Understanding Economic and Fiscal Realities for Successful Academic Careers
The following case scenarios are to assist you in thinking how challenging conflicts or situations could be handled best in mentoring when aspects of understanding economic and fiscal realities for successful academic careers are concerned.
- Directing grants and contracts
- Negotiations with industry
- Your mentee transfers several grants and contracts to the university
- Assistance with navigating the start-up phase for clinical trials
- Inheritance and transfer of an industry driven project
- Principal Investigator responsibility for financial management
- Problems with accounting and submitting invoices with existing subcontracts
- Assistance for entrepreneurial opportunities
- Problems in the administration of the grant and budget
- Mentoring for grant application
- Zeroed project fund—charged and put into overdraft
- Mentoring for loan repayment programs
- Foundation support for research
- Gifts and grants
- Callison Foundation and Hemphill Trust (two small, local family foundations)
- William B. Gates Foundation (a large and complicated international foundation focused on global health)
- University start up funds
- Conducting pilot research on a small budget
- Understanding the system
Understanding Economic and Fiscal Realities for Successful Academic Careers
Directing grants and contracts
You are a mentor to a newly hired junior faculty member, who is part of a collaborative award and needs to submit a subcontract. Your mentee has several grants and contracts that s/he will be bringing to the university as part of their research activity. What are the challenges for bringing grants and contracts to UCSF? What happens if the person is being recruited to the VA? Where are the grants directed? How should the prioritization process proceed for grants and subcontracts? What are the key offices that will help with the transfer?
Negotiations with industry
Your mentee is negotiating a new project with an industry partner. He has identified a new protein that is of interest to industry but has not much experience with these partnerships. What are the best ways to establish a relationship with the sponsor?
Your mentee transfers several grants and contracts to the university
You are a mentor to a newly hired junior faculty member, who is part of a collaborative award and needs to submit a subcontract. Your mentee has several grants and contracts that s/he will be bringing to the university as part of their research activity. The project has not started yet and contract language is being developed. What advice would you give?
Assistance with navigating the start-up phase for clinical trials
Your mentee was recently approached by a Contract Research Organization (CRO) to participate in a phase III clinical trial. He is interested in participating, but is not experienced with industry-sponsored trials and needs assistance with navigating the start-up phase. You have offered to document the steps, incorporating your institutional policies, to proceed from notifying the CRO that "yes, I would like to consider participating" to having a fully executed contract and ready to begin enrollment. What resources would you recommend to the mentee? Include any available tools provided by your institution, i.e., institution specific budget templates.
Inheritance and transfer of an industry driven project
Your mentee might be inheriting an industry driven project or may be transferring the project from on site or one university to another. In this case the contracts are established, the project could be ongoing or the project could be winding down and the manuscripts are being written. For these two scenarios consider the following issues: Why were there residual funds? Are there other accounts for discretionary funds? What are the limits funds to various accounts? Can a mentee take discretionary funds with him/her if s/he leaves the university?
Principal investigator responsibility for financial management
Your mentee comes to you because despite careful attention to grants, he will not have sufficient funds to cover staff, expenses, rent, and complete the industry or NIH funded project. The budgetary reports were not provided for the past six months so the shortfall was not noticed. Can you shift various costs from this project to other funds? Do they have discretionary funds? How do you discuss this with your lab or division chief?
Problems with accounting and submitting their invoices with existing subcontracts
Your mentee comes to you concerned that there are large amounts of undistributed costs that have not been recorded on the ledgers yet. In part there are problems with accounting with colleagues assigning costs and with other institutions submitting their invoices with existing subcontracts with the University of California (UC). What advice can you give for each of these situations?
Assistance for entrepreneurial opportunities
Your mentee expresses an interest in entrepreneurial endeavors and seeks to become more knowledgeable about translating life science innovations from academia to industry. Is this encouraged? How does one increase the chance for success in spinning off a company or working with industry partners? How is this evaluated by others within the University? What structures help an individual develop an entrepreneurial activity and remain at UCSF (or leave)? What are the right circumstances or reasons for a person to leave UCSF for a position in the private sector? How do you evaluate entrepreneurial opportunities or activities?
Problems in the administration of the grant and budget
After being awarded an R01, the awarding institute changed the fiscal year from October-September to June - May (shortening the first year award), the UCSF Administrative analyst was aware of change and the mentee met with him/her quarterly to go over the budget, taking care to remind him each time about the short year and our intention to have a no cost extension. The mentee was reassured that all was fine. In the final year of the budget the administrative analyst left and another person took over the grant and budget. The new analyst seemed to understand the "short" year and assured the mentee that s/he could go to November, and in fact showed him/her a budget to that effect. This analyst, too, left. A third person who took over the grant and budget told the mentee s/he was running out of money May 31 and had no carry forward funds. The mentee was appalled, having asked the new analyst to send him/her the ledgers—on the recommendation of a colleague who does her own budgets. The mentee observed some new costs and some issues, but not enough to make him/her run out of money. There are costs problems stemming from budget office activities that should be from indirect costs but instead seem to be paid for from direct cost funds. The mentee suspects s/he is "screwed". Is she? What can the mentee do and what kind of documentation is needed if there are problems in the administration of the grant and budget? How can you as a mentor assist? Is one "all alone" when the grant funds go sour or do you have recourses? How soon should one act and what are your avenues of action?
Mentoring for grant application
Your mentee finds out from another research institution about money available for his/her research. Time to respond is short and if s/he doesn't, funds will evaporate. If s/he follows the Department's standard operating procedure for pre-award, s/he would have submitted budget materials for assembly three weeks ago in order to meet the internal deadline. S/he knows that the Department's pre-award person is stressed out and overloaded with proposals already in the queue, yet s/he doesn't want to miss this opportunity for $150k. S/he has the feeling that the pre-award person will put the kibosh on it for being so late if s/he goes through him. What would be your advice? Should your mentee do a bypass standard practice by putting together some rough numbers for personnel and his/her best estimate of the supplies costs, a foreign subcontract, some travel, overhead, etc. and email it out him/herself to the PI at the other institution? Your mentee's pre-award person can always back into the numbers and clean them up later. Should your mentee look for the next round and skip on this one? Should s/he ask for help from another pre-award person in your division, department, or school? How would you ask and whom would you ask for help? What kind of help or support can your mentee expect in this situation?
Zeroed project fund—charged and put into overdraft
You mentee's new Research Special Analyst discovers that several expensive transactions involving shared equipment were never distributed across the proper projects, some of them years old. The analyst tells your mentee that now that she has found these errors and that they involve federal projects; she is obligated to correct them. This will mean a zeroed project fund of your mentee’s will now be charged and put into overdraft. Also, other projects may suddenly have credits in them that can't be easily accessed. What are your mentee's options in this regard? Is it the Department's responsibility to cover the overdraft? How could your mentee have known? Could someone else have known?
Mentoring for loan repayment programs
You have a mentee who is in the beginning of his/her last year of residency and will be starting a two-year research fellowship in your division. S/he has $200,000 in educational debt and is interested in applying for the Loan Repayment Program. During the fellowship s/he will be completing a Master's in Clinical Research. S/he wonders whether it would be better to apply now, next year, or in the future. How would you advise her regarding timing of application? Can s/he apply now? What are the problems with applying next year? What are his/her chances of success? If awarded, what are his/her tax obligations relative to state and federal taxes?
Foundation support for research
NIH funding seems to be more and more of a challenge and your mentee thinks that there might be some interest in private sources. The sources your mentee has the most interest in stem from either private enterprises or from private foundations. Public foundations are also possible. What is the best way for your mentee to reach these sources? Who could help your mentee identify new sources of funds? What is expected? After some search your mentee hits on the Commonwealth fund. Who can introduce him/her to this agency? What will the application look like? What other foundations are similar? How can your mentee increase the value of his/her application? What other faculty have received funding from the Commonwealth fund? Can they help the mentee?
Gifts and grants
Although it appears that it would be an easy thing to distinguish a gift from a grant, in reality there are often grey areas. As donors have become more sophisticated, it is now standard for some to stipulate a project period, require a brief "financial" report and that unspent funds be returned, etc. Thus, identifying whether funding is a gift or a grant requires judgment and can be subjective. If your mentee approached you, how would you explain the difference between a gift and a grant as currently defined under UCSF policy? What can gift funds be used for?
Callison Foundation and Hemphill Trust (two small, local family foundations)
A faculty member was interested in exploring foundation support for a direct service program focused on providing medical care to homebound elders in San Francisco. This faculty member works with a major gifts officer, who is assigned to the division of geriatrics. The faculty member contacted the major gifts officer to share their program and funding need, who then visited with the Corporate and Foundation Relations (C&FR) team, a centralized unit within UDAR to learn about foundation and/or corporate prospects. This team is organized as a centralized team with UDAR, with five directors – a foundation relations director, a corporate relations director, a sponsorship associated director, a corporate and foundations relations director, and a corporate and foundation relations senior director. Each of these directors manages a portfolio of approximately 60-80 foundation and corporate prospects, and is responsible for the development of strategies to optimize funding from these entities on behalf of UCSF, and in particular the priorities of the campus.
The faculty member was asked to complete a project worksheet (see attached) to begin the process of researching and identifying potential foundation prospects. C&FR conducted research and identified approximately seven small, regional, family-type foundations that may be aligned with this specific elders program. Many of these small entities were not assigned to a specific CFR director, and therefore considered new prospects.
An initial strategy was developed with the faculty member to review all of the foundations that were identified with the following key components—a closely aligned interest with the program (health care service and elders), accepted letters of inquiry and/or a proposal, and gave to universities, clinics or hospitals. A boiler-plate letter was drafted, and then reviewed in light of the guidelines for each foundation prospect. A funding request was identified based on the foundation’s previous giving range, and capacity to give. These letters were then sent to each prospective foundation – five in total.
The outcome of this effort included successful grants from two local foundations – the Callison Foundation ($30,000) and the Hemphill Trust ($10,000). Both organizations accepted letters of inquiry, and indicated they gave to SF-based organizations focused on elders and healthcare. Both organizations did not request more information or a full proposal, and made their decision based on a letter of inquiry.
Because these two funders were new entities and had never giving to UCSF in the past, we needed to learn if UCSF could receive the funds as gifts. We believed the program request was consistent with a gift to the UCSF Foundation; however, we were not familiar with any conditions the foundations would place on UCSF for its funding. For instance, if the foundation requested financial and program progress and annual reports, we may not be able to receive the funds as gifts. As a result of good communication and discussions with the UCSF Foundation’s financial and gift administration management team, it was determined both of these entities accepted our conditions of a gift and the funds were deposited within the UCSF Foundation to be distributed to the faculty member.
William B. Gates Foundation (a large and complicated international foundation focused on global health)
A faculty member was interested in exploring the Bloomberg Foundation as a potential funder for a Center. The faculty member shared this idea with a major gifts officer assigned to him through the University Development and Alumni Relations department at UCSF. The major gifts officer then visited with the Corporate and Foundation Relations team, a unit within UDAR. This team is organized as a centralized team of UDAR, with five directors – a foundation relations director, a corporate relations director, a sponsorship associated director, a corporate and foundations relations director, and a corporate and foundation relations senior director. Each of these directors manages a portfolio of approximately 60-80 foundation and corporate prospects, and is responsible for the development of strategies to optimize funding from these entities on behalf of UCSF, and in particular the priorities of the campus.
The director assigned to the Bloomberg Foundation was asked to research this foundation for a potential alignment with the Center. As part of the research process, the director met with the faculty member to learn about the Center’s interests and funding needs and reviewed the Bloomberg Foundation’s published guidelines, financial documents, IRS tax returns, recent grants, and other published press releases and information. Through the research process, it was determined that the Bloomberg Foundation was NOT a good match for the Center at this time for the project being considered; however, the Gates Foundation was identified as a potential prospect.
The information gathered on both the Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg Foundation was shared in a development and strategy document with some initial recommendations to the faculty member for further research and qualification. Specific attention was given to learning more about the alleged $125 million Gates Foundation tobacco initiative. Questions we believed needed to be answered included: 1.) Who are the leaders within the Gates Foundation driving the initiative for tobacco control? 2.) Does UCSF have a connection to these folks? 3.) What is Gates Foundation’s strategy for giving to tobacco control internationally?
To learn more, Medeiros suggested asking one of her Gates Foundation contacts to learn if there was a team focused on Tobacco at the Gates Foundation. We were connected to the team through this contact, and met with the program officer and the consultant by phone to explore and learn more. During this initial meeting, we also learned who the director was, and UCSF’s connections to these the Gates Foundation on behalf of tobacco programs. Gathering this kind of information was very important to the process, especially because the Tobacco Initiative did not indicate it would accept letters of inquiry. We also wanted to learn the strategy around recent giving, and if there was an opportunity to submit a proposal from UCSF. Other important information we needed included: How much should UCSF request, who should receive our proposal, and if there are any gaps that UCSF could fill, based on our capacity.
Based on this initial research and qualification discussions, the Center has decided to develop a $3-5 million proposal in collaboration with faculty members interested in global tobacco control. The initial proposal is being developed and will be reviewed by the faculty over the next couple weeks. The Gates Foundation is a formal foundation, and has a strong history of giving to UCSF, in the form of grants. Because the proposal will be exploratory, and drafted as a letter of inquiry, it will not need prior approval from the Contracts and Grants division. We believe this proposal (if invited) will have many hallmarks of a grant, including a detailed program description, timeline, objectives, evaluation mechanism and line-item budget and narrative.
University start up funds
You are mentor to a newly hired junior faculty who was recruited by UCSF last year through a national search. As part of her recruitment package, she was promised start up funds in the amount of $75,000 per year for two years. Your mentee has used her first year of start up funds, but has not received the second year of funding. She is currently in need of these funds to advance her research project, but when she approached her division chief, she was told that due to recession and university financial problems, funds may not be available. What should your mentee do?
Conducting pilot research on a small budget
Your mentee is trying to conduct pilot research on a shoestring budget. She can afford to pay her research assistant for 20% time but really needs someone full time. The RA is so dedicated to the research she has offered to volunteer for the other 80% time. Is there a problem with such an arrangement? Who can you talk to at the University to find out?
Understanding the system
The primary department and a UC affiliated institute want to "share" a faculty member. The primary UCSF department cites a policy that requires that all grants go through the department and interprets this policy to mean that even if the work is to be entirely done at the UC affiliated institute, that the department must get the grant. The UC affiliated institute refuses to do this and an impasse occurs in which the faculty member is working at the two sites, but gets no benefit from the position.