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Contracts Application Life Cycle

The flowchart below provides an overview of the entire research contracts process, from idea stage to approval and opening the cost centre. Research contracts are more complicated than grant applications as a few more steps are involved, such as negotiations, legal assessment, intellectual property review, etc. If you are working on developing a contract, touch base with the Contracts Facilitator as soon as possible and allow for more planning time. Some of the text in the flowchart is linked to specific reference pages; for more information click on the text of interest.

 

1 - Idea/planning stage - researcher meets with Contracts Facilitator

The Contracts Facilitator needs to be involved as early as possible and will provide you with an overview of the process and inform you of some key things you need to know, such as:

  • You cannot sign a contract on behalf of VIU;
  • All research contracts must be signed by an official representative of the institution (e.g. the Associate Vice President, Scholarship and Community Engagement);
  • All research contracts that contain insurance or indemnity obligations on behalf of VIU need to be reviewed by the Risk Management Branch, Ministry of Finance before anyone at VIU can sign it;
  • All research contracts need to be reviewed by the Research Office before anyone at VIU can sign it.

The Contracts Facilitator will:

  • Identify the appropriate type of contract. The type of contract depends on the nature of the research (basic, applied, fee for services) and the nature of the funding relationship (government, company, or other type of agency) (see table below);
  • Ensure you are eligible to hold a research contract with VIU. If you are not a regular/on-going faculty member you may need to apply to be eligible to hold a research contract;
  • Explain VIU’s Indirect Costs (Overhead) guidelines;
  • Provide advice on budgeting for research personnel;
  • Assist in negotiating the contract. You must make yourself available to participate in the negotiations;
  • Review Intellectual Property implications for the contract;
  • Assist with a formal application, if required. Some contracts are preceded by a formal application while others are not.

UPEI Similarities and Differences Among Research Grants and Contracts

Source: UPEI Research Office.

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2 - Funder or VIU provides draft contract or researcher provides draft proposal

Sometimes the proposal is drafted first and submitted to the funder who issues the contract; other times we will receive the contract first in which the research to be carried out is outlined in schedule A or embedded in the contract somewhere. Whichever is the case, before any contracts are signed, all the clauses of the contract need to be reviewed. The researcher should ensure that the funder is aware of this requirement. In either case, the documents need to be provided to the Grants/Contracts Facilitator. Where the funder does not provide a contract, the Contracts Facilitator will draft a new contract on behalf of the parties.

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3 - Draft contract reviewed by Contracts Facilitator for key components

The contract will be reviewed to protect the interests of the institution, specifically the researcher and any students involved. As a publicly funded not-for-profit postsecondary institution, VIU undertakes research for the purpose of educating students and contributing to the body of knowledge. As a result, agreements need to reflect the following core principles and key components that will be reviewed include:

Intellectual property rights

IP ownership and licensing/rights for future research and teaching - there will always be IP generated during a research project (e.g. publications, know-how, patentable IP etc.) and VIU can support a range of ownership and licensing arrangements. However as a publicly funded institution, any ownership or exclusive licence needs to reserve, as a minimum, a royalty-free licence for the University to use the research results for future education and research purposes. VIU also has a creator owned IP policy, so the wishes of individual researchers, which includes students and postdocs, is also a key consideration.  

 

Public dissemination rights

Public dissemination of research results - research results discovered or created by University personnel (faculty, students, post docs) need to be disseminated through open publication and/or presentation. While delays for protecting patentable IP or for removing a sponsor’s confidential information (e.g. data or background IP) can be readily accommodated, VIU cannot, as a public institution, carry-out classified research. Therefore, research results cannot be considered the confidential information of a sponsor.

 

Budget, including indirect costs (overhead)

 

The budget needs to include indirect costs; any waivers must be negotiated up front.

Risk management issues

 

Risks need to be identified and plans put in place to minimize the risk.

Academic progression of student (e.g. undergraduate reports/graduate student thesis)

 

Academic progression of students - students need to own the copyright in their thesis or report, and their academic progression (thesis defense) cannot be delayed beyond a year.

Financial and reporting obligations

These must be spelled out clearly in the contract.  They include budget and reporting details along with the payment (holdback) schedule.

 

Termination

Both parties must have the ability to terminate; need to identify under what circumstances and how.

 

Warranties, indemnification and insurance

Warranties, indemnities and insurance – VIU warrants that it will use appropriate professional standards in conducting research, but because of the experimental nature of research cannot guarantee any specific results or warrant their use for a particular purpose. Indemnity and insurance clauses are reviewed and approved by the Government of British Columbia, which provides insurance coverage to all post-secondary institutions province-wide. As VIU’s business is not commercial in nature, we are not insured to cover losses related to the use of research results in a commercial context. Once rights to use and/or own research results have been granted, VIU cannot be responsible for any losses that may occur.

 

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4 - Depending on context, the contract may be reviewed by other departments and provisions negotiated with the funder

The other reviewer departments, if required, are typically: risk management, legal, Finance or Human Resources. Based on their input, the wording of the contract may have to change and this may take some time.

The Contracts Facilitator will negotiate with the funder on items in the contract and once agreement from both parties is reached the RSAO will arrange signatures from both parties. The Contracts Facilitator will not be negotiating changes to the statement of work (the actual research plan/timelines/methodology) but will be negotiating the key principles and core components such as listed above in section 3.

Contracts will be assessed for the amount of risk involved and classified as low, medium or high risk. Those with lower risk will require less review than those with higher risk.

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5 - Draft contract with proposal attached to Institutional Signature Sheet (ISS)

All research contracts require an accompanying Institutional Signature Sheet. This document records institutional commitments (cash and in-kind), ethics certifications required, indirect costs (overhead) recovery etc. made at the time of the application submission. The Contracts Facilitator can assist in preparing this document, and it is strongly recommended that it be reviewed by the Facilitator for accuracy prior to circulating it for signature.

Every contract needs to have authorizing signatures from various people at the ins ti uti on. This ensures that those that need to know about your plans for the research are in-the-know. The draft contract with proposal and the Institutional Signature Sheet must be circulated together in order to obtain the authorizing signatures from your Department Chair, the Dean of the Faculty, and any Directors you may report to (e.g. Director of a Research Centre).

If you are working under the auspices of a research centre or institute, that Director needs to know of any proposed use of centre/institute equipment, facilities, personnel, and/or funds.

Your Dean signs the ISS to confirm the eligibility and appointment of the applicant and to signify awareness of faculty research activities, acceptance of resource commitments, including institutional cash and/or in-kind commitment(s), and indirect cost recovery. Any budget requests listed will need the Dean to assign a cost centre so that Finance knows where those commitments are coming from.

You need to start this process at least three weeks before the contract activity can begin. Some contracts that are high risk can take longer than this. We realize that time can be tight, and as long as the attached contract/proposal is in a good draft form (i.e. the substance is not changing, nor is any VIU resource commitments or the overall budget changing), then there is not a problem with attaching a draft copy when asking the Dean to sign.

NOTE: VIU has an indirect costs guideline of 25% of cash contributions (i.e. over and above the full expenses of the grant). This 25% needs to be included in your budget. If you want to make an argument for reducing that, please see the guidelines and include a waiver form.

The budget section on the ISS only needs budget figures IF the project requires some financial or in-kind funds from VIU to help support the project. Don’t forget to list any other types of in-kind resources needed such as additional office space, space for student assistants, etc. The intent here is to make sure discussions for these resources take place and everyone agrees before the contract is submitted rather than trying to reconstruct the commitments after the contract is signed.

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6 - Contract and ISS submitted to Research & Scholarly Activity Office (RSAO)

Once the terms are finalized the contract must be signed by authorized signatories from both VIU and the funders. The authorized signatory for VIU is the President or their designate (for most research contracts, the Associate Vice President, Scholarship and Community Engagement). All internal authorizations must be in place on the Institutional Signature Sheet before the authorized signatory signs the contract.

The Contracts Facilitator is responsible for obtaining signatures from the The Associate Vice President, Scholarship and Community Engagement.

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7 - RSAO obtains approval to sign the contract

The Ministry of Advanced Education requires VIU to have all indemnity and insurance clauses reviewed by Risk Management staff at the Ministry of Finance before anyone at VIU can sign the contract. This review can take up to two weeks.

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8 - APPROVAL! Contract signed by funder and VIU

Once the Contracts Facilitator receives the fully signed copy of the contract the researcher will get a copy of the contract.

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9 - Cost centre paperwork started by Research & Scholarly Activity Office

All research contracts will be assigned a cost centre by the Research Office. Cost centre paperwork will be prepared and forwarded via e-mail to the researcher with instructions for completion. The respective Dean, and/or Director and Secretary will be copied on the e-mail.

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10 - Researcher completes cost centre paperwork

Within one week of receipt, the cost centre forms need to be completed by the researcher. A cost centre package consists of 1) cost centre request form; 2) contract; 3) ethics certifications (if applicable); 4) budget cashflow form; 5) signing authority forms.

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11 - Dean signs the cost centre paperwork

The authorizing signature of the Dean is required on the cost centre paperwork. The researcher should return the complete package to the Research & Scholarly Activity Office.

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12 - Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office confirms the certifications (human, animal, biohazards) and authorizes cost centre

Upon receipt, the Research Office reviews the cost centre package for completeness and ensures that any ethical (human/animal/biohazard) certifications required are in place. The cost centre paperwork is then forwarded to Finance. Cost centre paperwork is only forwarded to Finance for activation once all certifications are in place.

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13 - Finance opens cost centre and sets signing authorities

Finance will activate the cost centre and funds will be available (if received) for the researcher’s use.

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14 - Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office uploads relevant governance documents to FRS

Once the cost centre is active, governance documents, including the contract, Institutional Signature Sheet, certification documentation, web links to the funder guidelines for financial management, etc. will be uploaded to the cost centre and available to anyone with signing or viewing access. If a reporting template is provided by the agency, this will also be uploaded for easy access. Note that access to the funds in the cost centre will be suspended if appropriate certifications, including renewals if required, are not obtained.

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15 - Cost centre orientation meeting

Once the cost centre is open and governance documents uploaded, the Research Services Manager meets with the researcher(s) and applicable budget personnel to review the cost centre, signing authorities, guidelines for eligible expenditures, ethics renewals, etc. An in-depth Financial Records System (FRS) orientation can be arranged if required.

Researchers are now able to hire their research personnel and initiate purchases with their grant funds.

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Updated: June 4, 2015