Subaward Best Practices for Principal Investigators

UCSF Projects with Outgoing Subawards






New Subaward



Subaward Amendment


Determine Agreement Type Early

Making the correct determination of whether an agreement is a subaward or vendor/service agreement at proposal stage will mitigate issues at the award stage and during award administration, such as the need to rebudget due to incorrect indirect cost calculation. 

The nature of the project informs the agreement type: 

  • Budget and time savings are not appropriate justifications for determining if an agreement is a subaward. 

Review the Subcontractor or Purchase Agreement Matrix

Check with your OSR staff support if the sponsor is a for-profit entity to ensure proper agreement classification

If ambiguous, consider the following questions.

If the answer is "yes" to any of the following questions, the agreement is likely a subaward: 

  • Will there be designated PI at the subsite?
  • Will the subsite be involved in programmatic decision making and/or design of the project?
  • Does the PI at the sub entity define their scope of work?
  • Is the PI at the subsite devoting measurable effort and requesting salary and benefits to achieve the scope of work?
  • Is the sub entity responsible for adhering to applicable prime sponsor's terms and conditions/policies?
  • Is the subsite the sponsor of the clinical trial protocol? Work requiring human/animal protocol approval does not always signify an outgoing sub.

If the answer is "yes" to any of the following, the agreement is likley a vendor/service agreement:

  • Does the sub entity provide the goods or services to others for a fee?

If the agreement type is still unclear, consult with your OSR staff support


Special Considerations

Know Your Resources