Administering Research Contracts

This publication delves into many of the issues associated with the administration of research contracts. It looks at how contracts differ from grants, from both federal and legal perspectives. It covers the structure of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), and how it can be used to a research administrator’s advantage when negotiating federal contracts. It looks at some of the special challenges that can arise in negotiating contracts with government agencies and with the private sector, including subcontracts of federal funds via the private sector.

(22 pages, PDF)

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Table of Contents

What is a ‘Contract’?

Staffing and Communications

      Effective Communications

      Resources Required

Contracts at the Proposal Stage

        Exceptions to Contract Terms

        Representations and Certifications

        Subcontracting Plan

Contracts and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

      Structure of the FAR

      FAR Numbering System

      Looking Up FAR Clauses

Contracts at the Negotiation/Execution Stage

      Fixed-Price vs. Cost-Reimbursement Contracts

      Terms and Conditions



                  Cost Principles

                  Administrative Requirements


                  Period of Performance

                  Audit Requirements


Contracts After the Award 

                  FAR Clauses often seen in contracts

Stop-Work Order

Contracts with the Private Sector

        Private-Sector Contracts under Private Funding

        Private-Sector Contracts under Federal Funding

Inventions under Federal Subcontracts

Special Issues for Small Institutions



David Mayo is Director of Sponsored Research at the California Institute of Technology, where he has worked since 2002.  In this capacity David is responsible for the overall operations of the Office of Sponsored Research, including submission of proposals for sponsored programs, negotiation and administration of complex sponsored awards, review and interpretation of existing and emerging federal and state policies and regulations, development and implementation of campus policies and procedures, and training programs for campus staff in sponsored programs administration. 

David is a well-respected expert in contracting and the FAR. He has received multiple honors including NCURA’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Administration in 2012, Distinguished Service Award in 2010 and he was recognized as an NCURA Distinguished Educator in 2016.