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External Grant Policies and Procedures

Brooks School Policies and Procedures for External Grant-Getting

Last Revised June 6, 2024
Approved by Faculty May 17, 2023

Brooks is strongly positioned in its resources, scope, and focus to be a leader in policy research. We are building a research infrastructure to foster cutting-edge research in public policy, support policy scholars from diverse demographic and disciplinary backgrounds, nurture synergies across policy faculty and research areas, grow collective resources for faculty and graduate students, and elevate public policy at Cornell. We have distinctive capacity to bring in external awards that will increase the impact of faculty research and build team science, and we aim to create an intellectual and policy environment that incentivizes and supports grant-getting while being financially sound and equitable across all Brooks faculty.

Some aspects of the grants environment described below apply most straightforwardly to awards administered through Brooks (the administering unit is typically the primary appointing unit). We will work to reduce institutional barriers and to strengthen collaboration on policy research across campus.

1. Grant administration

Preparing proposals for external funding is supported by the Pre-Award Research Operations (PRO) team. PRO is integrated within the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and serves a number of other academic units at Cornell. It has a robust pool of Pre-award Specialists and Grant Coordinators with expertise across funding agencies at the federal, state, and foundation levels and access to centralized resources and training.

PRO’s goal is to reduce the administrative burden of proposal preparation so that investigators can focus on their research. Their services include: reviewing sponsor solicitations; preparing summaries of required proposal elements; developing budgets; drafting other support documents; preparing and assembling proposal packages; interfacing with internal and external collaborators; routing proposals for internal approvals; and supporting complex center proposals.

Faculty will initiate requests for pre-award support through a brief Proposal Notification form, and will be assigned a Pre-Award Specialist/Grant Coordinator within a business day of submission. The form includes the sponsor and solicitation, list of collaborators, due date, title for the project, start date and duration, estimated total budget, sponsor’s indirect cost rate (IDC), and whether Cornell investigators plan to include course releases in their budget. This short form will be shared with Brooks’ budget and post-award staff and Senior AD of Research. Investigators will need written approval from the Dean prior to grant submission for: 1) cost recovery on large, low-IDC awards; and 2) course releases.

Post-award support is provided within core Brooks staffing to track accounts, coordinate subawards, manage funding deadlines, and assist with reporting and compliance. The post-award team works with Brooks faculty investigators to develop spending plans that comply with program budgets. It monitors account activity and manages bi-monthly check-ins with Brooks faculty investigators to ensure that all project costs are appropriately allocated, in compliance with internal and external budget requirements, and on target relative to the overall budget and timeline. It provides support coordinating subawards and managing reporting deadlines and other aspects of compliance; it works with OSP and Sponsored Financial Services (SFS) on subawards, restricted data, and project modifications.

2. Course Release Policy

Brooks aims to support faculty time on externally funded grants while also serving our teaching mission. Our general principle is that all faculty should teach a minimum of one course per year to maintain a meaningful commitment to our students (and only in rare circumstances would teaching be reduced to zero courses in any given year).

When allowable on the funders’ side, and consistent with a minimum teaching commitment of one course per year, Brooks faculty may use external funds to pay for one course release per year. We will work closely with faculty to jointly plan the particular course to be released and the timing of the release so that faculty can allocate time to the funded project and Brooks can retain flexibility in meeting curricular needs. The approval process for course release is initiated by PRO’s

Release from one course per year is charged at 15% of the faculty member’s nine-month academic year salary. This rate is a middle ground between two sets of assumptions about the distribution of faculty time: assuming 50% research and 50% teaching with a 3-course load, each course represents 17% effort (1/3 of 50%); assuming 50% research, 40% teaching, and 10% service, each course represents 13% effort (1/3 of 40%).

Release for a second externally-funded course is charged at 20% and requires a stronger justification from the PI. This might include the management of multiple awards, full IDC recovery, or significant public goods, including programmatic support, funding for junior colleagues, and graduate research assistantships. This higher standard reflects an effort to balance support of our research and teaching missions.

For faculty with course release from service to the Brooks School, external funds may be used for one additional release (again consistent with a minimum teaching commitment of one course per year) at the 15% rate.

For Brooks-appointed faculty teaching outside of Brooks (e.g., who teach courses for their disciplinary departments), course release will need to be coordinated across units. Brooks may share externally-funded course release revenues with other units to cover replacement courses to make it easier for departments to release faculty teaching time, consistent with other policies on campus.

Brooks faculty with lines funded primarily in other units face different course release policies. Unless otherwise negotiated through an individual memorandum of understanding (MOU), course release will follow the policies and practices of the primary appointing unit.

3. Indirect cost policies and IDC recovery

Brooks will not impose minimum IDC standards, i.e., it will support our faculty in seeking grant funding from a range of sources, including federal awards that pay indirect costs over 50% and foundation awards that often have much lower allowable IDCs. Such grants provide valuable support for policy research. To address concerns about the administrative cost of low IDC awards, we will work with faculty on drafting budgets that help offset potential costs, including: 1) salary recovery, i.e., funding for a portion of academic-year salary that is not applied to course release; 2) public goods like GRA tuition; and 3) allowable costs for services more typically covered by IDCs, e.g., space, administrative staff, computing, and IRB costs. Written approval from the Dean will be required for awards with IDCs under 18% and direct cost budgets over $100k.

4. Other mechanisms to incentivize and support grant-getting

For Brooks faculty investigators who charge salary recovery (funding for a portion of academic-year salary that is not applied to course release) to external awards with full IDCs (Cornell’s federally negotiated indirect cost rates are posted here), Brooks will return 50% of the direct cost of salary recovery the PI in support of research activities. Brooks will also support external grant-getting through a collaborative grant development program and other mechanisms to expand our grant portfolio.

5. Approaches to collaboration in grant support and IDC recovery across units

Brooks aims to build a strong grants environment that is supportive of all Brooks faculty and sustained by returns on external awards. We will work to navigate institutional barriers and create openings to collaborate with other units to share grant support and IDC flows as guided by academic mission. For jointly appointed faculty with less than a 100% appointment in Brooks, but more than a 0% appointment, we will develop individual MOU agreements that address direct and indirect grant flows based the nature of the scholarship. As noted, we will also work on joint approaches to course release and other policies (e.g., IDC returns, treatment of salary recovery) that differ across units in ways that shape incentives for grant-getting, support for faculty effort, and research costs.

Appendix A: Administrative Support

Pre-Award Research Operations (PRO)

Brooks Finance and Budget Team

Senior Associate Dean of Research: Kelly Musick (

Additional Resources

Click here for Additional Resources listED below 

  1. Quick guide for financial reporting and expense review
  2. Summaries of facilities and resources relevant to Brooks research, with list of contacts
  3. Template for NSF postdoc mentoring plan