Institutional Signatures Process

Western’s Approval Processes and Institutional Signatures

Grants, Contracts and Agreements


Western’s Manual of Administrative Policies and Procedures (MAPP)1 7.8 Signing Authorities for Research Grants, Contracts and Agreements designates the Office of the Vice-President (Research) (VPR) as Western’s institutional signatory with the authority to sign and endorse grant applications (including reapplications), contracts, agreements and related documents on behalf of the university arising from–or related to–scholarly, research and research-oriented activities. The VPR exercises this signing authority through the oversight of Western Research - Office of Research Services.

Western Research must review all research-related applications, agreements and contracts prior to recommending them for institutional signature and submission. This includes the following circumstances:

      • Research-eligible faculty participating in both internal and external funding opportunities
      • Research-eligible faculty participating as a co-principal investigator or co-applicant in a submission led by another organization or institution
      • Research-eligible faculty overseeing an opportunity for another university member such as trainee, student, post-doctoral scholar or staff
      • Any funding opportunity requiring an institutional letter of support
      • Any applications that can be submitted directly to the sponsor electronically (by the applicant)
      • Any funding opportunities where the sponsor does not require an institutional signature agreements and contracts as outlined in Research Contracts & Partnerships.

      Bypassing Western’s internal approval processes may lead to an application being withdrawn or a research grant/contract being refused based on risk to the university and/or commitments being made without appropriate oversight and/or authority.

      The following procedural information is provided to help you prepare grant applications, contracts and agreements. For the purposes of this document, “applications” will refer to all funding applications/draft agreements and “awards” will refer to all funded grants and agreements.

          1. Funding Opportunity
            Notify your faculty research office and with a funding opportunity link. Please provide the URL or downloaded guidelines for any upcoming opportunities you do not already see listed on the ROLA Funding Opportunities page. Western Research will establish the opportunity in Western’s grants management system, ROLA2, so a ROLA proposal can be submitted.

            Note: Your faculty research office can provide guidance on their specific supports for your submission.

          2. ROLA Proposals
            All applications and research funding opportunities regardless of signature requirements must3 be accompanied by a corresponding ROLA proposal. The ROLA proposal captures internal Western approvals (i.e., “electronic signatures”) at the department, faculty and institutional levels. A ROLA proposal confirms–among other details–your eligibility to conduct independent research, your administering unit information, budget and overhead allocation, matching/partner contributions and certification requirements at the time of application submission (see section E below regarding human ethics, animal use and biosafety).

            You will be able to log into the ROLA system at any time to view your historic record of application submissions.

            Note: Your faculty may need additional information and/or have requirements that must accompany the submission of the ROLA proposal and application. Please contact your faculty research office for details.

            If your application for funding is successful, the ROLA proposal will form the electronic foundation for the creation of your research account in Western Financials, enabling you to spend your awarded funding by speedcode. Before a speedcode is assigned to your project, the ROLA system will also prompt you to provide information regarding applicable certification approvals related to your funded project.

            Please see the Funded Research Management page for more information.

          3. Institutional Signatures
            External sponsor requirements regarding institutional ink and/or electronic signatures on applications (including resubmissions) vary widely. Regardless of the signatory listed on a sponsor form or outlined in sponsor guidelines, per MAPP 7.8, Western Research must always be assumed the signatory on any research application/award as it is the entity authorized to provide legal and binding signatures. Principle investigators, faculty and department personnel (including senior leaders) do not have this authority for the University. Western Research will determine if alternate or additional signature requirements are needed.

            Upon completion of the institutional review and after the corresponding ROLA proposal has been approved by your department and your faculty's Associate Dean (Research), an institutional signature will be provided to accompany your application submission.

          4. Application Review
            Prior to providing institutional signatures on documents (e.g., in signature blocks, on commitment letters, etc.)–and prior to an application being submitted to a sponsor–all research applications must be reviewed by the relevant Western Research unit. Applications must be received by Western Research on the following timelines at a minimum to allow sufficient time for review:

            1. Grant applications (via Research Grant Management & Services): In general, applications must be received by no fewer than five business days prior to the sponsor deadline or anticipated submission date (for rolling deadlines). This is the minimum required timeline to accommodate review by your department chair, department and/or faculty research officer, faculty ADR and Western Research.

            2. Large volume deadlines to specific Tri-Agency opportunities such as CIHR Project Grant, SSHRC Insight Grant/Insight Development Grant and NSERC Discovery Grants will have their own internal deadlines communicated. Submissions will be made through the respective Tri-Agency portals to the Office of Research Services-Grant Management & Services team.

            3. Applications involving partner contributions and/or with matching requirements must be received by a minimum of three weeks before the anticipated submission date. This ensures sufficient time is available to verify contributions and secure signatures on required letters of support. This includes programs such as NSERC Alliance funding opportunities and SSHRC Connection Grant.

            4. Applications to US Federal Funding Agencies (e.g., NIH, Department of Defense, CDMRP, etc.) have significantly longer timelines due to the complexity, coordination and due diligence required for a successful submission. A minimum of four weeks is recommended to ensure your application receives sufficient support to navigate the submission process. Please see Western’s resource pages on NIH.

            5. Grant applications (via Institutional Research Programs): Please note the specific internal submission deadlines and requirements as communicated for institutional programs including Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Research Fund-Research Excellence, Early Researcher Awards and Canada Research Chairs opportunities.

            6. Contracts and Partnership agreements (via Research Contracts & Partnership Agreements): Research contracts, partnership agreements and grant agreements are to be provided to for review and negotiation of terms and conditions in advance of institutional signatures. Review and negotiation may be required to effectively implement important terms and conditions such as intellectual property rights, confidentiality, publication terms and liability.

        Notwithstanding the above, the length of time needed to support your application by providing a comprehensive review, answer questions, support technical submission issues and endorse a research application for institutional signature will depend on:

                • The complexity of the funding opportunity and the submission portal
                • The requirements from the sponsor
                • The level of risk to the university, and
                • The volume of application activity at a given time.

                Late or incomplete applications run the risk of not being submitted by the Sponsor’s deadline and greatly decreases the amount of support our office can provide to your project. Your application will be queued against other applications who submitted earlier.

                Under consultation with the Vice-President, Research and/or Associate Vice-President, Research and/or the Executive Director – Western Research and your Associate Dean Research, we reserve the right to: 

                        • Not submit an application to a sponsor, or
                        • Withdraw a submitted application from a competition if it is deemed to pose significant financial, reputational and/or operational risk to the institution.

                      Allowing sufficient time before the submission deadline and providing a structurally complete application for feedback will ensure Western Research can best assist you in the submission process to identify any additional resources, potential issues, risks and/or omissions to ensure your application has the highest chance of success. Consultations on knowledge mobilization plans, EDID, research data management plans and other areas of specialized supports are possible with enough runway before the deadline. Western Research is here to support you in submitting the best possible version of your application.

                  • Human Subjects, Animal Safety and Biohazards 
                    All research proposals involving humans, animal use and/or biohazardous materials must be approved by the appropriate Western certification review committee. Applicants must indicate on their application, and in the ROLA proposal, if any of these elements will be involved with the funded activity of the research project.

                    Support for development of certification protocols/approvals is provided through Western’s Oversight and Compliance units and should be initiated as soon as possible before any projects can commence.

                    Note: It is highly recommended applicants contact the relevant oversight and compliance unit(s) for a brief consultation prior to application submission to ensure appropriate ethical and public health components are taken into account.

                    For information, support on the certification approval process, appropriate forms and guidelines, please visit the relevant website.

                    Please plan accordingly as obtaining new protocol approvals or renewing current protocol approvals may take some time. Funding cannot be released4 to a successful researcher until the required protocols/documents have been approved.

1. MAPP – Western’s Manual of Administrative Policies and Procedures.
2. ROLA, Research On-line Administration, Western’s corporate research administration database.
3. All applications, letters/notices of intent, agreements require a ROLA proposal (very few exceptions). Contact with any questions.
4. In cases where a certification is not required at the start of the funded research project, a researcher may enter into a Release of Funds Agreement with the university to gain access to funds for a prescribed period.