Policy | Contract Approvals, Project Activation and Modification

The contract approval and project activation process is the mechanism whereby principal investigators/project directors and appropriate administrators review and agree to the University's obligations to a project and the conveyance of all original contractual documents to the Business Office. An account number is established by the Grants Accountant and all expenditures are charged to the account. Grants, contracts, etc., are reviewed in the Office of Research to ensure that they are in compliance with University, Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and state policies and regulations prior to being accepted by the University.

Policy

The President of the University has been designated by the TBR Chancellor to approve and sign all contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, etc., between the University and outside agencies. The President has delegated responsibility to the Associate Vice President for Research for reviewing all contracts, etc., for compliance with policies and regulations relative to those contracts, etc., processed through the Office of Research. For contracts, etc., of $75,000 or less the President has delegated authority to the Associate Vice President for Research to approve and to sign for the University.

After a contract, etc., has been approved by the University (as indicated by the signature of the President or Associate Vice President for Research) and the funding agency, the project must be "activated" through an internal review process to obtain an account number prior to payment for expenses and invoicing to the agency. Unless the contract, etc., states otherwise, all expenses chargeable to the contract must occur during the contract period.

In special cases where approval of a contract by the funding agency and the University has been assured, it is possible to pre-activate the project; i.e., to activate prior to receiving the fully executed contract. If this is done, the unit initiating the pre-activation request is responsible for covering all expenditures if the contract, for some unforeseen reason, is not approved.

Negotiations concerning contractual details (including extensions) of contracts, etc., are to be handled by the Associate Vice President for Research or his/her designee, and all contract modifications (including extensions) must be approved by the Office of Research. Requests for any modification to a contract, including an extension to the time limits, etc., must be made at least one month (45 days for NSF-approved extensions) prior to the ending date of the contract.

Implementation

When a contract is received from an agency, it should immediately be sent to the Office of Research for review and determination of its acceptability. This includes compliance with University, TBR, and State of Tennessee policies, laws, and regulations. The Office of Research will consult with the principal investigator/project director, departmental chairperson and/or director, and appropriate college research liaison officer(s) to ensure they are knowledgeable of the contract and to seek their approval with or without suggested changes. The Associate Vice President for Research will be responsible for negotiating any changes with the agency. When all parties are satisfied, the Associate Vice President for Research is responsible for recommending the contract to the President and obtaining the appropriate signature. If the contract is $75,000 or less, the Associate Vice President for Research may sign.

To activate a contract after it has been signed by all parties, an internal Project Activation Form must be completed, reviewed, and approved by all appropriate persons.  Relevant information should be attached to the activation form. Signatures should usually be obtained in numerical order. The Grants Accountant is responsible for assigning an account number to the project.

Pre-activations should follow the same procedure as activations except that a memorandum to the Associate Vice President for Research via the Center director (if applicable), chair of the department responsible for expenses if the contract is not approved, and the dean should accompany the Project Activation Form. The memorandum should state why the pre-activation is justified and desired and that the department will be responsible for expenses if the contract is not approved. 

It is the principal investigator’s/project director’s responsibility to insure that a fully executed contract is received within the ninety (90) day period.   If the contract has not been received within ninety (90) days of the pre-activation date, a stop work order will be issued by the Office of Research until the agency can be contacted and an executed contract obtained.

If the principal investigator/project director wishes to have a contract modified, he/she should justify the reason(s) to the Associate Vice President for Research. The memorandum should be endorsed by the appropriate people in the approval process. The Associate Vice President for Research will be responsible for negotiating any changes in the contract with the agency and for notifying all concerned if the changes are approved.

Updated March 3, 2012

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