Guideline on signing authority on research accounts

Office of Research Guideline

Signing authority on research accounts


Research account: An individual research grant, contract, award, account, sub-grant – these are identified in the Accounting Flexfields (AFF) by a unique 6-digit project account number.

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


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


  • RAHs have automatic signing authority on their research account
  • Expenses should not be charged against the account by anyone other than the RAH unless there is written delegation of signing authority
  • Written delegation of signing authority, for a specific research account, can be obtained in one of two ways:
    • by completion of the Office of Research cover sheet (March 2007 version) at the application stage, which delegates signing authority to the RAH’s Chair or Director
    • by completion of the “University of Waterloo Signing Authorization” form. A copy of the form must be kept by the Department/School for audit purposes
  • 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 authorised by the RAH (or delegate) and the one-over-one approver. For RAHs or other researchers (including visiting researchers) the one-over-one must be one reporting level higher than the RAH/researcher (i.e. the Chair, Director, Dean)
  • All consulting payments must be authorised by both the RAH (or delegate) and the next level of reporting (i.e. Chair, Director, Dean)
  • Delegation of signing authorities should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they remain current
  • RAHs must ensure that anyone with delegated signing authority on their research accounts 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, 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, research.
    • General Research Fund (GRF) is a special account 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, 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 account.

Table of eligible signing authorities on research accounts:

uWaterloo employment status
(as per employment contract)
Eligible signing authority
Principal Investigator (PI) Automatic as PI on research account
Chair 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.)
Staff Yes, if paid appointment for 1 year or more
Graduate student No, unless listed as a co-PI on the project
Undergraduate student No

(18 June 2010)