Under sponsored research projects, different administrative and audit requirements exist for subrecipients (financial assistance) and vendors (procurement actions). Because of these differences, University agreements must be channeled through and administered by either the Office of Sponsored Programs or the Purchasing Services Department. Determining which of these two offices should handle the agreement is sometimes difficult. In general, consideration must be given to the substance of the relationship between the University and the third party receiving the funds.  

The Office of Sponsored Programs is responsible for issuing subawards from prime agreements (contract, grant, or cooperative agreement) awarded to the University.  Purchasing Services is responsible for issuing service agreements for goods and services from contractors.  All characteristics described below may not be present and good judgment should be used in determining the appropriate third party relationship.

The Uniform Guidance §200.331 outlines the differences between Subrecipients and Contractors in addition to the characteristics described below.

Characteristics of Subrecipients Vs. Contractors

(subawards issued by Office of Sponsored Programs)
(vendor agreements issued by Purchasing Services)
Performs substantive, programmatic work in an intellectually significant way Performs specific services ancillary to the operation of the sponsored project
Has an identified Principal Investigator (PI) who serves as the Pitt co-investigator on an externally-funded award Does not have much or any independent decision making for design and implementation of the sponsored project
Responsible for adherence to terms and conditions flowed down from Pitt's external sponsor Responsible for deliverables, that if not satisfactorily completed, may result in withholding of payment or requirement to redo the work
Performs work that may result in intellectual property development or publishable results, including co-authorship Has no expectation of retaining intellectual property or authoring/co-authoring publications
  *Includes individuals working as independent consultants

How to initiate a request for a new subaward (or an amendment of an existing subaward) or services agreement:

If the third party relationship has the characteristics of a subrecipient, submit an electronic subaward request to the Office of Sponsored Programs. Note: Outgoing agreements issued under a Federal Contract are subject to flow-down requirements from the Prime Federal Contract.  Please ensure that the necessary terms and conditions from the Prime Federal Contract are included in any outgoing agreements, including subrecipient and vendor agreements, and that all necessary approvals have been obtained prior to issuance.  Email with any questions.  

If the third party relationship has the characteristics of a contractor, go to Purchasing Services to initiate a services agreement.

About the Office of Sponsored Programs

The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is charged with assisting faculty, staff, and students in their efforts to secure sponsored research funding. In its role within the University’s research infrastructure, OSP reviews, negotiates, endorses, and provides administrative oversight related to proposals and awards, as well as for non-financial agreements for acquiring materials, information, and/or data, in accordance with applicable laws, policies, and regulations. Through coordination with other University administrative offices, OSP works collaboratively on its sponsored research activities.

About Purchasing Services 

Purchasing Services’ mission is to obtain the overall best value for purchases of goods and services University-wide; provide efficient, effective purchasing processes; assist departments in complying with federal, state and local laws; implement a system of sound internal controls, and monitor compliance; provide opportunities for Diverse Business Enterprises, and; provide excellent customer service to the University community. Purchasing Services analyzes departmental spending patterns to identify opportunities or savings and assists departments with specialized or complex purchases.