RA Fundamentals Job Aid - Orientation

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: Academic Affairs; Student Affairs; Research; Health Sciences; SIO/Marine Sciences; HS CFO; Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; Resource Management & Planning; and Advancement. Chancellor Khosla oversees the Vice Chancellors, often referred to as VCs.

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 so that the researchers can focus their attention on the science. 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 Sponsored Project Offices (SPO) 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 SPO offices 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 the 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 transacted between the parties. A sponsor may use an unfunded agreement to work with a researcher. Examples of these include:

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 walk through lifecycle of a typical project. Note this can take place over a time frame of one to five years or more.

First, 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 word of mouth.

 Once they find an announcement, they work with their Research Administrator (RA) to develop a proposal. Proposal packages for these agreements 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.

 If the 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 phase.

 Advanced Spending Requests – Done at the request of the PI, MSO,DBO and are done if a delay in receiving new funding might negatively impact a project.

 Upon completion, the SPO may negotiate with the sponsor to review items such as terms and conditions to protect both the interests of the University and the scientists.

 With negotiations completed, an award is ready to be accepted.  This process transitions from the Pre-Award to the Post-Award process. At this time, the SPO works with Sponsored Project Finance (SPF) to set up the award so that funds are available for spending.

 At this point, the project has been awarded and 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.

As the project progresses, invoicing becomes a significant part of the sponsored projects process to maintain and settle accounts.  Reporting is also a critical component to tracking the progress of the project and is typically required by sponsors/agencies.

 Finally, 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 a direct contribution to the research-focused part of our mission on a daily basis. Working as a team with all of the partners within UC San Diego, our parts contribute to a greater whole in supporting the research mission, which has both a local and global impact as we seek to cure diseases, investigate climate change, discover the power of big data and explore the universe.