Office of
Sponsored Programs

Questionable Sponsors

GENERAL

Purpose

The following information is provided to the research community to clarify the university's position and on a research-related issue.  This information concerns business decisions that safeguard the financial environment associated with sponsored research and reflect best business practices.  

Administration

The Office of Sponsored Programs is responsible for maintenance and review of the SHARPI, with input from and in conjunction with the division of Finance.

GENERAL DISCUSSION AND INFORMATION

Occasionally, relationships are established with sponsors that become problematic or even totally unsustainable. The reason(s) for such a deterioration can happen for many reasons, i.e., the sponsor may fail to remit payment in a timely manner; the sponsor may attempt to change the terms and conditions of the award after negotiations are concluded; the sponsor may attempt to exert undue influence on the research outcomes; or the sponsor may be involved in questionable practices that are, or could be perceived to be, a circumstance of research misconduct or a conflict of interest.   Any faculty, college, or department personnel suspecting actions (see first sentence of this section) that might cause OSP to regard continued interaction with the organization as collaboration with a "Questionable Sponsor" should immediately contact the Executive Director of OSP.  

PROCESS

If, after review and analysis and guided by the OSP Desk Procedure entitled "Questionable Sponsors," the sponsor is deemed likely to be questionable, they will be indicated as such and subject to the following OSP process:

PREAWARD:

The Pre Award / Faculty Support Center will review the “Questionable Sponsor’ folder that resides on the OSP shared-drive, specifically, the “Questionable Sponsor List” when processing any proposal to a sponsor that is unfamiliar or is not a federal agency.  To that end the following will be done:

  • If the sponsor is shown on the “Questionable Sponsor List,” the OSP Executive Director will be contacted immediately before proceeding with the proposal

  • If processing lead time does not allow for contact with the OSP Executive Director; or advice is not available for any reason, the Director of Preaward will make the decision on whether to proceed.  If the proposal is submitted under these circumstances, at a minimum, an email will be sent o the Stevens PI advising him/her that:

“The proposal is being submitted to a Questionable Sponsor with a noted history that, in the past, has been a cause for concern.  Because inadequate time was allowed for a complete review of the proposal that normally includes consultation with the OSP Executive Director when processing a proposal to a sponsor thus identified; you are advised that the proposal may be administratively withdrawn if further discussion does not support the submission.”

  • The Proposal Routing Form will be notated and prominently marked for the OSP Postaward Specialist, should an award be forthcoming

The designation of ‘questionable sponsor’ indicates a previous circumstance that has been problematic in some way.  If the difficulty was fiscal in nature, there is an increased likelihood that OSP would negotiate extremely conservative, or cautious, remittance terms, i.e., advance payments, or possible combinations of advance pay and cost reimbursable.