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Pre- and Post-Award Research Administration Support | Pulse

By SRAI News posted 09-11-2019 12:00 AM


Authored by:

Zoya Davis-Hamilton
Associate Vice Provost for Research Administration and Development
Tufts University

Sarah Marina
Assistant Director for Research Administration and Development
Tufts University

Zoya Davis- HamiltonSarah Marina

In this issue of the Catalyst, we revisit valuable issues.

Republished from Pulse, December 2014.

Whether, and how, to combine central pre- and post-award offices has recently become a hot topic in the research administration field. As institutions decide whether or not to combine their central pre- and post-award offices, they are faced with questions such as which division the combined office should fall under, and what services to assign to central pre- and post-award offices. Some may wonder what other institutions are doing in that regard. We surveyed research administrators in order to find out answers to some of the questions about pre- and post-award office setup in their institutions.

We posed a series of questions concerning pre-and post-award office integration to the subscribers of the RESADM-L. A total of 150 research administrators responded to our survey between October 30th and November 13th, 2014. We learned that at 90% of respondents’ institutions there is at least some level of integration between their pre- and post-award offices. The majority reported that at their institutions pre- and post-award operations are either reasonably well-integrated (39%) or somewhat integrated (38%). Seamless integration is achieved by 13%, and another 10% have pre- and post-award operations that are not at all integrated.

Central pre-award and central post-award operations are:


Most commonly, respondents reported that pre- and post-award offices at their institutions are functioning either as two separate offices (48%) or as one office that reports to a central research office (38%). Fewer survey participants reported that at their institutions a combined office reports to a central finance division (9%), and even fewer indicated that their offices have dual reporting (5%).

Central pre-award and central post-award operations are:


We also learned that many institutions are changing the structure of their pre- and post-award operations, likely as a part of efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of services. Over a third of those who responded to the survey reported that their organizations have changed their pre- and post-award office structure in the last five years (35%), with almost two-thirds of those having done so in the last 3 years.

The current structure for central pre- and post-award support has been in place for:


Finally, we asked questions about the roles of the central and department-level research administrators. Based on the responses, a majority (75%) of central pre-award offices provide nonfinancial post-award services in addition to pre-award services, and in the remaining 25% of institutions, pre-award office services stop at the time of the award.

Roles of department-level research administrators, on the other hand, vary by department or school at 75% of institutions. A much smaller percentage of responses (17%) indicated that department research administrators uniformly provide both pre-and post-award support, and even fewer institutions (8%) said that department-level administrators have duties delineated between pre-award or post-award areas. This lack of defined roles at the department level may suggest that while most of the institutions have clear scopes for the services of their central offices, departmental support remains keyed to individual department arrangements and needs. The authors suspect that this is due to a combination of the grass-roots nature of the development of much departmental support, and a general paucity of qualified research administrators. It remains an area where further investigation is needed.

If you have any topics or questions that you want to see addressed in Pulse in the future, please let us know. Send feedback, ideas, questions and inquiries to Zoya Davis-Hamilton at

Note: As the survey was an open access poll and anonymous, results may be slightly skewed by multiple responses from within one institution. Given the size of our sample we feel this impact is likely slight, however it’s something to consider for anyone thinking of doing future research in this area.