Contract Guidelines

A research contract is a legal document detailing the obligations of two or more parties over the course of a research project.  It usually has specific deliverables and milestones to be met and dictates how the contracting parties will interact with each other.  Contracts may be called by a variety of names – agreement, purchase order, subaward, memorandum of understanding, letter agreement – however, if the content of the document includes specific terms and conditions governing the performance of research, it is considered by the University of Iowa to be a research contract.

The University of Iowa, rather than the UI project director, is considered the contracting party in relation to formal contracts. This means all contracts must be reviewed and accepted by the institution rather than the individual project director. Each contract comes with terms and conditions which must be thoroughly reviewed prior to acceptance.  While UI policy and State law give general direction regarding acceptable contract terms, the nature of the proposed project and sponsor type will ultimately determine how the contract is written and which office can review it.  The University of Iowa has adopted a standard research contract format recommended by the National Academy of Sciences Government, University, Industry Roundtable.

The UI has delegated contracting authority -- the authority to accept contract terms and conditions on the institution's behalf -- to various UI offices, allowing each a limited authority to accept and sign certain types of contracts. Please note that, while the Division of Sponsored Programs handles many types of contracts involving investigators and outside parties, other UI offices are responsible for certain types of contracts.

Types of contracts and corresponding offices are listed in this table.

DSP contracting authority extends to the contract types indicated in the table above.  Those contracts must be routed to the DSP for review, negotiation and signature.  The links in the table above provide additional information based on the contract type. If you have questions about the routing process, please contact the Division of Sponsored Programs for assistance. You can find the DSP Contract Administrator for your department here.

DSP cannot proceed with review, negotiation or signature of your contract without, at minimum, a Routing Form, copy of the Contract, Statement of Work or Protocol, and Budget (for funded agreements). 

(a) Routing Form

The UI Proposal Routing Form is the UI document that, with the required approvals of participating PIs, associated department chairs/directors and collegiate deans, authorizes DSP to negotiate and sign a contract.  Any contract handled by the Division of Sponsored Programs should be routed through UI channels for departmental and collegiate approval before DSP can begin its review and negotiation or sign the contract.

The required forms and procedures vary somewhat depending on the type of contract you are routing:

(b) Written Contract (preferably in Word or other electronic format)

Every contract must be formally outlined in writing. If the sponsor has not sent you a contract for research-related work, you may refer them to our Model Contract Templates. If the contract relates to something other than research, please consult the above or contact the Division of Sponsored Programs for assistance.


(c) Statement of Work or Protocol

There must be a clear statement describing the actual work to be performed by The University of Iowa and outlining any specifications, performance dates, deadlines, regulatory requirements, licenses/certifications required to perform the work, and reporting requirements.  This will be incorporated into the final contract.

(d) Budget

Every contract involving funding must include a budget. If you have not yet developed a budget for the project, please refer to the information included on our Budget Preparation Information and be sure to use the correct Facilities and Administrative (F&A) cost rate. You can continue to revise the budget while the Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) is negotiating other contract terms. Please notify your DSP Contract Administrator if you are revising the budget that originally accompanied the contract submitted to DSP.  The budget generally will be incorporated into the final contract.

(e) Corporate-Funded Clinical Trial Agreements (CTAs)

If your contract is for a CTA you will need to submit the agreement, protocol, draft internal budget, and sponsor contact information. See also -

          How To Start a Corporate Funded Clinical Trial

Contracts involving special issues require you to complete additional steps in a timely manner, working with the appropriate UI offices to avoid a delay in the contract negotiation and acceptance process.  Please be aware that some of these issues, if unresolved, could delay signature of your contract or establishment of a Master File Key (MFK.)  Below are some of the more common issues found in contracts. The Contract Administrator reviewing your contract will inform you of these and other required steps when/if they occur. 

(a) Conflict of Interest in Research: as defined in Section II, Division II, Chapter 18 of the UI Policy Manual.  If there is a conflict of interest in research, DSP will conduct contract negotiations, but cannot sign the contract until an approved management plan is in place. Contact the Conflict of Interest in Research Office with questions.

(b) Human Subjects: Complete and submit the required human subject Institutional Review Board (IRB) form.  Contact the Human Subjects Office with questions.  DSP will conduct contract negotiations without the IRB approval, but an MFK cannot be assigned until the project has received IRB approval.

(c) Vertebrate Animal Research: Complete and submit the required vertebrate animal Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) forms. Contact the Office of Animal Research with questions. DSP will conduct contract negotiations without IACUC approval, but an MFK cannot be assigned until the project has received IACUC approval.

(d) E-Verify: A clause within some federal contracts requiring the University to verify that employees directly working on the contract are eligible to work in the United States. Since September 2009, some federal contracts have required the contracting party to verify that employees directly working on the contract are eligible to work in the United States, confirming employee status through the federal government's online E-Verify system. The University of Iowa has implemented measures to comply with this regulation. Additional information is available here. Notice of E-Verify will be provided during the contract negotiation stage.

(e) Export Controls: If required, Export Control Review must occur prior to contract signature.  Any time you have a question about the application of export controls to any stage of a specific research project, contact the UI Export Control Coordinator.

The University – Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) is an organization comprised of almost 80 universities and companies with a mission to enhance the value of collaborative partnerships between universities and industry in the United States.  The UIDP has produced the Researcher Guidebook, which addresses the opportunities and challenges unique to institution and industry collaborations, specifically targeting active researchers (at all career stages) and is the product of the collective expertise of the UIDP’s member representatives.  The guidebook is divided into two parts: Part 1 is dedicated to the Institutional Researcher; Part 2 is dedicated to the Industrial Researcher. These two companion portions of the guidebook together create a strategic tool to promote greater understanding of the issues that face both parties in order to facilitate more effective collaborations for mutual benefit. Reading this guidebook should lead the researcher to ask the right questions, both of the organization and of the potential collaborator, to determine whether to proceed with a particular collaboration.

The researcher guidebook document includes hyperlinks with blue underlines to draw your attention to the relevant University of Iowa departments and policies.

Related links:
Researcher Guidebook
University-Industry Demonstration Partnership

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