The final session I attended at the NCURA conference dealt with effort reporting problems and complex issues that we all face in administering salaries on grants. The presenters were good, the questions were familiar. The answers to the questions raised were variations on the same theme:
1. Know what constitutes your institutional base salary for faculty and research staff. It is the basis for proposing effort and it is the first building block of the effort commitment process. If institutional base salary is off, you have the basis for a serious problem in the proposal that needs to be fixed fast. IBS needs to be handled consistently across proposals, departments, schools and your institution because of effort reporting and auditing issues.
2. Everyone in your “zone of influence” needs to understand what 100% effort is and is not. This means every faculty and research staff member who comes under your purview and every research administrator, financial administrator or payroll manager you work with to manage the salary and effort of said faculty and research staff.
Assistant Professor Booksmart has a half-time appointment at the University and 35% is on sponsored projects? Dr. Booksmart’s effort is 100% of her time at the University which happens to be on a 50% FTE appointment. It helps to think of faculty appointments in terms of calendar months, or for the geometrically inclined, as pies. A 50% appointment is a whole pie, half the size of a full time appointment (100% FTE) pie.
3. Tracking salary and effort commitments over time is crucial to manage sponsored commitments in a timely manner. Ideally we are funding faculty and staff proactively on grants, right? But tracking systems keep us within the 90 day range of compliance with any journals we may need to do with moving salary on to grants at the start or with changes in effort.