When I first started in research administration 10 years ago, we kept records in an overflowing file room, two archaic computer programs that required a degree in DOS, and a dangerous number of individual files on hard drives. With so many places to store information, it was hard to know where the most up-to-date award or budget was. Not the best use of time, space or resources.
The transition to all-electronic files is not easy. But when you weigh the pros and cons of all-electronic vs. hard copy and electronic record-keeping, there is no contest. All-electronic record-keeping is the way to go. And cloud-based solutions that organize and route, build and submit? Yes and PLEASE.
Research administration cloud-based software is a brilliant, necessary thing.
Obviously, if you know me or if you looked at the bio next to my name, you know that I am slightly biased. But I’m not going to lie, I love our software. I wish I had Cayuse software when I was in research administration. I would not be able to do my job today as a Research Suite Implementation Consultant and look people in the eye if I felt otherwise.
For those who might be on the fence about purchasing research administration software, and for those of you who have already bought an eRA solution and are getting ready to pat themselves on the back for making such an intelligent decision (even if you didn’t purchase Cayuse software, I forgive you), let’s take a look at two different scenarios of a day in the life of a research administrator, and you can decide which scenario would be best for your institution.
- A PI emails you at 8:03 AM and tells you he has an NIH proposal that has to go out very soon. Today, actually, so, NOW really. Would now be good for you?
- You fly around, spilling coffee on your favorite shirt, completing the proposal transmittal form, PDF-ing it, emailing the PDF to the PI with explicit instructions to print, sign and date it.
- You run to the PI’s office (bus, metro, or car can be part of this scenario as well, trust me), pick up the transmittal form that he signed in the wrong place and did not date (*sigh*), and you notice he changed the proposed total that he gave you earlier so the hard copy budget you’re holding in your hand does not match. Figures.
- You run (planes, trains, automobiles…) over to the department Chair’s office. Mascara running down your face, you beg the admin guarding the Chair’s signature stamp to have mercy on you. After promising her your kidney and any other organs she may need in the future, you skedaddle back to your office.
- You spend your day cobbling this proposal together with revised PDF files the PI emails you every seven minutes, a budget that goes through 10 versions, and prayers to any deity who will listen. Crying at lunch time helped little since you ate at your desk while you were replacing the PI’s abstract for the millionth time.
- You run laps to and from the file room to grab award files and piece together the PI’s current support. You call his post-award analyst to ask for his effort on each of his projects.
- You spend two hours trying to find the right IRB approval to go with the proposal.
- You submit the proposal to NIH at 4:58 PM, only to find out that the proposal is riddled with errors you didn’t know about, so you consider pursuing a career as a barista.
- A PI emails you at 10:00 AM two days before the sponsor deadline and says that he has just finished uploading the last of his materials or scientific materials or similar for his NIH proposal in Cayuse 424 and asks if you could please make sure that the forms are ready to go.
- The Grants.gov forms had pretty much completed themselves in Cayuse 424 in the first place, with the auto-filling of the institution’s and key personnel’s information, you were even able to upload the subaward proposals and link them to the prime with just a few clicks. Both you and your PI were able to build the NIH proposal together from your own computers.
- The Cayuse Sponsored Projects (SP) proposal took the place of the dreaded proposal transmittal form and is linked with the 424 proposal. You do not have to make files and print hard copies or PDFs of your federal proposals any more.
- The SP proposal budget matches the research and related (R&R) detailed budget form in 424 because it was auto-filled with the push of a button.
- The Chair and Dean both approved the proposal on SP a couple days ago from their own desktop computers. Again, no transmittal form to print and no need to run around with sweaty armpits.
- The PI doesn’t have to nag you about what the status of the proposal is any more. Each person involved in the proposal can view its status from his or her own computer in SP as it moves along in the process.
- The PI’s most recent biosketch was uploaded to his 424 professional profile and his effort for each of his projects was easy to get in SP. Updating his biosketch was a breeze.
- No unnecessary downloading, emailing and uploading of the IRB approval letter. The SP proposal is now linked with the IRB study via Cayuse IRB.
- You take a final look at the forms in 424 and run a final validation check. No errors.
- The NIH proposal is submitted by pushing a button in 424. You can even check the proposal’s Grants.gov status in 424.
- The PI takes you out to lunch.
So, what scenario do you think is the best for your institution?
Scenario 1 – crazy, confusing, stressful, and sweaty
Scenario 2 – efficient, transparent, and sane.
Now give yourself a pat on the back.