That Aha Moment: Effort Reporting with Investigators

Do you think it’s possible? Has it ever happened to you? Have you provided training to investigators on effort reporting, and experienced the “aha” moment when it all comes together?

Most of us don’t. It’s as if we’ve landed on earth from another planet, and the kindly intellectuals cock their heads, smile and acquiesce with our demands, saying they understand, but they don’t. We ask ourselves – our investigators cure cancer, they split atoms. How can they not understand how much time they spend on the grants they are working on and the salary they receive for doing so? Easy! It’s not their job to think about that stuff.

However, there’s a bit more to the problem of effort reporting than that.  I have a notion that we receive blank stares and submissive nods because we tend to focus on the mechanics of effort reporting (here’s how to use the computer system and this is what effort is and is not) and we forget that people don’t think like accountants.

The key to helping investigators understand effort reporting is to help them remember basic information about their commitment to sponsors at the time they certify.

1. What is my total professional effort? (All positions)

2. What is my base salary (available to propose on grants) and effort (available to propose based on other support) on each source of support?

3. How are clinical commitments, VA commitments, and teaching commitments managed in concert with sponsored research commitments?

The “aha moment” comes when we ask them to consider the following question:

“Given what I understand about my available research effort, what is my commitment to the sponsor on X project, and did I work more or less on it this quarter?”

Based on their knowledge, they complete their certification (with an understanding of cost sharing).

There is a spreadsheet that gives investigators this information – and relates it to projected effort in a way that is easy for a PI to understand. It can be used to help PIs manage their effort commitments and you’re able to manage salary planning on multiple sources of funding. If you’d like a copy, e-mail me.

It’s much more satisfying to do effort reporting with investigators who are confident and, dare I say, happier about the process. Give it a whirl.

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