Ask anyone who works in research about the grant proposal process, and they’ll shudder. After all, without solid proposals and streamlined submissions, the possibilities of federal funding quickly dry up. To make matters worse, the reality today is that fewer and fewer federal grants are being allocated, so institutions of all sizes are experiencing increased competition for limited funds. The stakes have never been higher when it comes to submitting federal proposals quickly and correctly.

Which is why it is more important than ever to have an electronic research administration system, or eRA, in place that works for you—and is a true system-to-system (S2S) solution. Applications like Cayuse 424 by Evisions address the all-to-familiar obstacles associated with grant proposals and improve business practices by:

  • Speeding up submissions
  • Validating forms to ensure accuracy
  • Updating forms automatically
  • Improving the user experience
  • Freeing up IT and staff resources
  • Integrating with other systems

A true system-to-system federal proposal submission means that Principal Investigators (PIs) can submit electronic proposals directly to Grants.gov and get instant confirmation that they were successfully received. That means no more laborious paper routing or uploading through slow systems that require days of waiting for confirmation.

A good eRA system will speed up the submission process as information is auto-populated or information from one proposal can be copied to another. Submissions are also faster to submit since they are more accurate and validated.

Have you ever had a submission get rejected? That means countless hours of everyone’s time and effort are wasted in an instant. Your eRA system should check your proposal submissions before you submit. Erroneous forms or the entry of invalid information result in immediate rejection—and the loss of a federal grant. But for institutions using Cayuse 424 with its advanced validation engine over 1,500 real-time error checks are done for a 99% first-time success rate.

For research organizations using homegrown or open source solutions, one of the biggest challenges PIs and administrators face is the constant maintenance such tools require. Forms and requirements for submission to federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF) are updated at least once every three years, meaning institutions need to allocate significant resources (money, staff time) to ensure that their systems are up to date or they risk losing funding. But Cayuse 424’s team of former PIs and research administrators do the hard work of keeping forms current—and providing support for any and all questions—so researchers can focus more energy on writing their strongest proposals.

Even when there is an eRA system in place on campus, getting staff to use it presents its own problems. For PIs, many software solutions are not user-friendly or intuitive. The right eRA guides PIs and administrators through the submission process from start to finish, making certain that nothing is left out or forgotten along the way.

Institutions with homegrown systems or multiple programs also require constant IT support to fix problems. So unless an institution has dedicated IT staff for the research team, they’re competing with dozens of other departments on campus, further slowing down the process of getting proposals out the door before deadline. Having a cloud-based system from a reputable vendor greatly reduces the amount of institutional IT resources needed.

Most eRAs also lack the ability to leverage existing systems, like an institution’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Cayuse created APIs that integrate Cayuse 424 not only with ERPs, but also with other homegrown and open-source eRAs, so all necessary systems can co-exist. With integration, data entry is no longer done manually across systems, so there’s virtually no risk of erroneous input. Forms are current across all systems, data integrity is increased, and business practices are streamlined.

With a true S2S eRA system in place, preparing a proposal to be submitted through Grants.gov does not have to be a headache. Instead, it can be seamless and error-free, so PIs can focus more time on science and less on administration.

About the author

Picture for Kevin Ferrell

Kevin Ferrell

Kevin Ferrell is a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) with more than 18 years in the institutional research industry. He was previously director of the Human Research Protection Program at the University of New Mexico and also spent several years as a management consultant in higher education. A former Cayuse customer, Kevin is now an Account Representative at Cayuse, using his extensive industry experience to help current customers leverage Cayuse solutions to achieve greater results. Kevin holds dual Master's degrees in Environmental Health and Industrial Hygiene, an MBA from the University of Michigan, as well as undergraduate degrees from Hillsdale College and Bowling Green State University in Biology and Environmental Science, respectively.

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