Provost Review

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Provost Criteria Review

Source: OVPR Website

The Provost's Office aims to facilitate academic programs, projects and research at Harvard by providing clear criteria and procedures for University-level review of research proposals that pose management challenges and/or reputational risk and by providing reasonable review and oversight of major projects and programs. This process is intended to streamline the review process for PIs and administrators,improve management and administration, and reduce risks for program participants, for individual researchers, for Schools, and for Harvard as an institution. This document describes the criteria that determine whether a proposal requires Provostial review.

Programs and projects that meet these criteria should be reviewed and approved by the Provost's Office before they are proposed to external funders. When unavoidable, proposals relating to international projects may be submitted to external funders prior to Provostial review, as long as they are submitted with the understanding that their status is contingent until they are reviewed and approved by the Provost.

Within the Provost's Office, proposals may be reviewed by the Vice Provost for Research, the University Director for Sponsored Programs, the Vice Provost for International Affairs and, in the case of some international projects, also by the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS). In all cases, reviewers will consult with others when relevant.

Once a program or project has received Provostial approval, any significant program expansions or changes should be submitted through this process, so that additional Provostial review may occur.

Provost Criteria

1. The project has an aggregate budget of more than $10 million for U.S.-based projects, or is an international program whose annual budget is greater than:

Table 1 - Project Budget
FAS, HMS $5.0 million
HBS $3.8 million
HSPH $3.0 million
HLS $1.5 million
HKS $1.3 million

$1.0 million

2. The project involves the public use of Harvard University's name and/or trademark. Projects which use the name of a Harvard School or other subsidiary unit of the University do not need Provost’s Review, but do require approval of the School Dean. Further information can be found on the Harvard Trademark Program website under FAQs on Use of Harvard’s Name, especially question 2

3. The project supports the establishment of any new international site. For this purpose, "new international site" refers to: (1) real estate, including offices and research space, outside the U.S. that is leased for Harvard use for a period of six months or longer; or (2) a project outside the U.S. to which two or more Harvard faculty members, employees, staff members of an affiliated entity, independent contractors, post-doctoral fellows, or students are assigned and placed for a period of six months or longer; or (3) a project that involves significant work in, or the posting of a Harvard faculty member, employee, staff member of an affiliated entity, an independent contractor, post-doctoral fellow, or student to, countries or regions identified as 'High Risk' by Harvard's Global Support Services. (View the Travel Risk Ratings.)

4. The project is international and involves human subjects research that requires IRB expedited or full review.

Note: If a proposal meets this criterion and no other criterion, it can be reviewed at the time of award rather than at the time of submission.

5. The project involves, or is allied with, the direct provision of medical or clinical services.

6. A majority of funds in the project (over 50%) will not be expended at Harvard but will be expended through vendors or subcontractors other than Harvard, or a majority of project activities will be conducted by persons who are not Harvard staff. 

Exception: Projects in which more than 50% of funds are expended at Harvard-affiliated hospitals (list under “HMS Affiliates”) do not require Provostial review.

7. The project has a substantial risk of violating Harvard's anti-discrimination policy.

8. The sponsor or project may present a serious reputational risk for the University or may otherwise attract significant adverse publicity to the University.

9. The project involves activities for which there is inadequate or uncertain program, financial and/or managerial infrastructure, which may be a special concern in projects that take place outside the United States.

10. The project involves a scope, scale, or type of work that is beyond the University's teaching and research mission or is especially unusual or complex.


Provost Criteria Business Process

PDF version of Provost Criteria Business Process and Review Aid

NOTE: It is the Principal Investigator's and Grant Manager’s/department’s responsibility to be aware of and apply the initial Provost Criteria assessment to a potential proposal and notify SPA as soon as possible of the potential need for Provost Office review. The below steps may require consultation with the School’s Dean’s Office or others prior to, during, or after Provost Office review. These additional steps shall be kept in mind and discussed with SPA


The University’s Provost Office through its Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) and Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (OVPIA), requires that all projects, in addition to whatever regular review steps are used, be considered against the list of ten key areas of concern for the Provost Office. This is to ensure that University leadership is aware of projects falling under one or more of the ten criteria they have identified. These ten areas are collectively called Provost Criteria and can be found on the OSP website.

Standards of Service

Any project being considered that falls under one or more of the Provost Criteria needs approval from OVPR and/or OVPIA. These offices review concurrently and in conjunction with each other when necessary. They require a five (5) business day advanced period prior to submission to review each project. This is the minimum period, as some projects may require some additional time for discussion between SPA, the PI/Dept, HSPH Dean’s Office, OVPR, and/or OVPIA. Projects of a particular scope may need to go to HSPH’s Committee on International Projects (CIPS) and/or the University’s Committee on International Projects (UCIPS) and as such review will need to start quite early in the process.

Business Process Steps

Step Role Task/Activity
1 GM Assesses, in conjunction with PI/ADF, a potential submission against the criteria as early as possible in order to comply with the 10/7/5 business day proposal review deadlines. Exception request approval does not provide an exemption from the five (5) day minimum Provost review requirement.
2 GM Communicates with SPA/SRA about the submission and which criteria are involved
3 SRA Looks at the current draft documents to either confirm or modify Provost
    Criteria assessment
4 SRA If Provost Criteria present, then SRA communicates with their AD and notifies Sr. AD
5 SRA/AD Communicates to GM possible edits and/or information regarding Provost Criteria and the submission
6 GM/PI Update proposal documents, as needed, for submission to SPA no later than noon
    on the 5th day
7 SRA/AD Prepares proposal documents and email to Sr. AD for submission to Provost Office
8 SRA/AD Communicates response to GM/PI and coordinates follow up back to Sr. AD if necessary
9 SRA Once approved by Provost Office, uploads review comments/approval into GMAS segment document repository