In your function as the administrative support to principal investigators, you have the responsibility and obligation to help the PI ensure that:
As the primary support source for faculty, it is important to identify the offices that support your work, both institutionally and within your School. The Office for Sponsored Programs (OSP) is the University’s central research administration office that manages the administrative processes related to externally-funded research and ensures compliance with the regulations and policies associated with the funding. OSP is responsible for sponsored research across the entire lifecycle of the award, including pre-award, post-award, and cash management functions, and manages all three phases of the lifecycle for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and other Cambridge-area faculties. At HMS, the pre-award phase is administered by Sponsored Programs Administration. At HSPH, pre-award functions are managed by the Office of Financial Services and Administration. Other research intensive Schools also have local offices that offer a range of research support services to their faculty investigators: FAS’s Research Administration Services, HGSE’s Sponsored Projects Office, HKS’s Research Administration Office, and SEAS’ Research Administration Office.
In addition to these units that support research grants and contracts, there are a variety of other institutional support offices you should be familiar with, such as environmental health and safety, human subjects research offices, animal subjects research offices, as well as faculty committees that oversee specific activities related to research. Please look through this website, both in the Research Policies and in the Research Offices and Committees section, for comprehensive information about offices and committees that support research at Harvard.
Funding typically is characterized by source, whether it be institutional (from Harvard), federal (a U.S. government agency such as the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation), or other extramural (other private, for-profit, non-profit, domestic, or international organization). You may want to have a conversation with your PI about how you can help:
The Research Grants section of this web site can be a helpful starting point for you to learn about the range of agencies that support academic research. Of note are national databases to which Harvard subscribes through OSP, such as the Community of Science funding database, and the Sponsored Programs Information Network (SPIN). These robust search engines allow you to choose a variety of parameters to narrow down your search, based on the characteristics defined by your PI. Please check with OSP to register for the service.
All federal agencies have a collection of assurances and obligations that must be documented and submitted with all grant applications. In addition, there may be obligations as conditions of non-federal awards. Your sponsored projects office or the OSP will help you determine assurances and obligations that are specific to a particular funding opportunity, but you should be aware of the range of federally required mandates for institutional practices and others more closely related to research projects. Some assurances are fairly broad and well known, such as prohibitions against discrimination in hiring and political activities, confidentiality of research information, especially as it relates to human subjects, and patents. Obligations are related to the management of funds and accounting practices. It should be noted that while some assurances and obligations uniformly apply to all federal grants, others are particular to specific granting agencies as well as grant programs themselves. Please make sure to be aware of the assurances and obligations as described in the request for proposals (RFP) or application guidelines for each program for which research funding is sought.
If you are required to maintain financial records for a grant, you will want to work closely with your academic department administration and OSP to make sure you understand all the reporting requirements and are compliant with federal and institutional accounting standards as well as transaction and reporting practices. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars A-21 and A-133 describe in detail the cost principles and auditing standards expected for federal awards. You may not need to know all of the components of these circulars, but the extent to which you are informed about their contents will help you understand how best you can monitor expenditures and prepare financial records on behalf of your PI.
Training for a variety of financial activities is available to individuals whose responsibilities include grants management. Please see the Education & Training page for more information on training opportunities, including those for sponsored research administration.