Award Acceptance: Review Award Terms and Conditions

All sponsored project awards contain terms and conditions; it is essential that the Research Administrator read, understand, and follow them.

Sponsored project agreements are typically categorized into these mechanisms: 

  1. grants
  2. cooperative agreements
  3. contracts

Over 70% of Stanford's sponsored projects are supported by grants. These agreements can be viewed as assistance and are significantly less restrictive than contracts, which may be thought of as procurements. The intent of the sponsor dictates which type of agreement is used. 

At one end of the spectrum is a grant, which is financial assistance to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation where typically the only deliverable is a final report. At the other end of the spectrum is a contract, which is intended for the purpose of acquiring goods and services for the direct benefit of use by the contractor.

All four agreements are legal documents with their own set of terms and conditions that stipulate obligations and responsibilities. 

Sponsored Award Agreement Types



An award of financial assistance bestowed to carry out a scope of work. The sponsor is a passive participant and has no substantial involvement in the work.

Cooperative Agreement

An award of financial assistance bestowed to carry out a scope of work, but differs from a grant in that sponsor has substantial involvement, or is a partner in the work.


Typically considered a procurement action. The sponsor is a buyer of goods and services for the direct benefit of the sponsor. The sponsor may act as technical overseer and may have substantial involvement. Contracts have firm timelines and deliverable requirements.  Sometimes, terms and conditions are identified prior to submitting a proposal, and confirmed prior to accepting a contract. Contracts can have various payment structures:

Cost Reimbursement Contracts: Provide for sponsor payment of the allowable, allocable, and reasonable costs of the project. They are designed to estimate total costs required for the work, and expenses are reimbursed as costs are incurred. Cost reimbursement contracts set a spending ceiling that the investigator may not exceed without additional funds being allotted by the sponsor’s contracting officer.

Firm Fixed Price Contracts: Establish an agreed-upon price for performing the work, as determined by Stanford’s proposed estimated costs and the program officer’s approval. Firm fixed price contracts do not provide for any cost adjustments, and place Stanford at maximum risk for assuming full responsibility for total project costs.

Industry Sponsored Clinical Trials: Funded by private industry to investigate the effects of drugs or devices on patients with specific clinical indications. They have FDA permissions to conduct the study for the purpose of acquiring the FDA’s approval of the drug or device itself. Typically paid for on a per-patient basis.

JPA (Joint Personnel Agreements): Cost Reimbursement Contracts in which the sponsor purchases services of specific Stanford University staff on research projects. It must be for research purposes. These are for salary only.


A contract to perform a specific scope of work that is a portion of an overall project that was awarded to another entity.  Subcontracts can be awarded on a cost-reimbursement or fixed-price basis and often includes our sponsor passing down the award terms from the ultimate source of funding, or the prime sponsor

Specialty Award Agreement Types Responsible Office (to sign)
Human Tissue/Clinical Material Agreement ICO (Industrial Contracts Office)
Clinical Material Agreement ICO
$0 Collaboration Agreements

ICO (industry)

OSR (non-industry)

Data Use Agreements

ICO industry

OSR (non-industry)

Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA)  OSR

JPA (Joint Personnel Agreement)

Confidentiality Agreement

(AKA Non-disclosure Agreement)

PI (agreement must be between a PI and a company)
MTA (Material Transfer Agreement) ICO
Human Tissue/Clinical Material Agreement ICO


Back to Top

About Terms and Condition

The terms and conditions are either attached to the award document or incorporated by reference. Most sponsors incorporate terms and conditions by reference, which may be found on the web by searching for the awarding agency. The Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) or your school-based management team can help you find and recognize terms and conditions for a sponsored project award.

It is critical that you read and understand the terms. Terms and conditions also flow down to sub recipients of contracts and grants (e.g., to subcontractors on Stanford awards), so be sure that they are also aware of their contractual obligations.

Terms and conditions often contain prior approval requirements, spending limitations and requirements for billing and reporting. They may also contain requirements for budget expenditures and unallowable costs. There may be requirements embedded for prior approvals by the sponsor before certain expenditures are allowed, for example, for foreign travel, food, or equipment. Some expenditures may be specifically identified as unallowable. They also contain requirements for the submission of various reports including the technical reports that need to be submitted by the PI.

Back to Top

Federal Terms and Conditions

Federal Grants

The Research Terms & Conditions only apply to Federal awards received before December 26, 2014 incorporating the requirements in OMB A-21 and A-110. 

The Research Terms & Conditions incorporate OMB Circular A-110 and make additions and clarifications to it, with the goal a core set of terms and conditions for research grants.

Federal agencies that support research grants may utilize a standard set of core administrative terms to the extent practicable. Review your sponsor award document to insure the award incorporates "Research Terms and Conditions." Although these terms and conditions are incorporated by most federal grant agencies, they are posted on the NSF website.

For those grant award incorporating the Federal Wide Research Terms and Conditions, prior approvals may be required.

View the Prior Approval Matrix  

Federal Contracts

The vision of the FAR System is to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the customer, while maintaining the public’s trust and fulfilling public policy objectives.

Clauses are either incorporated by full text or referenced by number in your contract. They are the terms and conditions of the contract. Review the list FAR clauses or contact OSR for help when working with Federal Contracts.

Travel on Federal Awards

Federal regulation and Stanford Policy require (with some exceptions) travelers who will be reimbursed by federally sponsored projects to use U.S. flag air carrier service. This is known as the "the Fly America Act”.

There is an exception to the rules of "the Fly America Act". The exception is called the  "Open Skies Agreement". The Open Skies Agreement allows travelers who will be reimbursed by federally sponsored projects to use European Union (plus Norway and Iceland), Australian, Japanese, or Swiss airlines.

The Open Skies Agreement does not apply if travel is funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) or by a department of the U.S. Military. Travel funded by the DOD or by a U.S. military department must be on a U.S. flag air carrier.

For more information go to Fingate: Fly America Act and Open Skies Exceptions.  From this page you can click on a destination for specifics on allowable conditions and air carriers.

For assistance on travel contact the Financial Support Center at 3-2772.

Back to Top

Review Terms and Conditions

Before accepting an award on behalf of the University, the institutional Official reviews all terms and conditions, regardless of the sponsor, and is responsible for negotiating appropriate remedies if an award fits into one of the following categories:

  • It contains provisions that are incompatible with the Stanford's policies on sponsored research
  • It is inconsistent with government-wide regulations for universities
  • It fails to include all elements agreed upon prior to the award
  • It requires modification to conform to the PI's needs

A hierarchy of policies and rules provides standards for handling financial transactions for federal contracts and grants. The rules are complex and detailed; always check the exact text of the rule or policy rather than relying on your general recollection. In looking at the hierarchy of regulations, University policy must always be followed. Terms and conditions take precedence over all. When the University accepts the terms and conditions of an award, we are bound regardless of whether they conflict with University policy.

Note: State of California awards often have very explicit restrictions on budgets; so be sure to review each of these award terms and conditions in detail!

In the case of all industry awards or other awards with non-standard patent, copyright, or licensing terms, the Industrial Contract Office must also approve the award terms. This approval is coordinated by your pre-award office.

Back to Top

Key Clauses May Be Negotiated

Typically negotiation is not required on a federal grant because the terms and conditions are prescribed, but in some cases, the following clauses may be subject to negotiation:

Publication Restrictions

Stanford policy prohibits the acceptance of any award that prohibits or restricts publication, access, or dissemination of research results or prevents Stanford from disclosing the existence of an agreement.


Stanford does not cover sponsor loss unless SU is negligent or exercises willful misconduct.


Stanford does not guarantee any research results.

Proprietary Information/Material

Stanford as an institution cannot agree to protect a sponsor’s proprietary information. An individual may enter into a non-disclosure agreement with a sponsor.


Stanford does not accept provisions which impose unlimited liabilities for Stanford.  Example: re-procurement provisions.

Intellectual Property

Stanford retains title to intellectual property.

Financial Viability

The financial viability of some commercial sponsors may not be readily apparent and must be researched prior to accepting an award.

Export Controls

Stanford's Openness in Research policy permits the acceptance of export controlled information only if foreign national members of the research group are able to continue to "participate in the intellectually significant portions of the project". Similarly Stanford will not accept research agreements whose results are subject to export controls.

Back to Top

Award Acceptance

Once the terms and conditions are agreed upon, the award is signed by the IO (Institutional Official) on behalf of Stanford University. In those instances where a Stanford signature is not required on the agreement (such as federal grant awards), acceptance of the terms is typically indicated when the expenditures on the award have taken place and/or the check is cashed or funds drawn from the government. For this reason, PTAs are not established until after there is notice from an IO that the agreement terms are acceptable. 

The notification of IO acceptance is the ANN (Award Acceptance Notification). Each agreement received by Stanford is recorded in the SeRA (Stanford Electronic Research Administration) system as an award transaction.  The award transaction captures key details regarding the agreement including general project level details, the amount funded, attachments including signed agreement documents, negotiations notes and key terms and conditions. These key elements are entered into the SeRA transaction by the IO who then approves the award transaction in SeRA. Once approved, the AAN is generated by the system and sent to the project stakeholders.

Back to Top