Authorization of expenses

Guideline on signing authority on research work orders

Office of Research Guideline


Research work order: An individual research grant, contract, award, account, sub-grant – these are identified in the Accounting Posting Attribute (APA) by a unique 10-digit work order number separated by a hyphen. The five digits before the hyphen indicate the funder, the five after the hyphen are sequentially assigned from when the work order is created.

Work Order Manager: The faculty member under whose name the research work order is held. The Work Order Manager most often has the role of Principal Investigator (also referred to as grantee, grant holder, or project leader), however, there are instances when the Work Order Manager may act in the capacity of co-applicant, or supervisor of a trainee, or some other role. The Work Order Manager responsibilities apply regardless of the role within the project.


This document outlines who can have signing authority on research work orders and the documentation required to substantiate this.


  • Work Order Managers have automatic signing authority on their research work orders
  • Expenses should not be charged against the work order by anyone other than the Work Order Manager unless there is approved delegation of signing authority
  • Approved delegation of signing authority, for a specific research work order, can be obtained in one of the following ways:
  • Signing authority can only be delegated to individuals who have an official, paid employment status with the University and who have an employment term of one year or more. The table at the end shows specific examples
  • All personal reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. travel advances/claims/settlements or requests for payment) must be authorized by the Work Order Manager (or delegate) and the one-over-one approver. For Work Order Managers or other researchers (including visiting researchers) the one-over-one must be one reporting level higher than the Work Order Manager/researcher (i.e. the Chair, Director, Dean)
  • All consulting payments must be authorized by both the Work Order Manager (or delegate) and the next level of reporting (i.e. Chair, Director, Dean)
  • Delegation of signing authorities should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain current
  • Work Order Managers must ensure that anyone with delegated signing authority on their research work orders is aware of and complies with the terms and conditions of the grant/contract and all relevant University of Waterloo policies and procedures
  • Some types of grants have unique signing authority arrangements or requirements:
    • Canada Research Chair (CRC) and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) programs are awarded to the institution and as such the grantee is the president.   The president has delegated the signing authority on these programs to the chairholder’s faculty dean or the VP of Research if held in a University research centre. For the CRCs and CERCs, signing authority for residual funds, remaining after salary and administrative commitments are covered, can be delegated to the chairholder by the faculty dean or VP of Research.
    • General Research Fund (GRF) is a special work order held under the authority of the president of the institution, into which the unspent funds of expired or terminated grants are transferred with the authorization of the granting agencies (SSHRC and NSERC only). The president has delegated the signing authority for the GRF to the VP of Research who in turn delegates signing authority to individual faculty members with approved GRF projects through the Office of Research cover sheet approval.
    • CIHR student allowances are held by the named student’s supervisor; the named student has automatic signing authority on the work order.

Table of eligible signing authorities on research work orders:

Waterloo employment status
(as per employment contract)

Eligible signing authority

Principal Investigator (PI)

Automatic as PI on research work order


Automatic by PI completing Office of Research cover sheet

Faculty (professor or lecturer)

Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more

Faculty - adjunct

Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more

Research associate

Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more

Post doctoral fellow

Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more

(researcher, scholar, etc.)



Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more

Graduate student

No, unless listed as a co-PI on the project

Undergraduate student