This guide outlines the terms and conditions for administering funds from the Research Support Fund (RSF), including Incremental Project Grants (IPGs) and research security.
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The Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) keeps institutions informed by sending program information and updates to the official contacts on the institutions’ Convergence account. To update your institution’s official RSF contacts on Convergence, the senior official may email the request, including the person’s full name, job title, email, and requested role (RSF senior official or RSF delegate), to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your institution must ensure this contact information is up to date and complete.
Responsibilities and accountability
RSF grants are awarded to eligible institutions to help pay for a portion of the indirect costs to support federally funded research. These are costs that institutions incur that are not attributable to specific research projects, such as central and departmental administrative costs. For more information on direct research costs, consult the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.
Your institution must use grant funds for the purpose for which they were awarded and in accordance with the policies and guidelines of the program and your institution.
The funds must be used effectively and economically, and the expenses must be essential to support the institution’s federally funded research enterprise.
Funding from the program must add to, and not displace, any other research support funds that your institution has received from the provincial government, private sector or other federal sources.
Grants may be used to cover new expenditures, to maintain the current level of services to and support of an institution’s research environment, and to make improvements, innovations and efficiencies in its management.
TIPS and the Research Support Fund
TIPS verifies your institution’s eligibility and entitlement to the grant in accordance with federal laws and policies regarding grants.
- TIPS makes payments through SSHRC’s finance division.
- All instalment payments are subject to parliamentary appropriations and the conditions that may be attached to them. The three research funding agencies (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR], the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council [NSERC] and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [SSHRC]) and the RSF reserve the right to defer or suspend subsequent instalment payments if the parliamentary appropriations are reduced or cancelled.
The grant is administered through your institution according to the terms of the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions.
- Your institution must have in place appropriate procedures, systems and controls to ensure that program policies and requirements are followed. Administrative, personnel and accounting procedures must conform to the standards, practices and policies of your institution.
- When appropriate, your institution should seek advice or a ruling from TIPS about whether expenses are eligible.
- The grantee, normally the institution’s president, principal or rector, authorizes expenditures from the grant account in accordance with program guidelines. The grantee may delegate the authorization of expenditures to a small number of individuals.
- The institution must open a separate account for the grant, and must clearly record all payments made to and from the account, and group them by the five expenditure categories.
Your institution must authorize expenditures in accordance with program policies and requirements, as outlined in this Financial Administration Guide. No one may initiate or authorize expenditures from the grant account without your institution’s delegated authority.
To comply with government policy, the RSF program confirms that your institution’s continues to be eligible each year before releasing new grant funds. Your institution must confirm that it continues to be eligible for funds at the grant application stage by agreeing to the Terms and conditions upon submitting its application.
Financial monitoring of accounts
Representatives of the federal research funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) and TIPS will periodically review the institution’s financial administration to:
- assess whether your institution has the necessary financial/administrative tools to manage its grant properly and effectively;
- review the effectiveness of procedures, systems and controls at the institution to ensure that agency and program policies and requirements are followed and that program funds are well managed;
- review expenditures from the account to ensure that these were made in accordance with the established policies and requirements and for the purpose intended (institutions must be prepared to provide full supporting documentation for all expenses charged to the grant); and
- share and disseminate information on policies, requirements and expectations for financial accountability.
Grantees (and their affiliates) are responsible for using grant funds in accordance with the policies of the federal research funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC), including this guide, and for providing true, complete and accurate information on documentation for expenditures from the grant account.
The following would be considered breaches in compliance:
- using grant funds for purposes inconsistent with the policies of the funding agencies;
- misappropriating grant funds;
- contravening funding agency financial policies (in this guide); or
- providing incomplete, inaccurate or false information on documentation for expenditures from the grant account.
For information on how the funding agencies address allegations of breaches, refer to the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (section 6.1). The funding agencies regard as misconduct any action that is inconsistent with integrity and ethics, as defined in this framework.
Matters involving financial mismanagement, where there is evidence of fraud or other unlawful activity, are referred to the appropriate authorities as per the Treasury Board Directive on Public Money and Receivables.
Suspension or termination of a grant
The TIPS Steering Committee reserves the right to suspend or terminate a grant if an institution no longer meets the eligibility criteria or the accountability, public acknowledgment or reporting requirements of the program. It also reserves the right to recover funds paid out if an institution no longer fulfils the required eligibility criteria, or if the funds were paid on the basis of fraudulent or inaccurate information.
There are varying accountability and public acknowledgment requirements for institutions that receive support from the RSF, including from the IPGs and research security. These requirements vary depending on the value of the grant received. Your institution must ensure it meets the applicable requirements during the three stages of the program’s lifecycle: grant application stage, grant period, and end of the grant period. Your institution is required to keep its accountability and public acknowledgment information for the RSF (organized by fiscal year) on your website(s) for a minimum of five years. The details regarding these requirements are described on the accountability and public acknowledgment requirements page.
If your institution fails to meet these requirements, you will forfeit grant funds or have your payments suspended. Failure to meet the requirements may also affect an institution’s eligibility for future RSF, IPG and research security funding. Your institution must continue to meet the program’s accountability and public acknowledgment requirements during the grant period in order to remain eligible for the program.
Your institution must submit an annual outcomes report on how the grant was used and managed.
TIPS will suspend payments to any institution that does not fulfil its reporting requirements. If your institution fails to submit its report, it will not be eligible for the program in the following grant year.
Affiliated organization agreements
There are two kinds of affiliated organizations for RSF purposes: health research affiliates and other research affiliates. Institutions must have formal and valid agreements in place with each of their health research affiliates. For other types of affiliates, the institution and the affiliate can choose whether to have a formal agreement in place. However, if the applicant institution (i.e., the grantee) transfers funds to an affiliate, a formal agreement must be in place before the funds are transferred.
Note: TIPS reserves the right to request a copy of these agreements at any time.
Content of affiliate agreements
At a minimum, agreements must include:
- the nature of the relationship between the applicant institution and the affiliate. Applicant institutions often provide a variety of support services to researchers located at affiliated health research institutes and, for this reason, typically retain a portion of the grant generated by the affiliate’s research;
- a rationale for the agreed-upon distribution of funds. This is especially critical in agreements where the applicant institution has negotiated a different sharing arrangement with each of its various affiliates;
- how the affiliate’s portion of the grant will be calculated and the proportion of that amount that the affiliate will receive.
Institution responsibilities related to affiliates
Institutions with affiliates must:
- identify the location of researchers for the purpose of calculating the portion of the grant attributable to the affiliate;
- fulfill reporting requirements, including producing a timeline for the submission of information by the affiliate to the grantee for the annual grant application, outcomes report and statement of account;
- meet agreed-upon timelines to transfer funds from the applicant institution to the affiliate;
- meet conditions for funding (e.g., eligible expenditures); and
- determine how long the agreement will remain in effect and the conditions under which it may be modified.
Your institution must ensure that its affiliates understand and follow the program’s conditions for funding as outlined in this guide (e.g., eligible expenditures).
Use of grant funds
Grants are awarded for one year only. Your institution must submit an RSF application (in addition to IPG and research security applications, if applicable) each year to continue receiving funds.
Your institution must spend its grant during the fiscal year in which it was awarded.
TIPS calculates the value of your institution’s grant based on the amount of funding received by its researchers from the three federal research funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) in the three most recent years for which data are available and according to the RSF’s budget for that year.
Grants are paid to institutions according to the program’s payment schedule.
Your institution is solely responsible for funding expenditures or commitments that exceed grant funds applied to the account at your institution for current and prior fiscal periods.
Outstanding commitments are allowed only if the expenditure has been incurred but the invoice was not paid in the period ending March 31. However, these expenses must be paid by the end of June.
The annual statement of account must list any outstanding commitments.
Your institution cannot transfer unspent balances to its general research fund or carry forward balances to the next fiscal year.
Returning unspent funds
Your institution must contact TIPS by email at email@example.com before the annual reporting deadline to receive full details on the process to prepare and return the unspent balance of the grant. A cheque for the unspent amount, made payable to the Receiver General for Canada, should be mailed to:
Research Support Fund
c/o Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat
125 Zaida Eddy Private, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Your institution must submit annual outcomes reports and annual statements of account every year in order to report on the use and impact of the grant at your institution. These reports require supporting documentation for how grant funds were spent.
Your institution must keep complete and accurate records on the use of program funding, including verifiable audit trails with complete supporting documentation for each transaction, for a minimum of seven years.
Your institution must retain documentation to support the allocation method and rationale and for all expenditures charged to the grant account. Such documentation includes:
- a full breakdown of the allocation of grants within the institution (and affiliated organizations) and the total expenditures by category allocated, which must reconcile to the institution’s total grant amount;
- internal expense allocation method and rationale;
- documentation of approval of allocation method and rationale by institutional authorities (e.g., minutes of meetings where approved, or signed authorization document);
- signed records regarding personnel paid from grant funds, including names, categories, salary levels, affiliation to the objectives of the RSF and length of time supported in each case, details of employee benefits charged, and relevant calculations; and
- supplier invoices indicating details of purchases and prices paid.
All of your institution’s claims must have the institutional representative’s or delegate’s signature. The signatures certify that:
- all expenditures on the claim are for the purpose for which the grant was awarded;
- all expenditures on the claim are eligible expenses;
- all goods and/or services have been received;
- the charges included have not been claimed for reimbursement from other sources; and
- reimbursements for expenditures received from other sources or institutions have been disclosed to the administering institution.
Research support costs related to federal research funding programs
Institutions cannot use their grant to pay for the research support costs related to federal tri-agency research funding programs where the grant or award already includes funding to cover the indirect costs of the research (e.g., the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program, the College and Community Innovation Program, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the Canada 150 Research Chairs, and the New Frontiers in Research Fund). These programs allow institutions to use a reasonable portion of the funding to contribute toward the research support costs of the research.
Funds must be used for the payment of current expenditures attributed to federally sponsored research that fall within the five categories.
The IPG stream provides eligible institutions with additional support for projects that focus on a set of priority areas that cut across the RSF’s existing categories of eligible expenses.
Research security funding provides eligible institutions with additional funds for projects that support the implementation of the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships, including building institutional capacity to identify, assess and mitigate potential risks to research security. Expenses related to research security may cut across the RSF’s existing categories of eligible expenses.
If you have questions about the administration of RSF grants, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.