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Updates from the Director


Caution: University Approval Required on Sponsored Activities

One understandable misconception with receiving a Sponsored Program Award is that the PI has received permission to do everything outlined in their proposal, with no additional university approvals required.  For example, perhaps the PI had indicated in their proposal that they will fly to Detroit to attend a conference, and therefore the Travel Authorization form prior to leaving on that trip seems unnecessary.   Or perhaps they indicated that they would collect registration fees as part of their project to help offset the costs of their program, and they therefore do not contact the University Business Office for approval for collecting money and making deposits.
So why are these later approvals necessary if you have already outlined to the sponsor what you plan to do?  It is because only the project as a whole has been approved.  Obtaining specific approvals for activities as required by the university’s Financial Procedures Manual, at the time the proposal is submitted, is just not practical.  In most cases the details are not known or very well considered at proposal time (specific time of the trip; or where and how the cash would be collected).  Not to mention the time involved in obtaining these approvals for a project that might not be funded or might change.  Accordingly, in nearly all instances, procedures required by the Financial Procedures Manual must be completed after the award is received, but before the activity takes place. 
Among others, the Financial Procedures Manual includes the following sections that should be considered before initiating certain project activities:  4105 – Deposits, 4115 – Receivables, and 4125 - Payment Cards if cash will be collected, or invoices mailed, or credit cards are being considered for payments.   4205 – Expenditures, 4215 – Travel, and  7005 – Procurement should be consulted before making expenditures. 
While applying University policies and procedures to activities required by some sponsored projects is like putting a square peg in a round hole; those policies provide the necessary consistency required for adequate internal controls.   Exceptions are often extended to sponsored projects that have unusual needs; but those should be understood and approved by the appropriate university offices before the activity takes place.  It is more rewarding to obtain permission than seek forgiveness.
My desire with this article is not to request that PI’s rush off to memorize the Financial Procedures Manual.  My goal is only to indicate that receiving authorization to complete a sponsored project is simply permission to conduct the activities outlined in that project in accordance with established University policies and procedures.  It is not permission to establish policies and procedures that work best under the design of your project, or permission to complete that activity without obtaining internal approvals normally required for that activity.   As always, my office is available to answer questions or discuss the best approach for completing the goals of your project in a manner that complies with university regulations.


Compliance Corner  

Fundamental Research in Export Controls

Fortunately, the vast majority of research undertaken by universities is considered to be fundamental in nature and is not subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). However, there are some important caveats to this broad statement which deserve further consideration in order to ensure that this safe harbor remains available.

Fundamental Research is generally defined as basic and applied research in science and engineering at accredited institutions of higher learning in the United States where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly. Research may no longer be considered fundamental if either the university or its researchers agree to restrictions on the publication of the results or on participation in the research effort based on citizenship status.

Furthermore, this definition applies only to the results of research conducted within the United States. It does not apply to export controlled commodities, software or technology used to perform fundamental research within the United States or exported abroad for use in international research collaborations. Nor does it apply to the results of research conducted in another country, even if conducted in collaboration with a United States institution.

United States or exported abroad for use in international research collaborations. Nor does it apply to the results of research conducted in another country, even if conducted in collaboration with a United States institution.

Violations of these regulations involve serious individual and institutional penalties. Please contact the Office of Research Compliance for assistance at 540-568-7025 whenever you are:

  • engaging in research which requires sending or carrying United States Munitions List (USML) or Commerce Control List (CCL) commodities, software or technology abroad
  • engaging in research which will be conducted abroad and involves items found on the USML or CCL, or
  • if either you or the university have agreed to publication restrictions or participation restrictions based on citizenship.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrict exports of articles, technical data and services specifically designed, developed, configured, adapted, or modified for a military application. A list of these restricted items can be found on the United States Munitions List:

The Export Administration Regulations (EAR) restrict exports of commercial commodities, software and technologies which may also be used for defense purposes. A Commerce Control List can be found at: