Subcontracts and Other Collaborations

Subcontracts, Consultants, Vendors, Collaborators

There is often much confusion at the proposal stage when determining whether a participant in a project is a subcontractor (known in the Kuali system as an Organization), consultant, or vendor. The proper determination depends mainly on the substance of the relationship and engagement between UMass and the entity. It is important to make the determination before the proposal and budget are finalized because the University wants to ensure that the funds being awarded are being properly allocated and expended in accordance with federal requirements and guidance and for the PI. It can have a negative impact on the funds available to the project and have other effects if an entity is misidentified in the original proposal and a rebudgeting of funds is required once the award is made:

  • Most sponsors will require explicit approval of a subaward identified after an award is made and that will delay its issue and could impact the scope of work.
  • Funds for the subcontract (which will include direct and their indirect costs) will have to be rebudgeted from awarded funds which could leave a deficit in the remaining funds available to complete the full project.
  • Intellectual property rights are given to the subcontractor, and not to consultants or vendors.

If you have any questions, or need clarification, it is advisable to contact your proposal administrator at OPAS to discuss prior to finalizing your proposal and budget.   Here is a link to our proposal administrators as assigned by funding sponsor.

Definitions to help guide you

A Subcontractor (known in the Kuali system as an Organization) is distinguished from both a vendor and a consultant in that a Subcontractor: Is responsible for a significant role under a sponsored project and engages in a reciprocal relationship with the prime recipient. The subcontractors roles include:

  • Performs a substantive portion of the proposed Statement of Work incorporated into the Prime Contract;
  • Has responsibility for internal programmatic decision-making and design;
  • Is responsible for assisting the Prime Recipient in meeting the goals of the project
  • Has its performance measured in relation to the larger project goals of the proposal and objectives of the program being funded;.
  • Contributes to a broader purpose in relation to the funded scope of work, rather than a narrower role of providing goods or services for the direct benefit of the Prime Recipient
  • Is responsible for adhering to applicable Federal programmatic compliance requirements;
  • Retains intellectual property and copyright to the work produced by the Subcontractor’s personnel; may co-author an article in a professional research journal.
  • Subcontractor’s PI is considered a Co-PI of the project.

Note: The University does not issue Subcontracts (known in the Kuali system as an Organization) to individual persons; only to a company or organization.

A Consultant may be an individual or a commercial entity and is a type of Vendor paid through a Purchase Order issued by the Office of Procurement.  A consultant is an entity who provides guidance, or shares technical expertise on a specific aspect of the scope of work. A Consultant's roles or characteristics include:th

  • A Consultant’s deliverable may be intermittent throughout the project, is not clearly defined and similar other work is performed by that Consultant commercially on a routine basis;
  • A Consultant’s deliverables do not ordinarily generate patentable or copyrightable results of an original or substantive nature;
  • A Consultant is not subject to the compliance requirements of the Prime Contract;
  • A Consultant’s fee is based on an hourly or daily rate which is provided and explained in a Consultant rate proposal;
  • A Consultant’s services are on a “work for hire” basis and all intellectual property or copyrightable rights are assigned to UMASS by the Consultant;
  • A Consulting Firm is a commercial entity whose regular business activity is to provide services similar to those proposed under the current project.
  • An Individual Consultant is a non-UMass employee hired to provide technical expertise in support of a sponsored research project. As a general rule, the activities performed by a non-UMass faculty member who is named as an individual Consultant in a proposal must fall outside of the individual’s normal academic duties and cannot make use of his/her institutional facilities, personnel or students. If these criteria are not met, then the faculty member’s home institution should appear as a Subcontractor in the UMass proposal rather than an individual Consultant.

A Vendor is issued a Purchase Order based on a request sent by an administering unit to the University’s Procurement Office. The purchase of goods and services, including “Consulting Services”, are obtained from a commercial vendor.  Provides a good or service that is narrowly constrained or defined, normally a one time procurement.  Vendor characteristics include:

  • A Vendor provides similar goods and services to multiple customers as part of their routine business operations;
  • A Vendor competes for customers with other like providers;
  • Their services are ancillary to the scope of work
  • A Vendor does not retain intellectual property or copyright to the deliverables;
  • Cost sharing is not required of a Vendor;
  • Joint authorship of publications is not sought by Vendors;
  • The general terms of the Prime Contract do not flow down to the Vendor.

Proposal Requirements

The following documentation is required when the UMass proposal contains one of the following:

Subcontract (known in the Kuali system as an Organization)

The UMass PI must plan for the inclusion of a subcontract (known in the Kuali system as an Organization) in his/her proposal in advance of the proposal deadline to OPAS to allow sufficient time to gather all required documents and for the PI to review and approve the scope and budget of the subcontractor.  If proper documentation is not included, it puts the University in a position of committing another entity’s personnel and resources without their consent.

  • A subrecipient commitment form must be completed and signed by the Sponsored Projects Office (OPAS equivalent) of the subcontractor, including members of the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) (link is external). An abbreviated form is required from FDP Participation Organizations.
  • If an FDP member, the subrecipient's information from the  FDP Clearinghouse site (link is external) should be uploaded to Kuali and included with the other subcontract documents.
  • Scope of work describing the work to be done by the subcontractor’s personnel.
  • Detailed yearly and cumulative budgets (itemized budget should include salaries and wages, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, materials and supplies, and other costs as allowable).
  • Budget justification
  • Copy of the Subcontractor’s negotiated indirect cost rate agreement or a link to it.
  • Copy of the subcontractor’s fringe rate agreement if it is not included in the indirect cost rate agreement.
  • Other documents as required by the Sponsor’s Guidelines, RFP, Announcement (biosketches, current and pending statements, etc.). For documents being loaded to the actual sponsor proposal, it is not necessary to also load them to "Internal Attachments" section of the Kuali proposal record.  The exception to this is the budget and budget justification.
  • Load subcontractor's approved documentation to the proposal record; this minimally consists of the subrecipient form, scope of work, budget, budget justification, indirect cost rate agreement (if applicable). Merge subcontractor documentation into one PDF package per subcontractor with the subrecipient commitment form being the first document in the package.
  • When required, some subcontract documents need to be loaded into the Sponsor’s online submission system (e,g, budgets, budget justifications, biosketches, current and pending, etc).
  • When required, subcontract documents should be put onto Sponsor forms or formatted according to sponsor requirements.


  • A signed letter from the consultant providing details on the nature of their consulting activities and documenting the basis for their rates  (hourly or daily rate, # days or hours consulting, etc.)
  • A link to their published rate structure if available
  • If the consultant is a colleague at another university or education institution the letter must confirm that the consulting activities will fall outside of the individual’s normal academic responsibilities and that he/she is not using his/her institution’s facilities, personnel, students equipment or any other resources for the consulting activities. If they are, then it is a subcontract relationship, and not a consultancy.


  • A letter or formal quote from the vendor detailing the activities, services, or items to be provided and the basis for the charges


  • When a named collaborator is going to provide information, expertise, and the like in a proposal, a letter from the collaborator should be included as part of the proposal.