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Job Title:
Sponsored Research Administrator, IS-0301, Grade 13; $116,820 to $151,870
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

What are Trust Fund Positions?

Trust Fund positions are unique to the Smithsonian. They are paid for from a variety of sources, including the Smithsonian endowment, revenue from our business activities, donations, grants and contracts. Trust employees are not part of the civil service, nor does trust fund employment lead to Federal status. The salary ranges for trust positions are generally the same as for federal positions and in many cases trust and federal employees work side by side. Trust employees have their own benefit program and may include Health, Dental & Vision Insurance, Life Insurance, Transit/Commuter Benefits, Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance, Annual and Sick Leave, Family Friendly Leave, 403b Retirement Plan, Discounts for Smithsonian Memberships, Museum Stores and Restaurants, Credit Union, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (Childcare), Flexible Spending Account (Health & Dependent Care). 


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.

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.


Basic Requirements:   
Candidates must possess at least one year of specialized experience in similar positions at or above the grade 12 level.  Specialized experience is experience that has provided the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the work of the position successfully.

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 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.

Applicants, who wish to qualify based on education completed outside the United States, must be deemed equivalent to higher education programs of U.S. Institutions by an organization that specializes in the interpretation of foreign educational credentials. This documentation is the responsibility of the applicant and should be included as part of your application package.

 Any false statement in your application may result in your application being rejected and may also result in termination after employment begins.

  The Smithsonian Institution values and seeks a diverse workforce. Join us in "Inspiring Generations through Knowledge and Discovery."

Resume/CV should include a description of your paid and non-paid work experience that is related to this job; starting and ending dates of job (month and year); and average number of hours worked per week. College Transcript should be provided if using education for qualification.  

What To Expect Next: Once the vacancy announcement closes, a review of your resume will be compared against the qualification and experience requirements related to this job. After review of applicant resumes is complete, qualified candidates will be referred to the hiring manager.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.  To learn more, please review the Smithsonian’s Accommodation Procedures.

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds support and enhance our daily work life and contribute to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. See Smithsonian EEO program information:

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace. Please visit the SAO website at



How to Apply:  Please use the following link to visit Smithsonian's Career Page:  Smithsonian Institution Job Opportunities Site

The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Conditions of Employment

  • Pass Pre-employment Background Check and Subsequent Background Investigation, as required.
  • Complete a Probationary Period if applicable. 
  • Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer.
  • The position is open to all candidates eligible to work in the United States.  Proof of eligibility to work in U.S. is not required to apply.
  • Applicants must meet all qualification and eligibility requirements within 30 days of the closing date of this announcement. 



Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website