This page provides resources related to subawards. Please be sure to reference the NIH Grants Policy Statement (NIH GPS) and your specific notice of award for comprehensive requirements that apply to a specific award.
Definition of subaward
As outlined in the NIH GPS 1.2, a subaward is an award provided by a pass-through entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of a Federal award received by the pass-through entity. It does not include payments to a contractor or payments to an individual that is a beneficiary of a Federal program. A subaward may be provided through any form of legal agreement, including an agreement that the pass-through entity considers a contract. The term includes consortium agreements.
The relationship between the recipient and the collaborating organizations is considered a subaward relationship.
What terms apply to subawards?
The NIH GPS serves as a term and condition of grant awards that applies not only to the prime recipients, but also flows down to any subawards unless specified otherwise in the regulation or the term and condition of the specific NIH award (See NIH GPS 15.1).
What is the Role of the Prime vs. Sub?
The primary recipient of NIH grant funds is accountable to NIH for:
- The performance of the project
- The appropriate expenditure of grant funds by all parties
- Applicable reporting requirements
- All other obligations of the recipient as outlined in the NIH GPS
The prime recipient must perform a substantive role in the conduct of the planned research and not merely serve as a conduit of funds to another party or parties. This includes being able to provide appropriate oversight of all scientific, programmatic, financial, and administrative matters related to the grant.
Setting up a Subaward (Consortium) Agreement
Must be done in partnership between the prime and subrecipient. The recipient must enter into a formal written agreement with each consortium participant, which must address all required elements.
The agreement must address the negotiated arrangements for meeting the scientific, administrative, financial, and reporting requirements of the grant, including those necessary to ensure compliance with all applicable Federal regulations and policies and facilitate an efficient collaborative venture.
The agreement must be approved by the Authorized Organization Representative at both institutions. When there a questions or concerns – contact the funding Institute or Center for support.
Subaward (Consortium) Agreements
A subaward (consortium) agreement is:
- A formalized agreement whereby a research project is carried out by the recipient and one or more other organizations that are separate legal entities.
- The recipient must perform a substantive role in the conduct of the planned research and not merely serve as a conduit of funds to another party or parties.
- These agreements typically involve a specific level of effort from the consortium organization’s PD/PI and a categorical breakdown of costs, such as personnel, supplies, and other allowable expenses, including F&A costs.
Subaward (Consortium) Agreement – Key Elements
NIH GPS 15.2.1 provides the detailed requirements for consortium agreements:
- Identification of the individual who will serve as the consortium lead investigator.
- Procedures for directing and monitoring the research effort.
- Procedures to be followed in reimbursing each consortium participant for its effort.
- A determination of policies to be followed in such areas as travel reimbursement and salaries and fringe benefits.
- Terms that establish whether the Financial Conflict of Interest policy of the awardee Institution or that of the subrecipient will apply to the subrecipient’s Investigators.
- A provision requiring foreign subrecipients to provide access to copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation that supports the research outcomes as described in the progress report, to the primary recipient with a frequency of no less than once per year, in alignment with the timing requirements for Research Performance Progress Report submission. Such access may be entirely electronic.
- A provision addressing ownership and disposition of data produced under the consortium agreement.
- A provision making the NIH data sharing and inventions and patent policy applicable, including a requirement to report inventions to the recipient.
- Expectations for authorship and co-authorship on publications and provisions regarding property (other than intellectual property), program income, publications, reporting, and audit necessary for the recipient to fulfill its obligations to NIH.
- Incorporation of applicable public policy requirements and provisions.
Prior Approval Requirements for Subawards
The prior approval requirements for change in scope and other significant changes to the project also apply to subrecipients. Since NIH’s legal relationship is with the prime recipient, subrecipients should contact the prime to request any prior approvals.
If a recipient (or consortium participant) proposes the transfer of work to a foreign site, NIH prior approval is required.
Effective January 2, 2024, written agreements for foreign subawards must contain a provision requiring foreign subrecipients to provide access to copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation that supports the research outcomes as described in the progress report, to the primary recipient with a frequency of no less than once per year, in alignment with the timing requirements for Research Performance Progress Report submission. Such access may be entirely electronic.
Sample Foreign Subrecipient Agreement Language
By signing this subrecipient agreement, [Subrecipient name] agrees to provide access to copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation that supports the research outcomes as described in the progress report, to [primary recipient] with a frequency of no less than once per year, in alignment with the timing requirements for Research Performance Progress Report described in [reference section of contract that provides timing of report submission]. [Subrecipient name] will make such data available via [insert recipient’s preferred method here (e.g., Sharepoint, Teams, Box, etc.)].
Notices and Statements
- NOT-OD-23-182 - NIH Final Updated Policy Guidance for Subaward/Consortium Written Agreements
- Open Mike Blog post - Further Clarifying NIH’s Foreign Subaward Agreement Policy: Addressing Community Feedback
NIH Update Regarding Oversight of Foreign Subawards (YouTube)
International Collaborations: Policies, Processes, & Partnerships (YouTube)
- Slides - Understanding International Collaborations (PPT)
- Slides - Sub Award Agreements: Requirements and Case Studies (PPT)
- Slides - A Walk-Through of the Federal Financial Report (FFR) (PPT)
- Slides - Collaborating and Partnering with Foreign Entities from a Scientific Perspective (PPT)
- Slides - Foreign Interference (PPT)
- Slides - Building a Successful Program to Support International Collaborations (PPT)
- Transcript (Word)
- Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act