Glossary of Research Terms

Clinical research
Common acronyms (from Applied Clinical Trials)
Clinical trials terminology (from Applied Clinical Trials)

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General research glossary
A-110.  “Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations,” an OMB circular covering the award of grants and contracts, post-award requirements, and property standards.

A-133“Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations,” an OMB circular setting standards for obtaining consistency and uniformity among federal agencies for the audit of recipients of federal awards.

A-21.  “Cost Principles for Educational Institutions,” an OMB circular describing financial management procedures relevant to federal agreements with academic institutions and represent the “Cost Accounting Standards” for federal awards.

AAALACAmerican Association for the Accreditation of Lab Animal Care:  an organization that accredits research animal facilities.

Advance spending.  Authorization to expend funds on a project prior to receipt of the sponsor’s notice of award, e.g., to hire staff and purchase materials required to perform the scope of work.

Agency.  Synonym for “sponsor.”

Allowable costs.  Costs that may be charged to a grant, such as salaries and equipment, that meet the requirements of being reasonable, allocable to the project, and treated consistently at the institution, and not excluded by Circular A-21.

Audit.  A formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts, financial situation, or compliance with applicable terms, laws, and regulations.

Authorized signature.  Signature of the person authorized to commit funds and facilities on grants and contracts.

AUTMAssociation of University Technology Managers.  Its mission is “to promote, support and improve academic technology transfer worldwide and demonstrate its benefits globally through education, advocacy, networking and communication.”

Award.  Funds provided by a sponsor to support a particular project.

Bequest.  An award given with few or no conditions specified, for instance to establish an endowment or to provide direct support for existing programs.

Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).  An announcement describing a federal agency’s general research interest, soliciting proposals, and specifying the criteria for selecting proposals.

Budget.  The detailed estimate of the expenditures to be made under a project’s scope of work.

Budget category.  A section of the budget that includes a defined type of expenditure (e.g., salaries, fringe benefits, travel, patient costs).

Budget justification.  A description of the individual cost elements that together comprise the budget and the estimation methods used in costing the project.

Budget period.  The interval of time into which the project period is divided for budgetary and funding purposes:  generally one year.

CAS.  See Cost Accounting Standards

CDCCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (DHHS)

CFDACatalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, a listing of all programs available to state and local governments, organizations, individuals, etc.

CFRCode of Federal Regulations:  general and permanent rules established by the Executive branch of the Federal Government.

Change order.  A written order signed by the contracting officer, modifying contract clauses or scope of work without the consent of the contractor.

Classified research.  Research sponsored by the federal government involving restrictions on the distribution or publication of the research findings or results following completion.

Close-out.  Completion of internal procedures and sponsor requirements to terminate or complete a research project.

Cognizant audit agency.  The federal office that is designated to perform audits for sponsored projects at a university (at UVA, the Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]).

COGR.  Council on Governmental Relations, an association of colleges and universities that advise the government on the impact of its regulations on their business practices.

Competing proposal.  A proposal (1) submitted for the first time, (2) that was unfunded but is being re-submitted, or (3) for an ongoing project after the term of the original award expired.

Compliances and certifications.  Federal and state rules and requirements concerning the responsible handling of research involving human subjects, vertebrate animal care, and hazardous substances, as well as other legal issues (such as conflict of interest, drug-free workplace, etc.). Administrative officers of an institution must regularly certify, by their signature, compliance with these rules and regulations; individual investigators must comply with institutional requirements and must sign to that effect on the proposal cover sheet.

Confidentiality agreement.  A legal agreement preventing one or both party from disclosing confidential information belonging to the other party.  Also called a nondisclosure agreement.

Conflict of commitment.  Any situation in which non-university activities are sufficiently demanding of time and attention that they interfere with assigned duties or with responsibilities to students or the university.

Conflict of interest.  Situations in which employees use their positions for purposes that are, or give the appearance of being, motivated by a desire for private gain for themselves or others, such as those with whom they have family, business or other ties.

Consideration.  Anything of value that changes hands between the parties of contract.

Consortium agreement.  A document formalizing the terms and conditions under which a group of collaborative investigators (i.e., a consortium) at different institutions collaborate on a project.

Consultant.  An individual whose expertise is required by the PI to perform the research project. Consultant may be a paid or unpaid.

Continuation project (non-competing).  A subsequent award on a project after the previous budget period has expired, on multi-year projects.  These do not compete with other proposals:  rather, satisfactory progress is assessed in determining whether to provide the next period’s funding.

Contract.  Agreement to provide services that primarily benefit the sponsor. For an award to be considered a contract, it normally must contain all of the following: detailed financial and legal requirements; specific statement of work to be performed; deliverables and/or reports required by the sponsor; accounting procedures to be followed; legally binding contract clauses.

Contract/grant officer.  A sponsor’s designee who is responsible for the business management aspects of an award.  In general, this individual works with the project (scientific) officer.

Cooperative Agreement.  An award involving greater agency involvement than a grant, during proposal preparation or in carrying out the scope of work.

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI).  An investigator sharing responsibility for the direction of a research program. PHS/NIH does not recognize the concept of co-principal investigator, but does recognize multiple-PI projects.

Copyright.  A government grant of exclusivity in reproduction and sale of creative (e.g., literary, artistic, computer programs) inventions.

Cost Accounting Standards (CAS).  Federally mandated accounting standards intended to ensure uniformity in budgeting and spending funds.

Cost-reimbursement contract/grant.  A contract or grant for which the sponsor reimburses the actual allowable costs incurred during the conduct of the work.

Cost-sharing.  University and nonfederal sponsor resources provided in support of sponsored programs; includes contributed effort and matching funds.  Cost-sharing contributions must meet the following criteria:  verifiability in University records; contributions are allowable, allocable, reasonable, and necessary to accomplish the scope of work; shared costs are not also used for other projects; and shared costs are identifiable in the proposal budget or justification.

Cover sheet.  The first page of a proposal, often in a format supplied by an agency, showing summary data on the proposal and PI, plus all required compliance check-offs

CRADA or CRDA.  Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.  A document allowing government investigators to collaborate with non-government scientists on common research projects.

CSR.  Center for Scientific Review (National Institutes of Health).  

DARPA.  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central R&D arm of the Department of Defense.

Data.  Recorded information, regardless of form or characteristic, describing the design or resulting from a scientific project.

Defense Acquisition Regulations (DAR).  The regulations governing research projects sponsored by the Department of Defense.

Deficit.  Expenditures exceeding available funds.

Deliverable.  Items to be delivered to the sponsor, generally as required by contracts.  These might include technical reports, reagents, computer programs, etc.

DFARS.  Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement

DHHS.  Department of Health and Human Services

Direct costs.  Costs that are identified specifically with a sponsored project, such as salaries/fringe benefits, supplies, equipment, etc.

DOD.  Department of Defense (includes Air Force, Army, ARPA, and Navy)

Donation.  Transfer of equipment, money, goods, services, and property, much like a gift except often with more specific intent than the latter.

DRG.  Division of Research Grants (National Institutes of Health)

EDISON.  Interagency Extramural Invention Information Management System (for reporting of inventions created under federal funding)

Effort.  The amount of time (usually a percent of total professional effort) that individual expends on a project.

Effort report.  Periodic report of the time (as a percent of total) expended by an employee on sponsored projects and other professional activities.  The employee must sign the effort report, as required by law.

Effort, contributed.  Effort expended on a sponsored project that the sponsor does not compensate for; a form of cost sharing.

Encumbrance.  Funds set aside for a projected expense prior to their actual expenditure.

Endowment.  An income-generating fund usually provided as a gift in order to generate long-term support for faculty positions or research activities.

Equipment.  Property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of more than $5,000 per unit on federal grants (exclusive of taxes and shipping).

Equipment, general purpose.  Equipment that can be utilized for activities other than the specific scope of work supported by a grant or contract (e.g., office equipment and furniture, computers, and photocopiers).

Equipment, government-furnished,  Equipment provided to the university by the federal government or a government contractor; title may or may not remain with the government.

Equipment, special purpose.  Equipment that can be utilized only for research, medical, scientific, or technical activities.

Expanded authorities.  A policy of some federal granting agencies, which delegate prior approval authorities to awardees.

Expiration date.  The end of the performance period for a sponsored award.

Extension.  A delay of the expiration date by the sponsor to the awardee in order to complete the scope of work.  These generally are no-cost (no additional funds provided by the sponsor).

Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs.  Also referred to as indirect costs, overhead, or administrative costs. These are incurred to conduct normal business activities of the organization receiving support that cannot be readily identified or directly charged to a particular project or activity (e.g., library, depreciation of facilities, heat).

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).  The policies and procedures for acquisition by federal executive agencies.

FDA.  Food and Drug Administration

FDP.  A cooperative effort among several 10 federal agencies to reduce the administrative burdens associated with research grants and contracts.

Federal Commons.  An on-line grants management system offering grants processing to awardees.  Includes funding opportunities, proposal submission, and award management modules.

Fellowship.  An award directly to an individual rather than an institution.

FIC.  Fogarty International Center (NIH)

Final report.  The technical or financial report required by the sponsor to complete a research project.

Fiscal Year (FY).  The period for which annual accounts are kept (UVA:  July 1 through June 30; federal government:  October 1 through September 30).

Fixed-price contract/grant.  A contract or grant for which payment is based on a predetermined price, regardless of actual costs.

FOIA.  Freedom of Information Act

Fringe benefits.  Employee benefits paid by the employer. (e.g., FICA, workers’ compensation, medical insurance).  UVA has a negotiated fringe benefits rate with the federal government.

Funding cycle.  Periodic deadlines and review and award dates, which may occur either cyclically or throughout the year.

GCP.  Good Clinical Practices.

Gift.  Awards given with no restrictions specified. Gifts allow the recipient can manage their use, are not associated with deliverables, and are not overseen by the donor.

GLP.  Good Laboratory Practices.

GMP.  Good Manufacturing Practices.

Goldenrod.  UVA’s internal proposal routing form documenting PI assurances and institutional approval.

Governing law.  UVA, as a Virginia state agency, cannot accept a contract governed by the laws of another state or other jurisdiction:  contracts must be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or silent on the governing law.

Grant.  A type of financial assistance awarded to an organization for the conduct of research or other program as specified in an approved proposal. A grant, as opposed to a cooperative agreement, is used whenever the agency anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement during the performance of the activities.

Grant/Contract Officer.  A sponsor’s designee who is responsible for the business management aspects of an award.  In general, this individual works with the project (scientific) officer.

Grantee.  The recipient of a grant.

GSA.  General Services Administration

IACUC (Animal Care and Use Committee).  An institutional  committee that reviews and approves the use of animal subjects in all research projects. It also oversees institutional animal facilities.

IBC.  Institutional Biosafety Committee

IDC.  Indirect Costs (= F&A costs)

Incremental funding.  A method of funding contracts that by the agency provides specific spending limits below the total estimated cost of the project. These interim limits may be exceeded at the contractor’s own risk.

Indemnification.  An agreement to hold harmless the other party in a contract, from legal actions or claims for damages. State agencies such as UVA cannot indemnify other parties, but can offer insurance clauses.

Indirect cost rate.  The rate established by negotiation with the cognizant federal agency (DHHS for UVA) on the basis of the institution’s projected costs for the year and distributed as prescribed in OMB Circular A-21.  Various rates exist for sponsored research, service, other projects, and on- vs. off-site activities.

Indirect costs.  Also referred to as facilities and administrative costs, overhead, or administrative costs. These are incurred to conduct normal business activities of the organization receiving support that cannot be readily identified or directly charged to a particular project or activity (e.g., library, depreciation of facilities, heating).

In-kind.  Contributions other than money, such as equipment, materials, or services of recognized value.

Institutional Authorized Official.  An individuals authorized by the Board of Regents to sign grants, contracts, and agreements on behalf of The University of Virginia.

Intellectual property (IP).  Creations of the mind that include inventions, know-how, copyrightable works, or creative or artistic works. Intellectual property may be protected legally via patents, copyrights, and so on, or protected as trade secrets.

Invention.  A process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or design, or any new or useful improvement thereof, and any variety of plant which is or may be patentable under the laws of the United States or any other country.

Investigator-initiated proposal.  A submitted proposal that is not in response to an RFP or RFA.

Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA).  A mechanism by which state employees may be assigned to work for a federal agency, or vice-versa, while remaining on the payroll of the “home” agency. Often used for a temporary assignment of a faculty member to a federal agency, with the faculty retaining his/her university benefits.

IRB.  Institutional Review Board (charged with ethical review and oversight of human subjects research).

Key personnel.  The personnel considered to be of primary importance to the successful conduct of a research project. The term usually refers to doctoral-level contributors, but may also include other individuals with specialized expertise.  In contracts, replacement of key personnel may require approval of the funding agency.

Letter of intent.  A document advising a funding agency that an application will be submitted in response to a specific solicitation. These letters often are used to guide the creation of a peer review committee.

Limitation of cost (LOC).  A mandatory clause for cost-reimbursement type contracts stating that the sponsor is not obligated to reimburse the contractor for costs in excess of the stated amount. Similarly, the contractor is not obligated to continue performance once expenses reach the stated amount.

Line item budget.  A budget that lists the cost of individual project personnel and itemizes the costs for all other budgeted categories such as travel, supplies, equipment, etc. Also known as a detailed budget.

Lobbying certification.  An assurance that no federal funds have been used to influence federal officials in the award of a grant or contract.

Matching funds.  Funds obligated by the institution that are required by the granting or contracting agency.

Matching grant.  A grant requiring that a portion of the cost be obtained from other sources.

Materials transfer agreement.  A legally binding document in which one party releases a proprietary reagent, organism, or other item to another party for the purposes of research. It defines the field of use by the recipient and describes the intellectual property rights of sending and receiving parties.

Misconduct in science.  Fabrication, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

Modification.  A document changing an existing award, such as approvals to carry over funds among project periods, changes in funding levels or in key personnel, etc.

Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC).  For federal awards, these are a subset of direct costs, normally excluding equipment, patient care, space rental, alterations and renovations, and subcontract costs in excess of the first $25,000.  These are the base on which F&A (indirect) costs are calculated.

NACUBO.  National Association of College and University Business Officers

NASA.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NCI.  National Cancer Institute (NIH)

NCRR.  National Center for Research Resources (NIH)

NCURA.  National Council of University Research Administrators

NEI.  National Eye Institute (NIH)

New award.  A grant, cooperative agreement, or contract that had not previously been awarded.

New proposal.  Proposals that are submitted to a particular sponsor for the first time.

NHGRI.  National Human Genome Research Institute (NIH)

NHLBI.  National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH)

NIA.  National Institute on Aging (NIH)

NIAAA.  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH)

NIAID.  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH)

NIAMS.  National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH)

NICHD.  National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH)

NIDA.  National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

NIDCD.  National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIH)

NIDDK.  National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH)

NIDR.  National Institute of Dental Research (NIH)

NIEHS.  National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH)

NIGMS.  National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH)

NIH.  National Institutes of Health

NIMH.  National Institute of Mental Health (NIH)

NINDS.  National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH)

NINR.  National Institute for Nursing Research (NIH)

NLM.  National Library of Medicine

No-cost extension.  An extension of the period of performance beyond the expiration data to accomplish the scope of work.  By definition, no additional costs are provided.

Non-competing continuation.  A report on project progress that requests continuation funding for the next portion of the project period.

Non-compliance.  Failure to adhere to applicable regulations, policies, procedures or special conditions related to the conduct of research. These might include unapproved changes in project work scope, use of animals without IACUC approval, and breaches of clinical protocol methodology.

Nondisclosure agreement.  A legal agreement preventing one or both party from disclosing confidential information belonging to the other party.  Also called a confidentiality agreement.

Notice of grant award.  Also called “Notice of award.”  The legally binding document that serves as a notification to the recipient that a grant or cooperative agreement has been made.  The document lists or references the terms of the award and obligates sponsor funds.

NSF.  National Science Foundation

Off-campus.  Sponsored activities, less than 50% of which are conducted on university property or which charge rent to the project as a direct cost.

OHRP.  Office for Human Research Protections (DHHS).  This unit oversees DHHS Regulations for the Protection of Human Subjects (45 CFR 46), and offers guidance on ethical issues in biomedical and behavioral research.

OMB.  Office of Management and Budget.  OMB establishes government grants management policies and guidelines through circulars and common rules.

OMB circulars.  See A-21, A-110, and A-133 above.

On-campus (also on-site).  Sponsored activities conducted on university property.  In general, when over 50% of such activity takes place within the University, the on-campus F&A rate will be applied to the project.

ONR.  Office of Naval Research

ORI.  Office of Research Integrity (in DHHS).  This office promotes research integrity in projects supported by the PHS, monitors institutional investigations of research misconduct, and facilitates the responsible conduct of research (RCR) through educational, preventive, and regulatory activities.

Patent.  A government grant of the right to stop others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling an invention.

Patent infringement.  Violation of the rights covered by a patent.

Patent prosecution.  Filing of a patent application and the subsequent actions required in order to obtain a granted patent and the maintenance thereof after the award.

Peer review.  A process by which committees of researchers from several institutions review and recommend applications to the funding agency.

Per diem.  A daily allowance paid to personnel working on a sponsored project to cover meals and lodging while traveling.

PHS.  Public Health Service

PHS 2590.  Application for Continuation of a PHS Grant (National Institutes of Health )

PHS 398.  Application Form for a PHS Grant (NIH, in the process of being replaced by the SF 424).

PRDA.  Program Research and Development Announcement:  a competitive solicitation for research, development, and related projects in a specified area of interest.

Pre-proposal.  A preliminary proposal of a research project and its estimated budget.  Successful PIs are asked by the sponsor to submit full proposals.

Principal Investigator (PI).  The individual responsible for the conduct of research or other activity described in a proposal for an award.  The PI has primary responsibility for technical compliance, completion of programmatic work, and fiscal stewardship of sponsor funds.

Prior approval.  The requirement for written sponsor permission for changes in the scope of work, key personnel, use of funds for a project, etc., beyond the original proposal/approval.

Priority score.  A numerical value representing the rating given a proposal by a review committee. Grants are ordered on the basis of their priority scores in order for funding decisions to be made.

Program Announcement.  Notification of a research opportunity that will be available for several years.  Renewed in 3 years at NIH.

Program income.  Gross income earned by the recipient for activities supported by an award.

Program/Project Officer.  A sponsor’s technical officially overseeing an award.  This person works with the Principal Investigator of the awardee and with the sponsor’s grant/contract officer in overseeing the project.

Progress report.  A periodic summary of research progress required by the sponsor.

Project period.  The total time for which support of a project has been approved by the sponsor.

Proposal.  An application for funding including the technical description of the project, personnel, available resources, and funds requested.

Proprietary research.  Sponsored research involving restrictions placed by the sponsor on the distribution or publication of the research findings.

Rebudget.  The movement of funds from one budget category to another.  May require approval of the sponsor’s grant/contract officer.

Regulations.  The contractual rules and procedures governing sponsored research projects.

Renewal.  A competitively reviewed grant and cooperative agreement proposal requesting additional funds extending the scope of work and project period.

Representations and certifications (Reps & Certs).  Statements of policies, practices, and commitments (e.g., conflict of interest, misconduct in science, debarment/suspension, delinquent federal debt, drug-free workplace, assurances on lobbying) which must be signed as part of some proposals, and especially for federal contract proposals.

Request for Applications (RFA).  Focused programmatic announcement of a grant opportunity, for a topic of specific interest to a sponsor.  Usually a one-time solicitation, as opposed to a program announcement.

Request for Proposal (RFP).  Announcement of a contract opportunity that specifies the anticipated area of research, methods to be used, deliverables, and characteristics of allowable applicants (e.g., small business concerns).

Research.  Systematic investigation aimed at the discovery, interpretation, or revision of facts or accepted theories or to make practical applications with the help of such knowledge.

Research, applied.  The systemic, intensive study directed toward producing results that are applicable to a particular problem.

Research, basic.  A systemic, intensive study designed to increase the body of knowledge in a particular field, rather than to develop specific, practical applications.

Responsible conduct of research.  As described by the DHHS Office of Research Integrity, this is comprised of the following components:  honest in conveying information and keeping commitments; accuracy and precision in reporting findings; using resources wisely; avoiding improper bias.

Revised proposal.  A modified request for funding for a project that previously was not funded by the sponsor.

SBIR.  Small Business Innovative Research

Scope of work.  The description of the work to be performed on a research project.

SF 424.   Standard Form 424 (R&R).

Site visit.  An agency-initiated review of a proposed project conducted at the applicant’s institution.

Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR).  A program under which a federal agency provides funds to small businesses.

Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).  A federal program providing funds to small businesses that are “teamed” with research institutions.

Sole source acquisition.  A procurement that does not provide full and open competition, but rather because one source is available.

Sponsor.  The organization or agency funding research project.

Sponsored project.  A research, training, or service activity supported by an external agency by means of a grant or contract.

Sponsored research.  Research supported by outside sources that is conducted by University employees using any University space or facilities.

SRA.  Society of Research Administrators

Stipend.  A payment made to an individual under a fellowship or training grant in accordance with pre-established levels to provide for the individual’s living expenses during the period of training.  Such individuals are not University employees but are covered by University policies and regulations.

Subcontract, subgrant, or subagreement.  A contract issued under a prime contract, agreement, purchase order, or grant for the procurement of services or program-related tasks over $10,000.  Subcontracts must be consistent with the terms and conditions of the master award, transferring a portion of the research or substantive effort of the prime award to another institution or organization.

Supplemental proposal.  A request to the sponsor for additional funds for an existing project:  may result, for example, from increased costs or changes in project design.

Task order.  A contractual document authorizing work and appropriating funds in a supplement to an existing contract or master agreement.

Teaming agreement.  An agreement between two or more parties to participate in a research teaching activity.

Terms of award.  Requirements imposed by the sponsor on the recipient by policy, statute, or regulations.

Total Direct Costs (TDC).  The total of all direct costs of a project.

Total project costs.  Also known as total costs.  The allowable direct and indirect costs to carry out an approved project.

Unallowable costs.  Specific expenditures that cannot be charged, directly or indirectly, to federally sponsored agreements.

Unrestricted funds.  Monies with no requirements as to their use or disposition.  Gifts represent such funds.

Unsolicited proposal.  Proposals submitted to a sponsor that are not in response to an RFP or RFA. (See also Investigator-Initiated Proposal.