Uniform Guidance: NIH Interim Guidance Issued; Lack of Consistency Between Agencies Brings Concerns; and Subrecipient Monitoring will Bring Changes for All

General Update
Over the past month, several things have occurred related to Uniform Guidance.  NIH issued interim guidance (detailed below).  This did not bring many surprises but we are happy to have some areas covered in writing.  We are hoping that NIH’s final guidance and that the General Research Terms and Conditions will be issued soon.  OMB also provided us with the opportunity to provide feedback on Uniform Guidance.  Emory participated in both a letter from COGR to OMB as well as our own University response from Emory.  Emphasis was on the various concerns related to the Guidance including our concerns regarding the lack of consistency in application between agencies creating administrative challenges.  Both the COGR letter and Emory letter can be accessed at  https://oraws2.emory.edu/shared_web/secured_apps/cf_apps/osp_ogca_file_upload/  under OSP/OGCA Secure Documents.

NIH Interim Guidance:
NIH issued interim guidance in February.  These cost principles can be accessed at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/NIH%20Interim%20Grant%20General%20Conditions.pdf .  They apply to all NIH award instruments, award mechanisms, and special programs and authorities, including modular awards and awards issued under SNAP with one exception:  they do not apply to Kirchstein-NRSA individual fellowship awards.  Information regarding the allowable use of these funds remains in the most recent edition of the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

The interim guidance refers to four tests to determine the allowability of costs.  Three of the four are ones we are very familiar with:  Reasonableness (including necessity), Allocability, and Consistency.  The fourth is new:  Conformance.  Conformance refers to the need to conform with the limitations and exclusions as contained in the terms and conditions of an award (including those in the cost principles).  While the term is new to us, the concept is not and is something that we are very familiar with considering in our determinations of allowability.

The guidance does note that with the exception of the American University of Beirut and the World Health Organization (which are both eligible for full F&A cost reimbursement), F&A costs under grants to foreign and international organizations will be funded at 8 percent of modified total direct costs.

Expanded authorities are addressed in the interim guidance and did not bring any big changes or surprises from our past administration of NIH awards.  The specific authorities provided are listed in section 6.2 of the document.  They did waive the requirement for prior approval of the direct charge of the salaries of administrative and clerical staff (if they meet the conditions outlined in Uniform Guidance which detail the need for the effort to be “integral” to the research project – beyond the administrative effort that is commonly required).  As previously noted, at Emory, the level of administrative effort charged to a project must be meet all of the allowability requirements outlined by the sponsor and be 20% or more of total effort.

The Interim Guidance also stated that the final FFR, final progress report, and Final Invention Statement and Certification will be required within 120 days of the end of grant support.  The reports become overdue at 121 days.

The document contains other guidance on types of costs and other areas of information.  Everyone responsible for the administration of NIH awards should take a few moments to review the document so that they are familiar with what is covered.   We are hopeful that NIH will issue their final guidance within the upcoming weeks.

Concerns Regarding Consistency:
Some of the largest concerns regarding the implementation of Uniform Guidance are related to the lack of consistency in application between sponsors.  This includes the different strategies as to what funding will be covered by Uniform Guidance (discussed in January’s newsletter article).  Another area that has brought concern is Conflict of Interest.  Uniform Guidance requires that each agency have a Conflict of Interest policy but does not put parameters around what these policies can state.  EPA has announced their policy and it goes beyond what our current requirements are for COI.  We are developing an alternate approach for EPA COI.  Because we expect other agencies to issue their policies in the near future and we are hopeful that eventually, there will be an effort to streamline and clarify the requirements, we will be handling some of these requirements via paper forms (until we have clear and broad requirements from the agencies).  With additional changes anticipated, we want to understand the full requirements before any Emory systems are modified to support the changes.   At this point, the only agency where we need to follow alternate procedures is EPA.   Anyone who is submitting an EPA proposal should contact OSP for further guidance.

Subrecipient Monitoring:
Uniform Guidance brings some significant changes for how we handle the monitoring of our subrecipients.  We have updated our subaward templates to the degree possible with what we do know and we are currently refining our procedures to ensure they meet the new requirements.  We are making every effort to ensure that all new and existing business processes are as streamlined as possible but there will be further effort required by both a local administrators and OSP/OGCA staff.  More information on these changes will be communicated in March.

Next Steps:
The ERAZ presentation on Uniform Guidance that was provided on February 3 at 2:00 is available online and can be accessed at http://elmprod.emory.edu. (Search ERAZ and click All.)  We will be also be providing podcasts with updates on information and responses to questions.  The first one will be issued by mid-March following the COGR Meeting.  A manual is currently in process as is a quick guide for researchers.  These will be issued late in March or early in April.  We are hoping to have some additional guidance from NIH as well as the Research Terms and Conditions prior to issuing these.  We do expect these documents to require updates over the next few months as additional guidance is provided.  The proposal guide continues to be available and can be accessed at http://osp.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 OSP-OGCA-EDCOMMS@listserv.cc.emory.edu.

Submitted By: Kerry Peluso, Associate Vice President, Research Administration 

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