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Project Modifications

Awards are issued by sponsors based on a number of factors including the proposed statement of work (SOW), the expertise of particular Principal Investigators (PIs), the length of the period of performance, and the cost of the project. When changes to these or other factors occur within the life of the project, sponsors usually issue award modifications—documents that contractually alter the obligations of the awardee based on a revised condition of performance. Award modifications are typically received through the Office of Sponsored Programs since Virginia Tech, and not individual PIs, are the legal entity to whom grants and contracts are awarded. If, as a PI, you receive an award modification, you should forward the document to your post-award administrator as soon as possible so that the award can be legally modified by the signing official in OSP.

Some sponsors issue modifications that incorporate a scope of work beyond that originally proposed by the PI. In such cases, OSP may require the PI to submit to his/her pre-award administrator an additional proposal and budget to cover the expanded scope of work before such modifications can be processed in post award. Your pre- and post-award administrators can help you through this process.

Change in Scope

Any change that significantly alters the research goals outlined in the original proposal is usually considered a change in scope. Such changes usually require approval of the sponsoring agency.  Because the policies and procedures for modifying a scope of work vary widely depending on the sponsor, PIs should coordinate scope of work change requests with their post-award administrator.   
Scope of Work changes that normally require sponsor approval include, but are not limited to:

  • Revisions to the specific goals of the project
  • Shifting the project’s emphasis from one area of research to another
  • Conducting human or animal subjects research not  included in the original proposal
  • Use of a new research technology
  • Rebudgeting of funds into or out of budget categories by more than 25% of total award amount
  • Changing the PI or other identified key personnel
  • A PI leave of absence exceeding 90 days
  • Outsourcing portions of the programmatic effort to subcontractors not originally identified in the proposal  

PI Transfer/Change

The process of transferring awards from one institution to another is not a simple task and requires negotiation between the sponsoring agency, the original institution, and the new institution.  Grants and contracts are awarded to institutions, not individuals; therefore the original grantee institution must “relinquish” an award and its unobligated balance to the transfer university.  These arrangements are made in collaboration with offices of sponsored programs, and the PI and his/her department at both the original and transferring institution.  Typically, matters of concern in award transfers include the form of the transfer, determining he unobligated balance, resolving differences in the indirect rates of the original and transferring institutions and how these differences may affect the balance of direct funds available, and the funding gaps created by the time required to closeout and re-issue the project.  The transfer process can take several months depending on the complexity of the project being transferred and the number of parties involved.


During the performance of a project, PIs may find it necessary to revise the original research budget. In this circumstance, your post-award administrator will be able to assist you with a request to the sponsor to rebudget the funds.

Your post-award administrator will review the policies and award guidelines of the sponsor and determine if sponsor approval is required for a rebudget. In instances where sponsor approval is required, the PI should prepare for the sponsor a letter concisely justifying the rebudget and outlining how the funds will be spent in the amended line items. Your post-award administrator must endorse the PIs justification for the rebudget prior to submission to the sponsor to ensure that the request conforms to federal and university policies and regulations. If the sponsor does not have to approve rebudgeting requests, the PI should prepare for the post-award administrator a justification for the rebudget and new budget figures so that the change can be documented for audit purposes. Your post-award administrator will notify the sponsor of the budgeting change and a revised PAN documenting the change will be sent to the PIs department.