Best Practices for Grant Management

This page is for department, research, or financial administrators who are responsible for managing sponsored awards in their departments. Whether you are new to Boston University, or just want to learn the best approach to a grant management process, you can find what you need here. We cover topics including:

Advance Accounts, After the Fact Reporting, Carryover, Cost Share, Cost Transfer, Facilities Service Request (FSR), Hiring Staff, Hiring Students, Human Subject Payments, Internal Service Request (ISR), Multi-Project Proposals, No Cost Extensions, Personnel Activity Report (PAR), PI Transfer to BU, Rebudgets, Salary Cost Distribution, Subawards, Subrecipient Invoice Processing, Travel on Sponsored Awards, Treatment of Unallowable Costs


Best Practice Instructional Library

Click the topic to download PDF guidance on a best practice. These were developed with the support of Sponsored Programs and the frontline members of the Advisory Council for Research Administration (ACRA).



Advance AccountsAn internal grant account established when an award is imminent, but final execution has not been completed. Enables the PI to begin spending prior to having a fully executed award in place and allow expenses to be recorded and tracked, thus eliminating the need to charge other unrelated accounts and subsequently requiring cost transfers of those expenses.
After the Fact ReportingAfter-the-fact review of financial transactions, also known as account reconciliation, is the review of posted financial transactions to the University’s general ledger. It is a critical part of the University’s internal control process ensuring that all posted expenses are appropriate, allowable, reasonable, approved and supported with documentation.
CarryoverIn situations, where you have remaining unspent funds near the end of a project period, you can use appropriate justification to request a carryover of those funds into the next budget period. Unobligated funds remaining at the end of any budget period, with the approval of the sponsor or with automatic carryover, may be carried forward to the next budget period to cover allowable costs of that budget period. There must be a bona fide programmatic need justified for the use of carryover funds in the next budget period.
Cost ShareCost share is the portion of the total sponsored project or program costs that are not funded by the sponsor. Cost share is typically funded by Boston University but can also be funded by a third party. Cost share is sometimes referred to as matching or in-kind contributions.
Cost TransferA grant cost transfer is an after-the-fact reallocation of a direct expense, either salary or non-salary, to or from a sponsored project within a 90-calendar day period from the accounting date of a transaction. It is allowable if it is initiated in a timely fashion to correct a valid error and is supported by appropriate justification and documentation.
Facilities Service RequestFacilities Service Requests (FSR) are utilized for non-routine maintenance and includes things like moving furniture, event set-ups, changing locks, and renovations. The costs of these services are the responsibility of the department making the request.
Hiring StaffThis document focuses on the process for hiring employees of various categories (part time, full time, and foreign nationals). Boston University faculty and staff carrying out research regularly collaborate with individuals who are not Boston University employees but are experts in their field that work at other institutions. The process to use when entering into an agreement for services depends on the nature of the services, and the size and duration of the engagement.
Hiring StudentsDoctoral, masters, and undergraduate students may be hired for positions based on specific criteria and regulations. Limitations for student employment include the number of hours a student can work, the registration status of a student, and may include restrictions based on the student’s funding or institutional support.
Human Subject PaymentsBoston University often conducts research projects that involve the use of individuals (“Human Subjects”). Payments to Human Subjects can be made in the form of a check, petty cash, or a gift card, depending on the circumstance of the study and the dollar amount involved. The University must fulfill all of its legal and ethical obligations with respect to the payment of monetary remuneration to Human Subjects.
Internal Service RequestShoppers can request internal goods or services (Catering and Dining, Lab Animals, Mail Services…) from Boston University Providers (other than Facilities, see Facilities Service Request – FSR). The Requester, through the Procurement/ISR process, creates the Internal Service Request (ISR) online. The Provider, through Finance/ISR Fulfillment, posts charges against the ISR.
Multi-Project ProposalsLarge scale, complex proposals require additional support in terms of grant coordination and project management. These are often proposals for large programs or centers which use an umbrella application describing the overall effort and the equivalent of a full application for each component. These applications can vary in size, have multi-tiered budgets, and a large number of key personnel. Funding Announcements will clearly indicate the multi-project requirements/types of components expected in a responsive application.
No Cost ExtensionsA No Cost Extension (NCE) extends the project period beyond the original end date with no additional funding. NCEs can be requested when the end of the project period is near and there is a programmatic need to continue research. There must also be sufficient funds left to cover the extended effort and expenses. Project funds remaining is not a justifiable reason for requesting an extension. Extensions may be requested for programmatic reasons only.
Personnel Activity ReportUniform Guidance requires salary charges made to sponsored projects be accurate, allowable, and properly allocated, so all Boston University employees who are paid from Sponsored Research funds receive a personnel activity report (PAR) to review and certify their salary and effort. The PAR indicates the percentages of the employee’s University salary allocated to both sponsored projects and other non-sponsored University activities. The PAR must be reviewed to determine if the percentage of salary charged is a reasonable reflection of how the employee’s time was spent. Late or incomplete PARs run the risk of disallowance and the charging of salary expenses to the department.
PI Transfer to BUGrants/Contracts are awarded to the institution on behalf of a Principal Investigator (PI). If a PI is transferring from another institution to BU, the former institution’s office of sponsored research will work with the PI/DA/SA on the information regarding the transfer of their awards. Although exceptions may apply, normally, grants are relinquished to the new institution when a PI transfers. The awarding agency, or sponsor, must give prior approval for all grant/contract transfers.
RebudgetsThe budget plan is the financial expression of the project or program as approved during the award process. After a grant or contract has been awarded, the PI may determine that the approved budget allocations are not consistent with actual project needs. S/he may request the formal reallocation of funds from one spending category to another spending category that better reflects the project requirements.
Salary Cost DistributionA Salary Cost Distribution form is a Personnel Action (PA) accessed through the BUworks Central Portal. It is submitted when an active non-student employee’s cost distribution must change due to the expiration of a cost object or when a new cost object needs to be added to the current cost distribution of the employee. It can also be submitted when a Grant Salary Cost Transfer or Grant Salary Adjustment is needed to retroactively change an active non-student employee’s cost distribution. Processing these grant related retroactive changes is the focus of this document.
SubawardsAt the proposal stage, the PI determines if collaboration with research partners at other institutions is needed in order to complete a project’s SOW. Subaward recipients provide their own Letter of Intent, SOW, Budget, and Budget Justification for inclusion in proposal submissions. If a project with such collaborations is awarded, an outgoing subaward agreement is needed to setup a formal relationship. Subaward agreements (subawards) are formal, legally binding contract documents that need careful, case-by-case review.
Subrecipient Frequency and Invoice ProcessingA subrecipient is a non-Federal entity that receives a subaward from a pass-through entity (such as BU) to carry out part of a Federal program. Most subawards at Boston University are cost reimbursable agreements where the subrecipient invoices BU monthly for allowable expenses incurred under the agreement. BU, in accordance with the federal Uniform Guidance found at 2 CRF 200.305, pays valid subrecipient invoices within 30 calendar days of receipt.
Travel on Sponsored AwardsSponsored travel is allowable as a direct cost when such travel is reasonable, allowable, allocable and will provide direct benefit to the award. It is reimbursable when it is properly documented, approved, and in compliance with University policy and IRS and sponsor regulations. Federally funded sponsored travel is also subject to certain federal laws and the guidelines set forth in the Uniform Guidance. When there is a conflict between University policy and award requirements, the more restrictive policy applies.
Treatment of Unallowable CostsReviewing accounts and removing unallowable expenses is a critical part of the University’s internal control process ensuring that all posted expenses are appropriate, allowable, reasonable, approved and supported with documentation.  Unallowable costs, erroneously charged to an award, must be promptly transferred to your Departmental University Cost Center, Discretionary Account, or other non-sponsored project account.

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