Guidance for Contracting External Services on Sponsored Projects

Page Updated: November 20th, 2017


This website is a work in progress. Stay tuned for the fully functional site to be launched soon. In the meantime, feel free to navigate to our links and forms tab and the definitions tab. Future content will include pre and post-award guidance and other content.

Grant-funded projects provide the University an opportunity to collaborate with external partners. These relationships can be complex to administer. These external service contracts allow us to retain Independent Contractors who provide services that the UW cannot provide itself, but are required for the scope of work. When preparing proposals and managing awards, PIs and Research Administrators need help determining when a situation calls for an independent contractor, a subaward, or standard employment. Additionally, Dean's offices, human resources representatives, and purchasing agents depend on these guidelines to inform routing and approval processes.

Responsibility for making a determination on these matters is shared among several units. This collaborative decision making is needed because these situations may involve purchasing, personnel, grant, and other authorities. PIs and Departments do not make this determination, but can use this website to make an preliminary assessment of what will be decided.


Consultant: An individual or group who gives expert or professional advice to a University department that relates to the University’s mission. Also known as an independent contractor.

Contract: A contract is an agreement between the University and one or more other parties, creating obligations that are legally recognizable or enforceable. A contract may or may not require the transfer of funds, the transfer of tangible property, and/or the issuance of a purchase order.

Contractor: A contractor is either a business firm or an individual (who is not a University employee) who contracts with the University to perform a service.

Employee: An employee is any individual presently employed by the University.

Employer-Employee Relationship: An employer-employee relationship exists when an employer has the right to direct and control the work of an individual who performs the services, including not only the results to be accomplished but also the methods and means by which the results are accomplished. Even if the employer does not exercise the right to direct or control the manner in which the worker performs the services, the fact that the employer retains the right to do so is sufficient to create an employer-employee relationship.

Independent Contractor: An independent contractor is a business firm or an individual that contracts with the University to provide services for which the University controls or directs at most the result of the service, not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.

Payment to Individual Report (PIR): A form used to pay any non-employee who performs a service for the University or pay scholarships or human subjects.

Scope of Work (SOW): The statement of proposed work to be performed.

Service Agreement: A written contract prepared by Purchasing Services, signed by the service provider, and signed and executed by an authorized signatory in Business Services. The agreement lays out a payment schedule and describes the deliverables the service provider is expected to complete within the defined time period.

Sole Source: An assertion that the individual or business firm is the only provider capable of performing the service in question. A sole source justification is required to waive bidding requirements on contracts over $5,000.

Statement of Work: An outline of what the supplier is expected to accomplish or deliver to the University for the price stated in the contract.

Subaward: An award provided by a pass‐through (prime recipient) entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of an award received by the pass‐through entity. Sometimes referred to as “consortium.” In other words, a prime sponsor provides the prime recipient with an award to do a project, and the prime recipient in turn provides a subaward to the subrecipient to do a portion of the work on the project. A subrecipient is responsible for a portion of the research results.

Subaward portal: A UW tool for requesting new outgoing subawards, requesting modifications to existing subawards and viewing subrecipient monitoring information.

Vendor: An entity providing ancillary goods or services that the principal investigator needs to conduct the project. A vendor would have a procurement relationship with the university. A vendor is not responsible for the research results. Vendors typically provide their services to many different purchasers and as part of their normal business operations. They operate in a competitive environment. A vendor may also be referred to as a contractor.