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Pre-Award Information

Subcontracts and Subawards Information

Subcontract agreements are established when an investigator receives funding from a sponsor and requires the participation of other institutions to realize research target goals. Subcontract agreements describe the terms and conditions governing the research relationship between the prime contractor and secondary entities. In most cases, the terms and conditions that are developed between the sponsor and the prime institution flow down to the secondary institution via the subcontract agreement. The prime institution may also impose additional time-dependent or deliverable conditions to permit compliance with sponsor requirements (i.e., receipt of financial and/or technical reports).

A subcontract or subaward is included in a grant when a significant portion of the work being proposed involves another institution or collaborator that cannot be paid directly as senior personnel. A subcontractor has responsibility for internal programmatic decision-making and design; is responsible for assisting the prime recipient in meeting the goals of the project; and retains intellectual property and copyright to the work produced by the subcontractor’s personnel and/or may co-author an article in a professional research journal.

A subcontract is also distinguished from a vendor or contract/purchase order because a vendor/contractor provides similar goods and services to multiple customers as part of his or her routine business operations; competes for customers with other like providers; does not retain intellectual property or copyright to the deliverables nor seek joint authorship.

Whereas a consultant might give advice or an opinion about a project, an active collaborator provides essential services or components for a project. Whereas a consultant would not utilize his/her home institution’s facilities to work with you, a subcontractor would need a lab or other specialized space to complete his/her work or may need to hire a graduate student or post-doc for the project. A consultant provides services on a “work for hire” basis and all intellectual property or copyrightable rights are assigned to CUNY.

If a subcontract is proposed, please bear in mind that prior to submitting the proposal,you must obtain permission from the collaborating institution’s authorizing official. To make this process easier for everyone involved, we have assembled this checklist of what ORSP needs to ensure your proposal is complete:

  • Name, address, contact information (email, phone) of the collaborating PI at his/her home institution
  • The contact information of the collaborating PI’s grants office or ORSP counterpart
  • A budget and scope of work approved by the collaborator’s institution
  • A letter of agreement from an authorized institutional official or signed consortium agreement statement

Conversely, if you are going to be involved in a grant at another institution and will be using Queens College facilities, please contact ORSP as soon as possible. It is very likely that the institution submitting the primary proposal will want the same things from us that we would like from it. 

If the proposal is awarded, an actual legal agreement is made between the institutions. No work should commence until these agreements are signed by the respective parties.


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