Terms and Conditions – Hot Topic in the 2015 Implementation Process

The biggest new change for research administrators in 2015 is the implementation of the new research terms and conditions which will now appear in every grant award notice and must now be typed into every contract or subcontract.  After all, how flexible can we manage investigators’ budgets and whether we have to ask prior permission for routine revisions can make a big difference in our day to day office operations.

In January 2015 at the national meeting of the Federal Demonstration Partnership the directors of grant policy at National Institutes of Health (Michelle Bulls) and at National Science Foundation (Jean Feldman) addressed the national meeting with the following news:

In 2014 the following federal agencies agreed to meet and present a revised new updated collection of “terms and conditions” that would agree with the OMB Omnicircular. NIH and NSF presented 6 major news announcements:

#1 Which federal agencies participated and contributed to this revision of the 2015 Terms and Conditions (also called the RTC)?

Departments from Agriculture (NIFA), Commerce (NIST/NOAA), Energy, Transportation (FAA), Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, NIH and NSF.  The Dept of Defense has held back because DOD plans to rewrite their agency’s own unique set of terms and conditions.

#2 What did the federal agencies agree to and discuss?

These federal agencies wanted to find a common ground where the new Uniform Guidance was expressed and defined as part of their own agency’s grant policy. The forum decided to articulate all the OMB national requirements for both prime and subaward fundings and the group decided to closely scrutinize how all this would be presented for the Prior Approval policies.

#3 What was the final decision or outcome from all their meetings in 2014?

Good news:  these agencies determined that the Policy Matrix will include only Federal-wide Requirements and that each agency would maintain their own agency specific requirements as part of their agency implementation of the Prior Approval Matrix.

By December 2014, these agencies agreed that if

two or more agencies support waiving the prior approval requirement then the prior approval would be waived within the RTC overlay, but, agencies would have the discretion to maintain the prior approval within their agency specific requirements.”

Essentially this leaves the window open to continue to use “expanded authorities” IF THE SPECIFIC AGENCY SPECIFICALLY ALLOWS IT IN THEIR GRANT POLICY GUIDELINES.

So for those of us in biomedical research administration we are still waiting for the official NIH guidelines to be published (in February 2015) to see if the expanded authorities is retained.  Essentially remember that research terms and conditions (RTC) that we see in every grant award and contract refer back to the wording in the agency guidelines.  This is welcoming news that we may still get to benefit from the overall efficiency of expanded authorities – the keystone for most of our day-to-day operations since the mid-90’s.

#4 What’s new for research administration in the spring of 2015?

We all should be on the lookout for the final wording in these documents, which together will disclose all the flexibility of the RTC.   The watchlist has these three websites for final updates throughout 2015:

National Policy Matrix http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/fedrtc/appc_apr14.pdf 

Subaward Matrix http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/fedrtc/appb_june11.pdf

 Prior Approval Matrix http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/fedrtc/priorapproval_oct08.pdf

#5 Since FDP has to revise all their standard forms to incorporate the new OMB Omnicircular, what was the newest change from the FDP representatives?

At the FDP meeting there was heated discussion about what to do in 2015 with the  Award Letter Language.  Is there still a need to provide language in the award notice that specifies an institution’s participation in the FDP?

The decision was yes and that the following language was approved for use by the FDP Terms and Conditions Standing Committee for use in Award Letters:

“This institution is a signatory to the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Phase VI Agreement which requires active institutional participation in new or ongoing FDP demonstrations and pilots.”

 #6 What’s next for us in research administration for this process?

Officially what’s next is that all this will be published in the Federal Register this spring and then the federal govt allows the obligatory 60 days for public comment.  Then, in the spring, the new RTC wording that is shown in the text of the Federal Register announcement becomes law.  After that, we will start to see the new RTC in award notices and all the FDP subcontract forms.

I will blog about that wording as soon as I see the published text in the Register.


About Suzanne Stroud

Suzanne Stroud has volunteered as a mentor for the Research Administrators Certification Council in NY to help other research administrators prepare for the CRA, CPRA and CFRA exams. You may contact Suzanne if you are preparing to study for these exams or will setup study groups.

Posted on January 29, 2015, in Certified Research Administrator Credentials/Exams. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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