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Research at Boston College

Frequently Asked Questions and Step-by-Step How Tos

research at boston college

Quick links to categories:

Grant Budgeting
How do I apply the fringe benefit rates to my budget?
How do you prefer we calculate tuition remission for graduate students?

Salary Related
What is a service stipend?
What is a non-service stipend?
What is summer salary?
How do I process summer salary?
What is a faculty buyout?
How do I process a faculty buyout?
What is supplemental pay?
How is supplemental pay received?
How do I hire personnel on a grant?
How do I know when to submit salary related employee change requests (ECR's)?

Time & Effort Reporting
What is a Time and Effort report?
Why does the Principal Investigator (PI) have to sign and return the report to OSP?
Why is it important to sign and return Time and Effort reports in a timely fashion?
How do I re-distribute labor charges on my grant?
How will I know if the labor charge was redistributed?

Allowable/Unallowable Expenses, Documentation Requirement, Travel

Can I be reimbursed for alcoholic beverages or entertainment expenses?

Are Phone Calls reimbursable on sponsored projects?
I had to change my air ticket. Can this fee be reimbursed?


How are payments made from my grant?

What kind of documentation is required for reimbursement?
What kind of documentation is required to pay a vendor?
What kind of documentation is required to pay a consultant?
What kind of documentation is required to reimburse non-employee travel?
What is the Expenditure Review Process?

Can I receive a Travel Advance?
How do I determine per diem for my trip?
Do I have to use a U.S. carrier for foreign travel on my federal grant?
Are Registration & Conference Fees reimbursable?
How do I get reimbursed for Foreign Currency Conversions?


Equipment
I have funding for equipment. When I am ready to buy it, do I need to work with any other departments?

F&A
What are F&A costs?
Which rate should I use?
What if I’m not sure which rate applies to my project?
What if the sponsor only allows a certain percentage for indirect or F&A costs?

Budget, Inquiry, and Reports
What is the Grant Balance Summary Report and how do I run it?
What is the online ACR Report for Grants and how do I run it?
What is the online TDR Report for Grants and how do I run it?
How do I view the grant budget?
How do I do a budget inquiry in commitment control?

Why can't I view the grant budget?

Processing
Why am I getting the error message "invalid chart field combination"?
How do I add new authorized signatures (team members) to my grant?
How can I determine where my expense or voucher is in workflow?
What account codes are used by grants?

Vista Plus
How do I access my reports on Vista Plus?

How do I apply the fringe benefit rates to my budget?

The current fringe benefit rates are posted on our main site http://www.bc.edu/research/osp/.  The exempt rate applies to full time faculty and other full time monthly paid employees.  The non exempt rate applies to full time hourly and weekly paid employees.  The part time rate applies to part time employees including part time faculty.  Please inquire with Human Resources regarding full and part time status of employees. 

Fringe benefit rates are not applied to temp pool or student employee salaries.


How do you prefer we calculate tuition remission for graduate students?
Tuition remission is calculated based on the number of courses the student is taking and the tuition rate for the School/Department. There may be some students who require a full 18 credits and there may be some who may only require 3 credits.  Tuition Remission is only allowed on training grants.

How are payments made from my grant?
All payments (Payroll, E-Pro, Requisitions, Vouchers and Expenses) are originated in your department.  Documentation is then forwarded to OSP for approval.  OSP in turn sends the documentation to Human Resources, Purchasing or Accounts Payable for release of payment. 
Note:  Requisitions, vouchers and expense transactions totaling under $1,000 will be sent directly to Procurement Services.

What kind of documentation is required for reimbursement?
Please refer to the BC Travel and Expense Policy.


What kind of documentation is required to pay a vendor?
Please refer to Procurement Services.

What kind of documentation is required to pay a consultant?
If the total amount to be paid to the consultant/professional services provider will exceed $5,000 please refer to the Boston College Bid Policy and contact Procurement Services regarding bidding, sole source documentation and agreement negotiation. 

If the total amount to be paid to the consultant/professional services provider will be less than $5,000 please use the Boston College Service Agreement.  No alterations to the terms of this agreement are allowed.

Once the Service Agreement has been completed and signed by the consultant/service provider, Principal Investigator and OSP, invoices may be processed.

For guidance regarding employee vs. consultant status, please contact Human Resources.

What kind of documentation is required to reimburse non-employee travel? 

  1. Non-employee/consultant travel is reimbursed by voucher.
  2. Check PeopleSoft to see if a vendor profile exists for the traveler.
  3. If not, complete an online vendor request (http://www.bc.edu/offices/buy/forms/vendor_request_form.html).
  4. BC travel policy (http://www.bc.edu/offices/policies/meta-elements/pdf/policies/V/5-200-050.pdf) applies to all non-Boston College employees when traveling at the University's expense.

What is the Expenditure Review Process?
Effective September 1, 2006, all sponsored project (Fund 500) Purchase Requisitions, Vouchers and Expenses totaling less than $1,000 per transaction will workflow directly to Purchasing and Accounts Payable once departmental approvals have been done.  Documentation for transactions under $1,000 should be forwarded directly to Purchasing and Accounts Payable.

On a monthly basis, the Office for Sponsored Programs will review all transactions under $1,000 for propriety.  Certain transactions will be selected for post review by OSP.  It is recommended that originating departments retain copies of all transactions under $1,000 in anticipation of this monthly review and audit.   Official Memorandum

Can I receive a Travel Advance?
Please refer to the BC Travel and Expense Policy.

How do I determine per diem for my trip?

  1. Domestic Per Diem Rates - http://www.gsa.gov/perdiemrate
  2. Meals and Incidental Expense Breakdown - http://www.gsa.gov/mie
  3. Foreign Per Diem Rates - http://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp

Do I have to use a U.S. carrier for foreign travel on my federal grant?
Federal regulations require that US air carriers be used for as many legs of a foreign trip as possible, regardless of cost, convenience, or personal travel preference.  Read the Fly America Act guidelines. 

Are Registration & Conference Fees reimbursable?

  1. Yes, when related to the project.
  2. Documentation showing the traveler incurred the expense is required.
  3. Registration form/conference agenda is to be submitted with a completed expense report/voucher.

How do I get reimbursed for Foreign Currency Conversions?

  1. Identify non-U.S. receipts and include supporting documentation showing the currency conversion for the date of the expense.
    1. All expenses paid by credit card require a copy of the credit card statement to support the currency conversion rate for the expense.
    2. All expenses paid by cash must be converted into USD using any of the following: OANDA.com (http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic), published foreign exchange rate, receipt from bank or Bureau de Change.
  2. ATM receipts are required to document any cash withdrawal fees.

I had to change my air ticket. Can this fee be reimbursed?

  1. Yes, when identified as a benefit to the project.
  2. You must provide a memo from the PI supporting this claim. 

Can I be reimbursed for alcoholic beverages or entertainment expenses?

  1. No, alcohol and entertainment expenses are unallowable on Sponsored Projects.
  2. Alcohol, related taxes and gratuities must be identified and deducted from all meal receipts.
  3. Mini bar purchases cannot be claimed.

Are Phone Calls reimbursable on sponsored projects?
Only phone calls that are related to the project can be reimbursed.  Also, see BC's Cell Phone/PDA policy.

I have funding for equipment. When I am ready to buy it, do I need to work with any other departments?
Please visit the Procurement Services Department's website at http://www.bc.edu/procurement for information regarding the Boston College purchasing policy and requirements.

If you are buying computer hardware or software, contact your Technology Consultant for assistance.

Any item with a single unit cost of $5,000 is considered a capital item and must be purchased using an equipment account code.

What are F&A costs?
Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs also known as indirect costs and overhead, are costs which are necessary to support research and other sponsored projects, but which cannot be readily assigned to individual projects. F&A costs include support costs related to facilities operations (utilities, maintenance, security, etc.), university and department libraries, departmental administration, and general administration. BC’s F&A rate is calculated in accordance with federal cost principles using actual costs incurred, and is negotiated periodically with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which is the cognizant federal agency overseeing BC’s sponsored activities. It is important to remember that the application of the F&A rate to sponsored projects actually represents a recovery of costs already incurred by the University in the preceding year.


Which rate should I use?
OSA  The "Other Sponsored Activities" (OSA) rate should be used for projects other than research. This can include training grants, conference support, fellowships, travel grants, community service projects, etc. Research
Any project which includes some element of organized research is considered a research project for purposes of applying the F&A rate. The research rate must be used for all research activities including data collection, evaluation, analysis and/or reporting, as well as training projects which train individuals in research techniques and grants supporting the publication of research results.

On-Campus  The on-campus F&A rate is applicable to sponsored research projects using the university’s facilities, administration, and libraries.

Off-Campus  It is BC’s policy to obtain full recovery of F&A costs on all sponsored projects, except in those cases where a sponsor’s written policy precludes it. When a sponsor's formal policy stipulates a lower F&A rate, the University will abide by the restriction. Waivers of the federal F&A rate or a nonfederal sponsor's stated rate, or requests for reductions from either of the foregoing, must be approved by the Vice Provost for Research on a case by case basis.

What if I’m not sure which rate applies to my project?
Determining if your project meets the definition of research or other sponsored activity and if it is an on-campus or off-campus project, requires analysis of your scope of work and the budget. When in doubt, talk with your OSP administrative contact. He/She will help you to determine the appropriate F&A rate for your proposal.

What if the sponsor only allows a certain percentage for indirect or F&A costs?
The rate agreement does not supersede sponsor guidelines. In the case of training, for example, many federal training grants mandate an indirect cost rate of no more than 8%. Many private sponsors also will not support indirect costs over a certain percentage; some will not allow indirect costs at all. In these cases, OSP will require written documentation of the policy from the sponsor.

What is the Grant Balance Summary Report and how do I run it?
An ad hoc report that is ran from Commitment Control displaying your available balance.  Click here for instructions.

What is the online ACR Report for Grants and how do I run it?
An ad hoc report that is ran from Project Resources displaying budgeted and expended summary data with balance available. Click here for instructions.

What is the online TDR Report for Grants and how do I run it?
An ad hoc report that is ran from Project Resources displaying the detail behind the ACR.  Click here for instructions.

How do I view the grant budget?

  1. Navigation:
    1. Reporting Tools
    2. Query
    3. Query Viewer

  2. query viewer search
  3. Enter in the Search by field: BC_GM BUD_ACCTD and click the Search button.
    query viewer results
  4. Select BC_GM_BUD_ACCTD_GRANTS
  5. Enter chartfield strings and click OK.

    The query results will display revised budget, pre-encumbered, encumbered, actual and available balance amounts in real time. Actual includes expense and voucher items that have been budget checked but might not have produced a check yet. 


How do I do a budget inquiry in commitment control?

  1. Navigation:
    1. Commitment Control
    2. Review Budget Activities
    3. Budget Inquiry
    4. Budget Details
  2.  
In this field
Enter
Example
Business Unit Eagle Eagle
Ledger Group PGBUDGETS PGBUDGETS
Project/Grant (7 digits) 5000533

Click Search

Note: Only non-payroll expense codes can be viewed.

Why can't I view the grant budget?

  1. You are not a team member (authorized signature).
  2. Grant is attached to a different or higher department ID.
  3. One or more of the chart fields is incorrect.

Why am I getting the error message "invalid chart field combination"?

  1. You are not a team member (authorized signature).
  2. Grant is attached to a different or higher department ID.
  3. One or more of the chart fields is incorrect.
  4. Account code being charged does not exist in budget.

How do I add new authorized signatures (team members) to my grant?
Please send a memo requesting the new addition, referencing the grant number, signed by the P.I. and the new team member to your team.

How can I determine where my expense or voucher is in workflow?
The following charts explains what the approval status messages means:

Expenses:

Status Explanation
Pending Pending status indicates Expense Report has not been submitted for approval
Pending Departmental Approval

Pending Departmental Approval can mean:

  • The originator is not a P1 or P2a. A P1 or P2a belonging to the department listed on the expense needs to approve the expense.
  • The expense is over $5,000 and requires a second approver.
Pending Fund Code Approval This status means that either fund code for OSP, Endowment, Capital or Agency is needed.
PndAcctApp Pending Special Account Approval. This status refers to accounts 1xxxx or 2xxxx appearing on the expense. These accounts must be approved by members of the GLAdmin role.
Approved Expense report made it through workflow and is waiting for AP to audit prior to payment.
PAID Check went out to spender.

Vouchers:

Status Explanation
Pending

Pending status indicates:

  • Voucher has not been saved after the budget check has been completed leading to not entering the workflow process
  • The voucher has previously been in workflow but changes occurred which required the budget check status to revert to 'Not Checked' leading to the voucher status changing to 'Pending'
  • The voucher has been in workflow but has been denied at some point in the workflow process.
PdDeptOrig Pending Departmental Originator status means that the person (originator) who saved the voucher initially (submitting it to workflow in the process) was not a member of the department for which the voucher is being charged or the originator is not a P1 or P2a. A P1 or P2a belonging to the department listed on the voucher needs to approve the voucher.
PdptTotal Pending Departmental Total status means that the total amount for the voucher is over $5,000. A P1 or P2a belonging to the department listed on the voucher needs to approve the voucher.
PND120500
OSP
Pending Fund Code 120/500 approval. This status means that either fund code 120 or 500 appears on the voucher line. The appropriate fund code approvers are allowed to approve.

PND200600
Endowment

Pending Fund Code 200/220/600 approval. This status means that either fund code 200, 220, or 600 appears on the voucher line. The appropriate fund code approvers are allowed to approve.
PND810820
Capital
Pending Fund Code 810/820 approval. This status means that fund codes in the 8xx range appear on the voucher line. The appropriate fund code approves are allowed to approve.
PND9xx
Agency
Pending Fund Code 9xx approval. This status means that fund codes in the 9xx range appear on the voucher line. The appropriate fund code approves are allowed to approve.
PndAcctApp Pending Special Account Approval. This status refers to accounts 1xxxx or 2xxxx appearing on the voucher. These accounts must be approved by members of the GLAdmin role.
PndAPRvw Pending AP Review. This status indicates the voucher is ready for review by the Accounts Payable team. Approval by this team will approve the voucher and end the workflow processes in the voucher lifecycle.

What is a Time and Effort report?
The Federal government requires that recipients of sponsored projects maintain a time and effort certification system. BC developed a quarterly time and effort reporting system to meet this requirement. The report reflects all labor charges for employees paid from grants.

Why does the Principal Investigator (PI) have to sign and return the report to OSP?
The PI of the sponsored project is required to review the time and effort for propriety and indicate any discrepancies on the report. The PI then signs and dates the report to confirm the accuracy of the information and returns it to OSP, where they are kept on file for audit purposes

Why is it important to sign and return Time and Effort reports in a timely fashion?
In accordance with Federal guidelines, any necessary labor changes must be reported on the Time and Effort report within ninety days.

How do I re-distribute labor charges on my grant?
Please complete Sponsored Programs Labor Redistribution form.  Please attach copies of the ECR, TDR, Time and Effort Report supporting the redistribution request.

How will I know if the labor charge was redistributed?
The labor redistribution charge will be reflected on the Time and Effort report following the quarter the request was processed.

What is a service stipend?
Service stipends are issued to graduate students for worked performed on a grant.

What is a non-service stipend?
A non service stipend is a living expense stipend issued as part of a student's scholarship, with no expectation of work.

What is summer salary?
Payment for research performed on a grant during the summer months of June, July and August.

How do I process summer salary?
If a faculty member received a summer salary in the past, a turnaround ECR, for the SMR PROF RES-FACULTY position, must be used to process the salary. If it is a first time request, a hire form must be processed to establish a "SMR PROF RES-FACULTY" position. The rate cannot exceed 1/9 of their academic salary (prior to their annual increase) and the total summer salary cannot exceed 2/9 for work on NSF grants.As with any faculty salaries, the ECR or hire form must be signed by the Provost's office before being forwarded to OSP.

What is a faculty buyout?
Faculty Buyouts are written into proposals for grants to allow teaching time to be used for research.  Please read the one-sixth rule for calculating the buyout.

How do I process a faculty buyout?
Faculty Buyout requests are processed through the Provosts's office via an ECR. OSP will submit the necessary paperwork to HRSC so the labor charges are redistributed according to the information provided in the ECR. Please note that distributions are calculated over a 9 month academic salary year (vs. the 12 month cycle used by the University). ECR's requesting faculty buyouts remain at OSP and are not forwarded to HRSC for processing.

What is supplemental pay?
Payment for work performed in addition to regular departmental responsibilities. It must be provided for in the award budget and be approved in writing by the appropriate Dean.

How is supplemental pay received?
A supplemental pay form is processed through the normal payroll channels and will be paid along with the employee's next scheduled pay period.

How do I hire personnel on a grant?
Hiring procedures and necessary forms can be found on the Human Resource website at http://www.bc.edu/offices/hr/resources/docs/hiringdocs-mgr.html- Hiring Instructions for Managers

How do I know when to submit salary related employee change requests (ECR's)?
Employee change requests must be submitted to the Office for Sponsored Programs 3-4 days prior to the payroll deadline. Payroll deadlines can be found on the Human Resource website at http://www.bc.edu/offices/hr/resources/campusinfo/payrolldeadlines.html.

How do I access my reports on Vista Plus?
Go to https://myreports.bc.edu
Please go to the PeopleSoft Financials Home Page for more information.