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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Office of Research Administration

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of sponsored projects?

Grants are awarded to support research or other activities described by the Principal Investigator (PI) in a proposal submitted often, but not always, in response to a solicitation (frequently called Funding Opportunity Announcements – FOAs, Request for Applications (RFAs) or Program Announcements – PAs).

Cooperative Agreements are similar to grants but typically involve a significant level of sponsor participation in the administration of the project. PIs can expect there will be ongoing and regular communication with the sponsor’s programmatic personnel, often including regular meetings and site visits.

Contracts are awards made to procure one or more specific deliverables. They are usually issued in response to a detailed request from sponsors (Request for Proposals – RPFs) that require the PI to undertake a specific course of action and provide data, analysis, devices or other specific deliverables within a set time frame. Payment is dependent on the satisfactory completion of these activities within the timeline detailed in the terms of the contract.

Who can submit awards on behalf of SUNY Downstate?

Only the Authorized Officials in the Sponsored Programs Office have the authority to submit proposals on behalf of the institution. There are exceptions to this policy and guidance can be found by contacting the office.

Who is PI eligible?

Only eligible Downstate faculty and staff (when applicable) may serve as a Principal Investigator/Program Director on externally funded projects, administered through the Research Foundation for SUNY. The PI must be an employee of SUNY, The Research Foundation for SUNY, the University Hospital of Brooklyn or the University Physicians of Brooklyn. In addition to having a specific title, each employee must have an Institutional Base Salary (IBS) in order to apply for grant funding.

What is an Institutional Base Salary (IBS)?

An Institutional Base Salary (IBS) is the annual salary paid to an individual for performance of all professional obligations required by the individual's primary appointment, generally outlined in the individual’s appointment or reappointment letter.

These professional obligations may include specific work on sponsored projects and also non-sponsored activities such as teaching, clinical activities, service on University committees, or other administration. Non-sponsored activities may include departmental research, preparation of competitive proposals (exclusive of summarizing research results, which may be considered sponsored effort). Not included are consulting or participation in peer review study sections, professional association activities, journal peer review and similar activities, unless the University pays for travel and expenses associated with those activities.

IBS excludes:

  • Any income that an individual is permitted to earn outside of duties performed as part of his/her primary appointment
  • Non-Guaranteed Also Receives (any “also-received” paid for less than a 1-year commitment”)
  • Extra Service
  • Clinical Practice dollars received from (UPB)

The professional obligations are distributed by a person’s time working on specific projects. This time is called effort.

What is Cost Share?

Cost Share is the term used when costs to run a specific project are shared between the sponsor and the institution. By requesting cost share, the PI is requesting the institution cover some of the costs associated with a specific project. These costs are usually a percentage of personnel time or other costs that are directly related to the project, although not directly charged to the award. Cost share can also be funds designated for non-personnel costs, such as supplies, travel, contractual services and equipment that are paid from a non-sponsored DMC account. These costs must be available and cannot be committed to another sponsored project.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will identify when cost share is a mandatory requirement. Other than these instances, voluntary cost share is discouraged. A Cost Share form is required when requesting cost share on a proposal. Approval is required from the Department Chair and Deans’ office as the institution is covering these costs.

Indirect costs (or F&A) may not be used to satisfy cost share requirements.

What is the difference between an employee and a consultant?

Under the common law rules cited in IRS rulings, an employee-employer relationship exists when the organization for which services are performed has the right to control and direct the individual who performs the services, not only as to the result accomplished by the work, but also as to the details and means by which the result is accomplished.

A Consultant (independent contractor) is a worker subject to the control and direction of the organization for which services are performed only as to the result of the work and not as to the means.

What is the difference between a gift and a grant?

A gift is the voluntary, non-reciprocal transfer of money or property from a donor to an institution. The donor may be an individual, a corporation or a non-profit organization. The donor does not expect anything of value in return other than recognition and does not exert control over expenditure of the funds. A gift may meet the interests of the donor and can be restricted or unrestricted. A restricted gift is a contribution designated for a specific purpose, program, or project. If the donor does not specify any restrictions, the gift is unrestricted and the institution allocates the funds according to its own discretion.

A grant (i.e., “sponsored program” funding, or “award”) is the transfer of money or property from a sponsor to an institution that may require performance of specific duties such as research, budget reports, progress reports, and return of unused funds. Any funding provided by U.S. Government agencies, at the federal, state, or local level, in support of activities is treated as a grant. Government funds are not treated as gifts. Funding from voluntary health organizations or associations, such as the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association, is also treated as a grant and not a gift.

What is the Uniform Guidance and what does it mean?

The Uniform Guidance compiles The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. It is an authoritative set of rules and requirements for Federal awards that synthesizes and supersedes guidance from earlier OMB circulars.

The reforms that comprise the Uniform Guidance aim to reduce the administrative burden on award recipients and, at the same time, guard against the risk of waste and misuse of Federal funds. Among other things, the OMB's Uniform Guidance does the following:

  • Removes previous guidance that is conflicting and establishes standard language;
  • Directs the focus of audits on areas that have been identified as at risk for waste, fraud and abuse;
  • Lays the groundwork for Federal agencies to standardize the processing of data; and
  • Clarifies and updates cost reporting guidelines for award recipients.

What is considered an allowable cost?

An allowable cost is a cost that meets all of the following conditions:

  • It serves a University business purpose, including instruction, research, training and public service;
  • It is permissible according to Downstate’s policies and federal regulations; and
  • It is permissible according to the terms and conditions of the sponsored project.

RF unallowable cost policy