I worked in research administration at the University of California, Irvine when the Office of Research decided to implement an electronic research administration (eRA) solution. Kuali Coeus was chosen for proposal submissions at that time, but has since been supplemented with Cayuse 424. Though I wasn’t around for the addition, I heard from former coworkers that the change resulted in a 31% increase in funding. That may be a story for another day.

As the product manager for Cayuse research compliance solutions, my focus is on the top three areas where research runs smack into the bulk of compliance issues: human subjects research, animal research and conflict of interest. Despite my current focus, I know, like all of us in research administration, that compliance extends far beyond these three topics or areas. From a compliance perspective, evaluating a quality eRA solution touches nearly every facet of research administration.

You Know Your Organization, But Do You Know Compliance?

A recurring theme in our 4 C’s blog series is that prioritizing your organization’s needs is essential for your eRA evaluation. When it comes to identifying compliance priorities, who better than you, right? Not exactly. ‘You’ in this context may be a team, as not many research institutions have an individual versed in compliance. But the overall benefits of tackling this exercise will far outweigh the challenge of collecting the information. You’re still an expert on what your institution needs from an eRA solution.

To help get the ball rolling, cover the obvious bases first. Does your institution engage in human or animal research? Are audits always a dreadful, painstaking exercise, generating panic throughout your organization? Do effort reporting issues continually bog down your team’s performance? Subrecipient monitoring is another area where compliance priorities live. Would better subaward tracking be beneficial? And what about export controls? Is any of your research classified? Knowing the compliance issues your organization faces and having questions in hand will go a long way toward identifying the right eRA solution for you – the collective you.

The Total and the Sum of Parts

Federal, state and institutional reporting requirements dictate many compliance needs. When you’re done with your research, at year-end and milestones along the way, your reports need to comply with legislative and institutional regulations. But a report is only as good as the data it captures, and that data needs to be collected, categorized and stored in a way that ensures compliance. A quality eRA solution will have mechanisms built into workflows and processes that capture everything needed for compliant reports, so when you reach those milestones, you’re confident you have what you need.

It’s just as important to look beyond the reports a system might offer to see what other functions support compliance. We all know too well, compliance goes much deeper and includes activities that never show up on any report. Workflows can have built-in compliance, and how an eRA system handles compliance reviews is high on my list. Systems that automate and integrate meeting schedules and agendas, enabling real-time meeting minutes, attendance tracking, attachments and so forth will simplify a number of compliance needs. Virtually every automation feature an eRA system can provide includes an opportunity to address compliance – whether in storage, accessibility, time-stamping, version numbering or capturing for the eventual report. Make sure you know what’s important to your institution, so you can be prepared to evaluate the total, and the sum of the parts, for each eRA system you evaluate.

Conclusion

I know that our 4 C’s of quality eRA blog series includes a lot of questions, and to be honest, the intention is to spawn even more. The fact remains that evaluating complex software systems is challenging, and for many in research administration, your next eRA purchase may well be your first. A systematic approach that starts with looking internally at your institutions’ priority needs is essential, but we recognize even the most savvy buyer will need help. At Cayuse, we are in research administration for the long haul, and our expertise is at your disposal. We welcome all questions on how you can elevate the results of your research through automation and technology. So many of us here are former research administrators, and our mission is to help you focus on the science, as you make the world better for us all. You support others. We support you.

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