Each Office Administrator is responsible for monitoring the status of projects under his/her program area regarding schedules and funding expenditures. IRIS schedules project start-up meetings at the onset of every research project (see Section 5.1.2). However, monthly contacts with the research agencies are routinely conducted by the Subject Matter Experts and IRIS Project Manager. Such contacts should be with the Principal Investigator and may be by telephone, e mail, meeting, etc. as appropriate. Topics of discussion should be: the overall status of each project; progress since the last contact; any problems that have arisen and what is being done to resolve them; the need for time, cost, or scope modifications; etc.
It is recommended that an on site meeting at the research facility or project location be held at least once per year. This frequency may vary depending on the nature and/or complexity of the research.
All contracts for research projects require the submission of specific reports (e.g.: quarterly reports, interim reports [as appropriate], draft final reports, draft executive summaries, approved final reports, and approved executive summaries). These reports are considered deliverables of the project and must be included as such in the proposal and represented in the work time cost schedule chart. All of these reports must be submitted directly to IRIS. IRIS will ensure the appropriate individuals receive the necessary reports and will coordinate all reviews.
Failure to submit any of these reports in accordance with this Manual and/or the contract will result in the researcher being considered in noncompliance with the project agreement (see Section 5.2.4). This may impact the payment of invoices and consideration for future projects.
Reports are intended to provide documentation of all technical data, analyses, and findings for a research project and to demonstrate fulfillment of the conditions of the agreement. FHWA has waived the requirement for its prior approval to print project related reports; however, prior approval must be granted by IRIS.
126.96.36.199 QUARTERLY PROGRESS REPORTS
Researchers are required to submit quarterly progress reports for their projects. The format of the quarterly report is shown in Figure 11. An electronic form can be downloaded from the IRIS web site. Quarterly reports should be submitted electronically, in "DOC" or "PDF" format, to email@example.com. Researchers should copy Subject Matter Experts on the email submission of quarterly reports.
Quarterly reports are intended to provide a brief description of the status of the project. They should be informative and as complete as possible, but are not expected to be extensive. In addition to providing an update on a project’s progress, quarterly reports will be reviewed by IRIS when requests for additional time, funding, or scope modifications are received. IRIS will be looking for background information that supports the request. Noting potential problems/difficulties in quarterly reports does not constitute a request to modify the project. Such occurrences should be documented in quarterly reports, but a request must be submitted separately in writing to the IRIS Manager for review (see Section 5.2.2).
Quarterly reports will also serve as documentation to justify salaries and wages invoiced to project accounts for the given quarter. Each quarterly report must contain a brief description of the activities and time commitment of each member of the research team.
As important as it is for researchers to provide quarterly reports, it is equally important for ODOT staff to thoroughly review the quarterly report and provide feedback to the researcher on the noted progress of the project.
188.8.131.52 INTERIM REPORTS
If it is necessary to gather and publish information before the conclusion of a study, and all parties involved agree, an interim report will be prepared for release. Projects of long duration and projects that will be developed in distinct phases may require the preparation of an interim report. This report will document all pertinent technical data and analyses, including results achieved or conclusions reached for the study phases completed to that point. IRIS must approve the report before publication. The number of copies to be furnished will be determined on a project by project basis. In such cases, an interim report will be specified in the proposal. The process to be followed in formatting and submitting an interim report is the same as that for the draft final report (see Section 184.108.40.206).
220.127.116.11 – DRAFT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
An executive summary is required on all projects. This summary is intended for non-technical audiences. The required format for the executive summary is shown in Figure 12. An electronic form can be downloaded from the IRIS website. All information noted in this format must be included. The summary should be written in clear, nontechnical language and limited to a maximum of four (4) pages. The executive summary is subject to the same review process as the draft final report; therefore, copies of a draft executive summary must be submitted with the draft final report.
18.104.22.168 – DRAFT FINAL REPORTS
Final reports are intended to provide documentation of all technical data, analyses, and findings for an entire project and to demonstrate fulfillment of the conditions of the contract. The required format for final reports is provided in Figure 13.
Unless otherwise stated in the proposal, one (1) unbound original and four (4) bound copies of the draft final report and one (1) original and four (4) copies of the draft executive summary are to be submitted to IRIS no later than 120 calendar days prior to the contract completion date. This allows ODOT and FHWA two and a half (2½) months to review and comment on the report and the Principal Investigator one and a half (1½) months to edit, publish, and submit the required approved reports. This milestone submission date should serve as a notice to the researcher. If it is discovered that the draft will not be submitted by the due date, the researcher should consider contacting IRIS to discuss the appropriate course of action.
IRIS will coordinate the review of draft final reports. Individuals who may be included in the review are the responsible Office Administrator, IRIS Project Manager, Subject Matter Experts, and FHWA. The form for reviewing a draft final report and draft executive summary is shown in Figure 14.
IRIS will coordinate and return comments to the Principal Investigator. Depending on the amount and type of report modifications requested, the Principal Investigator may be required to submit revised drafts for additional review. Meetings between Principal Investigators and reviewers may also be scheduled to discuss reports in which significant modifications have been suggested. These meetings may be requested by either reviewers or the Principal Investigator, but will be scheduled and coordinated by IRIS.
Once a draft final report and draft executive summary have been found satisfactory, IRIS will forward a letter to the Principal Investigator granting approval to proceed with final printing. The report cannot be published until written permission from IRIS is granted. Included with this letter will be a partially completed Technical Report Documentation page, Form 1700.7, for completion and inclusion in the final publication. A blank sample of Form 1700.7 is shown in Figure 15. This form can also be downloaded from the IRIS website.
22.214.171.124 – ARTICLE FOR IRIS NEWSLETTER
The submission of an article for publication in the IRIS newsletter is included in all research agreements. Typically, articles focus on the progress to date and highlight significant accomplishments such as preliminary implementation activities or recognized benefits. A brief synopsis of the objectives of the study should be included as an introduction, but this should not be the main point of the article. A graphic (e.g.: picture, chart, map, etc.) that represents or is related to the research should be provided with the article. IRIS will contact the Principal Investigator to discuss the focus and format of the article as well as the time frame in which the article should be submitted.
Reimbursements for project expenses will be made for actual and reasonable costs incurred in the performance of a study. Charges made before the start date or after the contract completion date are not eligible for reimbursement. Researchers must bill ODOT no longer than ninety (90) days from the date of service. Expenses billed beyond ninety (90) days from the date of service are subject to non-payment. See Section 5.2.2 for additional information on modifying contracts.
All invoices must be submitted directly to IRIS. Only one original invoice is required; copies are not necessary. Preparation and submission of an acceptable invoice are essential to the research agency receiving prompt payment. An acceptable invoice is one where: (1) mathematical calculations are correct and (2) backup documentation as noted herein is attached and organized by category. Careful adherence to these instructions will preclude the need to reject or return an invoice for correction.
All invoices are subject to the guidelines established by the State of Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM).
In accordance with ORC Section 126.30, the Department will make payments within thirty (30) calendar days of receipt of an acceptable invoice. If corrections or amendments to an invoice are required, IRIS will so notify the Principal Investigator or appropriate accounting officer of the contracting agency. When such corrections or amendments are made and the invoice is resubmitted, the required payment will be issued within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the corrected invoice. Payments will also be based on the budget provided in the proposal that is referenced in the executed contract and addendums. Expenses for items not included in the approved budget will not be reimbursed. Failure to submit project deliverables (e.g.: required reports, equipment, software, etc.) or adhere to the terms of the contract may delay or otherwise impact the payment of invoices.
126.96.36.199 FORMAT AND BACKUP DOCUMENTATION
If a contracting agency does not have a standard invoice format, an invoice may be prepared on the agency's letterhead. Invoices must include certain information in order for reimbursement to be made. Regardless of the formatting, an invoice must contain the following information:
- Project Identification (Title, Agreement Number, and State Job Number).
- The month(s) for which goods/services were rendered (billing period).
- Equipment purchases must be shown separately. Copies of packing slips must be submitted.
- Legible descriptive material to justify expenditures for: supply purchases totaling $500 or more per invoice; travel expense reports; and receipts for printing, subcontractors, items that fall into the "other expenses" category of the project's budget. It is very important that all backup documentation is clear and readable. Illegible copies will cause delays in the processing of invoices.
- If items for various accounts are shown on one backup document, highlight the applicable expense(s).
- Hourly rate(s) of pay for non-salaried employees must be stated on the invoice or backup documentation. For salaried employees the percentage of pay must be stated.
- Calculations must be exact, not rounded to the nearest dollar.
- The original invoice page must be clean. No handwritten notes, erasures, correction fluid, handwritten changes, typewriter added corrections, or any other appearance of tampering can be present.
- All invoices should be accompanied by adding machine tape(s) or spreadsheet(s) that depict how the backup documentation equals the amount requested for each category listed on the original invoice page.
- Total amount of contract awarded and total amount expended to date. Percentage expanded to date must also be included.
188.8.131.52 - SALARIES AND WAGES
Salaries and wages for project personnel are eligible for reimbursement when incurred specifically for the project. Flat rates or payments including time not spent conducting research on the project are not eligible for SP&R funding. It is the responsibility of the contracting agency to ensure expenses reported as salaries and wages are an accurate representation of the time spent by personnel on project activities. The Principal Investigator should include brief descriptions of the activities of each member of the research team for a given quarter in the Quarterly Progress Report (see Section 184.108.40.206). This documentation will serve as justification for salaries and wages expenses reported on invoices.
220.127.116.11 - SUBCONTRACTORS
Any individual or organization that is not directly employed by the contracting agency, but will perform services for a specific project is considered a subcontractor by ODOT. All expenses should be listed in the subcontractor category of the budget form and a separate budget from the subcontractor must be provided in an appendix to the proposal. This budget must appear on the sub-agency’s letterhead or be accompanied by a letter on the sub-agency’s letterhead. If more than one subcontractor will be utilized, each subcontractor must be listed separately on the budget form.
Subcontractors are restricted to conducting no more than 49% of the scope of work. The majority of the work (51%) must be conducted by direct employees of the contracting agency. Subcontractors are subject to the same guidelines and regulations as the agency contracting with ODOT. This includes state accounting policies and procedures. It is the prime contracting agency’s responsibility to ensure that all subcontractors are in compliance.
18.104.22.168 - CONSULTANTS
“Consultants” is not a valid line item/budget category for research projects. Individuals are either direct employees of the contracting agency, in which expenses for their time should appear in the salary and wages category, or individuals are contracted with by the research agency to provide specific services on a given study, in which expenses for their time should appear in the subcontractor category. The term “consultant” must not be included under any category (including supplies/services and salaries and wages) in a budget for a research project. Please see Section 22.214.171.124 for more information on Subcontractors.
126.96.36.199 - TUITION AND FEES
Tuition and fees for graduate and undergraduate students cannot be charged to a research project. These are not allowable expenses as they are not charges specifically applicable to a project. Researchers are encouraged to represent these costs, when incurred by their college, on the budget as cost-sharing by the university. Tuition and fees do qualify as matching funds for OPREP studies (see Section 4.2).
Travel expenses must be described in detail. A separate travel expense report for each individual must be included for each trip that occurred during the given invoicing period. Supporting documentation for the travel, such as receipts, must immediately follow each individual expense report (i.e., receipts should not be bundled together and placed behind several different expense forms).
The following information must be included on a travel expense form: dates of travel, times for departure and arrival, locations involved, exact mileage (if applicable), and supporting documentation for charges incurred. Figure 16 provides a sample travel expense form. Researchers may use this form when submitting travel expenses if their agency does not have a standard form. Travel expense reimbursements will be made according to ORC 126.31 and current State of Ohio guidelines. A link to the current guidelines is available on the IRIS website.
All travel must be included in the project's budget. Reimbursement will only be made for those individuals who are listed in the budget as project personnel. For example, if four graduate students travel to a test site to assist in the collection of data and the project's budget lists only two graduate students as being involved, reimbursement for travel expenses will be made for only two individuals. The IRIS Manager may grant exceptions; however, the Principal Investigator must submit a written request to the IRIS Manager prior to the travel occurring that details why additional manpower is needed and clarifies that the salary for the additional individuals will not be charged to the project. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case and project-by-project basis.
Travel to locations other than test sites and ODOT for meetings requires written prior approval. This includes, but is not limited to, conferences, seminars, and project required training sessions. A letter requesting permission to use travel funds must be submitted to the IRIS Manager at least one month before the event. This letter must include the name and state job number of the project, date(s) of the event, purpose of attending, the benefit to ODOT from participation in the event, and a budget of expenses anticipated to incur. Participation in these types of events will only be approved when a direct correlation exists between the event and the referenced research project. The audience at the proposed event must be composed primarily of individuals involved in the transportation field such as employees of State DOTs and FHWA. Attendance at such events for professional development purposes is not eligible for reimbursement.
The same criteria are applied to travel to such events that are included in the project’s budget. Proof of a direct correlation between the event and the referenced research project (e.g.: copy of the final agenda depicting a presentation on the project, etc.) must be provided with the invoice. The researcher must also indicate the benefits to the Department from participation in the event and provide evidence that the audience was composed primarily of individuals involved in the transportation field. Failure to provide proof of a direct correlation will result in denial of reimbursement. Only expenses directly related to the project are eligible for reimbursement. For example, a researcher may make a project specific presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC. Expenses that would be eligible for reimbursement, provided sufficient backup documentation is supplied, include conference registration, travel to and from the meeting, and lodging and meals for travel days and the day of the presentation. Reimbursement for the entire conference (e.g.: lodging and meals for days other than those noted above) will not occur. Permission for the dissemination of preliminary research results applies to events noted in the project’s budget (see Section 188.8.131.52).
184.108.40.206 OVERHEAD AND FEES
Both private and public entities should have adequately furnished and equipped offices to provide services under a research project contract. Items considered "routine" office supplies and/or services constitute indirect costs or overhead. These items cannot be invoiced to a research project as direct costs as this results in double charging. Items considered overhead include, but are not limited to, the following:
- utilities, such as: electricity, gas, water, sewer, telephones, cell phones, computer connections, etc.
- mortgage, rent, or lease payments for office and lab facilities
- benefits for employees, such as: vacation, sick, personal, military, and holiday leave
- clerical and administrative salaries, including fees for legal and accounting representation
- fees for membership in professional organizations
- subscriptions to professional magazines, journals, technical books, and fees for library membership/usage
- general office supplies, such as: staples, tape, scissors, pens, pencils, paper, lab notebooks, office furniture, computers, computer accessories, word processing software, calculators, calendars, envelopes, postage, etc.
If there is doubt as to whether or not a particular expense would be considered overhead, contact IRIS for clarification. In unique situations, items typically considered as overhead may be charged as direct costs. These instances pertain solely to private organizations and must be accompanied by a detailed explanation in the project’s proposal as to how these items constitute direct charges and that double charging is not occurring.
Universities are permitted to use the F&A rate as approved by its cognizant agency. The rate must be applied only to direct salaries and wages (direct labor) incurred under the terms of the contract. No additional mark-up is permitted. A copy of the rate agreement must be included as an appendix to the proposal to support the stated rate. In special circumstances, ODOT may negotiate with a university to determine the appropriate overhead rate and how it will be applied to a specific contract. Once the contract is issued, the overhead rate is fixed and remains unchanged for the life of the project.
Private organizations must work with ODOT to establish an acceptable overhead rate, if one has not previously been established with the ODOT Office of Audits. Consultants must attach a copy of its most recent overhead rate cost certificate with all new proposals. Consultants not previously approved by ODOT must provide adequate documentation to support the overhead rate. Private entities may also charge a net fee for services provided on a research project. The net fee is a negotiated amount between the contractor and ODOT and is specified in the contract. The overhead rate and net fee is fixed once negotiated and remains unchanged for the life of the project.
220.127.116.11 – PROCESSING
As IRIS processes invoices, a project balance is posted to avoid over expenditure of a contract. Should an invoice exceed approved funds or otherwise be incomplete, the invoice will be returned to the contracting agency for revision. Attempts to correct the invoice via telephone calls and emails will be made prior to returning the invoice.
When an invoice is received by IRIS, copies of the invoice may be reviewed by the IRIS Project Managers to assure the billing is commensurate with the overall progress of the project as evidenced by the quarterly reports. If it is determined that a billing exceeds the project's apparent progress, the invoice will be considered unacceptable. IRIS will notify the research agency immediately. The research agency must revise the invoice to bring the amount into agreement with the project's state of progress.
Equipment is an article of non-expendable, tangible personal property having a useful life of at least two years and an acquisition cost of $1,000 or more per unit, or a combined value of $1,000 for components which are assembled into a larger unit. An item that meets these criteria, but is permanently embedded or attached to pavement, structure, or other infrastructure in such a way as to result in irreparable damage to the item itself or the article to which it is attached if removed shall not be classified as equipment. Items that are exempt from being categorized as equipment based on their attachment to pavement, structure, or other infrastructure must be clarified in the proposal.
All equipment that is anticipated to be needed for a project must be listed separately in the budget. Components used in the assembly of a larger piece of equipment must be listed as equipment in the budget; these components are not "supplies" and must be itemized on invoices as "equipment." The proposal should clearly identify which items should be inventoried. For more information in inventory, refer to Section 18.104.22.168.
A minimum of two quotations must be supplied with the budget for each piece of equipment, along with a detailed description of the equipment. The preferred vendor should be identified, along with an explanation for this preference. If equipment is available from only one vendor, this must be explained.
Equipment acquired for a research study remains the property of the State of Ohio (and FHWA, if applicable) until it is transferred (see Section 22.214.171.124) or disposed (see Section 5.4.5). It is therefore necessary for the Principal Investigator to account for, and safeguard, the property while it is in his possession. ODOT shall have access to all equipment and records as may be required for verification or disposition.
126.96.36.199 COMPUTER PURCHASES
Using research funds to purchase computers (including, but not limited to, desktops, laptops, palms, and other hand held devices) for most research projects is not allowed. Generally, computers are considered essential office equipment and are therefore included in overhead. There are specific instances, however, when the purchase of a computer may be allowed. These instances occur when a data acquisition system is needed exclusively to collect data from a site location. The system cannot be capable of performing standard office functions (e.g.: typing reports) to be considered a data acquisition system. These instances will be reviewed on a case by case basis. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to clearly convey the necessity of the data acquisition system in the proposal.
188.8.131.52 PURCHASES OF EQUIPMENT NOT INCLUDED IN THE PROPOSAL
If unanticipated purchases of equipment are needed, written approval must be obtained from IRIS before the item(s) can be purchased. A letter of request should be submitted to the IRIS Manager, along with a detailed description of the item(s), two quotes for each item, and an explanation of the need and clarification as to whether additional funds are needed or existing project funds will be used to purchase the item(s). If existing funds will be used, the request should include the category the funds will come from (e.g.: supplies, travel, etc.). If additional funds are needed, the request should also be submitted in accordance with Section 184.108.40.206.
Approval for such purchases will be based upon the following conditions:
- The item is required to complete the work on the study.
- The item is not normally used in regular operations of the Principal Investigator.
- The cost is considered reasonable.
- The item is included as a direct cost, not as an indirect charge.
Requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Requests for equipment funding made after the purchase of the item(s) will not be considered.
220.127.116.11 – SOFTWARE
Any software, license, source code, and documentation, regardless of price, will be turned over to ODOT at the completion of a study, if it is determined to be of value and useful by ODOT for other research projects or business operations. It is the Principal Investigators responsibility to ensure that software purchased utilizing research funds that will be turned over to ODOT is appropriately licensed to accommodate such a transfer. IRIS will not cover expenses associated with licensing fees and/or transfers after the initial purchase. Software must be specifically identified in the proposal budget and will be considered equipment if it has a cost of $1,000 or more.
Software developed for use by ODOT must comply with the software guidelines developed by the Division of Information Technology. The responsible Office Administrator will review proposed software development and submit the necessary information to the Information Technology (IT) Council for approval, if needed.
18.104.22.168 – INVENTORY
To comply with the Federal Common Rule Authority, 49 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), Section 18, Subtitle A, it is necessary that all equipment items purchased with Federal funds are inventoried by following State of Ohio procedures for the inventorying of equipment. Therefore, once an invoice containing an equipment purchase is received by IRIS, an initial inventory letter will be sent to the Principal Investigator instructing that an inventory bar code tag be affixed to the equipment. A separate bar code tag will be sent for each individual piece of equipment as it is identified in the proposal. Equipment items should be noted in the budget in relationship to the number of bar code tags that should be received for the project. Smaller components that will be combined into a larger, single unit should be grouped together to represent one item that is to be inventoried. The bar code denotes ownership and must remain on the equipment at all times.
All equipment purchased on a research project is the property of the State of Ohio and therefore must be inventoried throughout the life of the project. Physical inventories will be conducted annually. The inventory will be initiated by the Office of Accounting. IRIS will send instructions for completing the inventory, along with an inventory report/certification for each project to each research agency. The Principal Investigator will verify each item's location and condition, and return a signed certification form to IRIS by the date specified in the letter of notification.
If equipment is damaged through negligence by the research team, it will be the responsibility of the research agency to repair or replace the equipment. If equipment is damaged due to no fault of the research agency, ODOT will be responsible for the repair or replacement. If a piece of equipment is stolen or vandalized, the Principal Investigator must obtain a police report and provide IRIS a copy of it. The item will then be removed from the projects’ inventory.
22.214.171.124 TRANSFER OF INVENTORIED ITEMS
It may become necessary for equipment purchased through one research project to be used on a different research project. Typically this includes changing the physical location of the equipment. In these instances, the Subject Matter Expert must coordinate with IRIS to have the equipment transferred in the inventory system between the projects. Until the Principal Investigator has received written confirmation from IRIS that the transfer is complete, the equipment cannot be removed from its current location.
In special instances, ODOT may have the need to acquire equipment from a researcher for departmental use while a study is ongoing. The need for the equipment to conduct the research may have concluded, which would allow for the early retrieval of the inventoried item(s). The Subject Matter Expert and Principal Investigator must coordinate with IRIS to have the equipment transferred in the inventory system from the project to the responsible program office. Until the Principal Investigator has received written confirmation from IRIS that the transfer is complete, the equipment cannot be turned over to the Subject Matter Expert.
5.3.4 PROJECT REVIEW SESSIONS
Project review sessions are a mechanism for updating sponsors and other interested parties on the status of a research project. IRIS coordinates the scheduling of project review sessions to ensure that every project receives at least one formal review for each year the project is active. Typically, project reviews are held at ODOT’s central office during April and October; however, reviews can be scheduled at other locations, such as ODOT district offices, as appropriate to accommodate for unique requests, such as coordination with a project site visit. Review sessions are anticipated not to exceed ninety (90) minutes, which includes time to discuss administrative issues.
Review session attendees may include representatives from the research agency, ODOT, and FHWA. Representatives from other state and federal agencies, industry, trade organizations or other entities may be present for projects in which they are involved as liaisons or cosponsors. Certificates of attendance are made available to those who participate in review sessions upon request.
During the review session, the Principal Investigator will provide a presentation on the study’s progress since the last review. For Student Studies, the presentation must be made by the student. There is no prescribed format required for review sessions; however, opportunity should be afforded for discussion of the following items:
- Progress since the last review.
- A brief overview of the work proposed for current and future quarters.
- The theoretical/analytical phases of the study.
- Current/anticipated findings and their potential for implementation.
- Administrative matters, such as: funding, reporting, contractual obligations, etc.
Technical issues or problems may be resolved at this time, or subsequent meetings may be scheduled for that purpose. Mention of problems and delays during review sessions does not constitute a request to modify the project’s contract. Requests of this nature must be submitted to IRIS in writing. Refer to Section 5.2.2 and subsequent subsections for information on how to modify contracts.
At the conclusion of a research review session, attendees will be asked to complete an evaluation. Evaluations are completed electronically through the IRIS website. The comments are compiled by IRIS and forwarded to the Principal Investigator with a copy placed in the project file. All comments are sent anonymously to encourage frankness. Principal Investigators may contact IRIS for clarification on comments.
Additional information on research review session, including the current schedule and preparatory information for researchers, is available on the IRIS website.