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Research Administrator Essentials | Research Education

Research Administrator Essentials

This page aims to curate essential information for research administrators at NC State. To suggest a resource you think should be included, please email

What You Need to Know at NC State

NC State University is a public R1 institution. An R1 institution is classified as a doctoral university with very high research activity.

Research administration at NC State is decentralized and takes many forms across the university. Centrally, the Office of Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance (SPARCS) — a unit of the Office of Research and Innovation — works in tandem with the Office of Contracts and Grants (C and G) — a unit of the Office of Finance and Administration. Meanwhile, each college has its own College Research Office (CRO), which also performs essential support functions for its researchers.

NC State has 10 colleges and several non-academic units, which are organized in varying structures. Some colleges have research administration centralized at the college level, some colleges have it decentralized, and some have a hybrid of the two. Faculty work with their department/college/unit to submit proposals and manage awards. Central offices handle some submissions, awards negotiations, prior approvals, invoicing and financial management.

Key Resources

The following lists of links provide access to resources that should often come in handy for research administrators at NC State completing their day-to-day responsibilities.

  • Budgeting Guidance – Resources that help build a basic knowledge for putting together a proposal budget, including defining key terms and calculations in a spreadsheet.
  • Certified Departmental Purchasing Representative (CDPR) – Part of NC State’s Business Officer Academy, this course is designed to support NC State’s staff in their everyday procurement processes.
  • Cost Accounting Standards – Created by Contracts and Grants, this page explains what Cost Accounting Standards are and how they apply to research awards.
  • CFO Training – The Chief Financial Officers Council’s knowledge-sharing library provides access to best practices, training modules, career paths, videos and more.
  • Chart of Accounts (Controller’s Office) – These codes are used within the PeopleSoft financial system to identify expenditure classification.
  • Earnings Codes – These codes are used within the HR and Financial systems to identify personnel expenses into subcategories.
  • FDP Prior Approval Matrix: The Federal Demonstration Partnership’s prior approval matrix provides a tabulated list of project activities and expenditures that are normally pre-approved by various federal sponsors. Keep in mind that each award’s special terms and conditions may have its own specific limitations.
  • Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP) – GSSP is a competitive support package used to attract top students to NC State University. Graduate students who meet the eligibility requirements receive health insurance and standard tuition support for a limited number of semesters.
  • Memberships – This presentation gives an introduction to Centers, Institutes, and Consortia and managing memberships with a financial overview.
  • Frequently Used Acronyms – A series of tables defining some of the acronyms and abbreviations that are most frequently used both at NC State and across the field of research administration as a whole.
  • NC State ID Numbers and References: A comprehensive list of ID numbers and other reference information commonly required throughout the proposal submission, award setup, and project management and reporting processes.

This spreadsheet shows who to contact if you have questions on research administration topics ranging from benefits and leave administration to fabricated equipment, reimbursements, vendor payments and more.

If you already know which unit you need to reach, use these links to find specific contact info for those involved in research administration across campus:

  • Council on Governmental Relations (COGR): COGR is an association of leading research universities, affiliated medical centers and independent research institutes — which serve as “national authorities on the financial and regulatory infrastructure, and the corresponding compliance requirements associated with managing federal research grants and contracts within research institutions.”  
  • Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP): The FDP is a cooperative initiative among 10 federal agencies and 217 institutional recipients, convened by the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academies, which aims to reduce the administrative burdens associated with research grants and contracts.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The NIH — part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — is “the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.”
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): The NSF is a federal agency that seeks “to promote the progress of science,” as well as “advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare” and “to secure the national defense.” NSF funds approximately 25% of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.
  • Office of Research Integrity: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, except for regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Research Support Council (RSC): The RSC listserv is a vital channel of communication among research administrators at NC State — and between the central offices and colleges/departments across campus. More importantly, subscribing to the RSC listserv is the best way to ensure you’re directly notified about all of our resources, events, etc. — as this is one of the primary places we promote new and upcoming opportunities related to research education, training and professional development.
  • Funding Opportunities: Internal announcements of limited submissions, internal seed funding programs, and other items of interest.  
  • Resadm-l: Free access to the Research Administration Discussion List for industry professionals to share information and field questions for their peers.
  • NSF Updates: National Science Foundation news, announcements and updates.
  • News about federal grants, new opportunities and other updates.
  • HR Connections: NC State human resources news and updates.
  • NC State University Policies, Regulations and Rules – An up-to-date repository of all PRRs at NC State.
  • PI Eligibility: An individual can only be a PI or co-PI pursuant to the guidance articulated in NC State University POL 10.00.02 or as authorized under an approved exception.
  • Uniform Guidance: The guiding rules and regulations for administering federal grants. This guidance is designed to apply to federal grants the same way at all levels and institutions.

Intro to Research Administration Offices at NC State

In this recorded webinar, we hear from the different offices involved in the grant lifecycle to understand more about their primary roles. Sponsored Programs, Compliance, Contracts and Grants, ISSC, and college- and department-level representatives share their office setup and processes.


Free access to Society of Research Administrators International’s LevelUP Micro-Credentialing Program is available to NC State employees. Developed by national experts, SRAi’s LevelUP curriculum is based on eight competencies of research administration designed to build foundations, increase knowledge, and add expertise in an engaging online format. These self-paced courses can be used to obtain CEUs, beneficial for CRA recertification.

What is Research Administration?

Simply put, research administration involves managing the “business” side of research. But there’s a wide range of responsibilities that a given research administrator might have depending on their role — and depending on the day. Needless to say, research administrators can be asked to wear many different hats. Watch the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) YouTube video below to learn more.

The profession of research administration is dynamic, multi-faceted, riddled with questions, and provides areas of leadership opportunities. Presenters look at how this growing area impacts the people and communities around us.

What is the RSC?

The Research Support Council (RSC) — the research administration staff component of the vice chancellor’s research committees, made up of representatives from SPARCS, C and G, college research offices, departments, and centers and institutes — can be an excellent resource, with many actively participating members, which we encourage everyone involved with research administration at NC State to join.

We work closely with the RSC to develop customized content and timely events for research administrators at NC State.

Uniform Guidance Webinars

The Research Education and Training team, in conjunction with the RSC, often purchases access to webinars from external agencies like NCURA on behalf of research administrators at NC State. These webinars are made available on-demand.

The webinars below are far from an exhaustive list. Visit the Education and Training Hub for more.

While the purpose of Uniform Guidance was to reduce administrative burden and safeguard against waste or misuse of funds, compliance remains its primary focus. This NCURA webinar explores the Uniform Guidance sections on cost principles, internal controls and audits.

When the Uniform Guidance took effect on Dec. 26, 2014, it changed how funding recipients approached the management of federal financial assistance. in 2020, OMB revised the Uniform Guidance to convey further clarification and guidance. This NCURA webinar discusses key changes reflected in the 2020 revision, including updated definitions and new requirements, as well as modifications to existing requirements.