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NDSU Research and Sponsored Activity Handbook

This resource serves as a guide for NDSU faculty and researchers pursuing external funding for sponsored program activities.  While not covering all topics that could potentially arise with various funding agencies, this guide provides general information of areas typically addressed at NDSU.

The material conveyed in this document has been compiled from NDSU departmental information and university policies.  Contact information and web resources have been listed to provide for further information on a number of topic areas.

Every attempt is made to keep this information current and readers must rely on links which are referenced throughout the document. As this handbook is intended to be an evolving reference work and may be updated frequently, please check updates to make sure you are working off of the latest information.

For information, choose from the menu below:

Introduction to Research and Creative Activity

RCA Responsibilities and Services

The Division of Research and Creative Activity provides institutional support to NDSU faculty and staff in pursuit of external funding for research and scholarly activities.  Various RCA departments provide pre- and post-award services to the NDSU research and creative activity community:

  • Business Development fosters relationships with business, industry, and private foundations and facilitates NDSU partnerships and collaborations with them.
  • Research Development organizes seminars and workshops to encourage research and grant activity and helps with proposal development by request. 
  • Research Integrity and Compliance provides assistance with IRB, IACUC, IBC, and Export Control review processes and ensures NDSU compliance with federal regulations.
  • Sponsored Programs Administration assists with budget development, provides final approval and electronic submission of proposals, and administers post award nonfinancial grant processes.
  • Technology Transfer provides guidance and direction for faculty, staff, and students engaged in research which could generate intellectual property (patents, copyrights, plant variety protection).

Services Include:

  • Resources to assist in finding funding opportunities
  • Proposal development assistance, including proposal review and editing
  • Institutional approval for all external proposal submissions.
  • Management of electronic application submission process.
  • Negotiation of awards received from external sources for sponsored program activities on behalf of the university.
  • Issuance of subawards to external entities under a grant/contract awarded to NDSU.
  • Negotiation of material transfer, confidentiality, and non-disclosure agreements
  • Assistance with non-financial post award administration matters.
  • Managing NDSU's animal-related activities (See IACUC), research involving human subjects (See IRB), the use of recombinant DNA, biosafety issues (See IBC), export controls, and conflicts of interest to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and University policies.
  • Generating reports that summarize the University's external research activities.
  • Managing invention reporting and providing assistance regarding intellectual property issues.
  • Assisting faculty to identify best methods to approach corporations and foundations.
  • Promoting areas of research strength of interest to corporations.
  • Managing the limited submission process and internal seed grant programs.
  • Providing professional development opportunities for developing grantsmanship knowledge and skills.

RCA also has research infrastructure programs and services including:

  • Core Labs – RCA core facilities provide state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise available to NDSU researchers.
  • RCA Research Operations is dedicated to providing access to an extensive set of NDSU tools located in the NDSU Research and Technology Park.  These resources are available using a recharge/service center model:  

    • Equipment sets are functionally organized in the following focus areas:

      • Materials Research Laboratory (Synthesis and Processing)
      • Materials Characterization and Analysis Laboratory
      • Microfabrication Laboratory
      • Device Packaging Laboratory
      • Device Testing Laboratory
      • Reliability and Failure Analysis Laboratory

    • Class 100 and Class 10,000 cleanrooms encompassing a total area of 12,000 square feet under filtration and installed equipment worth approximately $10M. 


A more detailed organizational chart is available on the Research and Creative Activity Website.

Grant and Contract Accounting

The Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) Office is part of the Finance and Administration Division of NDSU and reports to the NDSU Controller.  The GCA office provides post award financial services for externally funded sponsored programs and restricted gift funds, including:

  • Coordination of Grant & Contract Audits
  • Invoicing and Receipting
  • Financial Reporting
  • Grant Account Auditing
  • Processing of Award Modifications
  • Setup of Awarded Grants & Contracts
  • Effort Reporting

Research Council

The NDSU Research Council was established in 2015 by the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, with a charge to promote NDSU’s research and scholarly enterprise, as well as serve as an advisory body for the vice president in matters pertaining to research.  The Research Council evaluates internal proposals for research funding and provides input to the vice president on policy matters. The Research Council is not a policy-making body.  

Research Council Members

Relevant NDUS and NDSU Policies

The State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) is the policy-making body for the North Dakota University System and the state's 11 public colleges and universities. North Dakota University System procedures are used to implement SBHE policiesNDSU policies and procedures must be consistent with SBHE and NDUS and, in some instances, supplement or customize them.  Below are the sections of NDSU policy that are most relevant to research and creative activities.

SECTION 111: Positions Funded by Federal and Grant Money

SECTION 151: Code of Conduct

SECTION 151.1: External Activities and Conflicts of Interest

SECTION 152: External Professional Activities

SECTION 159: Injury Claims Against NDSU and State Risk Financing

SECTION 190: Employee Responsibility and Activities: Intellectual Property

SECTION 310: Base Salary

SECTION 326: Academic Misconduct

SECTION 343: Confidential Proprietary Information

SECTION 344: Classified Research

SECTION 345: Research Involving Human Participants

SECTION 346: Animal Welfare

SECTION 347: Institutional Biosafety Commitee

SECTION 348: Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

SECTION 400: Purchasing—General Policies

SECTION 712: Contracts and Agreements

SECTION 717: Research Units—Establishing/Evaluating

SECTION 823: Financial Conflict of Interest - Public Health Service Sponsored Research

CHAPTER EIGHT: Grant and Contract Accounting

See also the NDSU Sponsored Programs Policy Webpage, or the NDSU Policy Manual.

NDSU Strategic Vision 2015-2020

The Strategic Plan defines the strategic priorities for NDSU and ensures that our resources are used effectively and purposefully to educate students, perform world-class research, pursue creative and artistic excellence, and serve the citizens of North Dakota.  The Strategic Vision contains goals, tasks and metrics that define how the strategic vision will be implemented at NDSU.  A fundamental theme of NDSU’s strategic vision is an enriched approach to research and discovery on campus, one that recognizes the university’s position as the state’s flagship land-grant research university.

Reports of Activities


Pre-Award Proposal Development

Administrative Support Offices

Pre-award activities refer to all faculty and staff efforts prior to the awarding of a grant.  These include grant proposal development and processing; communication with grant agencies, collaborators and partners; and informational seminars and workshops.  Several units within the Office of Research and Creative Activity provide services and support for pre-award activities related to grant proposal development.  

Research Development
The mission of the Research Development Unit is to enhance NDSU’s ability to compete for funding by providing resources, training, and assistance related to developing successful research programs.  Staff organize informational workshops and seminars for faculty and researchers and are available to help plan and edit grant proposals.  Email

Sponsored Programs Administration
The Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) Unit provides proposal budget review as well as final institutional review and approval for all external grant proposal submissions.  SPA also manages the electronic application submission process. In addition to administration of required pre-award grant processes, SPA also administers a number of post-award processes, as described in Section IV of this handbook.  Email

Agricultural Budget Office
The Agriculture Budget Office is responsible for managing the overall business function of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources.  The office provides proposal guidelines and budget assistance to agriculture faculty members seeking grant funding.  In addition, the office serves in a liaison capacity between NDSU and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Education and Extension service on all financial matters involving USDA grant and formula funding.

Applicable NDSU Policies

NDSU policies that are relevant to pre-award activities address topics such as authorized representatives (800), grant and contract administration (801), contracts and agreements (712), grant funded positions (111), and establishing institutes and centers (717). 

SECTION 111: Positions Funded by Federal and Grant Money

SECTION 712: Contracts and Agreements

SECTION 717: Research Units—Establishing/Evaluating

CHAPTER EIGHT: Grant and Contract Accounting


See also the NDSU Sponsored Programs Policy Webpage, or the NDSU Policy Manual. Note that policies for federal compliance-related topics are covered in Section V of this handbook.

Overview of Grant Proposal Process

Understanding Funding

Commonly used acronyms
Acronyms are commonly used in the grant business and one needs to become familiar with the terminology.  For example, an RFP, or Request for Proposals, is a term sometimes used to refer to a grant solicitation offered by a grant agency, although other terms may also be used.  PI, Principal Investigator, is the term used to refer to the person serving as project lead or project director. Federal agencies are often referenced by an acronym; e.g., USDA or NASA.  

A list of Commonly Used Acronyms is available on the NDSU Research Development website. 

Grants, Contracts, and Cooperative Agreements
While we often speak generically about ‘grants,’ it should be understood that there are different types of funding agreements as well as different types of funding sources. 

  • Grant: A type of financial assistance awarded for the conduct of research or other program as specified in an approved proposal. There is no substantial programmatic involvement by the sponsor with the recipient during the performance of the activities. Grants are normally awarded by sponsors whose purpose in supporting research is scientific, cultural or philanthropic. 

    • Competitive Grants.  Most NDSU grant proposals are submitted to competitive programs, where applicants must compete with many other proposals for limited funding based on the merit of their ideas and the proposal. 
    • Formula Grants.  These funds are disbursed by a state agency or municipality to grant applicants based on a preset standard or formula and involve simply filling out forms to obtain.
    • Flow-through.  Sometimes called pass-through grants, these are federal grants that are first awarded to a state or another institution which then distributes grants to other organizations. In cases where NDSU accepts a flow-through agreement, it must adhere to all federal guidelines and restrictions of the original federal agency supporting the project.

  • Contract: A mechanism for procurement of a product or service with specific obligations for both sponsor and recipient. Typically, a research topic and the methods for conducting the research are specified in detail by the sponsor, often in the Request for Proposal (RFP) which announces the funding opportunity. In general, there are greater performance expectations associated with contracts, including project milestones and detailed deliverables (e.g., reports). The arrangement is usually designed to benefit the sponsor by achieving an expected outcome or product.
  • Cooperative Agreement:  An award similar to a grant, but in which the sponsor’s staff may be actively involved in proposal preparation and anticipates having substantial involvement in research activities once the award has been made.

Gifts versus Grants
Financial support from any external agency will be classified as a grant or contract if any of the following criteria are met: 

  • any written document has been executed regarding the specific use of the funds beyond a broad programmatic designation, or
  • any technical reports are required by the sponsoring agency, or  
  • a financial report is required by the supporting agency, or
  • the work being done has the possibility of producing intellectual property, i.e., patents and copyrights.

Financial support not meeting any of these criteria may be classified as a gift.  Gifts are classified as either restricted or unrestricted.  For more information, see Policy Section 803

Government Programs, Foundations, Private Sector, etc.

  • Government Programs:  Most common at NDSU would be federal grants from such agencies as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  State, city, and county grants also fall into the government grant category.
  • Foundations: Private independent or family foundations receive endowments from individuals or families and often have donor-family involvement in defining areas of interest and operation. Corporate foundations receive funds from their parent companies, although they are legally separate entities.  Funding is often distributed in locations where the company operates.  There are various types of public nonprofit foundations which receive funding from numerous sources and make grants to other nonprofit organizations.
  • Business / Industry:  Private sector companies also provide funding for research and services, often for projects that benefit the business. Funding agreements are likely to be in the form of contracts.  Intellectual property ownership is an issue that must be discussed in these situations.
  • Health Associations:  Many health associations dedicated to improving the public’s health fund research related to a particular health issue.  Examples are American Heart Association and American Lung Association. 
  • Commodity Groups: With NDSU’s strong focus in agriculture, agricultural commodity groups are a common source of funding, each one focused on funding research related to a particular agricultural crop or product.
  • Other, etc.: There are also many other combinations of funding source types, with each handling its funding arrangements differently.  In general, federal government grant programs are very specifically defined, with concrete application deadlines, strict compliance requirements, and often requiring lengthy proposals in response to instructions.  Foundations often fund in the arts and humanities or social issues, and the format of grant proposals may be much less defined, sometimes with no particular application deadline. Because of this wide variance across agencies, it is important to pay close attention to each one’s funding guidelines and follow instructions as closely as possible.  

Finding Funding

Grant Seeking Resources

While there are a variety of ways to find information on funding opportunities, three are recommended here:

  • Pivot, by ProQuest: Pivot, is an online search system accessible free to all NDSU employees and students through a subscription paid by NDSU. Pivot includes two databases, one for customized grant searching and the other for expertise profiles.  Once registered for an account, one can set up grant email alerts and track specific programs. Pivot includes information on both government and private funding sources and is international in scope. Contact Research Development to set up an account. 
  •,, is a free, public website developed by the federal government as a one-stop website for seeking and applying for federal grants.  In addition to grant searches, it allows downloading of application materials and submission of proposals. Customized grant searching and grant email alerts can be set up.
  • Email Lists: Many grant agencies and programs maintain email listservs. Whenever possible, you are encouraged to subscribe to email lists that will send timely grant email alerts for agencies and programs that may be of interest to you in the future.  

Who Can Serve as Principal Investigator (PI)

Each grant program is different, so it is important to study an individual program’s grant guidelines to determine who is eligible to apply for funding. Most grants are for nonprofit organizations, and universities then qualify.  In the case of federal grants, to be competitive, the PI should have a terminal degree (Ph.D. or comparable).  Some grant programs are aimed at young or beginning Ph.D.-level investigators, while others, such as center programs, require that the lead PI have significant leadership and management experience to be competitive. Fellowship programs are often aimed at students or other individuals. In general, the grant agency defines who may apply and is eligible, and it is important to pay close attention to their requirements and recommendations.  If in doubt, email the program officer to ask questions. 

Any NDSU employee may apply for a grant if they meet the eligibility criteria of the grant program, have the approval of their supervisors, and follow NDSU proposal policy and procedures.  Grants to individuals, such as fellowships, often do not need to be routed for approval by the university (with a PTF), unless there is an administrative portion of the fellowship agreement that requires university involvement.  If there are questions, email

For Agricultural Experiment Station and NDSU Extension Service:  A PD/PI is the individual(s) the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and NDSU Extension Service designates as having an appropriate level of authority and responsibility for the proper conduct of the project.  This level of authority and responsibility includes determining the technical specifics of the project, such as objectives, methodology, project findings and funding agency reporting.  PI responsibility also includes budgetary/financial and administrative oversight of the project. Where there is more than one PD/PI, they are identified as individuals who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically.

Letters of Intent, Pre-Proposals, White Papers

Funding agencies use a number of different mechanisms to review and identify the projects they will choose to fund.  Below are some common practices. 

  • Letter of Intent: Some grant programs request that potential applicants first submit a letter of intent before submission of a full proposal.  Reasons for this vary, but often it is simply to let the program staff know who will be applying to that they can begin to seek reviewers with appropriate expertise.
  • Pre-proposal: Programs may require pre-proposals, a shortened condensed version of a final proposal intended to help program staff determine which proposals are most appropriate and of interest before accepting a full proposal.  In this case, only those applicants that are invited will be allowed to submit final proposals.
  • White Paper / Abstract:  Agencies such as the Department of Defense request brief white papers or abstracts which provide a synopsis of a proposed concept before full proposals are invited for submission.  Again, this allows program staff to review ideas beforehand to determine interest before all the work involved in preparation and formal review of a full proposal. 

Generally, none of these preliminary documents require institutional approval via a PTF – that is, unless there is information provided about budget.  If there is any indication of a budget amount in these documents, a PTF is required to be completed and routed for institutional review and approval at this stage.  The same PTF document would be referenced and updated if/when a full proposal is submitted for the project.

Limited Submissions

Limited submission grant programs are those that indicate a limit on the number of proposals that may be submitted by an institution for a particular deadline.  A selection process becomes necessary if more applicants express interest in applying than NDSU is allowed to submit to the grant program. Faculty and staff are advised to notify the Research Development Office as soon as possible if you notice a limited submission requirement for any grant program for which you are interested in applying. The Research Development Office implements the pre-proposal selection process when necessary for a grant cycle. 

The Research Development office maintains a list of popular limited submission programs, but the list is not exhaustive. 

NDSU’s pre-proposal selection process for limited submission programs is described on the Limited Submission Programs webpage.  Limited submission programs are often announced in advance by directed email on campus, or in the weekly Research and Creative Activity Update emails.

Contacting Program Officers

Potential grant applicants are strongly encouraged to contact agency program officers, particularly for government programs, before submission of a grant proposal.  Statistics show that making a personal contact with your program officer will increase your chances of getting funded immensely.  Such contacts can yield important information and inside tips that will help you plan your project and craft your proposal.  Tips for contacting program officers can be found on the Research Development Proposal Resources webpage.  

It is important to understand the distinction between program officers and other grant agency personnel.  Although it is appropriate for PIs to connect with program officers, it is often not appropriate for PIs to make contact with other agency personnel, such as SRO’s (scientific review officers) or grants management specialists.  Contacts with these personnel are more appropriately made by SPA or Grant and Contract Accounting staff as necessary.  

Compliance Considerations

Federal regulations require that principal investigators planning to use human subjects; animal subjects; or recombinant DNA, toxins, or infectious agents as part of their research projects must have their protocols reviewed and approved by federally mandated and regulated compliance committees.  Other compliance areas requiring review include conflict-of-interest and export controls.

NDSU has established committees to review and approve human, animal, and biosafety research and to set institutional policies and procedures involving these regulated areas.  Further information can be found in Section V - Responsible Conduct of Research.  Other compliance areas that must be considered are conflict of interest and export controls. Again, see Section V of this handbook for more information. 

When a grant is awarded, before release of grant funds, grant agencies usually require certification that the relevant compliance committee(s) have reviewed and approved the proposed research.

Requirements at proposal stage vary, but some agencies require that compliance committee approval be obtained BEFORE the submission of a grant application; others require only that approval be obtained IF funds are awarded. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the Public Health Service (PHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), require that a specific form be completed and sent along with the grant application indicating the status of IRB, IACUC, and/or IBC review and approval.

Individual agency guidelines should be consulted for each agency's policies on compliance certification. 

Campus Resources

NDSU has many resources to facilitate your research plans. To find information about available resources as you plan and develop research programs and engage in grant proposal writing, see the Proposal Development Resources webpage or the brochure called Research Resources at NDSU.”   

For NDSU Extension Service employees, please see the General Grant Guidelines for County Extension Employees.

Proposal Writing Resources and Templates

By request, Research Development staff will meet with faculty and researchers to discuss proposal plans and, if allowed enough time, will review drafts of proposals and provide comments and advice. Email to request this assistance well in advance of a proposal deadline (at least 1 month is recommended).

Templates and guidance for various sections of proposals such as biosketches and budgets can be found on the Proposal Development Resources webpage.

Proposal writing guidance can be found on the Research Development Proposal Writing webpage.  Also, the Center for Writers may provide individualized help with writing projects.  

Final Proposal Review, Approval, and Submission

Once a proposal is in the final stages of preparation, before any grant application/proposal can be submitted to the targeted external grant agency for consideration, the PI is required to obtain institutional approval of the proposal (see NDSU Policy Section 801).  This process is done by means of a Proposal Transmittal Form (PTF).  The PTF requests basic information about the proposed project and requires signatures of all PIs, their Department Chair/Head/Director(s) and College Dean(s).  The PTF is an internal NDSU document and should not be submitted with the proposal to the grant agency.

The PTF with its attachments must be submitted to the Sponsored Programs Administration Office at least three to five business days before the proposal submission deadline of the grant agency.  This is to allow enough time for budget review and any necessary revision before giving final approval to submit.  PIs should allow enough time for departmental and dean/director review.  PIs should check with their respective departments and colleges on specific procedures and policies regarding proposal review.

Authorized Institutional Official/Signatory
Because grants are made to the institution and not the individual, the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity (or a designee in Sponsored Programs Admin) is the university representative authorized to sign all proposals and award documents (research, education, fee-for-service etc.) submitted to external agencies. Faculty researchers and staff must NOT sign proposal and award documents themselves (other than the PTF), as they are not authorized to commit the university to such agreements.    For more information, see NDSU Policy Section 800

Authorized Institutional Official – North Dakota Commodity Association Agreements
The Vice President for Agricultural Affairs is the Authorized Institutional Official for signing agreements with the North Dakota Commodity Associations.

Additional Approvals (i.e. construction, IT)
In cases where special commitments on behalf of the University are required (e.g., significant IT resources, real property improvements such as buildings, or additional space if a proposal is funded), the Vice President for Finance and Administration and/or the Vice President for Information Technology must approve those special commitments.  

Most federal grant proposals are required to be submitted electronically by SPA staff, and subsequent grant business is also completed online.  For other grant agencies, faculty and staff are asked to check grant program guidelines closely to determine if electronic proposal submission is required and, if so, contact SPA staff as soon as possible to allow time for the necessary administrative preparations. Each proposal submission offers unique challenges which the SPA staff can help resolve, saving you time and effort.   Grant submission deadlines are firm, and proposals will be rejected even if just a few minutes late.  It is the responsibility of the PI to ensure that his/her proposal is completed accurately and the PTF approved with adequate time for a successful submission.


Budget Development

Administrative Support Offices

Sponsored Programs Administration
The Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) Unit provides proposal budget review as well as final institutional review and approval for all external grant proposal submissions.  SPA also manages the electronic application submission process. In addition to administration of required pre-award grant processes, SPA administers a number of post-award processes, as described in Section IV.  Email

Grant and Contract Accounting
The Office of Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) provides post-award administration support services for the university’s sponsored programs and other restricted funds, including the coordination of the effort certification process. Services include coordination of grant and contract audits, invoicing and receipting, financial reporting, grant account auditing, processing award modifications, setting up grants and contracts, and effort reporting.  Staff contact information is available on the GCA Website.

Applicable NDSU Policies

NDSU Policies that are relevant to pre-award activities address topics such as grant funded positions (111), salary (310), purchasing (400), travel (515, 516), allowable costs (804-812), facilities and administrative costs (813), and cost sharing (814).

SECTION 111: Positions Funded by Federal and Grant Money

SECTION 310: Base Salary

SECTION 400: Purchasing—General Policies

SECTION 515: Travel – Employees

SECTION 516: Travel – Non-Employee

SECTION 804-812: Allowable Costs

SECTION 813: Facilities and Administrative Costs

SECTION 814: Cost Sharing

View the entire NDSU Policy Manual

Information on International Travel and Export Controls can be found on the RCA website.

Cost Sharing

Mandatory Cost Sharing: If cost sharing is “mandatory” for a program or project, the requirements will be described in the application guidelines. If the guidelines make no mention of cost sharing, or list cost sharing as “encouraged,” then cost share is not considered to be mandatory. Sponsors may have specific requirements for a certain percentage or type of cost sharing used to “match” the sponsor’s contribution; be sure to read the guidelines carefully. Any quantifiable cost sharing described in the proposal, including in the budget justification and/or  institutional commitment letters then becomes a condition of the resulting award and must be documented and reported to the sponsor. 

For more information on Cost Share, visit the Grant and Contract Accounting Cost Sharing webpage, or contact the Sponsored Programs Staff

Direct Costs

Direct Costs, as defined by the federal Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards issued by the Office of Management and Budget (Uniform Guidance), are “those costs that can be identified specifically with a particular final cost objective, such as a Federal award, or other internally or externally funded activity, or that can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.”

Costs must be allowable, allocable, and reasonable as directed by the program guidelines, the granting agency, and/or the Uniform Guidance.

Examples of direct costs include the compensation of employees who work on the award, their related fringe benefit costs, the costs of materials and other items of expense incurred for the award.   

For more information about Direct Costs, please contact the Sponsored Programs Staff.

Indirect Costs / F&A Costs

Indirect Costs, as defined by the federal Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards issued by the Office of Management and Budget (Uniform Guidance), are “those costs incurred for a common or joint purpose benefitting more than one cost objective, and not readily assignable to the cost objectives specifically benefitted.” These costs are also sometimes called “facilities and administrative costs (F&A)” or “overhead.”

Examples of university indirect costs include building and equipment depreciation and use allowance; general administration; departmental, sponsored program, and sponsored project administration expenses; interest; operation and maintenance expenses; library expenses; and student administration and services expense.

In accordance with NDSU Policy Section 813, subpart 5, the inclusion of F&A is required on every grant and contract proposal, unless such costs are specifically prohibited by the sponsor.  If a funding opportunity has a limitation as to the payment of F&A, PI’s should provide a copy to SPA of the funding opportunity with that section clearly marked at the time the PTF is routed.  In the absence of specific funding opportunity language, if a sponsor has a limitation as to the payment of F&A, then at the time the PTF is routed PI’s should provide a copy of that sponsor’s clear established policy that is publicly posted on their website.

Current NDSU Indirect Cost / F&A Cost Rates can be found on the Sponsored Programs Administration webpage.

See also NDSU’s Federally Negotiated F&A Rate Agreement

For more information about Indirect Costs / F&A Costs, please contact the Sponsored Programs Staff.

Salary and Fringe Benefits

If you are budgeting employee salaries (faculty, staff, students, etc.) to be paid from a sponsored project (grant), you must also budget a proportionate amount for fringe benefits. Due to the increasing costs of employer paid benefits, fringe benefit rates change from time to time. Sponsored Programs highly recommends that the NDSU campus community utilize the EXCEL spreadsheets provided by NDSU's Human Resource/Payroll Office in order to determine the appropriate level of fringe benefits for all personnel included in your budget.  Access these spreadsheets on the NDSU Human Resources/Payroll website.

Fringe Benefit Ranges for use when developing proposal budgets can be found on the Sponsored Programs website.

For more information about Salary and Fringe Benefits, please contact the Sponsored Programs Staff.


Sponsored research projects usually involve purchasing equipment and supplies. In general, researchers have department level support staff who should be responsible for purchasing necessary items. There are a variety of rules and procedures governing the purchasing enterprise, and the Purchasing Office maintains a website where most of the relevant information can be found.

It is always important to provide as much justification and explanation for purchasing transactions as possible. This is especially true for items that, when taken at face value, do not have an obvious connection to research activities, but are necessary to your research program. In this case, more information is always better than less information, and should be included in the budget justification of the grant proposal.

For more information about budget justifications and allowable costs, contact the Sponsored Programs Staff.

For more information about purchasing, contact the Purchasing Office.

Hiring and Human Resources

Many sponsored projects involve hiring personnel, including undergraduate student workers, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, research faculty, and administrative support personnel. The Office of Human Resources and Payroll has resources available in their online Administrative/Office Toolbox to assist in this process and to make sure advertising and hiring processes follow appropriate protocols.

For more information about hiring and human resources, contact the HR Staff


Many sponsored projects involve travel for research, collaboration, conference attendance, and other purposes related to the research program. All information related to travel, including policies and forms, are available through the  Accounting Office. The “Quick Reference Guide for Employee Travel” covers the majority of relevant topics.

A few things to note: 

  • NDSU policy requires that employees have each out-of-state trip pre-approved by their immediate supervisor.  Prior approval is to be obtained by using the 'Travel Authorization - Out-of-State' form.
  • International travel requires pre-approval by supervisor, and must also be approved by the appropriate Vice President or Provost. Those planning to travel internationally should also check in with the Export Control Office and the IT Security Office prior to travel. Additionally, researchers should always check the US Department of State website for travel warnings while planning an international trip.
  • If travel will last for more than 30 consecutive days, please contact the accounting office several months in advance to discuss necessary arrangements. 
  • The Fly America Act is applicable when traveling on grant or contract funds for either domestic or international travel.   The Fly America Act (49 U.S. C. Section 40118) requires government financed air transportation to be “provided by” air carriers holding certificates of public convenience and necessity as U.S. flag air carriers. 

For more information about travel, contact the Accounting Office.


Post-Award Grant Management

Administrative Support Offices

Sponsored Programs Administration
In addition to pre-award services, The Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) unit administers a number of post-award processes including:

  1. award review, negotiation, and signature; 
  2. requests for no-cost extensions, budget changes, PI changes, and pre-award spending approvals; and
  3. development, negotiation and signature of subawards.

Grant and Contract Accounting
The Office of Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) provides post-award administration support services for the university’s sponsored programs and other restricted funds, including the coordination of effort certification process. Services include coordination of grant and contract audits, invoicing and receipting, financial reporting, grant account auditing, processing award modifications, setting up awarded grants and contracts, and effort reporting.  Staff contact information is available on the GCA Website.

Applicable NDSU Policies

NDSU policies that are relevant to post-award grant management address topics such as grant funded positions (111), contracts and agreements (712), purchasing (400), responsible conduct of research (348), and grant and contract accounting (Chapter 8).

SECTION 111: Positions Funded by Federal and Grant Money

SECTION 151: Code of Conduct

SECTION 310: Base Salary

SECTION 348: Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

SECTION 400: Purchasing—General Policies

SECTION 712: Contracts and Agreements

CHAPTER EIGHT: Grant and Contract Accounting

SECTION 823: Financial Conflict of Interest - Public Health Service Sponsored Research

View the entire NDSU Policy Manual

Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards

On December 26, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) implemented the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.  This “Uniform Guidance” replaces the administrative, accounting, audit rules and principles in the A-21, A-110, and A-133 OMB circulars. The new Uniform Guidance applies to awards, renewed awards, and supplements dated on or after December 26, 2014.

Key elements with the implementation of the Federal Uniform Guidance (list is not all-inclusive) can be found here.

Principal Investigator Responsibilities

  • Execute the project as outlined in the funded proposal and the terms and conditions of the award, using sound management techniques.
  • Authorize only those expenditures that are reasonable and necessary to accomplish the project goals and that are consistent with the sponsor’s terms and conditions.
  • Spend no more than the amount authorized by the sponsor for the project period.
  • Carry out the project’s financial plan as presented in the funded proposal.
  • Notify Sponsored Programs Administration of any proposed changes in:  the scope of work, the PI or other key research personnel, the budget, or the period of performance.
  • Follow all applicable University policies and procedures such as travel, purchasing, employment, contracted services, and compensation policies.
  • Assure that cost-sharing or matching commitments are fulfilled and reported to Grant and Contract Accounting in a timely manner.
  • Assure that effort reporting (Personal Activity Confirmations) are accurately, completely, and timely reported by the department.
  • Oversee the care and maintenance of property procured with project funds in accordance with sponsor guidelines.
  • Report any intellectual property development which relates to the project to the Technology Transfer Office in accordance with policies.
  • Report project progress, including final reports as required by the terms of the award.
  • Review project expenditures regularly and in a timely fashion to assure they are correct and appropriate.
  • Comply with all sponsor rules, regulations, and terms and conditions of the award.


Pre-Award Costs

If there is a need to begin work on a project prior to the completion of award negotiations, a PI may request an advanced account number.  This involves making an email request to the respective Department Chair and/or College Dean to obtain their approval and acknowledging that in the event negotiations are not successful and the award is not signed, the Department/College is responsible for any expenditures incurred. 

Please ensure that SPA is included on the email exchange (at with the respective Department Chair and/or College Dean. The SPA Office will review for the final approval and coordinate account set-up with Grant and Contract Accounting.

Property Management

Special elements exist in the inventory system of the University to account for property purchased on sponsored agreements. Sponsoring agencies may restrict the use and disposition of a piece of equipment and may retain title to property purchased on sponsored agreements. Nonfederal programs are reviewed individually for any restrictions regarding title, use of the property, or disposition of the property. The federal government prescribes uniform standards governing management of property furnished by the federal government or whose cost was charged to a project supported by a federal grant or other agreement. Thus, these rules are applicable to equipment purchased with federal funds and to equipment purchased with University or third party funds which was used as matching against a federally supported project.

The Federal Property Management Procedure Guide provides basic procedures for the management of federal property under NDSU’s control.  Additional details on management standards for property purchased on a sponsored award can be found in Policy Section 819.  

Transfer of equipment to other institutions, agencies, or entities.  Unless otherwise stated in the grant, contract or in regulations by the sponsoring agencies, whether public or private, title to equipment purchased with grant funds vests in NDSU. When a Principal Investigator ("PI") leaves the University and an existing grant is released and follows the PI to a new location, the PI can request that some or all of the equipment purchased be transferred to the receiving institution. The University may, after contacting the grantor, allow the transfer if it is determined to be in the best interests of the University. Equipment purchased from grant funds that have terminated or lapsed shall not be transferred but shall remain with the University. Disposal of such equipment shall be subject to the surplus property rules of the University (see Policy Section 406) or other requirements of this section if federal regulations apply. 

Fly America Act

Those individuals utilizing a grant or contract fund for the purchase of airline tickets should take note of the Fly America Act. The Fly America Act (49 U.S.C. Section 40118) requires federal government financed air transportation to be "provided by" air carriers holding certificates of public convenience and necessity as U.S. flag air carriers. This requirement is applicable to all federal and federal flow through grants, cooperative agreements and contracts, for either domestic or international travel. 

If you are planning on any travels or are making arrangements for someone to travel on a grant, cooperative agreement or contract, the Fly America Act may be applicable to the arrangements. It is important to note this will have a direct effect on international travel, but may also create problems for domestic travel.

Time Extensions

If necessary, funding agencies will generally allow for no-cost time extensions on funded projects. Depending on its policy, an agency may allow a grantee institution to approve a time extension, or the granting agency itself may need to approve the time extension. Some agencies also require that extension requests be submitted a specified number of days in advance of the grant expiration date. Consult your grant agreement or grant agency policy for instructions.

To request a no-cost time extension on a grant, send a letter to SPA as the NDSU authorized institutional representative and include the following information: sponsoring agency, principal investigator, title of project, fund number, reason for extension request, grant expiration date, and requested length of time extension. Upon approval, the extension request will be forwarded to the grant agency.  Once approved by the sponsor, the no cost extension will be updated in the NDSU system by Grant and Contract Accounting.

There are three variations to the above procedure: 

  1. The National Science Foundation (NSF) uses an electronic submission process called Fastlane. All extension requests for NSF grants should be done on this system. Once submitted, the extension will be sent electronically to the NDSU Office of Sponsored Programs Administration for review and submission to the NSF. 
  2. If the grant is from USDA/CSREES, submit the requested information to Ona Vig in the NDSU Ag Administration Budget Office. 
  3. If the grant is from the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE), contact Lori Capouch, phone 701.663.6501, and submit the required information.

Questions regarding no-cost time extensions on grants should be directed to Shelly Sandstrom, phone 231.7258.

Budget Changes

Requested by Sponsoring Agency: 

Occasionally, a granting agency determines that it would like to fund a proposal but at an amount less than what was requested in the budget. In such cases, the agency will often contact the applicant and request a revised budget. If you are asked by a grant agency to revise your proposed budget, you do not need to complete a new proposal transmittal form (PTF). Rather, you should do the following: 

  • Make a copy of the original signed proposal transmittal form (PTF)
  • Write REVISED at the top of the PTF copy in large letters
  • Attach it to your revised budget pages
  • Bring all to Sponsored Programs Administration for re-review and final approval
  • Once signed, send the revised budget to the granting agency.  In the case when electronic submission is required, SPA will initiate the submission.

Requested by Principal Investigator: 
Budget changes may or may not require sponsoring agency approval.  Budget restrictions are determined by the terms and conditions of the grant or contract award.  There are four different base level restrictions in the NDSU grants management system:  Budget Line, Budget Category, Total Direct, and Budget Total.  If a department wishes to incur an expense under a different line item, or category if Budget Category, or incur expenses over the amount budgeted for a line or category if Budget Category, an email should be submitted to Grant and Contract Accounting explaining the circumstances requiring the rebudget.  Include in the request: 

  • What budget categories are going to be increased?
  • What budget categories are going to be decreased?
  • How will the rebudget help meet the project goals?
  • For those categories that are decreased, how will the decrease impact the project goals?
  • Will there be a change in project scope?

Grant & Contract Accounting will review the terms and conditions of the award for the sponsoring agencies requirements. If approval is required by the sponsoring agency, Grant and Contract Accounting will forward the request to Sponsored Programs Administration. Sponsored Programs Administration will request approval from the sponsor.

If a project becomes overspent, the department is liable for covering those overages through a local/non grant fund.

PI Leaving NDSU

In order to provide a more efficient close-out of grants and compliance protocols for departing faculty and staff who have been involved in these activities, the offices of Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) and Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) have developed a Disposition Form which lists current awards and compliance protocols. As soon as word is received that a PI will be leaving, the Disposition Form will be sent to the PI indicating current grant awards and compliance protocols. The PI will be asked to indicate how the grant awards and protocols are to be resolved before departure from NDSU (e.g. naming a new P.I., closing protocols). These arrangements often necessitate discussion with the department chair and/or your dean. At times, it may be necessary to negotiate an arrangement between NDSU and a new university employer. With regard to grants, such negotiations may be conducted and must be approved by the authorized institutional representative. Once the Disposition Form has been returned, the SPA Office will work with the PI to request approval from the respective grant agency for grant transfers and/or the designation of a new principal investigator. Other factors to consider:

  • If a grant or contract is being transferred, approval from the grant agency must be obtained. 
  • If a grant is to remain at NDSU, a new principal investigator must be named who will assume responsibilities for the balance of the project. The grant agency must be notified and provide written approval for the new principal investigator to assume responsibility for the project.
  • If the PI has left NDSU and the grant is to remain at NDSU, the activities and expenses of the project should be stopped until a new PI has been assigned. 

Change of Principal Investigator

To request a change in PI, contact the Sponsored Programs Administration Office at

Leave of Absence

If you have an active compliance protocol and/or grant, provisions must be made for proper oversight of these items during your absence. Sponsor guidelines or award terms and conditions and Sponsored Programs Administration should be consulted.  Certain leaves of absence and certain changes in committed effort require sponsor approval.


Sponsoring agencies periodically audit funded programs. All external audits of a financial nature dealing with specific sponsored agreements are handled by the Grant and Contract Accounting Office.  If a Principal Investigator is contacted by a sponsoring about an audit, all questions should be directed to the Director of Grant and Contract Accounting.  

The Principal Investigator must be available to answer questions regarding the program’s methods and accomplishments.  The PI may also be asked to assist with responses to questions, including Personal Activity Confirmations (effort reporting) and specific costs charged to the sponsored agreement.

Managing Subawards

Grant and Contract Accounting conducts a risk assessment prior to the development of a subaward.  After the assessment, the Business Development Office initiates and negotiates subaward agreements with external organizations as reflected in the funded proposal.  Once the subaward is signed, the document goes to the Grant and Contract Accounting Office for account set up.

Management of the subaward rests with the primary award recipient, not the funding agency.

Principal investigators are responsible for:

  1. reviewing invoices from the subrecipient to determine if the charges are appropriate for the work performed;
  2. monitoring the progress of the subrecipient and;
  3. obtaining all required deliverables from the subrecipient.

Effort Reporting

The University receives federal funding on sponsored project agreements and is required to comply with OMB Circular A-21 relocated to the Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR 200, which states that the University has a system in place for certifying salaries and wages associated with federally sponsored agreements. The Circular stipulates that the certification reports should reasonably reflect effort allocated to the activities for which the employee is compensated and that they are to be signed by the employee, principal investigator or responsible official(s) using suitable means of verification that the work was performed.  Effort is defined as the amount of time spent on a particular activity.

At NDSU, we certify to our effort on grant projects with the use of an after-the-fact form called a Personnel Activity Confirmation (PAC) form. These effort certification forms detail effort shown on grant projects, and are generated for all NDSU departments by the Grant & Contract Accounting Office.

It is required that employees who receive an effort certification form review the form to confirm that all activities are reported correctly and that the distribution of effort shown on the certification report reflects a reasonable estimate of the percentage of total effort that was spent on each activity. Signing the report confirms that effort, as certified, reasonably represents the effort expended during that time period.

If the information shown on the PAC is incorrect, the employee is to make the appropriate changes to the form and indicating a retroactive distribution (retro) will be processed. Do not sign the PAC but return it to the Grant and Contract Accounting Office and submit all proper documentation for the retro to be processed.

NDSU has three effort reporting periods which follow the University’s semester schedule:

August 16 – December 31
January 1 – May 15
May 16 – August 15

Approximately 15 days after each effort reporting period, the NDSU Grant and Contract Office will generate effort certification reports which are to be reviewed, signed, and returned within 30 days after the department receives them. 

The Top 10 Things a PI (and Others) Should Know About Effort Reporting

  1. Effort is your work on a project, whether the sponsor pays your salary or not.
  2. When you write yourself into a grant proposal, you are committing your effort to the sponsor.
  3. If you reduce your effort, paid or unpaid, on a federal grant by 25% you must have agency approval. If you reduce your paid effort, you may choose to document cost-sharing so that the total effort does not decrease.
  4. Many activities cannot be charged to a federally sponsored project. For example:

    • Time spent writing a proposal
    • Serving on an IRB, IACUC or other research committee
    • Serving on a departmental or university service committee

  5. If you work on a sponsored project, you MUST certify your effort.
  6. Certifying effort is NOT the same as certifying payroll.
  7. Certifying effort must reasonably reflect all the effort for all the activities that are covered by your University compensation.
  8. Effort is not based on a 40-hour work week. It is not based on hours at all.
  9. Effort must be certified by someone with suitable means of verifying that the work was performed.
  10. Timeliness of effort certification is paramount. Auditors look for effort reports that are NOT certified in a timely manner - typically within 30 days after being sent out for certification.


Responsible Conduct of Research

Administrative Support Offices

Research Integrity and Compliance
The Research Integrity and Compliance (RIC) Office provides centralized administrative support for numerous compliance areas. This support includes oversight of:

  • human subjects research through the Insitutional Review Board (IRB)
  • animal programs, facilities, and procedures through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
  • the safe use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, infectious agents, human blood, bodily fluids & tissues under the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)
  • export controls
  • financial and other conflicts of interest (COI)

For more information about these compliance areas, see the sections below.

In addition to the review and approval of research protocols for compliance with NDSU policy and federal regulations, staff also provide ongoing training and subject matter expertise promoting research integrity, educating researchers and keeping NDSU compliant with federal regulations.

Applicable NDSU Policies

NDSU policies that are relevant to responsible conduct of research include topics such as code of conduct (151);  conflict of interest (151.1), research involving human participants (345), animal care and use (346), biosafety issues (347), and export control (722).  Many of these topics are federally regulated and, as an institution that accepts federal funding, NDSU is mandated to meet the necessary requirements. 

Section 151: Code of Conduct

Section 151.1: External Activities and Conflicts of Interest

Section 325: Academic Freedom

Section 326: Academic Misconduct

Section 344: Classified Research

Section 345: Research Involving Human Participants

Section 346: Animal Welfare

Section 347: Institutional Biosafety Committee

Section 348: Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Section 601: Code of Student Conduct

Section 722: Export Control

Section 823: Financial Conflict of Interest – Public Health Service Sponsored Research


View the entire NDSU Policy Manual

Standards for Conduct of Research

NDSU holds its faculty, staff, and students to the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research.  NDSU Policy Section 151: Code of Conduct states “officers and employees are expected to uphold the values of honesty, respect, integrity and trust.  In addition, when interacting with one another and the public, all are expected to behave in a professional, collegial, cordial, civil, positive, respectful and ethical manner.”  Furthermore, federal sponsors of research require appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research for students and researchers.

Conflict of Interest (COI)

Fulltime and part-time employees of NDSU may be engaged in outside activities that post a potential or actual conflict of interest with their professional responsibilities.  Employees must not neglect their university responsibilities to seek financial interest or advantage for themselves, their immediate families, their close associates, or a business over which they or their families have a direct or indirect financial interest.  Any commitment of time and effort to serve another institution, agency, or industrial organization other than NDSU should be made only after satisfying an employee’s primary commitment to NDSU and after appropriate disclosure and approvals. The Vice President for Research and Creative Activity is required to sign conflict of interest disclosure forms. Learn more on the Research Conflict of Interest webpage.

Human Subjects (IRB)

NDSU is committed to protecting the rights, safety and welfare of all individuals participating in NDSU research projects. Research with human subjects is conducted in accordance with regulations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, and other applicable agencies.  Protections ensure that risks to participants are minimized, risks are reasonable in relation to benefits, recruitment procedures are fair, subjects are sufficiently informed and able to make a voluntary choice, their privacy and confidentiality are respected, and extra protections are in place for vulnerable groups. The Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Participants in Research provides oversight of ongoing research.

Animals (IACUC)

The use of live vertebrate animals in any research, teaching, testing, or exhibition conducted by any NDSU faculty, staff, students, visiting faculty or other representatives of NDSU; or conducted at any NDSU facilities, including satellite facilities, must be reviewed and approved prior to the project's initiation to ensure practices attentive to the humane care and treatment of the animals.  The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee oversees NDSU’s animal program, facilities, and procedures.

Biosafety (IBC)

The Institutional Biosafety program assures the safe use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, infectious agents, human blood, bodily fluids and tissues and maintains compliance with federal regulations and University policies.  The Institutional Biosafety Committee oversees these activities. 

Export Controls

Federal statutes and regulations govern the transfer of certain goods, technologies, services, data, and money to persons and entities outside the U.S.—as well as to foreign nationals located inside the U.S. In general, these regulations prevent the flow of materials and information that would compromise U.S. national security and economic interests.  The Export Controls Office is responsible for helping the University community understand and comply with U.S. export control laws.

RCR Training

According to NDSU Policy Section 348, each college and department (or Vice President, as applicable) is responsible for determining the need for and developing a plan for training in the responsible conduct of research, as well as developing content and determining the most effective delivery mechanism appropriate for each discipline, tailored to issues and practices that are relevant.  General topics such as responsible authorship and publication are relevant to all research, while special topics such as use of vertebrate animals would be relevant to select research or disciplinary practices.  Plans must also include an indication as to the frequency of training required as well as when training would expire.  Topics covered by such programs could include the following topics: 

  • conflict of interest - personal, professional, and financial
  • conflict of commitment
  • policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
  • mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  • collaborative research including collaborations with industry
  • peer review
  • data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership
  • research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct
  • responsible authorship and publication
  • the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and environmental and societal impacts of scientific research

In-Person Training
Federal agencies, including the DHHS Office of Research Integrity, recommend incorporating RCR training throughout the curricula, in a variety of formats.  Multiple approaches to training are recommended to produce the best results. Though each college and department is ultimately responsible for the research training of its faculty, staff, and students, the Research Integrity and Compliance Unit also offers in-person training sessions in the areas related to Human Subjects Protection, Animal Care and Use, Biosafety, and Export Controls.

Online Training
NDSU subscribes to the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) which offers online modules on discipline-specific RCR training.  Units, colleges, and departments require completion of the appropriate modules by all individuals identified.  The CITI modules are accessed at  This online training should be considered supplemental to other didactic, small-group discussion, and hands-on activities.  


Interactions with Business and Industry

Administrative Support Offices

Business Development
The staff of the Business Development Office has a dual mission, both externally and within the university to build corporate research and foundation relationships that benefit faculty, students, staff, and the university; assist faculty to identify best methods to approach corporations and foundations for student internships, research projects and sponsorships; promote areas of research strength of interest to corporations; identify industry trends across multiple business sectors. Contact the Business Development office at

Technology Transfer Office
The Technology Transfer Office at NDSU assists faculty and students with invention reporting and potential patenting of discoveries. NDSU/TTO serves as a link between the University and the NDSU Research Foundation (NDSU/RF). Once an invention report is made to the NDSU/TTO and assignment of the invention is completed, then NDSU assigns the invention to the NDSU Research Foundation to handle the protection and commercialization of the technology. Staff contact information can be found on the NDSU TTO webpage.

Research Foundation
The NDSU Research Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization established to support North Dakota State University in achieving its instructional, research, public service, and academic goals. The foundation was developed to provide private support for the University by protecting, adding value to, and commercializing intellectual property that is developed through research activities at the university. By commercializing intellectual property, the foundation is able to create resources which are returned to the individual inventors and to the university to promote continued research. Staff contact information can be found on the NDSU RF webpage.

Applicable NDSU Policies

NDSU Policies that are relevant to interactions with business and industry include external professional activities (152), intellectual property (190), and confidential proprietary information (343).

SECTION 151: Code of Conduct

SECTION 151.1: External Activities and Conflicts of Interest

SECTION 152: External Professional Activities

SECTION 190: Employee Responsibility and Activities: Intellectual Property

SECTION 343: Confidential Proprietary Information

SECTION 712: Contracts and Agreements

SECTION 722: Export Control


View the entire NDSU Policy Manual

Intellectual Property, Commercialization, and Development

Intellectual Property Process Overview
The key events involved in the development, protection and commercialization of an invention are laid out in the list below. The list depicts the order in which these events typically occur; however, some events may take place simultaneously or in a different order, depending on the needs of the inventors and the university.

  1. NDSU researcher(s) pursues an academic or sponsored research question. Prior to the actual creation of an invention or in the early stages of reducing the invention to practice, a researcher may require the assistance of the NDSU TTO in preserving intellectual property (IP) rights and, helping maintain the confidentiality of the research in its proposal and development stages.
  2. Researcher makes a novel discovery and reports the invention by submitting an Invention Reporting form to NDSU TTO. For software, there is a Software Reporting form, while plant breeders should use the Plant Variety Report form or Horticultural Variety Reporting form. All reporting forms are to be submitted to the NDSU TTO.
  3. NDSU TTO initially evaluates the reported invention for commercial potential, as well as patent, copyright, trademark, or plant variety protection. This process often involves in depth discussions with the inventor.
  4. Inventor(s) assigns the invention to NDSU. NDSU then assigns the invention to the NDSU Research Foundation (NDSURF) in order to pursue protection and commercialization of the invention.
  5. NDSURF may file for patent or other intellectual property protection, initially paying all the associated attorney fees and costs of protecting the invention. Proper protection includes geographic considerations, inventorship and clear delineation of claims from any “prior art” and literature.
  6. NDSURF continues to explore the commercial marketplace, and assesses commercial value, marketability, intellectual property protection, and the potential for further development.
  7. NDSURF takes the final step in the process, initiating one of four options:
    1. Licenses invention to an outside commercial entity
    2. Requests that inventor complete additional research before pursuing further commercialization activities
    3. Licenses the invention to a faculty member’s start-up company
    4. Releases or returns the invention to the government or inventor according to NDSU policy and any applicable contractual or governmental obligations


For more information, contact the NDSU Technology Transfer Office.

Confidentiality / Nondisclosure Agreements

Confidentiality / nondisclosure agreements are known by many names: 

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement
  • NDA
  • Confidential Disclosure Agreement
  • CDA
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Proprietary Information Agreement
  • PIA

These agreements all serve the same purpose: to protect both Confidential and Proprietary Information from publication and dissemination. 

Confidential” means something that is “secret.” Therefore, “Confidential Information” is used to describe information that should not be shared with others. Exception: working with the US Government, which has classifications of information, and “confidential” is merely one classification.

Proprietary” is a term used to describe something that is privately owned or controlled. Therefore, “Proprietary Information” is information that is owned or exclusively controlled.

However, these terms are generally used interchangeably

Confidentiality/Nondisclosure Agreements are reviewed, approved, and signed by the NDSU Business Development Office. PIs DO NOT have authority to sign a CDA on behalf of NDSU.

NDSU prefers to utilize its own agreements, and you can request the preparation of a Confidentiality/Nondisclosure Agreement by contacting the NDSU Business Development Office.

If you receive an agreement from a Company, forward an electronic version to for review.

If you have questions about confidentiality / nondisclosure agreements, please contact the NDSU Business Development Office.

Material Transfer Agreements

Material Transfer Agreements are known by many names: 

  • Material Transfer Agreement
  • MTA
  • Evaluation Agreement
  • Trial Agreement
  • Similar to a Data Use Agreement

The purpose of these agreements is to transfer proprietary, tangible materials to another entity while restricting the receiving party’s use of the materials.

These agreements contain many terms that are similar to confidentiality agreements. 

Material Transfer Agreements are reviewed, approved, and signed by the NDSU Business Development Office. PIs DO NOT have authority to sign MTAs on behalf of NDSU. 

Incoming: You will usually receive an agreement from a company before it will send its materials. Forward an electronic version of the MTA to for review.

Outgoing: Request an agreement be prepared by the NDSU Business Development Office if you are sending NDSU materials to a company or other third party.

If you have questions about material transfer agreements, please contact the NDSU Business Development Office


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Mailing address:  P.O. Box 6050—Dept. 4000/Fargo, ND 58108-6050
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Last Updated: Tuesday, July 03, 2018 11:07:08 AM
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