Glossary of Terms

The following are commonly used terms.

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A brief summary of the proposed grant project, often one page or less in length, typically occurring just before the proposal narrative.


A section of the proposal narrative that describes in detail how the project goals and objectives will be accomplished over time.

Allowable Costs

Project costs that are eligible, reasonable, necessary and allocable to the proposed project.


A supplemental document to an original grant or contract made through mutual agreement of the sponsor and the grantee, and covering anything from changes in the performance period to project tasks or budget. Amendments may also be made to an RFP (Request for Proposal) before the closing date for receipt of proposals. Also called “modifications.”


Usually affixed to the end of the proposal narrative , the appendices may include certifications and assurances , resumes of key personnel and consultants, letters of support , documentation of tax-exempt status, and other types of addenda that support and augment the proposal narrative.


The University is the legal applicant for grants which will use University facilities or personnel. The principal investigator is the applicant only for certain fellowships which are paid directly to the investigator.

Applied Research

Research designed to solve practical problems rather than asking a scientific question. Applied research is directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.


Official statements made on behalf of the institution guaranteeing the ability of the institution to comply with certain federal regulations, often related to equal employment, persons with disabilities, and ethical treatment of human and animal subjects.


A formal examination of an organizations or individual’s accounts or financial situation. An audit may also include examination of compliance with applicable terms, laws, and regulations.

Authorized Organizational Representative

The person designated by the institution that has the authority to legally obligate the institution to a proposed project. This is usually a designated staff member at the Office of Sponsored Programs.


Funds that have been obligated by a funding agency for a particular project.


Basic Research

Research driven by a scientist’s curiosity or interest in a scientific question. The main motivation is to acquire or expand new knowledge, not to create or invent something.

Biographical Sketches

Short descriptions of the professional training and experiences of the key personnel that qualify them to conduct the proposed project. Some agencies provide forms for this information or specify a particular format that must be followed.

Broad Agency Announcement

A general announcement by a federal agency of research interests, including selection criteria that solicits the participation of all offerors capable of satisfying the agency’s needs. BAAs are most commonly used by agencies within the Department of Defense.

Budget Detail or Budget Breakdown

A detailed, line-by-line presentation of the anticipated project costs grouped within broad categories such as "personnel" and "supplies". In addition to listing all anticipated expenses, the budget detail typically shows how they were calculated. In some cases, the funder provides a form for this purpose.

Budget Justification or Narrative

Typically appearing immediately after the budget detail , the budget justification explains, in narrative format, why the proposed expenses are necessary and reasonable, and how the requested funds will be used to conduct the project activities .

Budget Period

A standard period of time, specified in the award, into which a project is divided for budgeting and funding purposes.


Carry-over Funds

Unexpended funds that remain in a project account at the end of a budget period. The sponsor often allows these funds to be “carried over” into the next budget period. However, there are times that a carry-over must be requested from the sponsor.

Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)

The Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance gives you access to a database of all federal programs available to state and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally -recognized Indian tribal governments; territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi-public, private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals. Any program that has specifically been authorized and funded by the federal government will have a CFDA description and number.

Certifications and Assurances

A variety of forms attesting to the university's compliance with various state, federal, and/or municipal laws and regulations, as well as its eligibility to receive public grant funds. These forms, usually attached at the end of the proposal, must be signed by a senior executive or an authorized organizational representative such as the Director of Sponsored Programs and Research.

Code of Federal Regulations

The codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

Collaborative Proposal

A proposal submitted with another institution where one project description is used to perform collaborative research, but each institution submits a separate budget and receives a separate award.

Competing Proposal

Proposal for funding that is not guaranteed and the application is pooled with other proposals for review.

Concept Paper

A short document describing a research problem and a possible project approach. Concept papers can be used as the initial approach to a sponsor. Can also be called “pre-application,” or “pre-proposal.”

Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when an employee compromises professional judgment in carrying out university teaching, research, outreach, or public service activities because of an external relationship that directly or indirectly affects the financial or business interests of the employee, an immediate family member, or an associated entity.

Consortium Grant

An award made to one institution with the understanding that the project will be carried out through a cooperative arrangement with other institutions and/or businesses. Consortia are viewed favorably by some, but not all, agencies.


A professional who is not an employee of the University whose expertise or services are sought on a project. Employees of the Institution that holds the grant of contract cannot be paid as consultants; their time is reimbursed in the “salaries” section of a budget.

Continuation Award

An award for a succeeding or subsequent budget period after the initial budget period of an approved project or renewal.

Continuation Proposal

A proposal for the continuation of an existing project. Continuation proposals can be “competing” or “non-competing.” Non-competing continuation proposals are often required for years two, three, etc., of a multi-year project. Competing continuation proposals are requests to fund additional years of a one-year project. All continuation proposals must go through formal review by the University.


The legal instrument which sets forth the conditions and requirements of a project, or the order for (and legal obligation to perform) work specified by a sponsor. Types of contracts include: cost-reimbursement contracts, fixed price contracts, indefinite quantity contracts, and personal services contracts (see definitions under each term).

Contract/Grant Officer

A sponsor’s designated individual who is officially responsible for the business management aspects of a particular grant, cooperative agreement, or contract. Serving as the counterpart to the business officer of the grantee/contractor organization, the grant/contract officer is responsible for all business management matters associated with the review, negotiation, award, and administration of a grant or contract and interprets the associated administration policies, regulations, and provisions.

Contractor and Government Entity Code (CAGE)

An identification code assigned to the awardees of Department of Defense contracts. The codes are used by DOD for recordkeeping purposes. Offerors do not need a CAGE code to submit a bid for a contract.

Cooperative Agreement

A financial assistance instrument used by the federal government to transfer money or property when the principal purpose of the transaction is accomplishment of a public purpose of support or regulation authorized by federal statute. This funding instrument is used when substantial involvement is anticipated by both the federal agency and the grantee.

Cost Reimbursable

A type of contract/grant arrangement that provides for payment of costs and expenses to the contractor/grantee after the expenses have been incurred. Expenses are first incurred and then billed to the sponsor, usually on a quarterly or monthly basis. Most federal grants use the cost reimbursement mechanism.

Cost Sharing

Investment in the project by the applicant, either through cash outlay or in-kind support. The required amount of cost sharing is sometimes stipulated by the funder. Cost sharing can also be called “matching funds,” or “cost participation.” Mandatory cost sharing is required by the funder. A funder’s limitations on certain costs (facilities and administrative (F&A) cost reimbursement, non-support of equipment purchases) is also considered mandatory cost sharing. Discretionary cost sharing is not required by official policy of a funder.


Defense Acquisition Regulations

The source regulations for research projects sponsored by the Department of Defense.


Reports, designs, prototypes, or other products of a research project. The grant or contract will specify completion by a certain date.

Direct Costs

Expenses directly associated with the performance of a project. Direct costs are clearly identifiable and can be itemized on a proposal budget. They include such items as, salaries, fringe benefits, materials and supplies, equipment, travel, and subawards.



Work or the proportion of time spent on any activity and expressed as a percentage of total time.


An article of nonexpendable, tangible personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost which equals or exceeds $5,000.

eRA Commons

The NIH eRA Commons is a web-based system that allows NIH extramural grantee organizations, grantees, and the public to receive and transmit information electronically about the administration of biomedical and behavioral research.

Expiration/End Date

The date signifying the end of the performance period, as indicated on the Notice of Grant Award.


A section of the proposal narrative that describes the strategies that will be used to determine whether or not the project goals and objectives are being met and who will implement those strategies. This section typically includes both formative (ongoing) and summative (final) evaluation strategies.


Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs

Those expenses incurred by an institution in support of research projects, but which are difficult to attach or estimate for individual research projects. Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs include such items as use of space, utilities, laboratory and library facilities, administrative expenses, and physical plant maintenance.


NSF’s website for electronically submitting proposals to NSF.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

Federal procurement regulations which took effect April 1, 1984, and have been updated and revised continuously since. The FAR is an attempt to standardize procurement activities across agencies; however, each agency also issues special rules for its procurement activities (for example, the HHSFAR, Health and Human Services Federal Acquisition Regulation).

Final Report

The final technical or financial report required by the sponsor to complete a research project.

Fiscal Year

Any twelve-month period for which annual accounts are kept (at UTK, July 1 through June 30; Federal Fiscal is October 1 through September 30).

Flow-Down Clauses

Clauses prescribed by the Sponsor that are included in the rights and responsibilities of the primary (prime) contractor to the subcontractor. As an example, clauses from the Federal Acquisition Regulations may be “flowed down” to the subcontracting academic institution from a corporate grant recipient of federal funds.

Fringe Benefits

A Budget line item which covers the institution’s contribution to the benefits of employees.


General Purpose Equipment

Equipment that can be utilized for activities other than the specific, technical, specialized activities supported by a grant or contract. Examples include office equipment and furniture, reproduction equipment, motor vehicles and data processing equipment.


Funds are classified as gifts if the following characteristics exist: (1) funds are given voluntarily without expectation of any tangible compensation. Under ordinary circumstances, the funds are awarded irrevocably; (2) funds are given for unrestricted use or for general support restricted to a specific area or purpose. Beyond a possible designation of use, the donor does not impose contractual requirements on the award; (3) any subsequent reporting on the use of the funds to the donor is not a condition of the receipt of the funds.

Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives succinctly present the intended purposes of the proposed project, indicating what the project will accomplish and by when. Goals are the broad purposes around which all of the project activities and resources will be organized. Goals are typically subdivided into objectives, which are more detailed, often including information such as target numbers and dates that will enable an evaluator to gauge the project's level of success.


In general terms, awards given to the university for a specific purpose to support instruction, research or public service. “Grant” is also a specific type of award (as opposed to contract or cooperative agreement). In this context, “grant” is a pledge of support where the sponsor has little involvement in conducting the project.

Grant/Contract Officer

A sponsor’s designated individual who is officially responsible for the business management aspects of a particular grant or cooperative agreement. The grants officer is responsible for all business management matters associated with the review, negotiation, award, and financial administration of a grant or contract and interprets the associated administration policies regulations, and provisions. is the source to find and apply for federal grants.


The part of a program description that describes how the program will be administered as the basis on which applications will be judged. They should be followed carefully if a proposal is to be seriously considered.


HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

The federal regulation requiring the protection of a person’s privacy when human subject information becomes part of research data.

Human Subject

A living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information (Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 46.102). People not considered to be subjects are individuals receiving services that are not experimental and which are intended to benefit only the recipient of the service; such services include most therapeutic treatments, counseling, and academic instruction.


IACUC (Institute for Animal Care and Use Committee)

A University committee charged with reviewing and approving the use of animal subjects in all research projects. The IACUC serves as an institutional compliance committee and is responsible for reviewing reported instances of regulatory noncompliance related to the use of animal subjects in research.

Incremental Funding

A method of funding grants and contracts that provides specific spending limits below the total estimated costs. Each increment is, in essence, a funding action.

Indirect Costs

See F&A Costs .

Intellectual property

The term used to describe the patents, copyrights, mask work protection, trade secrets, and plant variety protection certificates which cover or pertain to inventions.


A general term which includes computer software, general instructional materials (including video tapes), novel machines, devices, compositions of matter (compounds, mixtures, genetically engineered cells, plants or animals), genetic forms, mask works, production processes, production methods, plant varieties, etc.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

A University committee charged with reviewing and approving the use of human subjects in all research projects. The IRB serves as an institutional compliance committee and is responsible for reviewing reported instances of regulatory noncompliance related to the use of human subjects in research.


Just-in-Time (JIT) Requirements

Funding agencies may require additional information after a proposal is submitted and before an award is made. Such information may include verification of human subjects and/or animal subjects protocol approval, documentation of required human subjects training, revised budget information, and an up-to-date listing of additional sponsored research support for the same project.


Key Personnel

Personnel considered of primary importance to the successful conduct of a research project. The term usually applies to the senior members of the project staff; however, sponsors may have differing definitions.


Letter of Intent

A letter sent to an agency to notify them of one’s intent to submit a proposal. Some RFP’s require these and sometimes it is optional. It is usually good form to provide one regardless of whether it is required. In some cases, an agency will need to make a preliminary “approval” to go forward with submission based on whether the LOI is deemed appropriate to the goals of the program. But in other cases it is for informational purposes only. The LOI usually has a deadline as well – some time before the proposal submission deadline.

Letters of Support or Letters of Commitment

Signed statements, on letterhead, that document the readiness of agencies, community partners, consultants, and other entities, including the university itself, to participate in the proposed grant project and contribute the level of financial and programmatic support indicated in the proposal narrative and budget.

Limited Submissions

A restriction placed on the number of proposal submissions allowed from any given institution. At FAU, an internal selection process is used to identify and fairly judge among numerous investigators interested in submitting applications for such submissions. The Division of Research is responsible for the identification, alerts to the research community, and the selection process regarding limited submissions.


Mandatory Cost Share

Required as a condition to receive an award, and specified by the agency in the proposal guidelines or program announcement. This would be the minimum cost sharing required by the agency. Anything committed beyond the minimum becomes voluntary committed cost sharing.

Master Agreements

Large, encompassing umbrella-type sponsor agreements with general terms and conditions applicable to subsequent agreements under them, known as “task orders.”

Material Transfer Agreements (MTA)

Legal contracts stating conditions under which a proprietary research material is being transferred from one institution or company to another.

Memorandum of Agreement (MoA)

A contractual arrangement between the University and a corporate sponsor that stipulates the terms and conditions under which specific work is performed; these terms and conditions include scope of work, period of performance, payments, patents, publications, advertising, use of experimental compounds or drugs, human subjects, indemnifications, and reports.


The anticipated completion point for a significant component of the proposed project (e.g., the point by which all data will be collected).

Misconduct in Science

Fabrication, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.


An award document that modifies any aspect of an existing award. Example: Carryover approvals, adding or deleting special terms and conditions, changes in funding levels, administrative changes initiated by the agency, extensions that include changes in terms, change of principal investigator, etc.

Modified Total Direct Costs

The categories and limitations of the direct costs that can be used as the base from which the calculation of indirect costs is performed. Typically equipment, participant support costs, patient care costs, tuition, alterations and renovations, and any excess of $25,000 of outgoing sub-contractual costs are excluded from the total direct costs on which the indirect costs are calculated.


Narrative Report

A report submitted by a principal investigator on the progress and/or status of a project supported by sponsored funds. Narrative reports are part of the conditions of many sponsored agreements and are also known as “technical” or “progress” reports. They may be requested for submission as an interim report, with continuation proposals, requests for supplemental funding, or at the termination of a sponsored project.


A section of the proposal narrative that draws on a combination of quantitative and qualitative indicators to convincingly establish the rationale for the proposed grant project. The needs section typically occurs at the beginning the proposal narrative.

New Award

An award not previously awarded or a renewal or continuation award treated as a new award by the sponsor and given a new agency number.

New Proposal

Proposals that are submitted to a particular sponsor for the first time.

No Cost Extension (NCE)

An extension of the period of performance beyond the expiration date to allow the principal investigator additional time to finish a project. Usually, no additional funding is provided by the sponsor.

Non-Competing Continuation Proposal

Continuation proposals are not in competition with new project proposals and are not subjected to peer review beyond the initial project approval. A continuation proposal reports on progress made during a portion of the project period and requests continuation funding for the next portion of the project period.


Failure to follow and meet regulatory requirements, often resulting in massive fees to the University and the individual researchers. Non-compliance is detrimental to the entire University research community and is highly undesirable.

Non-Federal Sponsors

Any provider or funder not belonging to a branch of the federal government, including foundations, for-profit, industry, and non-profit organizations.

Non-Profit Organization

An entity whose primary goals are to benefit the greater good rather than make profits (which is the primary goal of a for-profit company).

Notice of Grant Award (NoGA)

An official legal document from a given federal agency that notifies the University a grant or cooperative agreement has been awarded. It contains all terms of the award and documents the obligation of funds.


Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP)

The University office responsible for oversight, administration and financial management of contracts and grants.

Organized Research

Research activities that the University budgets and accounts for separately. This includes all extramurally funded programs in the Sponsored Research and Development Trust Fund.


Outcomes are the specific improvements that will result if the project's goals and objectives are achieved. Like objectives, outcomes are typically stated succinctly and in measurable terms. The anticipated project outcomes may be presented along with the goals and objectives or in the evaluation section.


Past Performance

A description of the applicant's previous experience with similar grant projects. Past performance is especially important when seeking a competitive renewal of a grant project.


A brief description, usually 2-10 pages, of research plans and estimated budget that is sometimes submitted to determine the interest of a particular sponsor prior to submission of a formal proposal. Also termed Preliminary Proposal.

Principal Investigator (PI)

The individual responsible for leading the research effort described in a proposal for an award. The Principal Investigator is responsible for the programmatic and administrative aspects of a project or program, ensuring all terms and conditions of a sponsored agreement are met.

PI Eligibility

The criteria that must be met before an individual may serve as a Principal Investigator.

Prior Approval

The requirement for written documentation of permission to use project funds for purposes not in the approved budget, or to change aspects of the program from those originally planned and approved. Prior approval must be obtained before the performance of the act that requires such approval under the terms of the agreement.

Program Announcement

Describes existence of a research opportunity. It may describe new or expanded interest in a particular extramural program or be a reminder of a continuing interest in an extramural program.

Program Income

Revenues resulting from a particular research project.

Program/Project Officer

The sponsoring agency’s representative who is responsible for the technical, scientific, or programmatic aspects of a particular grant, cooperative agreement, or contract. The program/project officer works with the PI and research team to assure programmatic progress. He/she does not officiate over financial matters, however, which is the role of a Grants/Contracts Officer.

Progress Report

Periodic, scheduled reports required by the sponsor summarizing research progress to date. Technical, fiscal, and invention reports may be required.

Project Period (PP)

The total time for which support of a project has been programmatically approved. A project period may consist of one or more budget periods.


A formal application for funding that contains all information necessary to describe project plans, staff capabilities, and funds requested. Formal proposals are prepared by the Principal Investigator and officially approved and submitted by the Office of Sponsored Programs on behalf of the University.

Proposal Narrative

A detailed, sometimes lengthy, presentation of the proposed grant project in its entirety. The proposal narrative usually begins by documenting the need for the project and concludes by explaining how the project will be evaluated.



The act of changing or amending the budget by moving funds from one category or line item to another.


The contractual rules and procedures governing sponsored research projects. Often referred to as “regs.”

Regulatory Compliance

Adherence to general and specific regulations related to the conduct of research, including approved laboratory procedures, treatment of research subjects, etc.

Renewal/Competing Continuation

A competitively reviewed proposal requesting additional funds extending the scope of work beyond the current project period.

Request for Application (RFA)

An announcement of research priorities by a sponsor. The sponsor has set aside a certain amount of money to fund grants on a particular topic. The applicant describes the research to be undertaken and how he/she will accomplish the work within the framework outlined by the sponsor.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Announcements that specify a topic of research, methods to be used, product to be delivered, and appropriate applicants sought.


The systematic inquiry or investigations into a subject to discover or revise facts, theories, or applications.

Responsible Conduct of Research

The steps taken to ensure proper scientific and/or scholarly conduct of a research project and ensuring compliance with the financial and administrative aspects of an award.


Scope of Work

The description of the work to be performed and completed on a research project.

Senior Personnel

Professional personnel who are responsible for the scientific or technical direction of project, but are not PIs

Signatory Authority

The authorization delegated to a University official to enter into legal commitments on behalf of the University regarding sponsored research agreements for grants, contracts and cooperative agreements.

Small Business Innovative Research Grant (SBIR)

A federal program that many agencies participate in to inspire the development and commercialization of new technologies. It may be grants or contracts and have three distinct phases. While academic institutions can be partners on these proposals, the submitters MUST be a small business. The institution is usually a subcontractor and the budget amounts are specific to all parties.

Small Business Technology Transfer Research Grant (STTR)

Similar to SBIR, but an academic partner is a requirement rather than an option. Submission is by (and award is to) the business entity.


The formal announcement of the availability of funds for a specific program.


The organization or entity that funds a research project.


A payment made to an individual under a fellowship or training grant in accordance with pre-established levels to provide for the individual’s living expenses during the period of training.

Subaward (aka: Subcontract, Subgrant or Subagreement)

A document written under the authority of, and consistent with the terms and conditions of an award (a grant, contract or cooperative agreement), that transfers a portion of the research or substantive effort of the prime award to another institution or organization.


An increase in the amount of funding by the sponsor to an existing award. Supplemental funding increases the award and extends the award period.

Synergistic Activities

A required component of some research proposals. Synergistic activities involve professional and scholarly activities focusing on the integration and transfer of knowledge, as well as its creation, causing one's professional and scholarly work to have a broader impact. Examples could include innovations in teaching and training (i.e. the development of curricular materials and pedagogical methods); development and/or refinement of research tools; computation methodologies and algorithms for problem-solving; and development of databases to support both research and education.


Task Order

A legally binding document authorizing work and appropriating funds as a supplement to a master agreement.

Teaming Agreement (TA)

An agreement between two or more parties to participate in a research project. TAs are normally put in place prior to working together on a proposal.

Time and Effort

The specific amount of time, usually expressed in terms of a percentage, that each of the key personnel will devote to the project.


A visual depiction of when the various activities advancing the goals and objectives of the project will be completed, with the name or title of the individual responsible for these activities often indicated.

Total Direct Costs (TDC)

The total of all allowable direct costs of a project.

Total Project Costs

The total allowable direct and indirect costs incurred by the institution to carry out an approved project or activity.


Unallowable Costs

Unallowable costs are specific categories of costs that cannot be charged, directly or indirectly, to federally sponsored agreements in accordance with federal regulations.

Unsolicited Proposal

Proposals submitted to a sponsor that is not in response to a RFP, RFA, or program announcement.


Vertebrate Animal

Any non-human animal possessing a well-developed nervous system as characterized by the presence of a dorsal notochord protected by a vertebral column.

Voluntary Cost Sharing

Cost sharing that is not required by the sponsor, is stated in the award, and must be documented through established procedures.