cthompson's blog

Faculty Burden

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Faculty burden is always a hot topic in Research Administration.  The Federal Demonstration Partnership has done surveys on the issue (most recently in 2012) and they've posted their results here for the most recent report and a full list of reports is available here.  


I was present when they provided their initial report a little over a year ago and heard the groans in the audience as they reported that the administrative burden was 43.2%.  For most this was a disappointing number as was the exact number, to the decimal, as reported in the 2007 survey and to them showed no improvement.  I may have been the only person who didn't see this as some form of failure.  I tried to remind people that over those 5 years the industry had been inundated with new regulations and had to manage ARRA efforts so from my perspective the fact that the number hadn't risen was in itself a success story. The other difficulty that institions have faced that's increased administrative burden is likely not something they've considered... electronic research administration systems.  


Seems odd that someone who professes the value of eRA and makes his living through their sales would bring this up but if we (the people who sell them) are honest in many ways they've made peoples lives more difficult, especially investigators. We've added pre-proposal processes, workflows, added training, the removal of paper which is far easier to update and correct, and helped to institute new procedures which I'm pretty sure if Latin for burden.


I'm not sure what other vendors are doing to address this but it's been something we've been thinking about a great deal. So the question is can we make a system that at the very least doens't make life harder and is it possible to address some of the issues raised in the FDP report? So here's what we've been working on.


1.  We've created a proposal development tool written for investigators called TurboGrants.  It's a TurboTax™ like interface with simple questions and requires no training to use.  Investigators complete their proposal at their pace and when ready submit it to the office of sponsored programs for review.


2. The number 1 issue reported was "Managing budget to actual expenses" so we developed ReKoncile a tool that integrates expenditures with awards and provides investigators direct access to this information that also provides burn rates based on current burn rate and remaining budget so they can manage their budgets.


3. The number 2 issue was Managing Personnel, not a lot we can do to help with that so we moved on to number 3.


4. Effort Reporting got some bad press from reporters.  The issues were it's hard to complete effort reports for myself, for others, and training was an issue.  We're currently working on complete a simple and easy to use effort reporting tool to address these concerns.  You can see the mock ups here if you'd like to provide your input. We plan to have this available before the fall of this year. 


5. Next on the list was Conflict of Interest which we feel our system already addresses.  Much of the concerns were related to internal COI policies that they felt were overly burdensome.


6. Responsible Conduct of Research.  Since there is already a great solution available, The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), there's no need to reinvent the wheel there.  Instead we decided to create an integration with CITI the pulls your staff's training records into proposal, award, and protocol records so they're at your fingertips. We're working on creating a reporting matrix for each so you will be able to easily see what training is missing for personnel and be able to notify them with a single click that they need to take the training to proceed.


There's more on the report we feel we can provide help with but these are the ones we've prioritized for 2016.  We hope others are looking to do the same as it's clear there's lots of work to be done to make eRA what's been promised.  We're always looking for ways to make things better for administrators and investigators and welcome your thoughts.  Please feel free to comment here of drop us an email at infor@moderas.org if you have something you'd like to share.

Chris Thompson


Proposal Deadline Strategies

We've attached a document that provides input from a number of universities on their proposal deadline strategies for your review. Special thanks to David Hollingsworth from Texas A&M for compiling this information and to those who were willing to share their stories. Click here to view the document.
If you'd like to add your approach to this list please email info@moderas.org and we will update the document to reflect your process and please feel free to comment here to share your thoughts.

Kuali Foundation Creates a New Commercial Entity

It's been a little over a month since the Kuali Foundation announced its strategy of creating a for profit commercial entity and there's been a lot of talk about their transition.  I think it's important to understand some of the history to really take this in.  Kuali was never truly open source, it is what's referred to as community source and that's significantly different.  Community source has the advantage of having sponsors who contribute to it's success with both resources and dollars which means it has a safety net to keep it from failing.  That same support comes with red tape and bureaucracy that can keep it from becoming more successful as it's not driven by standard commercial principles. It's a bit of a conundrum and Kuali was the last large community source project out there and the final one to admit defeat by moving to a more closed licensing model. It should be no great surprise that they felt it was time to make a bold decision to keep the kuali effort going into the next decade.

I've collected a number of articles written which discuss the transition to a commercial entity and some of the background on open and community source here for your review.

Here's some of the info from the Foundation.

There is no ability currently for you to comment on the Kuali Blog posts unfortunately. We've asked the Foundation to open their blog for comments in the hope that they will take the initiative on behalf of the community. 

I'd love to be able to share more insight into this but we feel this is still evolving and we're not sure what the next steps may be.  Some have suggested that a current and founding commercial affiliate should be the core of this new commercial entity which is an interesting idea but again we have no firm information to share on that possible development and no commerical affiliate is openly championing this idea

We were a bit concerned that the current commercial affiliates are likely to be eliminated from the "community" based on a comment at the face to face meetings in Utah where Brad Wheeler (the Chair of the Kuali Foundation) was asked what this new approach meant for commercial affiliates and he stated that he wasn't sure they'd still be necessary.  We obviously don't feel that's the case since we've enhanced the Kuali Coeus product to a level that far exceeds the out of the box capabilities of KC with our FastTrak offering and we're sure other's have made similar investments.  To be clear, we intend to continue to enhance and support Kuali Coeus for years to come to better support research institutions.

Stay tuned, I'm sure there's more to come!


Chris Thompson

President - Moderas

eRA Implementation Tips

The decision to adopt a new system for managing research administration is a daunting one. The staff at Moderas has second to none experience with implementing research administration solutions and the Kuali Coeus product. We hope you consider us if you decide Kuali Coeus is the right choice for you.
The information that follows is meant to assist you in your decision making process.  Moderas also provides interactive webinars on these topics regularly. Please check www.moderas.org/event to check our schedule and register to participate. Please don't hesitate to call us if you have questions.
 Quick Links
  Attend one of our webinars on prodcut selection, sign up here.
  Implementation Price Tool (what will is cost to install KC)
  Return on Investment Calculator
The "Buy / Build" decision
The first hurdle that needs to be addressed is the age old question of buy or build. This question has become easier over the last decade as information systems have become more mature and with the acceptance of the "Software as a Service" model. Premier tools such as Salesforce.com. have demonstrated that critical operational system can be hosted off site driving down the total cost of ownership for the customer. The continued growth of "Open Source" products have muddied the water slightly because of the misperception that it translates to free. This too is becoming less confusing as people become familiar with the realities of the support and expertise required to leverage open source applications. Speaking of support, that's an areas that you shouldn't overlook.  Plan for how the application will be supported in the years following the adoption of your system. We put together some information on this page to show what some of the needs are to support such a system and hope you find it helpful.
Once you have a grasp of the options available externally the next thing to do is evaluate what you have available internally. In most cases institutions have extremely qualified personnel and may have already developed an internal application or process. Those that have understand how difficult it becomes to sustain such an application in terms of support, enhancements, and integration with other systems to name a few of the needs. Additionally the personnel part of the equation can not be over stated, often there was someone who created the system and they may move on or become less available because others have learned what a valuable resource they are.  There are many institutions that have an all but hobbled application because they've lost staff and the architecture is outdated.  This is not to say that a system cannot be built internally, it's certainly been done and done well in many cases.  We feel it's prudent to evaluate the risk-reward of choosing the build option as it could leave the institution with a similar environment to dealing with a vendor.  That being said there is also the reality of your fiscal situation. There are times when funding for resources is available but products is not and vice versa. We would encourage you to build a business case based not on this but your needs and attempt to make that case so the money doesn't drive a less than ideal end result.
Vendor / Product Selection
If you've decided not to build internally then the next step is deciding on a product and vendor. We can't stress enough that BOTH should be taken into consideration, you can't get a good product from a bad vendor.  When evaluating products (commercial or open source) the vendor is the key to your success.  There are examples in the eRA field of good products that are failing to meet the institution's needs or were never implemented after years of struggle.  The cost of this can't be ignored, hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars have been invested and that's not taking into account the costs of your staff which may double the bottom line.  Make sure you've selected a vendor that you trust, has shown their commitment to your institution, demonstrates a willingness to share the risk, and has incentives tied to your success.  We recommend that you speak to your colleagues, visit sister institutions to see their environments, scour the web, evaluate your environment, request references, before you come to a decision.
Once you've selected a vendor you need to work with them to develop a list of the scope of work that's to be performed.  The implementation of a eRA solution can be closest compared to the adoption of a Personnel, HR, or Financial system.  That is to say that it's no small undertaking and you should have a strong understanding of what needs to be done and the resources you'll have available from the vendor as well as from your institution.
Building your business case
The next step is developing your business case for your desired approach.  Your case could be as simple as a few page powerpoint presentation (check this ROI Calculator for some ammunition) with bulleted lists of needs, to a write paper, depending on the level of documentation you feel is necessary. The key to building this case is to speak to target users, necessary supporters, and to have as many champions as possible before you ever have to sit in front of the decision makers as possible. Most often they understand the needs of the institution, are willing to make a change, but really want to understand that there is support for it.
The rubber meets the road
The times come to begin the actual implementation at long last!  This day can have been years in the making so actually gearing up to start an implementation can often feel like Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled together.  You should be excited, you are about to embark on a significant change to the way you are doing business, often shedding a completely manual paper process for an exciting application that will hopefully be the solution to many of your woes.  So what should you expect? What will you need to do and who's going to do what?  These are the big questions of the day.  Hopefully you've selected a vendor who's already set this stage but providing you with a project plan. This is something we HIGHLY encourage you to have as part of your contract with your vendor, a statement such as a detailed on project plan will be provided within 30 days of signing the contract.  Here are some of the things you should see in that plan;

  • Kick Off Meeting(s)
  • Establishing the project team(s) with roles and responsibilities
  • Setting up a test environment
  • Hardware procurement and configuration
  • Software installation and configuration
  • Database installation
  • Data conversion and integration
  • Discovery (meetings between vendor and domain experts from institution)
  • Business process mapping
  • Gap analysis
  • Preliminary deployment plan
  • Training
  • Pilot planning (it's very unusual to roll out to an entire institution)

Some of the things you should have in hand before beginning;

  • Technical specifications for application and database servers
  • List of all third party software required
  • All instructions related to integrations (finance and personnel systems, grants.gov, etc.)
  • Data mapping documents for getting your data into the system
  • System to System documentation if necessary
  • Training material
  • User guides
  • Support plans

Key things to make sure that are addressed;

  • Communications
  • Risk Managment
  • Quality assurance
  • Meeting agendas
  • Meeting minutes with assigned actions items and delivery dates

These are just the highlights of what you should expect, we hope this information is helpful and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to email us at info@moderas.org or give us a call at 518.412.2020

Adopt Kuali Coeus, the next generation of Coeus from the Kuali Foundation

There are only a few products that provide integrated research administration software solutions, Kuali Coeus, eVisions, InfoEd and Click Commerce. Of those only Kuali Coeus is a free open source solution. Only Kuali Coeus is vendor independent freeing you from the shackles of a long term relationship. Only Kuali Coeus empowers you to make the changes you need to support your team.  Coeus has been adopted by far more institutions than any other solution.  Check the list of institutions who've placed their trust in Coeus and it's next generation Kuali Coeus.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Purdue University, State University of New York, Cornell University, Drexel University, University of Maryland – Baltimore, University of Maryland - College Park, Wayne State University, Yale University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Arizona State University, The American University in Cairo, The Broad Institute Inc, Brown University, The Commonwealth Medical College, Dartmouth College, Education Development Center, George Mason University, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, The Jackson Laboratory, Kent State University, Northeastern University, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, MSU Research and Technology Corporation, Murray State University, Oklahoma State University, Princeton University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Southern University & A&M College, Stevens Institute of Technology, UMDNJ, University of California - Berkeley, University of California - San Diego, University of Cincinnati, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Mississippi Medical Center, University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center, USUHS, Weill Medical - Cornell, Whitehead Institute, Boston University, Brock University, Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Marshfield Clinic, Michigan State University, Texas State University, Skidmore College, Tufts University, University of Arizona,  University of Arkansas, University of California - Berkeley, University of California - Davis, University of California - Irvine, University of California - San Diego, University of Hawaii, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Naval Post Graduate School, The University of Toledo, University of Utah, Tulane, and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.
That's over 60 universities and research institutions that have made this the solution to drive their research with some of the biggest names in the industry.  Why not check out what Kuali Coeus can do for you?  Sign up for one of our free webinarstoday and see it for yourself or contact sales@moderas.org for a demonstration customized to your needs.

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