Department, Heal Thyself: The Usefulness of Self Audits

The final presentation I attended at the NCURA FRA meeting was from MD Anderson Cancer Center, where the director of research finance talked about the usefulness of auditing at the department level to assess practices in administering sponsored research projects. The speaker discussed a program he developed at MD Anderson Cancer Center to review the research administration practices and processes in departments (both financial and programmatic) to assess knowledge and offer feedback. The institution then offered input and training to employees to guide them in specific areas.

Their findings were that employees were very receptive to feedback and suggestions for improvement because there was a desire to fulfill their job responsibilities well. However, they found that there were knowledge gaps in departments resulting from inconsistent dissemination of information regarding research administration related issues, which affected employees ability to perform well.

Most interesting, they found that the clinical practice areas in the departments created issues for the  administration of clinical research grants that they needed to address more broadly. Issues of managing effort and salary distribution between clinical and research responsibilities and the related budgetary issues that are generated from these activities were the source of training and education issues that needed attention.

The take home message from this presentation was this – finding your own mistakes is always better than having someone else find them. You have the opportunity to identify, fix and learn from them with people in your own institution who are there to help you.

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