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We were interested to see a recent report issued by a National Academies committee that examines the current “regulatory jungle” confronting universities that receive federal research dollars.

The committee believes that “ever-growing federal requirements are diminishing the effectiveness of the nation’s research investment.”

research university grant administration

Research University Grant Administration

The recommendations from the committee suggest that Congress establish a Research Policy Board (RPB) as a mechanism to come up with better ways of overseeing the U.S. research enterprise. Managed by a new associate director within the White House science office, the board would work closely with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which must vet all proposed regulations from federal agencies. However, the board’s funding would come from research institutions, giving it a degree of independence not typically experienced by a government agency.

The proposed board would be a forum for the research community and government officials to hash out new regulations, harmonize existing regulations across agencies, review the impact of current rules, and anticipate what proposed rules might mean for academic institutions.

It’s interesting to note that the proposed board is modeled after a body set up more than 40 years ago by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to create and monitor accounting standards for the financial industry.

Research University Grant Administration Challenges

Our team at IT Works well understands the regulatory and administrative challenges faced by research universities and other institutions.

When we team with the nation’s leading institutions, it’s clear that the significant administrative burden faced by a typical office of sponsored research is centered on grant management, grant accounting, and effort certification.

Sponsored program administrators in colleges and universities operate in a demanding financial and regulatory environment.  Compounding the challenge is the ever-shrinking availability of resources. As an example, grant accounting is usually handled with limited staffing and a mix of homegrown, manual, or internal systems that were designed for other business purposes.

Specific Challenges

As the study gets underway, it’s likely that the recently convened committee will concentrate their analysis around grant management, grant accounting, effort certification, and other tasks. Administrators at small to mid-size colleges and universities are especially challenged to overcome these obstacles related to grant management.

We see specific challenges in the following areas:

  • The effort it takes to track and streamline reporting and other administration related to financial and regulatory compliance
  • The hands-on approach research administrators must take to improve administrative efficiency and quality control
  • The multi-step process to manage faculty commitments on sponsored programs and academic appointments
  • Record keeping needed to track funding on pending proposals and active awards

Reporting is another administrative necessity. For example, federal funding sources require grantees to submit a variety of reports, which are due at specific times during the life cycle of a grant award. All reports must be accurate, complete, and submitted on time.

There are other areas that will certainly be studied, but overall, the tasks noted above will likely constitute some of the more noteworthy findings.

Research University Grant Administration: Next Steps

When considering research universities’ grant administration, there are steps to take to work smarter and streamline processes. Many of the nation’s top research institutions rely on grant management software that easily automates report generation, improves effort certification, automates manual handling, and offers a comprehensive set of easily generated reports.

With an automated approach to administrative challenges, nationally acclaimed colleges, universities, and research institutes can address many of the administrative burdens they now experience.

For more information on IT Works’ grant management software, contact the IT Works team today.