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Creation of a Grants Database Highly Customized for College Level Reporting

By SRAI News posted 11-29-2018 12:00 AM


In a series of articles, we will present the newest in research administration from the Journal of Research Administration. To read the full JRA, please see here.


Julie H. Oestreich, University of Findlay; Kimberly K. Heersche, University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky—a public, land grant university with around 30,000 students and 2,000 faculty—receives over $300 million per year in extramural research funding. The College of Pharmacy supports over 60 faculty who submit to diverse sponsors including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, National Science Foundation (NSF), state agencies, non-profit foundations, and industry. The research office handles pre-award activities at the college level separate from, yet integrated with, centralized research administration on campus. Personnel consists of two faculty administrators (associate and assistant deans), one director, one college grants officer, and an administrative coordinator.

For reporting requests, the office previously collected data from multiple sources requiring significant effort to integrate and analyze. Examples of requests that proved complicated to fulfill included: 1) proportional award credit for collaborative research, 2) sponsor success rates at the college level, and 3) funding partnerships with other departments, universities, foundations, and industry. University systems supported internal approval and award management, but did not integrate all grant-related information in an efficient and convenient way for department level needs.

Similar to the University of Kentucky, many other universities prioritize information technology (IT) resources for the critical compliance requirements associated with post-award financial management. Specifically, 64% of research-intensive universities leverage the same enterprise system for post-award and general ledger activities (Saas & Kemp, 2017). In the pre-award setting, however, only 8% of the same institutions possess systems that combine general ledger and pre-award activities. To bridge this gap, a majority of institutions purchased a commercial product specific for pre-award needs, 8% built in-house systems, and 13% still process manually (Saas & Kemp, 2017). Nonetheless, few of these technology solutions fully integrate all information, which impedes efficiency and hinders operations when research administrators encounter complicated requests (Saas & Kemp, 2017).

Furthermore, research administration needs vary at the university and department levels (Hughes, 2004), and available systems do not capture all of the department-level preferences for pre-award tracking and reporting. The lack of broad and integrated resources creates difficulties for colleges and units interested in compiling data for fine-tuned, faculty-level metrics that assign proportional credit for collaborations. As interdisciplinary research constitutes a major goal for universities and sponsors, the emphasis on quantifying multiple principal investigator (MPI) and co-investigator contributions continues to increase in importance (Joiner, 2009). The percentage of MPI proposals submitted to NIH increased by 50% from 2010 to 2013 (Rockey, 2014), and the number of collaborative projects at NSF matches those from single investigators (NSF, 2017). Thus, the quantity of reporting requests for complex research metrics likely will continue.

To read the full manuscript, Please click here.

Interested in becoming a Journal Author? Please see here and submit a manuscript