SSD’s grant policy is designed to provide faculty with the freedom and flexibility to pursue lines of inquiry wherever they may lead, to sustain an institutional environment capable of catalyzing and advancing field-defining research, and to balance the pursuit of faculty research opportunities with other responsibilities (including teaching, student advising and mentorship, and departmental service), while at the same time ensuring compliance with University and governmental regulations.
In cases where research is supported by external funding, the SSD’s policies and practices also provide strong pre-award and post-award support, proper institutional oversight, and align the facilities and administrative (indirect) cost allowance to the full scope of the SSD’s considerable research investments.
University Research Administration (URA) is the campus office with responsibility for reviewing, negotiating, and institutionally accepting awards received from external sponsors. All award documents should be routed to URA for review and institutional endorsement. Individual Principal Investigators (PI) and staff should not sign award agreements until URA has agreed to the terms and conditions of the award.
Any grant proposal on which a faculty member with primary academic appointment in the Division of the Social Sciences serves as Principal Investigator must be submitted through the Division of the Social Sciences.
Responsibility for setting the course of research at the University is vested with the faculty. Full-time, salaried faculty members are eligible to serve as principal investigator (PI) on proposals submitted to external funding agencies in support of research, training, or other sponsored activities. On sponsored awards, the PI bears responsibility for:
- Directing the project’s research activities
- Overseeing the scientific integrity of the project
- Financial oversight and regulatory compliance, including:
o Authorizing spending of funds
o Addressing potential conflicts of interest or allegations of academic fraud
o Ensuring proper access controls for use of restricted data, and
o Ensuring that research activities with human and animal subjects meet standards of ethical treatment
In order for the SSD and the University to support the PI across the range of roles and responsibilities, and to provide strong facilities and administrative support, faculty members must conduct their sponsored research activities primarily within the Division.
The Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) development team and pre-award administrators support SSD faculty in all steps of proposal preparation including initial preparation, project development, proposal review, inputting proposals into AURA and sponsor grant systems, and routing the proposal to URA for review, endorsement, and submission. Research grants and subawards generally require institutional endorsement and must be reviewed by University Research Administration (URA) via the AURA grants system for compliance with University and funding agency guidelines.
To ensure compliance, investigators are encouraged to begin working on proposals with the RD Team and/or unit pre-award administrators’ months in advance, and to finalize all components aside from the main proposal narrative two weeks before the deadline. Preparing proposals and routing them well in advance of the deadline ensures that time is available to address any unanticipated issues, so that proposals may be successfully submitted by the deadline.
Proposals must be routed for URA review at least five business days prior to the sponsor’s deadline for full compliance review, which includes review of the guidelines, the complete proposal application, relevant waivers and approvals, assurances and certifications, and any errors/warnings that may prevent submission. PIs must address all compliance issues identified by URA and submit the final proposal narrative to the RD team/unit pre-award administrator by 3 p.m. CST one business day prior to the proposal due date. The PI will have the opportunity to review the final version of the proposal before confirming that it is ready to submit.
Contingent Review: Research grant proposals that are routed for URA review less than five business days prior to the sponsor’s deadline receive a contingent review. A contingent review will largely focus on ensuring the proposal meets institutional requirements; the PI will be responsible for ensuring the proposal meets sponsor requirements.
Submission Policy: PIs must send all final proposal materials to the RD team/unit pre-award administrator by 3 p.m. CST, one business day prior to the proposal due date. Materials received after that time may not be submitted to the sponsor.
Faculty Salary Support: In a research proposal, the University requires that at least one PI has some committed effort in the form of salary support. This effort can be provided at any time within the fiscal year: summer months, academic year, or both.
Summer Research: The SSD anticipates that faculty members conduct much of their research activity during the summer quarter (July-September). Grant-funded summer research may include up to 2.5 months’ additional compensation from grant funds, commensurate with the effort committed. Compensation over 2.5 months’ salary (up to three months) is only allowed with prior approval from the Dean.
Academic-Year Research: All faculty members have discretion to dedicate effort toward their research program during the nine-month academic year (October-June). As it is difficult to segregate academic year grant-funded research from the PI’s other areas of research, SSD will only approve voluntary cost-sharing if required by the funding agency. During the academic year, SSD expects a faculty member’s externally funded research activities will be managed in balance with departmental and other University responsibilities. When allowable in accordance with the sponsor’s policies, a PI may budget up to three months of her/his base academic year salary and benefits on a grant; in such cases, the SSD will provide the PI with new discretionary research funds in an amount equivalent to fifty percent (50%) of the academic-year salary relief (not including benefits) provided by the grant. This research funding is provided in the following fiscal year.
Course Buyouts: A PI may buyout a limited amount of teaching responsibilities using grant funds in cases where the research agenda demands more effort than can be managed in balance with full teaching responsibilities. The PI must consult with his/her chair and request approval of the buyout from the Dean. Requests are reviewed by the Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences and the Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division. The request must describe measures the faculty member will take to maintain advising responsibilities to his/her students, as well as measures the department will take to meet its curricular and governance needs. Generally, course buyouts are limited to one per year, although in select cases approval may be granted for two course buyouts in a single academic year.
The cost for course buyouts are 12.5% base salary/benefits for a one-course buyout and 37.5% base salary/ benefits for a two-course buyout. Note that academic-year salary buyout and course buyout may be combined; however, they are discrete – grant funds used for course buyout are not eligible for 50% return of salary relief.
Indirect Costs: Research funded by external sponsors typically includes Facilities and Administrative costs, referred to as indirect costs (IDC). IDCs are not directly attributable to a specific sponsored research project but are essential for research and training (e.g. costs associated with building operations, utilities, and administrative services). IDCs are calculated as a percent of a project’s total direct costs according to rates negotiated by University Research Administration. The Division of the Social Sciences does not share or return any portion of indirect costs to investigators except in very rare cases when an enduring large-scale research enterprise requires specialized facilities and/or administrative support.
Collaborative Research: When a research project led by a faculty member with primary academic appointment in SSD benefits from facilities and/or administrative resources outside the SSD or is co-led with investigators in another Division/School, arrangements must be made to identify the responsibilities of each institutional partner and ensure an equitable assignment of IDC revenue.
Internal Collaborations: In the case of collaboration with University of Chicago investigators outside of the SSD, these arrangements should be completed in advance of grant application. However, in the interest of meeting application deadlines on short-notice opportunities, an IDC-sharing agreement may also be negotiated following receipt of a grant award notice. IDC-sharing arrangements must be agreed to by all parties before spending begins on a grant-funded project.
In certain cases, the depth and frequency of SSD collaboration with other University and external partners is sufficient to merit negotiation of blanket IDC-sharing agreements. The SSD currently has standing agreements governing SSD faculty members’ sponsored research activities with BFI, RISC, NORC, and Urban Labs. For faculty on a three-course teaching plan: 16.7% salary/benefits for a one-course buyout and 49.7% salary/benefits for a two-course buyout.
External Collaborations: In the case of a research project with another university or research institution, the non-lead institution will complete a subaward agreement prior to the agency deadline. The agreement, specifying the work scope and budget (including IDCs) of the collaborating institution, will be signed by the Authorized Institutional Official.
Joint Appointments: Faculty members with joint appointments that cross Divisional lines should negotiate with their cognizant Deans prior to submitting any proposal for sponsored research, so that responsibility for facilities and administrative support and assignment of IDCs may be agreed to in advance.
Fellowships: Fellowships are awarded to faculty to enable advancement of a research agenda, typically in the form of a sustained period of research free from other commitments and often associated with a residency requirement. Unlike research grants, acceptance of a fellowship generally requires that the recipient take a leave of absence under the SSD’s Research Leave policy. Faculty should discuss eligibility and terms with the Dean’s office prior to fellowship applications if there is doubt about the leave of absence requirement.
To learn more about preparing a grant proposal, please contact your assigned Grant Specialist or the SSD Local Business Center at firstname.lastname@example.org and the LBC Grant Specialist assigned to your accounts will get in touch with you within two business days.
Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) – https://voices.uchicago.edu/socsciresearchctr/
University Research Administration (URA) – https://ura.uchicago.edu/page/proposal-development