Skip to main content

Making Systems Work for Research Administrators – Not the Other Way Around

What do ePD, IP, Award, COA, EMTA, ASSIST, Fastlane and all have in common?

They are some of the systems used in proposing over $4 billion in research funding and managing the $1 billion awarded to UC San Diego’s research community annually. These systems aren’t integrated; therefore, data must be entered manually into each one.  

With information spread across these disparate systems, it’s difficult to get a holistic view of the university’s research portfolio. This creates redundancies and inefficiencies and an ever-growing work load.  Systems are supposed to support business processes - not the other way around.

Here’s a typical workflow. For every new grant proposed, a Research Administrator (RA) has to enter the data at least two times: once in the Electronic Proposal Development (EPD) system, and once in the sponsor’s system. The proposal routes to a central office for submission, and the sponsored projects officer re-enters much of that same information again.

Ok, that’s just crazy!

How did we get here?

Over the years, a patchwork system of proposal development tools, databases and homegrown systems has been created, with the best of intentions. Each new system was meant to streamline processes. Instead, we have a collection of systems that often force an RA to do more data entry and follow-up than the analytical work that is so important to the researchers we support.

The result? We end up relying on our RAs to do a lot of the things that a smart system should be able to do automatically. In order to stay competitive as a research enterprise, we must find a way to give this time back to RAs to allow them to focus on the critical aspects of grant budgeting, proposal development and award management.

At the risk of stating the obvious, research grants involve money. This means research administration has connection points with the university’s financial systems. Right now, these connecting points are handled… you guessed it, manually. It falls to RAs, who end up spending hours each week wading through administrative details instead of directing that time and energy into supporting researchers in a more meaningful way.

Enter Kuali Research

Kuali Research is an integrated software suite designed to automate as much research administration as possible, while using a more modern Software as a Service (SaaS) solution to allow for better integration with other systems.

By using Kuali, in most cases, RAs only have to key in each piece of data once. That is because Kuali can submit proposals directly to and without RAs and central offices having to go to their portals. The result is Kuali’s system-to-system functionality will significantly reduce re-keying the same information.

Addressing pain points

The Kuali Research project team is working hard to ensure that this system-to-system integration addresses the most significant pain points for departments and central offices. The team has been talking to – and more importantly, listening to – campus wide representatives who are directly involved in the research administration process to make sure they understand what RAs need. The project team is listening to our business process solutions to become as effective as possible while ensuring that, for once, the system supports us and not the other way around.

Project Partnership

If I sound enthusiastic about what Kuali will do for us, it’s because I am! From what I’ve seen of Kuali’s capabilities, it looks like the designers understand the administrative environment and challenges faced by a research university. And, most importantly, the project team is creating a partnership with those of us who do the job every day in an effort to create meaningful change. 

Sign up to receive information about the Kuali Research project on the ESR Subscribe page and selecting Research Administration as an area of interest.

Category: Research Administration, News