Fiscal Responsibility

To support its research efforts, Columbia University receives millions of dollars in sponsored project awards each year. When researchers accept these funds for sponsored projects, they also accept responsibility to comply with the regulations and contractual requirements governing how the funds are spent and how expenditures are reported. Columbia researchers and administrators are expected to exercise the utmost responsibility in managing research funds provided to the University. Specifically, those who manage research dollars are expected to ensure that expenditures from their sponsored projects are:

  • Reasonable and necessary
  • Allowable under the terms and conditions of the award
  • Properly allocated to and among multiple awards and funding sources
  • Limited to the funds awarded for the project
  • In compliance with the regulations of the sponsor as well as the policies of the University

Responsibility for the proper administration of sponsored project awards rests primarily with the principal investigators. While the University recognizes that departmental administrators and others with grants management responsibilities play a significant role in managing and administering research funds, the principal investigator remains ultimately responsible for ensuring that grants are managed, funds are expended and effort is reported appropriately. Specific PI responsibilities are spelled out in the University policy, Principal Investigator Responsibilities for Financial Oversight of Grants & Contracts.

Personnel involved in sponsored projects administration are expected to consult the Sponsored Projects Handbook during the day-to-day administration of sponsored projects and apply the principles it describes, as well as to stay abreast of updates. 

Sponsored Projects Finance in the Office of the Controller and Sponsored Projects Administration work with principal investigators and their delegates in ensuring that funds received from sponsors to carry out the important work of the University are utilized in accordance with the terms and conditions of those awards.

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Compensation and Effort Reporting

Effort Reporting is the means by which the University certifies that the salary charged to any given activity is reasonable in relation to the effort expended on the project. "Effort" refers to the proportion of time spent on any activity, expressed as a percentage of the "Total University Effort," which includes all professional activity for which an individual is employed by Columbia University: sponsored activities, teaching, CU administrative duties, private practice, and other activities.

The University's Policy on Charging and Documentation of Personnel Costs Charged to Sponsored Projects requires all faculty who devote effort to one or more sponsored projects (whether funded by government agencies or other sponsors) to certify their own effort. This is done using a web-based system called ECRT (Effort Certification and Reporting Technology) that enables faculty to monitor and self-certify their effort percentages electronically. All researchers on sponsored projects are required to complete an on-line training course in effort reporting, and all administrators are required to complete in-person training. Visit the Effort Reporting website for additional information, FAQs and other links and tools.

Review a refresher of Effort Reporting topics for faculty and PIs.