Contracting holds an integral place in sponsored research. Research administration is obliged to oversee all pre-award contracts and subawards for Western Michigan University arising from research and related activities. The research contracts administrator communicates with faculty members, University personnel and research sponsors to ensure all agreements are entered into with the full understanding and in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and policies in a timely manner.
Contracting handles various agreements, among them:
- Confidentiality agreements (nondisclosure, proprietary and confidentiality agreements)
- Grants from federal and state government
- International collaboration agreements
- Material transfer agreements
- Research contracts with industry sponsors or partners
Research agreements between WMU and outside entities encompass a wide variety of forms and purposes. They cover applied research, evaluation, training, demonstrations, material transfers, confidentiality terms, equipment loans and more. Outgoing subawards and subcontracts fall into this area. Research contracts are legally binding on WMU and negotiated to formalize a range of partnerships. It is a legal document detailing the obligations of the two parties over the lifetime of the research project. Specific deliverables and milestones to be met are highlighted and dictate how the contracting parties will interact with each other.
Contracts may be referred to by different names, including the following: agreement, purchase order, subaward, memorandum of understanding and letter agreement, to name a few. However, when the subject and content of the document includes specific terms and conditions governing the research enterprise, it is considered by WMU to be a research contract. As such, WMU is considered to be the contracting party, not the principal investigator; this means all contracts must be reviewed and accepted by the institution before acceptance. The nature of the proposed project may dictate who else shall review and influence the language codified in the contract.
The Office of the Vice President for Research administers agreements, usually funded, related to sponsored research activity, engagement and instruction. The office handles research agreements with industrial sponsors, including private sponsors and nonprofits such as foundations. It also deals with subcontracts from industrial sponsors to the University, material transfer agreements and confidentiality agreements.
Begin work on a Research Contract
If a contract will be included as part of a research project, begin by developing a proposal and routing the proposal through the Proposal Approval Form (PAF) system. Notify the research contracts administrator with details so the contract drafting process may begin. The time needed to complete the research contract will vary depending on the complexity of the project and the responsiveness of the parties involved. It is good to start early. Researchers will need to familiarize themselves with these WMU policies that will be applied to all contracts:
- Material transfer agreements
- Memoranda of Understanding—contact the research contracts administrator.
- Project agreements—templates are available after consultation with the research contracts administrator.
- Bi-lateral negotiated sponsored agreements (template)—Second party initiated to WMU.
- Federal sub-awards—WMU generally follows the Federal Demonstration Partnership guidelines for federal sub-awards.
- Industry and other for-profit entity contract agreements (template)
- Non-federal sub-awards (template)—WMU initiated to second party.
Negotiate and review the contract
Once the PI has an approved PAF, the research contracts administrator will engage the external sponsor to begin negotiations and to obtain appropriate sponsor signatures to formalize the research contract.
Manage the contract
After WMU and the external sponsor have signed the negotiated contract, the research contracts administrator will determine the appropriate method to execute the contract and obtain appropriate institutional signature at WMU. Following full execution of the contract, it will be forwarded to Grants and Contracts for post-award processing, account setup and post-award contract management.
Research Contracts Administrator
Associate Vice President for Research