In my 20 plus years in research administration, you could say that I saw and did it all. As the Director of Contracts & Grants in the Office of Sponsored Programs at UCSF, a common issue we ran into, and a common issue among many research organizations, was collaboration, or lack thereof. I’ll try not to wear the word out, but I can’t stress enough how important collaboration is when fostering success in an Office of Sponsored Programs.
Many of the boundaries to success in research administration can be diminished with a sponsored projects solution that promotes collaboration among researchers, their staff, departmental administrators and the central office. If my team at UCSF had had the opportunity to work with a quality sponsored projects solution, its potential for success would have been boundless.
Here are just a few of the ways collaboration helps build success with a quality sponsored projects solution:
This is a major barrier for almost all research organizations. To organizations still using antiquated paper processes, I feel for you. Dealing with file cabinets, file folders, printed documents – list goes on and on – it’s nearly impossible to have a collaborative team when everything is spread across the campus. It gets so much easier when you have a system that keeps everything in one place. Administrators and PIs can work with the same budget electronically, supporting documents are all in one place, and forms no longer need to be printed and run across campus (or town) for signatures and approvals.
Accessibility is even a struggle for research organizations who use a homegrown or on-premise sponsored projects solution. While they may have the benefits of a central repository and much less paper waste, what happens when team members are in the field? The beauty of a cloud-based sponsored projects solution is that team members have access to the system when and where they need it. Now that promotes COLLABORATION!
Transparency and Visibility
The points I touched on above definitely overlap with the transparency aspect of a great sponsored projects solution, which is also one of the most important aspects of collaboration.
All too often researchers have to spend time going back and forth with administrators to check the status of proposals, awards and approvals. Wouldn’t that time be better spent focusing on research? When your sponsored projects are in the cloud, researchers get that time back. My colleague, Matty Gilreath, will take a closer look at this in the final blog of this series.
When PIs get that time back, so do research administrators. Administrators no longer need to chase down proposals, awards or routing statuses because they are all in one place, available for the PIs to check easily anytime, day or night.
As a Director at UCSF, it would have been amazing if I had had one place where I could get a quick overview of the status of all projects. This would have given me visibility into the workload of my team, allowing me to collaborate with them and help them do an even greater job than they were already doing.
The last benefit I will touch on, though there are many more, is accuracy. Collaboration in the Office of Sponsored Programs allows for greater accuracy in everything that research administrators do. As accessibility goes hand-in-hand with transparency: they both lead to greater accuracy.
I hate to bring up that awful “A” word (audit), but for a collaborative research organization, it becomes a little less cringe worthy. I could only imagine what it would have been like to have had all documents in one place. Nothing would have gone missing, been overlooked or been inaccurate if we had been able to work with one document, had multiple eyes on it and kept it in a central repository. The reduced time and increased accuracy brought forth by auto-filling professional profiles and organizational information are just an added bonus. This may be an overstatement to some, but I believe that had this been available to my team, audits would have been a breeze.
While my days in research administration are long gone (has it really been 10+ years?!), the burdens that were faced by my team are consistent with those faced by research administrators and research organizations, small and large, today. Having been in a research administrator’s shoes, I can’t begin to tell you how valuable it would have been to have a quality sponsored projects solution that promotes collaboration throughout the Office of Sponsored Programs. That’s why I love what we do at Cayuse. We get to help research organizations relieve the pains that I saw on a daily basis, and bring sponsored programs to the digital age.