Negotiation of Award Terms
The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) has responsibility for reviewing the terms and conditions of all sponsored project agreements, notifying the principal investigator (PI) and the sponsor of any necessary and/or requested changes and negotiating appropriate solutions.
In contract law, starting work without a signed contract indicates acceptance of the terms. PIs are therefore advised not to start spending funds from an award before an agreement has been executed (i.e., before terms fully agreeable to all parties have been negotiated and the appropriate institutional representatives have signed the agreement). If a PI wants to begin work on a project and the award is not fully executed, he or she should request an Early Budget Setup (see Spending at Risk). OSP will then identify any issues that may jeopardize negotiations so that the PI may make a fully informed decision regarding the risks of starting work.
The basic objective of almost all award negotiations is to ensure that the university and the PI do not relinquish the right to make the ultimate decisions on the manner in which the project is to be conducted or the results disseminated. Guiding principles are both academic and financial. On behalf of the PI, the university seeks to guarantee that the sponsor cannot unilaterally amend, suspend or terminate the project; that there will be no prohibition on the publication of results; and that the ownership or control of intellectual property resulting from the research not be relinquished.
Other matters that may require negotiation concern the handling of confidential information and/or conditions on the disclosure of some or all of the research findings. Publication delays to allow the sponsor to determine whether its confidential information has been disclosed or to determine whether intellectual property requires protection (i.e., the filing of patent applications) are permissible but may not exceed 60 days.
The University of Idaho's policies on all of these matters are very much in keeping with those of its peers. At UI, as elsewhere, questions continually and inevitably arise — very often as new sponsors appear or as the contracting officers of continuing sponsors are replaced. Experience has shown that these issues can almost always be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. PIs are often asked to work with the OSP Contracts Officers during the negotiation of their sponsored project proposals to expedite the negotiation process.