Uniform Guidance: New Information Brings Some Good News and More Questions…

Uniform Guidance:  New Information Brings Some Good News and More Questions…

Over the past month, additional information regarding the implementation of Uniform Guidance has been provided (verbally) by federal representatives at the FDP (Federal Demonstration Partnership) Meeting.  While some information shared was very positive, other information adds complexity to how we will need to administer federal awards.  Since much of the guidance and information we need regarding federal guidelines has not been issued, many questions still remain.

First thing that everyone should understand is that Uniform Guidance is written to the federal agencies.  It provides them with guidance on what they can require of those who are awarded federal funds.  The federal agencies use Uniform Guidance to develop their Research Terms and Conditions (that Emory, as an awardee, needs to comply with) and each individual agency’s specific guidelines.  While Uniform Guidance was implemented on 12/26/14, the related Research Terms and Conditions and most agency guidelines have not yet been made available.   As previously announced, NSF has issued their agency guidelines.

Research Terms and Conditions:
There are federal working groups currently drafting the Revised Research Terms and Conditions (RTC).  One working group includes a limited number of federal agencies for which these terms and conditions will apply.  This includes NIH, NSF, Dept of Ag-NIFA, DOC/NIST, DOC/NOAA, DOE, DOT/FAA, EPA and NASA.  This group stated that the best estimate of when their RTC will be available is in 3 to 4 months.

**NIH said that they expect to issue interim research terms and conditions within approximately two weeks (these will only apply to NIH).   Please note that DOD (or any agencies under them such as ONR, AFOSR, etc.) is not included in this group.  DOD has stated that they will issue separate Research Terms and Conditions which means that awards from DOD will be subject to different terms than most of the other federal awards we receive.  They have not provided a date as to when they expect to issue their RTC.

The Research Terms and Conditions (that will be provided by the group including NSF and NIH) will be an “overlay” of Uniform Guidance and will allow each agency to set their own guidelines under these terms and conditions.  They chose the word “overlay” to emphasize that they will not re-quote Uniform Guidance.   The RTC will include three sections – National Policy Requirements, Subaward Matrix and Prior Approval Matrix.  These will provide us with answers to questions such as when is prior approval required, what are the requirements for subawards, and various other requirements.  Please note that requirements may vary by agency.

One of the important questions that RTC will include is how Uniform Guidance will be applied to future funding.  DOD verbally discussed how they plan to apply Uniform Guidance to funding.  While NIH and NSF have stated that they will apply the new rules to any funding obligated on or after 12/26/14 (including amendments and continuations), DOD has now stated that they will apply Uniform Guidance based upon the original award date.  Thus funds issued on or after 12/26/2014 will be under Uniform Guidance only if it is part of a new award that was issued on or after that date.

For example:

Year 1 issued 2/1/14 (funds are subject to A21 and A110)
Year 2 issued 2/1/15 (funds are subject to Uniform Guidance)

Award A issued 2/1/14 (funds are subject to A21 and A110)
Amendment to Award A with additional funding issued on 2/1/15 (funds are subject to A21 and A110)
Award B (different, new award) issued 2/1/15 (funds are subject to Uniform Guidance)

Please note that we have not received written Research Terms and Conditions from any of these agencies.  (Above does reflect what NSF communicated in their written guidelines.)  Since we only have verbal communications for some areas, we are providing this guidance but it is important to note that this is subject to change pending further written guidance from the federal agencies.

Another example of the current confusion we currently work under is: Uniform Guidance states that prior approval is required to direct charge admin salaries (either by inclusion in the original approved budget or seeking agency approval later).  Agencies may, within RTC, waive that requirement.  However, until we receive written guidance from the federal agency, we need to comply with the stricter requirements of Uniform Guidance and seek guidance in these cases.

Good News:

As a note, NIH did announce that they plan to revise their reporting requirements form 90 days to allow a 120 day closeout (as NSF already has).  With the upcoming HHS Payment Management System transition, this will greatly assist us in meeting these requirements.  This was stated that it will be for technical and financial final reports.

Next Steps:

A comprehensive presentation on Uniform Guidance will be provided on February 3 at 2:00 in Whitehead Auditorium.  This presentation will be recorded and later be made available online.  Following this, we will be providing podcasts with updates on information and responses to questions.  A manual is currently in process as is a quick guide for researchers.  This will most likely be issued prior to the receipt of final guidance from the agencies.  However, we are hoping to have some additional guidance from NIH prior to issuing these.  We expect to issue these sometime in February or early March.  In the interim, please refer to the proposal guide which can be accessed at http://ogca.emory.edu/documents/ugep/ug_proposal_guide_11_25_14.pdf.

***It is important to keep in mind that a very small amount of the awards we currently have at Emory are subject to Uniform Guidance.   Most of the active awards at Emory continue to be subject to A21, A110 and A133.  So while we do not have full guidance from the federal agencies, most of the terms of our active awards have not changed.  If you do have a question regarding the application of Uniform Guidance, please contact your OSP or OGCA representative or submit your question at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/143ShXFAJpBGUDPwO58Y-iHte_ZdfVldLP63DN2hqMSE/viewform?usp=send_form.


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