Section 2: Getting Started - Sponsored Project Administration

2.1 Central Administrative Offices

The Vice President for Research (VPR) provides oversight of the central administrative offices supporting sponsored projects at UT Austin, and the website provides a wealth of services and information that will be valuable to you as a departmental research administrator (DRA). Reviewing the VPR's Web site will give you a good idea about the oversight and services provided under this administrative umbrella.

As a departmental research administrator (DRA), you will work most closely with the PI in your department and with the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP). It will help to have an idea of the responsibilities of both of these parties.

The responsibility of The Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) is to authorize all research proposals to external sponsors, and to assist faculty and department administrative staff in their efforts during the pre- and post-award processes. OSP personnel are assigned to either pre-award or post-award work, with some overlap. You will assist your PI in the preparation of research proposal applications for OSP review and submission to a sponsor, (pre-award) and if funded (post-award), by managing the research project account(s) and providing financial and progress reports to the sponsor. Understanding the overall structure of OSP will aid you in your efforts to assist your PI in the administration of his sponsored research projects.

Helpful information about the structure and staffing of OSP is available at the following links:

Consider using or adapting the Template 2.1 Departmental Research Administrators (DRA) Contact List to note important contacts specific to each of your research proposal applications.

Back to Top

2.2 The Departmental Research Administrator

Participating in professional organizations and training will help you stay informed of new developments in sponsored project administration, and be more effective in your work. Networking with others in the field helps you build a support network. Opportunities for training and professional development are available through UT Austin, private organizations, and professional organizations. This section provides information to help you get started and to help you stay informed about the exciting field of research administration.

2.2.1 Research Administrator Certification

One of the best ways to become knowledgeable and effective in research administration is to become a certified research administrator. Certification as a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) is awarded through the Research Administrator Certification Council (RACC). UT Austin's Office of Sponsored Projects annually sponsors a study group to assist you in preparing for the CRA exam. If you are interested in obtaining certification, please call (OSP) at 471-6424 or send an e-mail message to OSP. New study sessions are announced in the Research Administrator Network (RAN) listserv.

For more information about research administrator certification go to the Research Administrator Certification Council (RACC).

2.2.2 Professional Development Opportunities from OSP

Many training opportunities on topics of interest to the campus research administrators can be found under the Spotlights and Training Opportunities sections of the OSP Web page, in the VPR's weekly Research Alerts, and via the RAN listserv. For information on how to register for specific class offerings on CAYUSE 424™ training classes, Grant Writing workshops, and Export Control seminars go to TX Class and search for the "SP" series.

In addition, OSP subscribes to the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) Satellite TV Broadcasts. Most of these quarterly sessions offer continuing education credits. Go here for more information on NCURA broadcasts.

Go to the NCURA Training page under Training Opportunities on the OSP Web page for a list of DVDs and print resources related to sponsored project activities. The DVDs are available for short term borrowing. Contact OSP or at 471-6424.

2.2.3 Professional Organizations: Membership and Conference Information

2.2.4 Additional Professional Development Resources

Back to Top

2.3 The Principal Investigator (PI)

A principal investigator (PI) is the lead scientist for a particular well-defined science (or other academic) project who takes direct responsibility for completion of a funded project, directs the research and reports directly to the sponsor. When UT Austin accepts a grant or contract award from an external sponsor, the university assumes responsibility for the proper performance of the stated project, for the fiscal management of the funds received, and for accountability to the sponsor. Since the institutional responsibility for meeting these obligations is vested in the Principal Investigator (PI), only individuals in the categories below are authorized to be Principal Investigators or Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) for sponsored projects. In rare instances others may be authorized, but only with the prior written approval of the Associate Vice President for Research and Director of OSP.

Back to Top

2.4 PI Status: Approved Categories of Faculty Positions

If your PI is listed in one of the categories listed above, they do not have to request PI status from OSP; their title confers PI status already. They do, however, need to request access to the Research Management System (RMS) and possibly other electronic systems. Please see Sections 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 for more information on obtaining permission to access electronic systems.

Back to Top

2.5 How to Request PI Status

The individual’s department (Dean, Associate Dean for Research, Department Director or Chair) must initiate a request to the AVP/OSP. The request must be made in writing and sent via email to:

*NOTE: Requests for PI or Co-PI status from the College of Natural Sciences must first be routed through the relevant department chair, and then the Office of the Dean prior to forwarding on to OSP.

Requests for PI or Co-PI status from the Cockrell School of Engineering must be routed through the Dean's office via Joey Walker, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist, Cockrell School of Engineering. (; 512-471-5450) prior to forwarding on to OSP.

The request must include:

  1. name of individual requiring PI or Co-PI status
  2. type of request
    1. allowed multiple submissions during the year; or
    2. if project specific, title of proposal associated with request
  3. type of status request:
    1. PI; or
    2. Co-PI
  4. summary of individual’s qualifications
  5. The request must include a current curriculum vitae of the individual in need of the PI or Co-PI authorization.
  6. Signed PI memo, called “Required Responsibilities for Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin”. The memo can be found here:

The request is reviewed by the Associate Vice President for Research and Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects. When a decision is rendered, all individuals copied on the original request and appropriate staff within the Office of Sponsored Projects will be notified.

Back to Top

2.6 Unit and PI Codes

Unit codes are assigned to official University of Texas entities, such as an academic department, administrative department, organized research unit, or project director responsible for a sponsored project. The first four digits indicate an official University department or organization. The last three digits divide the official unit into subunits, which may indicate individuals, such as Principal Investigators (PIs), or other programs or projects within the official unit. PIs must be assigned a PI code by OSP in order to have access to the Research Management System (RMS) and to various other UT Austin electronic and accounting systems used in the management of sponsored research. More information about unit codes can be found in the Handbook of Business Procedures Common Business and Financial Terminology.

Back to Top

2.7 Obtaining Access to Electronic Systems for Your PI and/or Yourself

After PI status and a PI code have been established, you or your PI will need to request access to a number of electronic systems that will enable you (both) to successfully create grant proposal applications and if funded, manage grant awards. You may request access to these systems for your PI by sending an e-mail with their name, UTEID, and PI code to the OSP Electronic Research Administrator. Request all of the electronic systems your PI will need access to in the email; system access will not provided unless specifically requested.

As a DRA, you may also request access to these same systems in order to track the status of your PI's proposals. Your authorizations will have administrator-level privileges, not PI-level privileges. In your email message to OSP include your UTEID, your PI's name and UTEID, and your PI's code. Be sure to cc: your PI when making this request. This lets OSP know that your PI is aware of the request and is authorizing your access to privileges in these electronic systems.

The following are some of the electronic systems most commonly used in sponsored project administration (if you do not see the one that you need, contact OSP).

2.7.1 Research Management System (RMS)

RMS is UT Austin's sponsored projects research tool where you or your PI will create a Proposal Review Form (PRF). The PRF collects information required by university, state, or federal regulations and/or policies, and also alerts OSP that your PI intends to respond to a sponsor's funding opportunity and submit a proposal application.

2.7.2 CAYUSE 424™ and

Another electronic research tool used in the preparation, validation and electronic submission of Federal grant funding applications to is CAYUSE 424™. is the central storehouse for information on finding and applying for federal government grants. Since UT Austin is a registered user of, you and your PI already have access to apply for grants and to download grant application packages. You may want to subscribe to and receive notifications of new grant opportunity postings and updates.

If your PI decides to apply for a funding opportunity supported by CAYUSE 424™ and creates the proposal using CAYUSE 424™, they can give you authorization to access the proposal by making you "delegate." If you create the proposal application in CAYUSE 424™, you can make your PI a "delegate."

2.7.3 FastLane

FastLane is the name of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) online website through which researchers and potential researchers, reviewers, and research administrators and their organizations interact electronically to conduct business, such as submitting proposal applications and progress reports.

2.7.4 Electronic Research Administration (eRA) Commons

eRA Commons is a virtual meeting place where NIH grantee organizations, grantees, and the public can exchange research grants administration information and all NIH reporting.

Back to Top

2.8 Research Administrator Network (RAN)

One of the best ways to get answers to questions and share information is to communicate with other departmental and OSP research administrators across campus. In order to encourage and accommodate this type of communication the Research Administrator Network (RAN) listserv has been created by OSP. Here are instructions on how to subscribe and unsubscribe to the RAN listserv.

Back to Top

2.9 Responsibility Matrix: PI, Departmental Research Administrators, and OSP Research Administrators

Understanding your PI's role (and your role) versus the role of research administrators who work in OSP will help streamline the proposal application process. Departmental research administrators assist their PIs with proposal preparation and other pre-award work (and/or post-award work). Generally, you will be the liaison between the department and OSP, acting as the departmental contact and working directly with the PI to prepare and submit proposal application packages to OSP for their review and submission to sponsors. You may also manage accounts, assist with reporting on grant progress, or anything else that comes up after the funding has been awarded and before the grant is closed out. See Table 2.8 Responsibility Matrix.

Determine if PI already holds PI status X X X
If PI status not conferred, make request for PI status X X
Add PI to RMS database X
Request Unit Code X X
If PI will have an assistant/postdoc/student preparing forms, authorize that individual for access to electronic systems X X
Add assistant/postdoc/student to RMS X
Determine which sponsor matches funding interest X
If the sponsor requires application submission via its own electronic submission system, ensure that PI/UT Austin is authorized to submit via that system. X X
Seek funding opportunity X
If funding opportunity limits the number of submissions, check the Limited Submissions website: If the program is not listed, contact the OSP office by sending an email to to enter an internal competition X X
Determine who should be on research team X
Contact proposed research team to secure their agreement to participate and obtain supporting documents X
Contact Dean for any special departmental commitments and obtain supporting documentation X
Contact vendors for quotes X X
Assess research risks (human, animal, biohazard, etc.) X X X
If institutional approval for study is required, submit documentation and secure approval X X
Contact sponsor Program Officer X
Prepare OSP's Proposal Review Form in RMS and route to OSP X X
If Letter of Intent is due, send it in a timely fashion X X
PI prepares the proposal narrative X
Prepare budget X
If cost sharing is associated with project, complete form and obtain all necessary signatures X X
If subcontract involved: inform subcontractor of items needed and obtain said items X X
Obtain letters of support/access to facilities, if necessary X X
Submit required materials to OSP for review X X
OSP authorizes the proposal for submission. X X X
After submission, answer sponsor questions that may arise or prepare additional materials requested by sponsor X X X
Respond to sponsor requests for additional materials such as Representation and Certifications (Reps and Certs), revised budgets, etc, i.e., Information Transmittals(Info-Trans). All Info-Trans back to sponsor must be routed through OSP. X X X
OSP negotiates award, if necessary X
OSP accepts award on behalf of UT Austin X

Back to Top

2.10 Learn the Lingo

You will probably find it helpful to be knowledgeable about the various terms, definitions and acronyms specific to sponsored research administration and may want to familiarize yourself by reviewing one of the following glossaries:

Back to Top