Survey Manual

500.19 - Contributions and Grants to USGS from Outside Sources

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OPR: Office of Accounting and Financial Management and Office of Policy and Analysis

1. Policy. The USGS will only accept contributions from public and private sources that support scientific research, technological development, and data systems pertaining thereto. Under its contributions authority, the USGS and its researchers may apply for grants that are publically announced and open to Federal agencies and their employees. Contributions generally involve no further activity by the donor beyond the donation itself; while incoming grants may involve post funding requirements for the receiving USGS location and the principal investigator handling the grant project for the Bureau.

2. Authority. Chapter 43 U.S.C. 36c authorizes the USGS to accept contributions from public and private sources; while 16 USC 742f(b) permits the USGS to accept gifts and use such gifts for purposes for which given (as part of the former National Biological Survey authorizations).

3. Definitions. For purposes of this chapter the following terms are defined as:

A. Contributions include lands, buildings, equipment, money or other contributions from public and private sources. Contributions may also be referred to as 'gifts' or 'donations' in other USGS or Department of the Interior regulations or guidance material.

B. Competitively awarded grant means a program in which the grant making organization makes funds available on a competitive basis for scientific and educational purposes to the eligible participants, which may include federal entities and their employees.

C. Personal property includes tangible and intangible personal articles such as furniture, jewelry, stocks and bonds.

D. Prohibited Sources can include a person or entity who:

(1) is listed on the annual USGS Guide to Financial Interests for USGS Employees;

(2) has litigation pending with, or has or is seeking to obtain a contract, lease, grant (including cooperative agreement) or other business benefit or assistance from USGS; 

(3) conducts operations or activities that are regulated by USGS; 

(4) appears to be offering the contribution or grant with the expectation of obtaining an inappropriate advantage or preference in dealing with the USGS;

(5) offers a contribution or grant, which if accepted, would adversely reflect on the USGS;

(6) may benefit from the way that a USGS employee performs or doesn't perform his or her duties and responsibilities. (This type of prohibited source applies to situations involving grants rather than contributions.)

E. Real property means any interest in land or buildings which would require the transferring and recording of title to the USGS.

4. Scope. This chapter applies to contributions and competitively awarded grants made to the USGS from public and private sources. The following items are outside the scope of this chapter. For additional information, refer to the chapters indicated.

A. Cooperative work with state, federal and local government agencies (see SM 500.1 and SM 500.3) or non-Federal entities (see SM 500.2).

B. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (see SM 500.20).

C. Grants or Cooperative Agreements from the USGS to third parties (see SM 205.4).

D. Specimens or data which are normally exchanged among professional colleagues. Such contributions are in no way to be discouraged or impeded.

5. Acceptance Criteria for Contributions and Grants. Both contributions and grants must meet the following criteria to be acceptable to USGS:

A. Serve the public and be in the public interest;

B. Be compatible with USGS missions and facilitate USGS programs;

C. Not adversely affect the scientific integrity of the USGS;

D. Comply with all laws and regulations including the USGS Organic Act, as amended, current USGS Appropriations Acts, anti-trust laws or other applicable laws and regulations;

E. Not violate OMB Circular A-76 which deals with policies for acquiring commercial or industrial products and services needed by the Government or any pertinent interagency agreements which the USGS has with other Government agencies;

F. Not violate any governmentwide conflict of interest regulation; 

G. Not benefit any individual with the Department of the Interior, other Government agencies, or Member of Congress; and

H. Not come from a prohibited source.

6. Contributions.

A. Contributions may contain restrictions on their use so long as such restrictions are consistent with USGS missions and authorities and otherwise meet the acceptance criteria outlined in this chapter. When the acceptance of a contribution will involve the work efforts of more than one USGS program, the sponsoring program is responsible for contacting the other impacted programs and reviewing the project work, and documenting in the file that the planned product can be accomplished by all programs within the contribution level.

B. Potential contributors should be advised that before any contribution can be accepted by the USGS a review and evaluation will be made by USGS to determine its appropriateness.

C. In addition to the general criteria discussed in paragraph 5 above, contributions must also not significantly advantage or disadvantage any public or private group; and provide that any information generated with funds from a contribution will be placed in the public domain.

D. USGS employees may not solicit contributions from outside sources. USGS employees may inform outside parties of the existence of the USGS contribution/gift authority but may not request or negotiate contributions.

E. Contributions of money and personal property of $5000 or less may be accepted by a local USGS office without Associate or Regional Director approval; providing that the receiving location completes the Contribution Report Form (Form 9-3089) and submits it for the concurrence of Program Management one level above where the contribution has been offered. An example would be a $500 honorarium offered for reviewing a technical publication.

F. Associate and Regional Directors are authorized to approve contributions of money and personal property valued at $50,000 or less when such contributions are compatible with USGS missions and authorities. The review and approvals built into the Contribution Information Form are designed to act as a certification that the signatory, on behalf of the Bureau, has considered the ethical implications of accepting a contribution from the named source. The redelegation of Contribution Approval authority below the Regional or Associate Director level is not authorized unless the Region or Program has an alternative system in place that satisfies Bureau concerns over scientific integrity. 

G. Any contribution of property with a value of $5,000 or more must be accounted for pursuant to USGS Property Management Handbook 408-2-H.

H. All contribution offers should be documented on the Contribution Report Form. Appropriate Program level signatures must be obtained before actual acceptance of any contribution.

I. Contributions involving donations valued in excess of $50,000 require the review and signature of the Chief, Office of Program Support. An Office receiving such an offer should complete the Contribution Report Form and submit it to the Technology Enterprise Office (TEO), National Center. TEO will obtain Chief, Office of Program Support approval.

J. Regardless of the amount of the gift, a copy of an executed Contribution Form should be sent to the TEO for internal reporting purposes. TEO will supply a copy to the Ethics Office.

K. Acceptance letters thanking the contributor and outlining any directions for acceptance will be drafted by the operations unit and signed by the highest approval level needed to accept the gift.

7. Grants.

A. Each Principal Investigator applying for a grant on behalf of the USGS must complete and submit a Grant Sponsor Information Profile Form (Form 9-3090) at the time that work is begun on a grant proposal. This form should be sent to the individual named as the Program/Regional representative responsible for reviewing the information furnished on the grant questionnaires and determining whether a possible prohibited source situation exists. Assistance to the program/regional representative on the evaluation of source questionnaires is available from the USGS Ethics Office and TEO.

B. The Regional or Program review required by the policy for a pending grant is designed to insure that the potential grant source is not a prohibited source and that the scientific integrity of the Bureau is not compromised. The redelegation of this pre-award review below a Regional or Program Executive level is not authorized unless the Region or Program has an alternative system in place that insures that the lower level review satisfies Bureau concerns about prohibited sources and scientific integrity.

C. A USGS employee who serves as an officer or a representative (paid or unpaid) of an outside organization or university which is preparing to make a grant award must recuse himself or herself from participating in any aspect of the grant application process by the USGS; or the award selection process. Additionally, such individual may not receive any financial benefit from the grant funds should the USGS receive a grant. Contact the USGS Ethics Office for additional guidance on research relationships which impact incoming and outgoing grant funding.

D. On multi-party grant applications where the USGS is part of a team and is applying for a grant, with a university, private company etc., the USGS principal investigator is required to contact the TEO office prior to filing for the grant to discuss the intellectual property components of the proposed grant research project for an understanding of USGS property and patent policy.

8. Reports.

A. In research situations funded by contributions, no data or information will be provided to the contributor in advance of being placed in the public domain.

B. In grant situations the program may adhere to the reporting requirements imposed by the funding source. The USGS is always free to reject grants for which such requirements are considered excessive or compromising to USGS missions.