Financial Management of Research Funds

This online reference tool was designed to assist Researchers and Administrators with the financial management of research funds.

Learn more about the various aspects of managing research funds to ensure they are utilized in accordance with the terms, conditions and regulations of the funding sources and University policies.


Researcher Accountabilities

The Principal Investigator (PI) is the lead researcher who is responsible for carrying out research activities.  The Account Holder is the individual under whose name or title the research project is held.  The Account Holder is most often the Principal Investigator; however, there are instances where a Department Chair or Dean is the Account Holder.  The Account Holder responsibilities apply regardless of the role within the research project.  As funds are awarded, the Account Holder assumes responsibility for using the funds for the purpose for which they were awarded and for complying with the guidelines and policies of the sponsor and the University.  It is also important that the PI understands the allowable expenses that can be charged to a research project based on the funding source and program.

PI Authorization

Account Holders/Principal Investigators are the primary signing authority on research projects and they must approve all expenditures that are applied to their research projects.  Proof of authorization and related supporting documentation must be retained for audit purposes.  If necessary, the Account Holder may delegate his/her signing authority by completing the Delegation of Signing Authority form.

Unit Dean/Chair and Administrator Responsibilities

As research funds are awarded to individual researchers and/or to the institution, the University has a stewardship responsibility to ensure the funds are utilized for the designated purposes for which they were awarded and to comply with corporate and sponsor policies and guidelines.  This shared responsibility is distributed to several stakeholders including Researchers, Faculty Deans and Department Chairs, Faculty and Department Administrators, Financial Services and other central operations.

Accountability Reports

As part of Western's accountability framework and increased transparency of financial management, researchers are required to complete an Annual Accountability Report.  Completion of this report assures the University that the researcher understands his/her responsibilities when awarded research funds and that the funds are handled in a manner that meets the financial control standards of the University and funding partners.

Delegation of Signing Authority

A primary responsibility of the account holder is to authorize expenditures on their research projects.  An account holder can delegate this authority.  Delegation of Signing Authority is the sharing of authority with others for approving project expenditures.  Expenses should not be charged to a project by anyone other than the Account Holder unless there is a Delegation of Signing Authority (DoSA) in place.  A delegate must be an individual recognized by the Western Human Resources system who has been provided signing authority through the required DoSA form by the Account Holder. 

The Account Holder can delegate responsibility for authorizing expenses; however, he/she cannot delegate accountability for the management of the funds and the project.  The Account Holder, therefore, remains fully responsible for the conduct of the research compliance with sponsor guidelines and University policies as well as the financial management of the funds. 

The policy below outlines the requirements for delegating signing authority on a research project and the procedures for documenting such delegations.  This ensures expenditures are authorized by the approved delegate and are in compliance with the Tri-Agency and other funding agencies' guidelines. 

To delegate signing authority, please complete the following DOSA form: 

To determine if you should delegate signing authority, please refer to the following decision tree: 

Project Activation

Setting up a Research Project

A proposal record in the ROLA (Research On-Line Administration) System must be established for each research project at the time of grant application or contract approval.  ROLA maintains electronic approvals from the respective Department Chair, Faculty Associate Dean (Research) and Western Research Development & Services (RD&S) as well as electronic related documents.  Contact RD&S at or at extension 83136 for assistance. 

Once awarded and all conditions met (including Ethics, Animal and Biohazard Certifications), RD&S will provide authorization for Research Finance to activate the project in Western Financials (PeopleSoft).  The Account Holder and his/her Department/Faculty Administrator will receive email notification confirming the project number and speedcode, project dates, budget period(s) and budget amount(s). 

What is a Speedcode?

A speedcode represents a larger combination of chartfields comprised of Fund, Department and Project Number.  Speedcodes are 4 digits in length and allow for easy use of data entry and placing orders in Mustang Market and with campus retail operations.  Speedcodes are used in conjunction with a 6 digit revenue or expense code, depending on the transaction type.

Receiving and Sending Funds

General Information

All funds relating to research projects at Western are deposited by Research Finance.  If you receive funds directly, contact your Financial Officer in Research Finance.

Invoicing for Funds

If a research project is a research contract, the signed contract will stipulate within the payment terms whether or not the company requires scheduled invoicing.  Your Financial Officer in Research Finance will invoice the company as per the signed contract.  If an invoice requires certain deliverables prior to invoicing, the Account Holder must communicate the status of these deliverables to their Finance Officer in Research Finance.

Sending Funds to Co-applicants/Collaborators

Where allowable by the sponsor, funding can be sent to co-applicants or collaborators at other institutions.  Only the Account Holder can approve such a transaction and must provide the following information: name of co-applicant/collaborator and institution, amount, intended use of the funds and time period for utilizing the funds.  Research Finance will facilitate the transfer of any Tri-Agency funds.  For other funding sources, the RD&S contracts group will draft a sub-grant agreement to be signed off by both Western and the receiving institution.

Receiving Funds from Co-applicants/Collaborators

The initiating institution must send a letter of transfer or an agreement to our RD&S contracts group for review and for institutional approval. A ROLA record will then be initiated, followed by activation of a project in Western Financials (PeopleSoft).

Arriving at Western - Transfer Funds from Another Institution

If you are a Principal Investigator arriving at Western from another Canadian Institution, you may be able to transfer your research funds to Western. Before leaving your institution contact their Research Office to initiate the process; Western's Research Development and Services will facilitate the transfer.

Leaving Western - Transfer Funds to Another Institution

If you are a Principal Investigator leaving Western to go to another Canadian Institution, you may be able to transfer external funds to the other institution. Contact Western's Research Development and Services to facilitate this process with your new institution.

Spending Project Funds

Hiring Students and Research Staff

University recruitment practices must be followed when hiring staff and students. Department administrators are responsible for completing the payroll paperwork for any students or research staff paid from research projects. Contact your department administrator for assistance. Please be aware of any sponsor restrictions when hiring research team members (i.e. salary limits, length of award period).

Many sponsors require detailed reporting of how personnel funds are utilized. To facilitate this process, use the appropriate salary expense codes when completing the payroll paperwork. Here is a list of valid salary accounts for research projects.

Procuring Goods and Services

It is imperative that sound procurement practices are followed and that MAPP 2.8 - Procurement of Materials & Services is complied with when procuring goods and services.

Competitive bid process requirements must be adhered to - refer to the Preparing to Buy section of Procurement Services' website for more information. They are available to assist with sourcing the appropriate vendor and negotiating price terms where applicable.

Mustang Market is Western’s e-procurement system for sourcing scientific products, supplies, electronics and other goods and services.

The Most Common Methods of Purchasing on Research Grants:

Mustang Market is Western’s web-based sourcing and requisitioning tool. It is a cost effective and efficient method to shop for research supplies and services. For assistance, contact your unit administrator or refer to the Procurement Services website.

Speedcodes are used within Mustang Market and at internal service operations (e.g. ChemBio Stores, University Machine Services). Individuals that are not account holders must have delegated signing authority to initiate such transactions.

The VISA Purchasing Card (P-Card) can be an alternative method for procurement of goods and services of relatively low dollar value and as an alternative to the use of petty cash, instances where a regular purchase order is not accepted by a vendor, or a vendor is not available through Mustang Market.

The P-Card cannot be used for travel and hospitality related expenses unless you are a unit travel coordinator.

When utilizing a P-Card, note that cardholders are expected to ensure that all transactions are eligible expenses as per the funding agency guidelines and will be held personally responsible for all ineligible expenditures.  Supporting documentation must be retained for seven years and is subject to audit.

Read Procurement Card Guidelines  within Ordering Methods on the Procurement website for more information.

Supporting Documentation

All related documentation that supports the expenses charged to research projects (including PI authorization and how the expense relates to the project) should be retained for audit and review purposes.

How to Pay an Invoice

All invoices are processed through Accounts Payable and must be tied to a valid Purchase Order (PO). If you have received an invoice for which no Purchase Order was originally generated, please contact your Unit Administrator on how to complete this process through Mustang Market.

Travel Policy

Business related travel expenses are reimbursed through Western Financials - Travel & Expense Center. Such expenses must be in accordance with MAPP 2.16 - Travel & Expense Reimbursement and require a one-over approval. When contemplating travel supported by research funding, it is important to understand any sponsor specific guidelines that must be followed.  Ensure all information required is completed on the claim form and supporting documentation submitted to the reviewer and/or approver.

The following information must also be included on the expense claim: purpose of trip (how it relates specifically to the research project being charged), destination, and relationship of claimant to the account holder (if the claimant is not the account holder), prospectus or program of the conference/workshop if applicable.  Only one claim per person can be submitted per trip.

The Travel Policy Supplement as Related to Research is a helpful tool in understanding the requirements for travel applied to research projects.

Western’s Travel Card is recommended as the primary payment method for travel expenses incurred by Western employees. Employees who travel on a regular basis are encouraged to apply for the Travel Card.

You can also contact Financial Services Travel & Expense Reimbursement.

Transferring Expenses to Other Research Projects within Western

In order for expenses to be moved from one project to another the expense being moved must be eligible and directly related to the project it is being moved to.

The specific expenses must be identified to ensure eligibility and the account holder should make such a request in writing (or email) to his/her their department administrator. This provides supporting documentation for audit and review purposes.

Please see specific agency guidelines for additional information on expense eligibility. Contact your department administrator for the processing of a transfer of the expenses.

Please see the following for internal processing of transfer of expenses:

Audits and Monitoring Visits

Many of the research funding programs are subject to financial audits and monitoring reviews. The account holders should understand these requirements at the onset of each project. As part of Western's control framework the research projects are also subject to internal reviews by our Internal Audit department and Research Finance where expense eligibility and compliance requirements are monitored. Prompt attention to audit and review requests help to facilitate these processes.

Over-Expended Policy

Account Holders should ensure spending is within the budget limits of their research awards and should maintain their research projects in good standing.  Over-expenditures on contract and grant funded research projects are not permitted unless the funding agreement allows over-expenditures (i.e. some multi-year awards) and the Faculty Dean or Departmental Designate approves the over-expenditure in writing. 

To ensure spending is managed over the period of a research award and to reduce the associated risk of over-expenditures, over spending will be  limited to 25% of the following year's confirmed funding.  Should additional spending be required, complete the form below to obtain Faculty/Department approval and forward to Research Finance.

Financial Statements

Printing Monthly Financial Statements

Each grant/contract is established as a research project within Western Financials (PeopleSoft).  Monthly financial statements are available within the system for administrators and researchers.  As each month end closes, a notification is sent by Research Finance to advise when the monthly financial statements can be run.

Understanding Monthly Financial Statements

If you have questions regarding the content of monthly financial statements, contact your Financial Officer in Research Finance.

Financial Reports to Sponsors

Research Finance completes all financial reporting as required by our sponsors/agencies (annually, quarterly or monthly).  In some cases, the sponsor may require the PI/Account Holder to sign off on these reports.  If you receive a request directly from a sponsor for a financial report, contact your Financial Officer in Research Finance.

Carry Forward of Unspent Balances

A carry forward is the balance or funds (revenue received – expenses incurred = balance) that remains at the end of a given project fiscal year for a multi-year project. 

It  is important to understand the carry forward restrictions in regards to annual balances and end of project unused funds.  Some sponsors allow for the carry forward of unspent funds into the following fiscal year and some do not.  Others may only allow a specific percentage of the annual budget to be carried into the next year (ie. 10%, 20%).

Refer to the sponsor guidelines or contact your Financial Officer in Research Finance for clarification.

Project End Date: Extend or Close

Project End Date Extensions

All research projects have specified end dates for fund utilization.  These dates are clearly stated in award notices, research agreements and contracts, and on monthly financial statements in Western Financials (PeopleSoft). Some sponsors allow for project extensions and others do not.  To ward against the loss of any unspent funds, it is important that Account Holders are aware of project end dates and understand the extension requirements of the funding source.  If allowable, some sponsors may approve extensions through email confirmation while others may require formal amendments to existing agreements/contracts.  Please plan accordingly and contact your Financial Officer in Research Finance when necessary.

Project Closing

At the completion of a project, Research Finance is responsible for submitting the final financial report and the PI is responsible for submitting any progress/technical reports.  The PI is also responsible for:

providing staff with the required notice of termination, if applicable
updating staff payroll records to reflect change in funding source of pay, if staff will
  continue employment
closing or moving open purchase orders to another appropriate research project
clearing all travel advances
advising internal operations (i.e. Telecom, UMS, ITS, ChemBio Stores) on standing
  charges to move to another research project, where appropriate and eligible

Contact your Faculty/Department Administrator for assistance completing the related paperwork.