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During my career in research administration, I have noticed while networking at conferences and events (from NCURA to SRA and everything in between), that shortly after sharing my name I’m asked the same question, “pre award or post award?”  Those of us in the profession of research administration know why this is asked and what it means. This is a deviation from what I used to hear, early on in my career, many people would answer that question with “both”.  What has changed?  How did this ‘pre or post’ question even become a question that was asked?pre award

Most organizations performing research have some form of research administration support and many see the value in separating the pre award and the post award functions of research administration.  While the reasoning behind this varies by institution, many institutions believe that having a more specialized area of focus for your staff, pre or post award, adds value to the research administration process as opposed to having someone focused on both pre and post award research administration.  The old adage of “let’s be really good at one thing instead of mediocre at a bunch of things” comes to mind.

The intent of this 3 part series will be to discuss what factors are considered when determining to split these functions apart from one another (i.e. how the subject question has come about), differences between pre award and post award research administration and the commonalities among pre and post award research administration.

Where to Split Pre Award from Post Award

The first place to look when discussing pre versus post award research administration is where do you separate/split the two?  There is no right or wrong place to make this split and this decision depends solely on your organization.  There are obvious areas that are pre award and thus obvious areas that are post award but there are some gray areas depending on your organization’s interpretation, procedures, expertise, etc.

Making the Decision to Split Pre from Post

Once an organization decides what is pre or post award, they can make a more informed choice as to how to split the two functions within their organization.  Most colleagues I have spoken with that have recently made the decision to split their pre and post award functions, or are in the process of evaluating this decision, have used the following (or variations thereof) in the determination:

  • Resources: Is there staff available to manage the current workload and what is the potential growth in staffing; what are the space requirements for staffing changes; is there enough funding to support staff (current as we as new hires) as well as provide equipment, software, training, etc.
  • Need: Is there a true need based on the current level of research funding and/or short term growth expected by the organization?
  • Administrative Burdens: Are the administrative burdens overwhelming the current research administrative support and would separating the pre and post award functions help alleviate those issues.
  • Added Value: Will having two offices, or two groups of specialized people, add value to the research efforts. This should be evaluated through the assessment of the previous bullet as well as impact to the principal investigators and increased future funding.

After factoring in all of these variables, and others as deemed by your evaluation group, an organization can truly make an informed choice about the need/benefit of making this change.

Pre or Post Award? Series

Do you have feedback on factors used to make this determination at your institution?  Comment below on any other factors/reasons used, whether or not your organization has made the decision to split, and specific issues that may be unique about the situation at your organization.

Be on the lookout in the following weeks for part two of this series which will discuss the differences between pre and post award research administration.  Also, check out our other blogs and keep an eye out for part three of the series which will consider the commonalities between pre and post award research administration.

Solutions to Assist with Pre and Post Award Administration

IT Works offers a variety of both pre and post award solutions that are innovative, easy to use, diverse in report selection, well-supported by an implementation staff with research administration experience, and competitively priced.

There are numerous customer case studies and other literature on the ease of use, implementation and added value of a solution from IT Works.  For more information regarding the IT Works solution, contact our team.