The federal government continues to fund a major portion of sponsored programs at Rensselaer, with industry and state government support also at substantial levels. Each sponsor has regulations that must be followed. At the same time, Rensselaer has its own policies affecting sponsored programs. The Guide describes the procedures to follow and the resources available to help you meet both internal and external requirements. The Guide presents basic information about sponsored programs. If you need further guidance or interpretation or are dealing with a complex issue that requires a more detailed analysis, we encourage you to contact the Research Administration and Finance (RAF) office for assistance. 

Division of Responsibilities

A sponsored program award supporting a specific project usually contains requirements and restrictions on the activities to be performed, expenditure of funds, and fiscal and technical reporting. Responsibility for complying with requirements is shared by the project director and administrative offices at Rensselaer. 

Principal Investigator

This person may also be called the Project Director or Program Director (PD). Rensselaer expects the PI to use all reasonable "best efforts" to comply with the terms, conditions, and policies of both the sponsor and Rensselaer, including routine monitoring of the administrative and financial aspects of his/her awards, timely submission of all required reports and processing of internal transactions. The PI is eligible to receive incentive allocations on research projects. In summary, the principal investigator is responsible for: 

  • proper technical conduct of the research effort 
  • compliance with the terms and conditions of the sponsored agreement 
  • managing project funds within the approved budget 
  • timely completion and submission of required technical reports 
  • complying with the all university and sponsor policies and procedures pertinent to the award 

Co-Principal Investigator 

Two or more individuals sharing the PI's responsibilities are called Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs). In general, the number of Co-PIs should be kept to a minimum. When more than two Co-PIs are involved, one person should be designated as the lead PI to serve as the technical contact with the sponsor and to authorize documents sent to the sponsor. Co-PIs share incentive allocations. 

PI Eligibility 

Generally only Tenured Faculty, Tenure Track Faculty and Full-Time Permanent Research Staff are eligible to be a PI/Co-PI on a research project. Exceptions must be approved by the Vice President for Research.


Rensselaer uses the term Co-Investigator for faculty or professional staff who perform a significant role in the project but who are not responsible for directing the project. Co-Investigators do not receive incentive allocations. 

Can Serve as PI?




Requires Approval

Adjunct Faculty




Assistant Deans




Assistant Professor




Associate Professor




Center Directors (non-Faculty)




Emiritis Faculty








Lecturer (Full-time)




Sr. Lecturer (Full-time)




Postdoctoral Research Associate












Professor of Practice




Research Associate




Research Engineer




Research Scientist




Sr. Research Scientist




ROTC Faculty




Vice Presidents (non-Faculty)




Teaching Fellows




Computer Scientist




*As of April 2018

The Office of the Vice President for Research provides infrastructure and research support for the development of research programs and projects. Support services are offered for faculty seeking research opportunities, research proposal and budget preparation, and guidance on research management and intellectual property policy. 

Sponsored research is conducted as a school center and department function. As such, the schools, departments and centers associated with an award are expected to monitor its fiscal status and assist the principal investigator in resolving problems. The departments receiving facilities and administrative (F&A) costs return from the award are also responsible for covering any costs incurred beyond the award amount, or any expenditures disallowed as the result of an audit. 

Research Administration and Finance (RAF) is the office authorized to sign and submit proposals on behalf of Rensselaer and to represent Rensselaer in the negotiation and administration of sponsored program awards.

RAF coordinates sponsored program administration for Rensselaer, working closely with administration, faculty, and sponsors. RAF assists in the preparation of proposals; reviews and endorses proposals and awards; negotiates appropriate award terms and conditions; and recommends and implements policies and procedures regarding sponsored programs. 

RAF also establishes expenditure funds when awards are received and is responsible for reporting expenditures to and obtaining payment from sponsors. RAF helps process financial transaction requests and answers questions about monthly expenditure reports. 

The Payroll Office handles employee and student payroll and answers questions regarding salary and wage payments. They are also responsible for time and effort reporting.

The Purchasing Department is responsible for procuring all goods and services from external vendors, including those purchased with sponsored project funds.

Small Business Procurement Services (SBPS) seeks out and identifies capable small businesses, HUBZone, disadvantaged, women-owned, veteran & service-disabled businesses and provides them opportunities to compete for services and/or commodities purchased by Rensselaer.

The Office of Property Administration is responsible for tagging new equipment and the relocation, transfer, trade-in, cannibalization, and sale of movable equipment and related component parts. Questions regarding the fabrication of specialized equipment or test facilities should be addressed to this office.

The Office of Technology and Commercialization (OTC) provides support to researchers and members of the campus community relative to intellectual property and commercialization.

The Office of Human Resources (HR) oversees the hiring of temporary or permanent employees on a sponsored project. Detailed information on hiring policies and procedures is contained in the Policies and Procedures for Human Resource Management at Rensselaer.

The Corporate, Foundation and International Advancement Office (CF&IA), assists in partnering Rensselaer researchers with corporations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad. 

At Rensselaer, RAF administers sponsored programs, and the Development Office manages gifts. The intent of the awarding agency and the legal obligation incurred by the Institute in accepting the award are the primary factors determining whether an award is a gift or a sponsored program. 


A gift is a donation that is bestowed voluntarily and without expectation of any tangible compensation by the donor. Although gift funds may be designated for use by a specific unit or for a general program area, the donor has no control over the scope of work or content of publications resulting from the project for which the money was donated. Unspent funds do not have to be returned to the donor at the end of the award period, and expenditures are not generally subject to donor audit. 

Sponsored Program 

A sponsored grant or contract is a legally binding written agreement between the Institute and the sponsor. The sponsor may require delivery of specific items, such as technical reports, data, software, and hardware, and may want to review publications for patentable and proprietary information. It may require financial reports, return of unspent funds, and external audit. Questions on whether funding that has been proposed or received is a gift or a sponsored program should be directed to RAF. RAF will discuss the status with the Corporate, Foundation and International Advancement Office (CF&IA), should the need arise. 

View Our Guide to Sponsored Programs PDF

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