RA Fundamentals Job Aid - Orientation

This article provides:

UC System at a Glance (as of March 2022)


The UC System Mission

The UC System Governance

The UC System operates under a shared governance model, which is comprised of the Board of Regents, the Academic Senate, and the Office of the President. 

The Board of Regents exercises approval over university policies, financial affairs, tuition and fees.

The Academic Senate decides academic policies, including approving courses and setting requirements for admissions, certificates and degrees.

The Office of the President is the systemwide headquarters of the University of California, managing its fiscal and business operations and supporting the academic and research missions across its campuses, labs and medical centers.

UC Office of the President (UCOP)


Our current UC President is Michael V. Drake, who directly oversees the 10 campus chancellors. When you hear the acronym UCOP, this refers to his office: the UC Office of the President.


UC San Diego Overview 


UC San Diego Mission Statement


The UCSD mission, in combination with the UC System mission, leads us to be a student-centered, research focused, service-oriented public university.
As a Research Administrator, your role contributes directly to furthering the aims of the research mission of UC San Diego.  The area of research, which our mission supports is known as Sponsored Research.

UC San Diego Leadership

The University of California San Diego campus is overseen by our Chancellor, Pradeep Khosla, who manages our nine Vice-Chancellors.

UC San Diego Vice Chancellors


UC San Diego consists of nine Vice Chancellor areas across campus, all of whom are overseen by Chancellor Khosla:

  1. Academic Affairs
  2. Student Affairs
  3. Research
  4. Health Sciences
  5. SIO/Marine Sciences
  6. HS CFO
  7. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  8. Resource Management & Planning
  9. Advancement

UC San Diego Administrative Organization Chart

As you can see, each VC oversees many departments, divisions, schools and organized research units (ORUs). Click here for most recent UCSD Administrative Organization Chart. You can find organization charts for each specific VC area on Blink.

Key Research Personnel

Each VC area’s Departments, Divisions, and Organized Research Units (ORUs) are comprised of faculty and staff. The lead scientists who receive research funding are known as Principal Investigators, or PIs.  The PIs regularly seek funding opportunities from sponsors. Research Administrators support the PI and other key personnel. In addition to the PI, there are many other people who participate in research projects. Some other common key personnel named on a project include Co-PIs, Co-Is, Senior Key Personnel, Postdocs, Fellows and Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs)

Research Administrators like you support the PIs by facilitating the administrative, financial and compliance requirements of the sponsored research project. Your hard work will allow PIs to devote more attention to their research. You will work with your Management Services Officers (MSOs), Department Business Officers (DBOs), or Chief Administrative Officers who oversee their department’s business and operational activities. You will also work with your department chairs who serve as the academic leader and administrative head of a department.

Sponsored Projects Offices (SPOs)


Your departments, divisions, and ORU’s will partner with their respective Sponsored Project Offices (SPOs) who have specific delegated authorities to submit proposals to sponsors, negotiate with the sponsors, and accept the agreements on behalf of the University. An important distinction to make is that agreements are accepted on behalf of the University and not individuals, meaning neither the PI nor the fund manager can negotiate or accept awards. This helps protect both the researcher and the institution. The SPOs at UC San Diego are: OCGA, OCTA, HS SPPO, SIO OCGA.

Compliance Offices

There are also compliance offices that Research Administrators may engage when working on a sponsored project such as:



UC San Diego works with many different types of sponsors, which are the entities that give the university money for research. For example, government sponsors include the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or state sponsors, like CalTrans, and local government entities such as San Diego Health and Human Services.

UC San Diego also works with non-government entities. These include private nonprofit organizations and foundations such as the American Heart Association and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as industry or for-profit companies such as Merck and Qualcomm.

Institutions of higher learning such as Harvard or the University of Michigan also sponsor research. Finally, the UCOP sponsors research programs; for example, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, or TRDRP and the CA HIV/AIDS Research Program, or CHRP.

These sponsors provide funding for the different types of research within our Institution, and can be tied back to UC San Diego’s mission and core value as a research-oriented public university.

Research includes basic research, applied research, developmental research, and clinical research.

Agreement Types: Funded Agreements

Sponsors use different ways to connect with the UCSD community and will post funding opportunity announcements, or solicitations, available for researchers.  When sponsors decide to fund a researcher, they may use one of a variety of agreements. There are two types of agreements: FUNDED and UNFUNDED. Funded means there is money attached to the agreement.

Common types of funded agreements include: Clinical Trials, Contracts, Gifts, Grants, Fellowships, Service Agreements, Lab Service Agreements and Personnel Agreements.

Agreement Types: Unfunded Agreements

An Unfunded Agreement means there is no money exchanged between parties. A sponsor may use an unfunded agreement to work with a researcher. Examples of these include:

For more information about Unfunded Agreement types, please visit this page on Blink.

Sponsored Projects Lifecycle

To put all of these concepts together, let’s take a look at the Research Administration Sponsored Projects Lifecycle, which consists of a pre-award and a post-award cycle.

Putting It All Together

Let’s break down the ten steps that make up the lifecycle of a typical project. It is important to note that this can take place over a time frame of one to five years or more.

1Identify OpportunityFirst, a PI gets an idea, and identifies an opportunity by looking for funding announcements or solicitations. Announcements can be found on sponsor’s sites, through emails or by word of mouth.
2Develop and Submit Proposal

Once an opportunity is identified, the PI will work with their Research Administrator (RA) to develop a proposal and create a proposal package, which can vary from simple to complex and involve various elements.

When the PI and RA have completed the proposal package, it is sent to the SPO. The SPO conducts a review of the proposal to give the proposal the best chance of being funded, while still protecting the interests of the University and the PI. After the proposal has been reviewed and any errors corrected, the SPO will submit the final package to the sponsor on behalf of the University.

Most SPOs at UCSD follow a 14/5/2 guideline for proposal submissions. This guideline dictates that it is optimal for proposals to be submitted to the appropriate SPO at least 14 business days ahead of the anticipated deadline in order to ensure the most thorough review possible. While this is preferred, officers will do their best to submit regardless of how late a proposal is received, but cannot guarantee that later submissions receive as much preparation as those submitted in accordance with the 14/5/2 guideline.

3Just in Time and Advance Spending Request  

If a sponsor indicates they may fund this opportunity, the SPO, RA and PI may work together to complete any additional and necessary compliance requirements during the Just-in-Time (JIT) phase.

Advanced Spending Requests (ASRs) – In the event that a delay in receiving new funding might negatively impact a project, PI's may submit can submit an Advance Spending Request in order to have an award, project and task set up prior to official acceptance of the award. To submit such a request, the Research Administrator should complete an ASR Form and send it to researchadmin@ucsd.edu.

4Negotiate Award and AgreementOnce the submission is complete and the sponsor has expressed interest in moving forward with an agreement, the SPO may negotiate with them to review items such as terms and conditions to protect both the interests of the University and its researchers.
5Accept AwardWith negotiations completed, an award is ready to be accepted.  It is with this step that the projects lifecycle transitions from the Pre-Award to the Post-Award process. 
6Award Set-UpOnce the award is accepted, the SPO works with Sponsored Project Finance (SPF) to set up the award so that funds are available for spending.
7Manage Award and AgreementOnce the agreement has been awarded, the PI will continue to work with their Research Administrator and SPO to manage the award, ensuring compliance with the agreement and the policies that govern the funds.
8InvoiceAs the project progresses, invoicing becomes a significant part of the sponsored projects process to maintain and settle accounts.  
9Report to AgencyOnce an award is issued, reporting also becomes a critical component to tracking the progress of the project. This typically required by sponsors/agencies and lack of compliance with awarding entities' reporting requirements may result in loss of future funding, particularly 
10CloseoutFinally, once the project nears completion, closing out the project or award occurs with actions such as completing final financial reports, realignment of funds and handling any intellectual property and inventions that may have resulted from the project.



As a Research Administrator, you make an invaluable contribution in advancing our globally impactful research mission through working in coordination with researchers who seek to cure diseases, investigate climate change, discover the power of big data and explore the universe, as well as the various teams and partners that make up this institution.