward.

Foreign National

A person residing in the U.S. who is not a lawful permanent resident. This term also includes any foreign corporation, business association, partnership, trust, society or any other group not incorporated or organized to do business in the United States, and any international organization, foreign government or diplomatic entity.

Fringe Benefits

Employee benefits paid by the employer (for example, life insurance, medical coverage, tuition assistance, and pension benefits). The department in which the person works (or the sponsor, if the salary is paid by sponsored funds) pays the costs of these benefits; the amount is usually a percentage of the salary.

See Fringe Benefit Rates.

Fully Executed

A contract or grant document is fully executed when it has been signed by all the parties from which signature is required. Typically, OSP will not establish an account until all parties have reached formal agreement.


In the Harvard Chart of Accounts, a fund is a six-digit value and required segment of the account string that represents the source of funding as provided by a particular sponsored award.

See Chart of Accounts

FWA (Federal wide Assurance)

The University’s agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) regarding our obligations to review and approve the use of human subjects in research. The University has three FWAs, one for the Medical and Dental Schools, one for the School of Public Health, and one for the other schools on the Cambridge and Allston campuses (the “University Area”).

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Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

The common set of accounting principles, standards, and procedures. GAAP are a combination of authoritative standards (set by policy boards) and simply the commonly accepted ways of recording and reporting accounting information.

Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS)

GAGAS means generally accepted government auditing standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States, which are applicable to financial audits. (§200.50)


An unrestricted donation to the University, or a donation whose uses may be restricted to an academic area or to a defined group of academic, departmental or other University activities (a “restricted gift”). Gifts typically carry no reciprocal obligations between donor and recipient, and are often unrelated (or only indirectly related) to the business interests or mission of the donor.

See Gift vs. Sponsored Research Policy

Grant Agreement

Grant agreement means a legal instrument of financial assistance between a Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity and a non-Federal entity.

Grants Management Application Suite (GMAS)

Harvard's web-based grants management system that includes information about all sponsored awards and connects individuals involved in and responsible for sponsored research administration.

Log in to GMAS (requires HarvardKey)

Government Furnished Property (GFP)

GFP is equipment purchased by the government and subsequently delivered to or made available to the University.

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Harvard Crimson Online Marketplace (HCOM)

A procurement and vendor payment system for initiation and approval of purchases and access to selected vendor inventories. HCOM is a one stop online shopping tool to purchase supplies, equipment and other services that were previously purchased through ERP Power and Web Voucher

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Improper Payment

Improper payment means any payment that should not have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount (including overpayments and underpayments).

Indirect Costs (Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs)

Costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. F&A costs are sometimes called "indirect" costs or “overhead.”

Indirect Cost Rate Proposal

Indirect cost rate proposal means the documentation prepared by a non-Federal entity to substantiate its request for the establishment of an indirect cost rate as described in Appendix III to Part 200 of the Uniform Guidance.

Industry Sponsored Research Agreement (ISRA)

An agreement between the University and a corporate sponsor to support research. ISRAs are typically negotiated and approved by the Office of Technology Development.

Information Technology Systems

Information technology systems means computing devices, ancillary equipment, software, firmware, and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources. Information technology systems that meet the capitalization requirements are considered “equipment.”

In-kind Cost Sharing

Non-cash contributions of time, talent, or resources from Harvard or donated by third parties for which Harvard is responsible. Third-party in-kind contributions may be in the form of real property, equipment, supplies and other expendable property, or goods and services directly benefiting and specifically designated for the project or program.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

The committee responsible for approving all activities involving the use of animals at the in federally funded research. At Harvard, the review requirement extends to all animal research, regardless of source of funding (including internal)

Institutional Base Salary

Annual compensation paid by the University for an employee’s appointment (9 or 12 months), whether that individual’s time is spent on research, teaching, or other activities. IBS does not include bonuses, one-time payments, or incentive pay. Additionally, IBS does not include payments from other organizations or income that individuals are permitted to earn outside of their University responsibilities, such as consulting. IBS must be used as the base salary on all grant proposals.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

A committee formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans with the aim to protect the rights and welfare of the research subjects. Regulations have empowered IRBs to approve, require modifications in planned research prior to approval, or disapprove research. An IRB performs critical oversight functions for research conducted on human subjects that are scientific, ethical, and regulatory.

Intangible Property

Intangible property means property having no physical existence, such as trademarks, copyrights, patents and patent applications and property, such as loans, notes and other debt instruments, lease agreements, stock and other instruments of property ownership (whether the property is tangible or intangible). (2 CFR §200.59)

Intellectual Property (IP)

A broad term that encompasses the various intangible products of the intellect of inventors and authors. These include patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, know-how, and other proprietary concepts, including an invention, scientific or technological development, and even computer software and genetically engineered microorganisms.

Internal Controls

Internal controls are processes to provide reasonable assurance that Harvard is managing federal awards in compliance with federal statues, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the award. (2 CFR 200.61)

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)

The body of U.S. law governing export of articles, services, and related technical data that are inherently military in nature (including technology related to space and space exploration), as determined by the State Department.

Invalid Sponsored Code Combination

A charge in the General Ledger for which the fund-activity-subactivity combination does not exist in GMAS. Please note: Transactions posted to invalid code combination(s) do not appear in the project financials in GMAS and are not included on invoices or financial reports to our sponsors. They do, however, appear in the GL and are the responsibility of the department to address.

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Key Personnel

Individuals who contribute substantively to the scientific development or execution of a project. Key personnel contribute a specified level of effort whether or not earning a salary. The term usually applies to the Principal Investigator(s), but may extend to other senior members or consultants of the project staff.

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Letter of Credit (LOC)

A payment mechanism that allows the institution to request a wire transfer of cash from the federal sponsor’s treasury account in order to cover immediate disbursement needs (i.e., the costs) of the research projects supported by that sponsor. Non-federal sponsors occasionally set up letters of credit as well.


The legal mechanism by which one party can obtain the right to use someone else's patent or copyright, usually by paying licensing fees. At Harvard these fees are primarily returned to the inventor and the inventor's department and school, with the University keeping a smaller portion, according to the University's royalty sharing policy.

See OTD's Policies and Procedures for Faculty and Inventors

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Major Project

A large, complex project that entails assembling and managing teams of investigators. They also require a significant amount of administrative effort to complete specifically identified requirements of the project.

Management Decision

Management decision means the evaluation by the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity of the audit findings and corrective action plan and the issuance of a written decision to the auditee as to what corrective action is necessary.

Material Transfer Agreement (MTA)

An agreement negotiated by the Office of Technology Development to govern the transfer of materials (most frequently of a biological nature but can also include other materials) and, in limited cases, devices. MTAs specify the rights, obligations, and restrictions of both the providing and receiving parties with respect to issues such as ownership, publication, intellectual property and permitted use and liability.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

An agreement between interested parties establishing their respective rights and responsibilities regarding a project.


Micro-purchase means a purchase of supplies or services using simplified acquisition procedures, the aggregate amount of which does not exceed the micro-purchase threshold.


The Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, and most other federal agencies define research misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." At Harvard, responsibility for establishing and implementing research misconduct policies and procedures rests with the Schools.

Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)

MTDC means all direct salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and subawards up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period of performance of the subawards and subcontracts under the award). MTDC excludes equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each subaward in excess of $25,000.)

Modular Grant

A type of NIH grant application in which support is requested in increments or modules of $25,000 up to a maximum total of $250,000 in direct cost per year, without providing a detailed categorical budget breakdown.

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No-cost Extension

An extension of the period of performance of an award, with no additional sponsor funding.

Non-federal Entity

Non-Federal entity means a state, local government, Indian tribe, institution of higher education (IHE), or nonprofit organization that carries out a Federal award as a recipient or subrecipient. (2 CFR 200.69)

Non-profit Organization

Nonprofit organization means any corporation, trust, association, cooperative, or other organization, not including IHEs, that:

  • Is operated primarily for scientific, educational, service, charitable, or similar purposes in the public interest;
  • Is not organized primarily for profit; and
  • Uses net proceeds to maintain, improve, or expand the operations of the organization.

Notice of Grant Award (NOGA)

The legally binding document that serves as a notification to the recipient and others that a grant or cooperative agreement has been made. It contains or references all terms of the award and documents the obligation of funds.

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When used in connection with a non-Federal entity's utilization of funds under a Federal award, obligations means orders placed for property and services, contracts and subawards made, and similar transactions during a given period that require payment by the non-Federal entity during the same or a future period.


For the purposes of sponsored research, “off-campus” refers to research that is conducted in space not owned by the University and not otherwise paid for by the University from University funds. For space used for off‐campus research, an external source (typically, a research sponsor) provides funding, either paying directly for space, or reimburses University costs for renting or leasing the space, or otherwise directly provides space for research at no charge to the University. Accordingly, the Facilities portion of the on‐campus F&A rate does not apply to the rental or lease costs of such space

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Agency of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government that assists the President in overseeing the preparation of the Federal budget and establishes government-wide grants management policies and guidelines through circulars and common rules. These policies are adopted by each grant-making agency.


For the purposes of sponsored research, “on-campus” refers to research that is conducted in space owned by the University and for which the University is bearing the space costs, from University funds. For space used for on‐campus research, the University has already included the costs associated with that space in the “facilities” portion of the on‐campus F&A rate.

Activities performed partly-on, partly-off campus: the University uses the rate applicable to the location where the preponderance of the time and effort will be expended. Accordingly, each contract or grant is assigned only one indirect cost rate.

Organized Research

All research and development activities of the University that are separately budgeted and accounted for

Other Institutional Activities

Other Institutional Activities include all activities of an institution except: (1) instruction, departmental research, organized research, and other sponsored activities (2) F&A cost activities; and (3) specialized service facilities. Examples of other institutional activities include operation of residence halls, dining halls, hospitals and clinics, student unions, intercollegiate athletics, bookstores, faculty housing, student apartments, guest houses, chapels, theaters, public museums, and other similar auxiliary enterprises. This definition also includes any other categories of activities, costs of which are "unallowable" to sponsored agreements, unless otherwise indicated in the agreements.

Other Sponsored Activities

Programs and projects financed by Federal and non -Federal agencies and organizations which involve the performance of work other than instruction and organized research. Examples of such programs and projects are health service projects, and community service programs. However, when any of these activities are undertaken by the institution without outside support, they may be classified as other institutional activities.

Over the Cap Cost Sharing

Portion of a faculty or staff member's salary that exceeds a regulatory maximum imposed by the sponsor. Over-the-cap cost sharing must be included in the direct cost base for indirect cost calculations, and it cannot be used to meet cost-sharing commitments on sponsored programs.


See F&A.

Oversight Agency for Audit

Oversight agency for audit means the Federal awarding agency that provides the predominant amount of funding directly to a non-Federal entity not assigned a cognizant agency for audit.

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Parental Leave

Parental leave is considered paid time off and should be charged to the fund or project where regular pay would have been charged

Part-of Accounts

Type of sponsored account in Harvard Chart of Accounts. If more than one account is needed to manage an award the additional accounts are called part-of accounts. Part-of accounts are established to manage discrete tasks due to award restrictions and to discretely capture financial data for reporting purposes. (Chart of Accounts definition)


An individual who receives services from a project or program funded by an award. Participants perform no work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit. University employees may not be participants.

Participant Support Costs

Payments for costs incurred for involvement in a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium, or other training activity.

Participation Agreement

A legal document, to be signed by each person conducting research at or supported by the University, which spells out the University’s position on ownership of inventions, publications, and other potentially licensable results of research. A signed participation agreement must be on file in GMAS for each PI before his/her account can be set up; PIs are also responsible for ensuring that members of their research teams have filed signed agreements. Visitors to Harvard who are involved in research sign a Visitor Participation Agreement.

See Harvard University Participation Agreement

Participant Support Costs

Participant support costs means direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects.

Pass-through Entity

Pass-through entity means a non-Federal entity that provides a subaward to a subrecipient to carry out part of a sponsored program.


Legal recognition issued by the US government, allowing the inventor to prevent others from making or using his/her invention without permission. US utility patents last 20 years from the date the patent application is filed; US design patents last 14 years from the date of issue. Others who wish to use the patent holder's invention must obtain a license to do so. If the item to be protected is a written or artistic work (or sometimes computer software), a copyright is the appropriate legal protection.

See License.

See Copyright.

Peer Review

The process by which competing proposals are reviewed and compared on the basis of scientific or intellectual merit by other investigators or “peers” rather than by agency administrators. Different federal agencies use peer review at different points in the proposal process, and with differing levels of involvement by experts both within and outside the agency.

Performance Goal

Performance goal means a target level of performance expressed as a tangible, measurable objective, against which actual achievement can be compared, including a goal expressed as a quantitative standard, value, or rate. In some instances (e.g., discretionary research awards), this may be limited to the requirement to submit technical performance reports (to be evaluated in accordance with agency policy).

Period of Performance

The time period during which the proposed work will be completed and the funds awarded are available for expenditure by the recipient.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

PII means information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual. Some information that is considered to be PII is available in public sources such as telephone books, public Web sites, and university listings. This type of information is considered to be Public PII and includes, for example, first and last name, address, work telephone number, email address, home telephone number, and general educational credentials. The definition of PII is not anchored to any single category of information or technology. Rather, it requires a case-by-case assessment of the specific risk that an individual can be identified. Non-PII can become PII whenever additional information is made publicly available, in any medium and from any source, that, when combined with other available information, could be used to identify an individual.

Pre-Award Account

See Advance Account.


The original funding entity of a project for which Harvard has received a portion of funding via a subagreement. The prime sponsor is our sponsor's sponsor.

Principal Investigator (PI)

The individual officially responsible for the conduct of a sponsored project. On research projects, the PI is usually a faculty member; on other types of awards, such as financial aid, the PI may have an administrative appointment. The determination of PI eligibility is made at the tub level.

Program Income

Program income means gross income earned by the non-Federal entity that is directly generated by a supported activity or earned as a result of the Federal award during the period of performance. If the federal awarding agency does not specify how to treat program income generated on an award, the income may be added to the federal award and must be used for the purposes and under the conditions of the federal award. Program income does not include income earned from license fees and royalties for copyrighted material, patents, trademarks, and inventions.

Program Officer

The PI’s primary contact at a sponsoring agency. Federal Program Officer’s do not have signatory authority. Any agreement between the Program Officer and the Principal Investigator must be reduced to writing and signed by the Grants or Contract Officer at the agency. Program Officers at non-federal sponsors may have signatory authority.

Proprietary Research

Research sponsored by a non-governmental entity (including Harvard) or individual that involves restrictions on the distribution or publication of the research findings or results following completion, for a specified period or for an indefinite duration.

See Policy on Publications.

Protected Personally Identifiable Information (Protected PII)

Protected PII means an individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of types of information, including, but not limited to, social security number, passport number, credit card numbers, clearances, bank numbers, biometrics, date, and place of birth, mother's maiden name, criminal, medical, and financial records, educational transcripts. This does not include PII that is required by law to be disclosed.

Project Cost

Project cost means total allowable costs incurred under a Federal award and all required cost sharing and voluntary committed cost sharing, including third-party contributions.

Purchase Order (PO)

A form representing an authorized request for the purchase of goods or services from a vendor. In many procurement systems, a PO is synonymous with an approved "requisition." Invoices from vendors correlate with POs by "PO number," typically supplied to vendors when orders are placed.

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Questioned Cost

Questioned cost means a cost that is questioned by the auditor because of an audit finding:

  • When resulted from a violation or possible violation of statute, regulation, or the terms and conditions of a Federal award, including for funds used to match Federal funds;
  • Where the costs, at the time of the audit, are not supported by adequate documentation; or
  • Where the costs incurred appear unreasonable and do not reflect the actions a prudent person would like in the take in the circumstances.

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Real Property

Real property means land, including land improvements, structures and appurtenances thereto, but excludes moveable machinery and equipment


One of the basic conditions that must be met in deciding whether a particular expenditure is appropriate to a particular federal account. “Is the charge reasonable?” means “does the nature of the goods or services acquired, and the amount paid for those goods or services, reflect the actions of a prudent person at the time the cost was incurred?”


Recipient means a non-Federal entity that receives a Federal award directly from a Federal awarding agency to carry out an activity under a Federal program. The term recipient does not include subrecipients.


In relation to capital equipment, repairs are expenses that maintain the equipment for current use. Repairs that do not extend the useful life of the equipment by one year or more cannot be capitalized. Repairs that extend the useful life of equipment by one year or more are considered upgrades and may be capitalized.

Report of Invention (ROI)

A form used by inventors to describe an invention. OTD reviews the ROI before deciding whether to file a patent application.

Representations and Certifications (Reps and Certs)

Legal documents submitted by OSP Awards Management that represent and certify that the University meets certain conditions for funding. These documents must be filed with the sponsor (either with the proposal or after the sponsor has given the proposal preliminary approval) before the award can be made.

Request for Information (RFI)

A standard business process whose purpose is to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers. Normally it follows a format that can be used for comparative purposes.

Request for Proposals (RFP)

A standard business process, issued at an early stage in a procurement process, where an invitation is presented for suppliers, often through bids, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service.


A form used in procurement systems to enumerate the items to be included in a purchase request.

See Purchase Order.

Research and Development (R&D)

R&D means all research activities, both basic and applied, and all development activities that are performed by non-Federal entities. The term research also includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities and where such activities are not included in the instruction function.

Research Records

Research records are recorded research information, data and materials, in whatever form or medium, that are created or acquired in the process of performing research, whether supported by University resources or by external sponsors or donors. Research Records also include documents, materials, information and written correspondence that relate to administration and financial management of research, reporting of research results, or sponsored award applications.

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Salary Cap

Legislatively mandated provision limiting the direct salary (also known as salary or institutional base salary, but excluding any fringe benefits and F&A costs) for individuals working on grants, cooperative agreement awards, and extramural research and development contracts.

Salary Certification

See Effort Reporting.

School-level Research Administration Office

Tub level office that is responsible for reviewing and, if authorized, submitting sponsored research proposals


Method of dividing a project into pieces with distinct periods of time, amounts of funding, and scopes of work; often a new segment is indicated by peer review submission. For example, a NIH project often has a first Segment for years 1-5 and a second Segment for years 6-10.

Every project has one or more segments and all segments within a project share the same sponsor, PI, and Tub/Org. Each Segment has a unique Fund value. The initial segment will be created via an initial request and subsequent segments will be created via competing renewal requests.

Service Centers

Unit that recovers costs through charges to users. At Harvard, there are three types of Service Centers:

Academic Service Center: Units within Harvard departments or centers that charge for goods or services that directly support the research or academic mission of the University and recover costs through charges to internal and external users.

Specialized Service Centers (“SSC”): A category of Academic Service Centers with annual operating expenses of more than $1 million or that provide highly complex or specialized services to a select group of users. The billing rates for these centers are based on their direct operating costs and an allocated portion of F&A costs. If the F&A is not included in the service center rates these amounts must be covered by other school/tub funds and excluded from the federal F&A calculations. SCCs are called Specialized Service Facilities “SSF” in A21.

Central Service Units: Separate operating units that are generally not part of academic tubs and provide services to the entire University community. Examples of central service units include University Dining Services, Harvard University Information Technology, and Harvard Real Estate Services. Central service units are not covered under this policy but still must comply with A-21.


Compensation, in addition to regular salary and wages, which is paid by an institution to employees whose services are being terminated. Costs of severance pay are allowable only to the extent that such payments are required by law, by employer-employee agreement, by established policy that constitutes in effect an implied agreement on the institution's part, or by circumstances of the particular employment.

Simplified Acquisition Threshold

Simplified acquisition threshold means the dollar amount below which a non-Federal entity may purchase property or services using small purchase methods. The simplified acquisition threshold is $150,000 as of December 2014.

Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)

Government programs that encourage innovation by mandating that the large sponsoring agencies fund cooperative R&D projects involving small businesses and
research institutions.

See SBIR/STTR Guidance

Sponsored Instruction and Training

Specific instructional or training activity established by grant, contract, or cooperative agreement. For purposes of the cost principles, this activity may be considered a major function even though an institution's accounting treatment may include it in the instruction function.


Payments made to individuals for subsistence support or to defray expenses during a period of academic appointment. Stipend payments are not compensation for services rendered and, therefore, are not allowable on federal awards unless the purpose of the agreement is to provide training to selected participants and the charge is approved by the sponsoring agency (OMB Circular A-21, Section J45).

Student Financial Aid (SFA)

SFA means federal awards under those programs of general student assistance, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and similar programs provided by other Federal agencies. It does not include Federal awards under programs that provide fellowships or similar Federal awards to students on a competitive basis, or for specified studies or research.


A subactivity is a 4-digit value within Harvard's Chart of Accounts that helps to identify tasks, phases, years or sub-categories within an activity of an award. A subactivity is required for sponsored awards and allows an award to be broken down by tasks and/or grant years.


Subaward means an award provided by a pass-through entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of a sponsored award received by the pass-through entity. It does not include payments to a contractor or payments to an individual. A subaward may be provided through any form of legal agreement, including an agreement that the pass-through entity considers a contract.

Submitted Financial Reports and/or Final Invoices

Many sponsors require the submission of annual and/or final financial reports or invoices at the end of each budget period and/or end of the project. Final reports and/or final invoices are submitted at the award termination. The final report also includes annual reports for a specific budget period when the award is set-up as year logic, and the accounts for the reporting period require final figures for closeout.


Funds provided to a service center to cover operating costs or deficits. Subsidized users are charged a rate that recovers less than the total cost of the center’s goods or services.

See the Academic Service Center Policy.


Subrecipient means a non-Federal entity that receives a subaward from a pass-through entity to carry out part of a sponsored program; but does not include an individual that is a beneficiary of such program. A subrecipient may also be a recipient of other Federal awards directly from a Federal awarding agency.


Supplies means all tangible personal property other than those described in §200.33 Equipment.  A computing device is a supply if the acquisition cost is less than the lesser of the capitalization level established by the non-Federal entity for financial statement purposes or $5,000, regardless of the length of its useful life. See also §§200.20 Computing devices and 200.33 Equipment. (§200.94)

Supplemental compensation

Salary paid to faculty to compensate for effort performed on sponsored projects outside of their academic appointments. Faculty compensated for 9‐month academic appointments are permitted to earn up to an additional three months of supplemental/summer paid compensation on one or more sponsored and/or non-sponsored activities. Individuals can earn up to the equivalent of three months of additional salary for that effort, subject to school and sponsor policies (e.g., NSF’s limitation of no more than two months of an individual’s salary charged to all NSF projects) and the appropriate school level approval. If a faculty member has administrative or other non‐sponsor related responsibilities (including vacations) during the period for which they are requesting supplemental salary, they are precluded from devoting the maximum allowable 95% effort to sponsored projects and cannot request the full 95% of 3 months of salary from sponsored projects


Action that temporarily stops work and suspends funding pending a corrective action.

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Task Logic Account

Subactivity values within an award are typically structured either by task logic or by year/task logic. When task logic is used, the first two digits of the subactivity values are “00” which usually indicates that the values are used for the duration of an award; the last two digits may represent a unique task within an award. Task logic may be used for sponsored awards that allow automatic carryforward of funds from one budget period to the next.

Technology Transfer

The various mechanisms by which the University "transfers" to industry products of research that have potential market applications. Usually, the researcher and the University receive some compensation (i.e., licensing fees).

See The Office of Technology Development


Termination means the ending of an award, in whole or in part at any time prior to the planned end of period of performance.

Third-Party In-Kind Contribution

Third-party in-kind contributions means the value of non-cash contributions (i.e., property or services) that—

(a) Benefit a federally assisted project or program; and
(b) Are contributed by non-Federal third parties, without charge, to a non-Federal entity under an award.

See Cost Sharing Policy.

Total Direct Costs (TDC)

The sum of all charges that are clearly associated with a sponsored project-the salaries of people working on it, the cost of necessary supplies and equipment, etc. TDC is often used to identify the costs on which overhead will be charged, i.e., an overhead rate of 8% TDC on an account means that all of its direct charges will be assessed 8% overhead.

Compare with MTDC.

Tuition Remission

The portion of graduate student tuition that is charged to a sponsored award. Tuition remission percentages must match effort percentages calculated from salary distributions.

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Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200)

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance) are the federal regulations for the management of federal awards. The Uniform Guidance streamlines and supersedes guidance that was previously contained in eight different OMB Circulars (including A-21, A-110 and A-133).

The Uniform Guidance administrative requirements and cost principles will apply to new and incremental funding awarded after December 26, 2014.

Unlike Circumstances

An activity or cost, which is substantially greater in amount or different in purpose than the normal use. The term "unlike circumstance" comes from several citations in federal cost principles. The government requires that costs incurred for the same purposes be consistently charged either as direct costs or as indirect costs. To allow a charge normally included as indirect as a direct charge, there must be unlike circumstances. Costs (such as administrative salaries) that are normally charged indirectly must be incurred for reasons and in circumstances that are substantially different from most sponsored awards in order to be charged directly to a grant.

Unliquidated Obligations

Unliquidated obligations means, for financial reports prepared on a cash basis, obligations incurred by the non-Federal entity that have not been paid (liquidated). For reports prepared on an accrual expenditure basis, these are obligations incurred by the non-Federal entity for which an expenditure has not been recorded.

Unobligated Balance

Unobligated balance means the amount of funds under a Federal award that the non-Federal entity has not obligated. The amount is computed by subtracting the cumulative amount of the non-Federal entity's unliquidated obligations and expenditures of funds under the Federal award from the cumulative amount of the funds that the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity authorized the non-Federal entity to obligate

Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)

Section 513 of the Internal Revenue Code defines an "unrelated business" as an activity which is regularly conducted and not substantially related to the purpose for which the nonprofit organization was granted its exempt status. The University is required to report and remit any UBIT to the IRS.

Unrecovered Indirect Cost

The difference between the amount awarded and the amount that would have been awarded if the full federally-negotiated indirect cost rate had been included. Unrecovered indirect costs may sometimes be credited toward cost sharing requirements.

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An organization that provides goods and services within normal business operations. Vendors provide similar goods and services to many different purchasers; operate in a competitive environment; and provide goods or services that are ancillary to the operation of the sponsored program.

Under the federal Uniform Guidance, the word “contractor” is used in favor of “vendor.” For the purposes of the Uniform Guidance, when a non-federal entity provides funds from a federal award to a non-federal entity, the non-federal entity receiving these funds may be either a subrecipient or a contractor.

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Year Logic

In the Harvard Chart of Accounts, an account set-up logic used when a sponsor does not allow automatic carryforward/over of funds from one budgeted period to the next. With this logic, new account groups (which require new main accounts, part-of accounts, and subagreement accounts) are created each year. Subactivities are reported in aggregate by account group.

See Chart of Accounts.