Office of Sponsored Programs - 100.01 - Introduction


Office of Sponsored Programs - 100.01 - Introduction


The term sponsored programs can be defined as University research that receives funding from an external source or a "sponsor." While that is a very simple definition, sponsored programs encompass much more, including considerations that may affect the University financially and legally. Therefore, the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is not the only office concerned with elements of sponsored research and projects; however, it is considered the central, definitive resource.

The University has a system for managing the many concerns that accompany sponsored programs, including accounting, compliance, and reporting. OSP is concerned with financial administration and compliance of sponsored research projects and serves faculty and staff by communicating with sponsoring agencies on behalf of the University.

The following overview describes Federal regulations as well as University guidelines and policies, followed by OSP-specific operating standards and procedures.

About the Operating Standards

In serving faculty and administrators at the University, these operating standards assist in preparing and submitting proposals for sponsored program funding and managing sponsored funds awarded to the University.

Their threefold purpose is:

  1. In an organized and coherent fashion, present and explain existing operating standards and procedures affecting sponsored program funding at the University.
  2. Describe services available to faculty and staff through OSP and other offices involved in sponsored project management.
  3. Serve as a reference and a source for further information and assistance.

Defining Sponsored Programs

The University abides by the criteria provided by the University of North Carolina Sponsored Programs and Research Council (SPARC) to identify "sponsored programs." OSP is responsible for sponsored programs that encompass any scholarly, professional, or creative activity conducted by University personnel using support from external funding sources through grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or other agreements. Such programs include but are not limited to organized research, instruction/training, other sponsored research activities, and research/support services.

Sponsored Programs versus Gifts

There are many distinctions between sponsored programs and gifts. Essentially, research contracts are signed research agreements, where a sponsor places contractual obligations on the research effort to gain something (referred to as a "deliverable") in return for providing support.

Research grants and cooperative agreements differ slightly. Rather than a mutual agreement, research grants are awarded directly by the sponsoring agency to the University through an award. Research grants are governed by policies and guidelines, rather than contractual obligations. All three - research contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements - require deliverables and are categorized together.

On the other hand, gifts are donations, given voluntarily without the imposition of restrictive contractual obligations by the donor. While gifts may include certain conditions (for example, a donation may go towards a specific type of research), when those conditions include deliverables, the transfer of intellectual property, or provision of data to the funder, it is no longer considered a "gift" but is classified as a "contract" or "grant". OSP can help with questions about determining the categorization of funding.

Contact Information

104 Airport Drive, Suite 2200
Campus Box 1350
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Phone: 919-966-3411
Fax: 919-962-5011
OSP Staff assignments may be found in RAMSeS or on the OSP website.

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Article ID: 132269
Thu 4/8/21 9:27 PM
Fri 1/19/24 10:21 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Research-Office of Sponsored Programs
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Vice Chancellor
Next Review
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07/01/2023 12:00 AM
Last Review
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07/01/2022 12:00 AM
Last Revised
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07/01/2022 12:00 AM
Effective Date
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07/01/2022 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
06/16/2017 12:00 AM