When an award for a sponsored project is made, the granting agency, whether federal, state or private, makes that award to the University of Houston and not to the individual researcher. While the Principal Investigator develops and expresses the concept and details of the proposed project in a proposal, it is the University that submits the proposal to the sponsor, and it is the University that commits to the successful completion of the project. The infrastructure and support necessary to complete the project are the responsibility of the institution.
The authority to accept awards for the University of Houston, thereby committing University facilities and support, and employee time, vests with the Board of Regents. The Board has delegated this authority to the President of the University, who has, in turn, delegated it to the Vice President for Research. The Vice president has authorized the Executive Director of the Office of Contracts and Grants to act on his behalf in this area.
The Office of Contracts and Grants assigns a Research Administrator to serve as the intermediary between the agency and the Principal Investigator for the purposes of award negotiation, changes in the project budget, modifications to the award, date extensions and other matters. In addition, the Division of Research has the responsibility of filing required fiscal reports and ensuring compliance with agency and state regulations and guidelines. The Principal Investigator has the responsibility of directing the technical aspects of the project, conducting the research effort within the scope authorized by the agency and managing the financial aspects of the project, including authorizing all expenditures of award funds within administrative constraints imposed by the agency, state and/or the University.
If a faculty member conducts research without a sponsored research agreement executed by a properly-authorized University signatory, he or she will incur certain liabilities, as listed below.
If a faculty member conducts a sponsored research project outside the auspices of the University review, approval and oversight, as outlined above, that faculty member is acting in his or her own private capacity, and not as an employee or agent of the University with regard to liability insurance. In other words, the individual is not covered by the liability insurance afforded by the University to faculty or staff who are acting as University employees. Because the faculty member or staff person is acting outside the course and scope of his or her employment with the University, the individual faculty member or staff person will be personally liable for any claims by either the sponsor or subjects of the research project. In addition, the faculty or staff member may be subject to sanctions by the University for failure to follow these policy guidelines as University employees.
A faculty member conducting a sponsored research project for which there is no approved agreement by the University may not use the facilities, personnel, equipment or the name of the University for such activities. Any such activity is not a University-sponsored or endorsed activity and specific arrangements must be made by the individual to reimburse the University for any State property being used in the conduct of that individual’s private endeavors.
If no agreement exists between the University and the sponsor of the project, the individual faculty member is solely and personally liable for necessary accounting reports and for dealing with any audit requested or required by the sponsor, as well as reimbursing the University for any State resources used in connection with such reports or audits.
If no agreement exists between the University and the sponsor of the project, and thus the faculty member is acting on his or her own behalf, the faculty member is not entitled to legal or administrative support from the University should a dispute or problem arise as a result of the research project.