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Job Title:
Sponsored Research Administrator, IS-0301, Grade 13; $110,798 - $144,034 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:


AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all eligible candidates.

NotePosition is open until filled. The new department’s name is Research Administration Services.

*Consideration may be made after November 30,2023


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants.

SUMMARY: This is the Complex Research Administrator position in the Research Administrative Services of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). SAO, with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), comprises the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) | Harvard & Smithsonian. The purpose of the position is to: 1) support the development and submission of complex research initiatives; 2) manage internal research funding competitions; 3) engage in both pre-award proposal development and post-award activity in support of complex proposals, broadly defined as a proposal with complicated vendor certification forms, lengthy checklists, multiple sub-contracts, and/or multi-year, multi-institute projects with large non-equipment related budgets; and 4) work on other pre- and post-award activities as needed.


Complex Proposal Support:

  • Engages in the pre-award research of grants/contracts opportunities, such as reviewing solicitations and analyzing necessary components.
  • Organizes complex proposals on behalf of principal investigators.  Complex proposals commonly include, but are not limited to, multi-principal Investigators and/or multi-unit proposals and are for large dollar amounts (e.g., over $1 M).
  • Manages proposals with cost-sharing, sub-recipient costs, fixed-priced contracts, and Center or Program grants.
  • Manages development and submission of applications.
  • Manages project proposals for submission to sponsors, organizing proposal checklists and monitoring progress to ensure content development and required actions are on schedule to complete required components (i.e., budget, subcontract materials, cost-sharing commitments, letters of support, etc.).
  • Develops budgets and lends expertise to refine budget justifications and various proposal components.
  • Provides input and drafts non-scientific and/or ancillary sections of proposals such as management plans, evaluation plans, data sharing plans, facilities, equipment, and other resources.
  • Ensures compliance with sponsor requirements, agency and award terms and conditions, and organization policies. Interprets SAO, SI, and government policies such as Federal Acquisition Requisitions (FAR), Cost Accounting Standards, Office of Management and Budget circulars, and sponsored guidelines.
  • Advises Principal Investigators on organizational structures to support planned activities, including advisory committees, administrative and leadership teams, etc.
  • Assists with post-submission action items requested by the sponsor, such as revised budgets, completion of sponsor forms, etc.
  • Manages sponsored project closeout processes and audit inquiries; submits final reports and certificates.

Supervisory and Other Duties

  •  Provides overall human resources management to direct reports,, including interviewing and hiring new team members; determining training needs and arranging for training as appropriate by planning and assigning work, setting priorities, establishing deadlines, providing follow-up, supervising day-to-day awards activities, developing performance standards; reviewing performance (probationary and annual); recommending performance awards; recommending and taking necessary disciplinary action; giving advice, counsel, and instruction to team members; and approving leave.
  • Oversees preparation and dissemination of guidance material to all key SAO personnel to inform, clarify, and explain significant regulatory requirements, policies, procedures, and associated changes.
  • Responsible for coordinating with appropriate SAO and SI departments on enhancements to and operation of the systems and processes within their domain.
  • Maintain communications with all Division Administrators, Program Managers, and Department Managers within SAO regarding their satisfaction with Sponsored Programs and Procurement services.
  • Provide expertise to the SAO Executive Leadership team in developing policies and procedures governing our sponsored research enterprise.
  • Provide training to administrative and scientific colleagues in multiple formats, from one-on-one training to classroom settings.
  • Evaluate processes, recommend changes, and implement enhancements that will benefit the team in support of SAO’s strategies and key initiatives.
  • Set schedules for accomplishing duties discussed above and ensure all stakeholders are aware of the schedule of activities, following up as needed to ensure decision makers' availability and providing ample time for internal reviews and input.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.


At least 1 year of that experience must have been specialized experience at or equivalent to work at the grade 12 level, and must have provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the work of the position as described below.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

  • Thorough working knowledge of the following:
    • Federal Acquisition Regulation [FAR] and Agency Supplements.
    • Applicable Parts of the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR].
    • Title 2 Office of Management and Budget Guidance for Grants and Agreements.
    • Uniform Guidance
    • Federally Funded Grants Policy and Procedures; and
    • Non-Profit and Private Foundations processes.
  • Knowledge and skills sufficient to plan, develop, implement, and administer all contractual aspects of awards to SAO.
  •  Knowledge of pre-award negotiation techniques and the ability to meet and deal with representatives of the various sponsors sufficient to serve as the lead negotiator with scientists, project managers, and project administrators in developing SAO’s pre-negotiation strategy in conducting pre-award negotiations with the sponsors as well as performing post-award negotiations involving award changes and modifications.
  • Ability to manage and coordinate a variety of activities simultaneously involving several simultaneous interrelated awards with different sponsors.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, service orientation, ability to multi-task effectively in a varied, high-volume environment, excellent judgment, decision-making and reasoning, ability to develop original ideas to solve problems, and effective verbal and written communication skills.
  • The ability to act independently and exercise sound judgment, with the acumen and sensitivity to identify those decisions and activities that require confidentiality and/or higher-level consultation and/or group collaboration.
  • Working knowledge of contracts, grants transactions, applicable financial systems, and related policy, accounting, and regulatory compliance requirements, including Federal Acquisition Regulation [FAR], NASA FAR Supplement [NFS], NASA Handbooks and Guidebooks, applicable Parts of the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR], applicable Office of Management and Budget [OMB] Guidance, and all other applicable regulations and policies.
  • The skills and ability to read, comprehend, and execute the regulations of novel or unique agencies or programs.
  • Ability to interpret and apply Federal, SI, and SAO policies.
  • Knowledge of compliance regulations in all areas of research administration, including Conflicts of Interest, Export Controls, and Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research.
  • Strong initiative, motivation, and adaptability to thrive in a dynamic, target-driven environment.
  • Knowledge of non-procurement regulations and laws that affect procurement and research issues, e.g., ITAR, EAR, RCR training, etc.
  • Knowledge and skills sufficient to monitor performance on awards that extend over several years and cover research and development.
  • Knowledge of Federal Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) sufficient to ensure proper application of funds, direction to project managers and administrators on reasonable, allowable and applicability of expenditures.
  • Ability to lead and influence prioritize, assign, and review the work of team members. 

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply please submit your resume and cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements of the position at:

Conditions of Employment

  • Successful completion of pre- and post-employment background investigation.
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Direct Deposit/Elect Funds Transfer required for salary payment.
  • Required to file a Confidential Statement of Employment form, Sl-1085.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

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