Background

 

Tufts University does not currently have a Research Administration System (RAS). As it stands today, researchers develop a proposal at their desktop, create a separate routing form for approval, route the proposal manually to each stage of approval and then to the Office of Research Administration (ORA) for review and submission. Grants.gov, the multi-agency portal for many federal sponsors, supports system-to-system (S2S) submissions but Tufts does not yet have this capability. Proposals are uploaded directly into the Grants.gov and other systems, leaving us no access to the data for editing for future submissions. There is no data validation or mechanism to catch formatting errors electronically prior to submission.

Current System

All sponsored research programs, grants and contracts, regardless of sponsor, are processed through the Office of Research Administration (ORA). ORA acts as the liaison with state and federal agencies that sponsor research, and works with University Advancement’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) to ensure that research proposals and funding agreements with foundations and corporations are executed according to University policy. ORA reviews and approves all proposals from all schools at Tufts’ three campuses (Medford/Somerville, Boston and Grafton). The Research Administration support structure and business processes at Tufts vary from school to school and from department to department. Some schools have a centralized process with a research administrator at the school level who reviews and routes all proposals for appropriate approvals (e.g., Dean’s signature when required) and ensures that the proposals are completed before they go to ORA for final review, approval and submission. Some schools are decentralized and do not have a research administrator at the school level to perform such tasks before proposals go to ORA. Likewise, departments at Tufts also have varying levels of administrative support provided to principal investigators (PIs) in the proposal development and submission process. For example, there are departments that have research administrators who put together all the non-scientific components of the proposals for the PI, including the budget, and other departments where the PI is responsible for completing the entire proposal.

The Office of Research Administration manually inputs information for each proposal (title, key personnel, budget, etc.) into an existing database – the Grants Management System. When a proposal is awarded, a separate office, the Office of Sponsored Programs Accounting (SPA), manually enters required information into its own database (PeopleSoft Financial System) for post-award management activities. Reporting is very limited, since the information tracked is also very limited. The researchers and their administrators need to go through several extra steps to get proposals submitted and then need to do the same again once the proposal is awarded. In addition, schools and departments maintain shadow systems to capture the data.

The current Grants Management System tracks basic demographic data such as PI, co-PI (if applicable), project title, sponsor, sponsor number, project duration and project budget cost. Once a proposal is funded, the award information, such as award project start and end dates and awarded amount, is entered into the database. There are over 100 fields in the current database. Some fields are manually entered and some fields are drop-down lists, which are controlled by tables within the database for investigators, sponsors, schools and departments. Tufts would like the capability to attach more components of the proposal, such as the abstract, to the record.

The current Grants Management System is very limited:

  • Researchers create proposals at their desktops and create a separate routing form for approval
  • Proposals are routed for approval manually to multiple places (even more if it is a collaborative proposal)
  • Proposals are sent to the Office of Research Administration for review and submission
  • Proposals are uploaded into Grants.gov and other systems directly, leaving administrators and faculty with no access to the data
  • No data validation or mechanism to catch formatting errors electronically prior to submission
  • Basic data get entered into a rudimentary system, giving us very limited reporting capabilities
  • Schools and departments maintain shadow systems to capture data

Solution

After an extensive system selection and evaluation process, Tufts selected Kuali Coeus as its Research Administration System and hired Huron Consulting Group and Polus Solutions as its implementation partners to implement Kuali Coeus starting in the winter of 2013.

  • Proposal Tracking
  • System and Application Administration
  • Data migration from the current Grants Management System
  • Integration with University ERP systems (PeopleSoft Human Resources and Finance, Data Warehouse)
  • Reporting
  • Proposal Development (including opportunity search/retrieval)
  • Proposal Routing and Approval (including conditional approval, e.g., compliance offices, Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations)
  • Proposal Submission including Data Validation
  • Plans for future functionality and direction

To see implementation timeline, click here.

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