Determining which F&A rate to apply - Categorization of Sponsored Projects Procedure

Effective Date: August 2, 2021


The purpose of this procedure is to determine the appropriate categorization of a sponsored project into one of three major functions: organized research, instruction or other sponsored activity. 


OMB's Uniform Guidance– 2 CFR Part 200 Appendix III Indirect (F&A) Costs Identification and Assignment, and Rate Determination for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) requires Western Michigan University to organize its sponsored expenditures into certain defined functional activities. At WMU, the majority of externally sponsored projects (i.e. grants, contracts, cooperative agreements) support Organized Research (OR) activities, but a smaller amount may be classified as Instruction or as Other Sponsored Activities (OSA). The categorization of the sponsored activity determines the appropriate facilities and administrative rate (F&A) to be applied. Within each category, projects are further defined as on-campus or off-campus, based on the primary location of a majority of the project’s activities as demonstrated by the scope of work and budget (see relevant procedure).


3.1.  Research is defined as a systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied and to devise new applications of available knowledge. The term research also includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities. Research includes the following subcategories:

  • Basic Research is undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in mind. 
  • Applied Research is conducted to gain new knowledge or understanding to meet a specific, recognized need or objective. 
  • Development is the systematic use of knowledge and understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes. 

3.2.  Instruction means the teaching and training activities of an institution financed by federal, state and private agencies and organizations. Except for research training as described above, this term includes any project where the purpose is to instruct any students at any location whether the instruction is offered for credits toward a degree or certificate or on a non-credit basis, and whether they are offered through regular academic departments or separate divisions, such as a summer school division or an extension division.

3.3 Other Sponsored Activities include programs involving work other than Instruction and Organized Research. 


A sponsored project is subject to a singular rate. Multiple or split rates may not be applied to one project. If there is more than one type of activity for a project, for purposes of determining the category of sponsored project, the primary purpose is used. 

In order to determine the appropriate category of sponsored project, the research officer will review the scope of work in consultation with PI to determine the primary activity of the project based on the definitions above. When a determination cannot be easily made, the Vice President for Research or their designee shall be consulted and will render the final decision.


5.1.  Research: Characteristics of Research (including Development) include systematic investigation; contributions to generalized knowledge; supporting, refining or refuting other research studies; production of research outcomes; intent to publish or disseminate results, etc. 

Examples of Sponsored Research include:

  • Scientific laboratory or field research 
  • Searching for applications of new research findings or other knowledge 
  • Conceptual formulation and design of possible product or process alternatives 
  • Statistical studies 
  • Literary interpretations or criticisms 
  • Health-related studies 
  • Research on teaching effectiveness 
  • External funding to develop and maintain facilities or equipment and/or operation of a center or facility which will be used for research 
  • Creation of academic and professional publications 
  • Scholarship or writing of books, when the purpose of the writing is to publish research results 
  • Awards to departments, units or schools for the support of the training of research techniques of students or postdoctoral scholars, e.g., research training grants 

5.2.  Instruction: Recipients of Instruction may be WMU students or staff, teachers or students in elementary or secondary schools, or the general public. 

Examples of Instruction include:
  • Course and curriculum development, including projects which involve evaluation of curriculum or teaching methods
  • Projects involving WMU students in community service activities for which they receive academic credit
  • Activities funded by awards to departments or schools for the support of student
  • Fellowship support for pre‐doctoral and post‐doctoral training activities, including grants funding dissertation work and related travel 
  • Support for writing textbooks or reference books, or creating video or software to be used as instructional materials
  • Academic advising and development 

5.3.  Public Service is one of the more common activity types that generally falls under Other Sponsored Activities. It is characterized as the delivery of professional (non-instructional) services to individuals and groups external to the University. 

Examples of Other Sponsored Activities (including public service) include:

  • Health service projects 
  • Travel grants
  • Support for conferences or workshops where the primary purpose is not training or instruction
  • Support for University public events
  • Support for student participation in community service projects which do not result in academic credit
  • Support for projects pertaining to library or museum collections, acquisitions, bibliographies, or cataloging 
  • Programs to enhance institutional resources, including computer enhancements, etc.
  • Public broadcasting services
  • Museum and gallery exhibits 


Research Program Officer in Office of Research and Innovation