Managing an Award with External Collaborators

You are here

You may need to involve collaborators from other organizations in a project. How that is done needs to match the nature of the role of each collaborator.

What is essential?

External collaborators on a sponsored project generally fall into one of two categories:

  • A Subrecipient performing research. In this case, a subaward relationship is created for the purpose of carrying out a portion of the project. For the delegated portion of the project, the subrecipient PI and their Institution have essentially the same responsibilities for conduct of research and award management that you and the University have for the entire project.
  • A Vendor / Contractor providing goods and services, including consulting services. In this case, a contract, service agreement, and/or purchase order is created for the purpose of obtaining goods and services needed for the project. This creates a procurement/vendor relationship with the contractor.

The PI’s characterization of the nature of the work to be done by the other party is essential for the correct categorization and documentation of the external collaborator’s role.

Why it’s Important

Subawards for conduct of a portion of a project and procurement agreements for goods and services create very different relationships between the University and the other party. The applicable federal, state, and sponsor requirements are significantly different.

Failure to depict the relationship accurately at the proposal stage in the budget and work plan, or to put the correct legal relationship in place, can create serious financial and legal obligations and liabilities, and can damage the relationship between the University and the sponsor.

How to Comply

At proposal stage - make a determination between Subrecipient vs. Vendor. Focus on the substance of the relationship. Use our Subrecipient vs Vendor Determination Checklist to help you make this determination. Work with your collaborator to ensure you incorporate their specific contribution in your statement of work (SOW) as well as a budget delineating the appropriate indirect costs for Subrecipients, and a specification of Contractor rates and/or fees where appropriate.

At award stage - work with ORSP to ensure clarity in the resulting agreement (Subrecipient or Professional Services) which will enable the University researchers to perform the work, submit required reports and deliverables, and manage the Subrecipient or Contractor.

Ongoing Award Management - As the PI responsible for the oversight and management of the project, you’re responsible for monitoring the subrecipients’ work. In collaboration with your department administrators, monitor each subrecipient’s expenditures and activities to confirm that funding provided to them is used for the purposes authorized in the agreement and that performance goals articulated in the statement of work are achieved. As PI, you are required to sign invoices authorizing payments to subrecipients. This responsibility cannot be delegated. Maintain regular communication with collaborators, and ensure that all, whether subrecipients or contractors, are completing work and providing deliverables, as proposed and on schedule. As PI, you are also required to review others’ required reports. Be sure to notify ORSP if there are any performance issues.