Roles of the Principal Investigator and Research Accountant
Role of the Principal Investigator
While the process of managing sponsored research awards is a shared responsibility between the Principal Investigator and the staff of Research Accounting Services, both have unique areas of primary responsibility. The purpose of this is to outline those specific responsibilities, present an overview of project management with special emphasis on the Principal Investigator's role in sponsored projects management, and provide Principal Investigator's with the Drexel University documentation and forms needed to manage successfully a sponsored research award.
The Principal Investigator has primary responsibility for achieving the technical success of the project, while also complying with the financial and administrative policies and regulations associated with the award. Although Principal Investigators may have administrative staff to assist them with the management of project funds, the ultimate responsibility for the management of the sponsored research award rests with the Principal Investigator. These fundamental responsibilities of the Principal Investigator during the post-award phase of a sponsored research award include:
- Execute the project as outlined in the funded proposal, using sound management techniques
- Carryout the project's financial plan as presented in the funded proposal, or make changes to the plan following a prescribed set of policies and procedures
- Report project progress to the sponsor as outlined in the terms of award
- Maintain an accurate record of project related expenses
- Comply with all Drexel University policies and procedures related to project management and personnel practices
- Comply with all applicable sponsor rules, regulations and/or terms and conditions of the award
The Principal Investigator’s responsibilities may be divided into two related but distinctly different sets of activities: those activities involving the management of the work of the project, and responsible spending of project funds. While the work of the project should drive the financial activities, sound management practices in both arenas are required. The financial stewardship of sponsored research funds is a shared responsibility with other areas of the University, among Research Accounting Services.
Once a project has been funded, there is the expectation by both the Sponsoring Agency and Research Accounting Services that the Principal Investigator will responsibly spend the award. Sound fiscal management of sponsored research funds requires knowledge of and adherence to a prescribed set of federal and locally developed financial guidelines. Over the life of a sponsored research award, a researcher may initiate changes to a project that impact on the management of these awarded funds. A Principal Investigator must have a good understanding of the procedures associated with initiating financial transactions or changes to a sponsored research award's financial plan.
To facilitate Principal Investigators' fulfillment of these responsibilities, Research Accounting Services is committed to assisting Principal Investigators in the administration of research and other sponsored activities. In addition to offering workshops and training sessions, Research Accounting Services has prepared a number of training and procedural documents aimed at acquainting a Principal Investigator with the policies and procedures that affect the management of a sponsored research award.
We recognize that the Principal Investigator is directly responsible for the management and administration of the sponsored project within the administrative constraints imposed by the sponsor and in accordance with University policy. In this capacity, the Principal Investigator should authorize all direct cost expenditures of project funds.
However, Research Accounting Services will continue to perform reviews of expenditures for allowability, allocability and compliance with both sponsor and institutional requirements. Any subsequent findings or concerns will be directed to the Principal Investigator, with whom Research Accounting Services will work collaboratively to resolution of the issues.
Role of the Research Accountant
Within Research Accounting Services, the Research Accountant acts as the primary administrative liaison in the area of post award with Sponsoring Agencies, Principal Investigators and Departmental Administrators. The most direct link in the financial management of an award is the partnership between the Departmental Administrator, Principal Investigator and the Research Accountant.
The primary responsibilities of the Research Accountant during the post-award phase of a sponsored research award are:
- Establish and monitor sponsored research accounts.
- Outline sponsors' guidelines and regulations to Department Administrators and Principal Investigators.
- Monitor expenditure activities on sponsored research accounts to ensure compliance with federal regulations, agency specific requirements, and college policies/procedures.
- Initiate interim and final financial reports in a timely manner, as required by a sponsor.
- Initiate discussions, as needed, between Principal Investigators and funding agencies related to the interpretation and application of a sponsor's regulations and policies.
- Facilitate good award management techniques by disseminating information to Principal Investigators on a wide range of topics related to sponsored research.