The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago

Local Business Center, Division of the Physical Sciences


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. Who can assist me with grant preparation?
A. Your Financial Administrator in the PSD Local Business Center.

Q. Where can I find information on policies and procedures for grant submission and management?
A. Please visit the University Research Administration (URA) website for information related to grant submission and management.

Q. What is the deadline for submittting a proposal to University Research Administration (URA)?
A. In order for proposals to receive a full review prior to submission, the hard copy of the proposal is due to URA at least 5 full business days in advance of the electronic submission deadline. For all electronic submissions, final ready-to-submit proposals are due in URA no later than noon the business day before the sponsor deadline (this includes the final version of the project narrative).

Q. Does the Principal Investigator have to have effort on a research grant?
A. Yes, the University must adhere to Office of Management and Budget Circular A21 requirement that faculty have some committed effort on research grants.

Q. What are F&A rates?
A. F&A stands for Facilities and Administration, also known as Indirect Costs. F&A rates reimburse the University for expenses associated with but not directly charged to sponsored programs. F&A rates are also known as indirect cost rates. Rates vary by sponsor, time period, award type, award location, and, within awards, expense type.

Q. When can I start spending the awarded funds?
A. You may begin spending after you have reviewed the award document, checked your budget, and received the grant’s account number from the Financal Accounting System (FAS).

Q. Can I extend the period of my grant?
A. In most instances, the grant’s project period can be extended without additional funds. If the grant is included under Federal Demonstration Partnership; then the appropriate administrative official need only notify the agency that the grant will be exteneded. Keep in mind that we can only do this within a certain time period; requests after the deadline require agency approval. Contact your Financial Administrator if you anticipate needing additional time to finish your work.

Q.What if I need more money?
A. Budget supplements may be allowed, depending on the priority of the project and the availability of funds. Contact the Program Officer responsible for your grant to discuss the availability of a budget supplement.

Q. What is an annual effort certification statement?
A. Annual effort certification is a mandatory accounting of effort spent on sponsored projects and other activities by monthly employees. Federal funding depends on proper certification, so the University and the Division take this obligation seriously.

Certification statements are distributed in late November. The effort period being certified is the University’s fiscal year, July 1 through June 30, and so does not coincide with most grant budget periods. Certification figures refer to effort, not hours. Effort figures may fail to correspond to your expectations for other reasons as well.

Review your statements. If acceptable, sign them and return them to your Financial Administrator by the stated deadline. If in doubt, talk right away to your Financial Administator.

If you receive certification statements for employees who are not yours, or who did not work on your grants, return them without delay to the Financial Administrator.

If you leave the University, expect to certify effort for people paid from your grants. Make sure your Financial Administrator knows how to contact you after your departure. You committed to this obligation when you accepted the external funding.

Q. What is a closing memo?
A. A closing memo is an internal request to our Sponsored Award Accounting Department to submit information and documents needed to close the award. Closing memos are submitted by your Financial Administrator.

Q. What is my responsibility for my funds?
A. Professors, principal investigators, and other “account owners” who direct personal commitments, grants, departmental funds, or other resources are responsible for the use of these University funds. This responsibility has two main parts.

First, those who direct the use of University funds ensure that a tranaction placed against a University account is appropriate to that account. An expense is appropriate if it advances the purpose for which the account exists. An account’s purpose is generally known from its name. Second, those who direct the use of University funds exercise spending control. Spending authority is reflected in original and revised budget data contained in the Financial Accounting System (FAS). Obtain additional authority before you exceed the budget.

Financial Administrators and other divisional personnel manage accounts and provide considerable assistance to professors, chairs, and other account owners. But ultimately, account owners are responsible for the use of the University funds placed in their care.

Q.How do I monitor expenses and funds balances?
A. Reporting varies widely by number and source of funding, budget and transaction complexity, project complexity, system abilities, and personal preferences. Discuss reporting with your Financial Administrator—-have this conversation before spending begins.

Departments and other units and individual faculty members serving as principal investigators on grants or directing the use of other funds may receive accounting reports generated directly from the University’s Financial Accounting System (FAS). Again, talk to your Financial Administrator.

Q.What is an account projection and how can I get one?
A. A projection estimates an account balance at some future point, generally the budget period end date. Accounts can be projected in a variety of ways. No one way is appropriate in all cases. Your Financial Administrator assists with all aspects of budgeting, spending, reporting, and projecting.

Q.How do I fix mistakes on my accounts?
A. Bring questionable transactions to the attention of your Financial Administrator right away so that she or he can resolve discrepancies or errors.

Q.Am I authorized to sign off on any expenses to my account?
A. No. All payments, reimbursements, and contracts including those within the University must be processed by the LBC and approved by your Financial Administrator.

Q. What if I overspend an account? Does it matter if additional funds are coming in the next budget period?
A. Spending control is one of your main responsibilities. That said, some agencies allow spending prior to the new budget period. Before spending, check with your Financial Administrator.

Visa Costs

Allowable direct cost as part of recruiting costs on an NIH grant, as long as the institution has an employee/employer relationship with the individual. It is the responsibility of the institution to monitor the status of the individual's visa and ensure they have sufficient time to fulfill the obligations of the research they are being paid for on the grant. However, if the person is already an employee and the cost in question is a visa renewal then this isn't a recruiting cost so the cost would not be an allowable charge to a grant. Expedited processing fees are generally unallowable unless and until they become part of standard processing fees. Fraud fees are allowable if they are required fees. Department of Homeland Security SEVIS Form I-901 is a required fee and is allowable. See also Recruitment Costs in this exhibit.


Allowable for purchase of new, used, or replacement equipment as a direct cost or as part of F&A costs, depending on the intended use of the equipment. NIH prior approval may be required as specified in Administrative Requirements—Changes in Project and Budget.

Office equipment (copiers, laptops, desktop computers, personal handheld computers, fax machines, scanners, etc.) that is used for general office purposes (rather than justified as a specific research purpose) are not allowable as direct costs; they are allowable as an F&A cost.

Funds provided under a conference grant may not be used to purchase equipment.

For policies governing the classification, use, management, and disposition of equipment, see Administrative Requirements—Management Systems and Procedures—Property Management System Standards. For policies governing the allowability of costs for rental equipment, see Rental or Lease of Facilities and Equipment in this exhibit.

George Herbert Jones Laboratory

PSD LBC Main Office

Jones Laboratory: 5555 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637

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Eckhart Hall

PSD LBC Satellite Office

Eckhart Hall: 5734 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637

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Gordon Center for Integrative Science

Chemistry Business Center

Gordon Center for Integrative Science: 929 E 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Click to enlarge