The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) Finance Research team provides expertise and assistance to faculty and staff in financial award management of externally sponsored research. The following award management guidance is provided to support the management of all sponsored funding received by Mason.
Submitting a Proposal
The Mason Research Development and CHSS Funding Sources websites are sources to assist with looking for funding opportunities. If a funding opportunity is known, the first step in obtaining assistance for proposal submission is to submit an OSP online Request for Proposal Assignment. A grants administrator from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) Green Team will be assigned to guide the Principal Investigator (PI) through the proposal submission process. For more specific information about OSP’s proposal process please visit their Proposal Development website.
Establishing A New Award
All new externally sponsored awards are reviewed and accepted by OSP. New awards are fully executed only after all proposal routing and compliance requirements are met. When the award is fully executed in the university financial system, an email notification is sent to the PI, Co-PIs, appropriate college representatives, and department/research administrators (RA). The PI and RA should thoroughly read the email notification for special terms and conditions, the sponsor award document and review the awarded budget. RAs should log into the Mason PI Reports system and verify that the budget set up in the financial system matches the awarded budget received in the notification and also review that the project indirect distribution is set up correctly.
A critical element of award management is establishing and maintaining effective communication between the PI and the RA, and understanding the terms and conditions or special restrictions that may exist for the award. At award receipt, the CHSS Finance Research team is available to meet with PIs and RAs to discuss award management and financial compliance. To request a meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The CHSS Finance Research team has created some internal guidelines and procedures, and consolidated some of the university resources regarding processing expenditures on sponsored awards.
Administering Labor Expenditures – labor expenditures include salary (including cost share and salary cap) and fringe. Guidance regarding the charging of faculty labor to sponsored projects can be found in the university’s Guidelines for Charging Faculty Salary to Sponsored Projects and on the CHSS Research Policy website.
Administering Non-Labor Expenditures – non-labor expenditures refer to the purchasing of goods and services. Processing of these transactions must follow university policies and procedures. For detailed guidance on all purchasing transactions, please refer to the Fiscal Services website.
Reconciling Sponsored Projects – reconciliation is a systematic review of Banner financial activity to verify that all charges and credits are accurate and appropriate, usually comparing to source documentation to confirm accuracy of postings and identify expected transactions that have not yet occurred. University Policy 2114 outlines reconciliation responsibilities for departmental and sponsored fund accounting records.
Cost Transfer - A cost transfer is the transfer of expenses (salary or non-salary) to a federally funded sponsored project for a charge previously recorded elsewhere. Expenses previously charged but need to be transferred to a federally sponsored project must be done in a timely manner, within 119 days of original expense. Requested transfers that are 120 days or more from the original transaction date require a Cost Transfer Form, sufficient supporting documentation, and CHSS Finance and OSP approval. Administrative oversight is not an appropriate extenuating circumstance for cost transfers exceeding 120 days.
Post Award Modifications – situations arise where modifications to the awarded project are needed. Examples of post award modifications are no-cost extensions, PI changes, budget revisions, or changes in scope. OSP Green Team staff provides support to coordinate post award modifications. When a post award modification is needed, please send an email to Regis Saxton (Green Team manager) and cc your CHSS Finance Research team POC (either Janice Cohen or Olga Shchepina) with the requested action. Additional guidance will be provided once the Green Team is aware of the needed modification.
Payroll Certification – payroll certification is the certification of labor charges and cost sharing and is required on all federal awards. It uses a project-based methodology and utilizes the concept that charges are reasonable in relation to the work performed. OSP distributes required payroll certification reports to the CHSS Finance Research team. The team then distributes the reports to the appropriate department RA. The RA works with the PI to review the reports, obtain approval and ensure the report is returned to OSP in a timely manner. Any report not certified within 60 days will result in requiring salary charges moved to a non-sponsored funding source.
Progress/Financial Reports/Closeout – The OSP billing and reporting team have primary responsibility for submitting invoices, financial reports and closeout documentation. Technical and/or progress reports are submitted directly to the sponsor by the PI. Department RAs should work with PIs and create a system to ensure that technical and progress reports are submitted in timely manner and in accordance with the sponsor requirements (these requirements will be found in the sponsor award document received at award execution). Department RAs/PIs should not submit any financial reports to the sponsor without coordinating with the CHSS Finance Research team and OSP first.
Closeout is an important part of the life cycle of the grant. Department RA and PI preparation for closeout of awards should begin at least 3 months before the project period end date. The CHSS Finance Research team will distribute monthly Alert Reports to RAs. These reports identify projects that are 30-60-90 days from project period end and serve as a reminder to RAs to review available fund balances, project plans, forecasting, and discuss with the PI preparations for closeout. Should the PI indicate that supplemental funding or extensions need to be requested, CHSS Finance Team and the Green Team Manager should be notified to request a post award modification.
Other Research Related Topics
George Mason University Foundation (GMUF) Linked Accounts - on occasion a gift or donation is received by the GMUF, administered entirely by GMUF, but an OSP fund is established to fund activities unsuitable for GMUF administration (e.g. paying salaries). Please contact Janice Cohen with any specific questions about creating a new GMUF linked account.