Our Love-Hate Relationship with Effort Reporting

Some Research Administrators Hate Effort Reporting, Some Love It

I love effort reporting. I know I’m crazy, but I appreciate the reasoning and the logic of it all – everything adds up to 100% effort, and it’s about understanding the basis of that effort. The secret is to break effort into fractions.

Effort Reporting Starts When Faculty Are Hired

It starts with the faculty appointment process. We have all the information we need to know in the faculty appointment, because it specifies what our faculty member will be doing and how much time he or she will be spending on each activity. Ain’t life grand? No one can work more than 100% time. Full time is full time. You can give 110% of your blood, sweat and tears to the job, but the whole pie is still 100% mathematically.

Committed Effort for Research Occurs When Faculty Submit Applications and Receive Funding

Then our faculty member starts to commit effort on sponsored projects and receive funding (our faculty member is pretty fantastic). So we know, of the amount of the pie our faculty member has to commit to research, how much of that effort is now committed effort.

Certified Effort Occurs When Faculty Perform Work Against Committed Effort

Now starting work on research, our faculty member will certify regularly and on time how much he or she has worked on the sponsored project. Was it more or less than the committed effort? Then we come behind with a salary journal to make sure that the payroll is corrected. This is to make sure that the payroll charged equals the amount of effort expended in the time period for the faculty member.

What if our faculty member becomes so well funded that he or she has little “research” time available to  on his or her current faculty appointment? We’ll work with his or her business administrator to adjust the faculty member’s clinical and administrative commitments to ensure the research appointment reflects enough time to perform current research and apply for new awards.

When Effort Gets Complicated (or Requires Extra Research Administrator Effort)

  1. When faculty members have outside research positions, like a Veteran’s Administration position that is paid by federal government funds. A memorandum of understanding is required to compute the effort that is shared between the two positions that is signed off at the VA and the university to ensure there is no overlap of research salary.
  2. The administration of payroll for a faculty member can affect the presentation of an effort report. Often, university systems can be delayed in removing an old grant off an effort report if it has ended. But if there is an error or a delay in administering payroll for a faculty member, this will create an effort report that is confusing for the faculty member to review.
  3. Effort reports are often released periodically, and faculty members do not understand why they are reviewing their effort. They may understand mechanically what they are doing, but not why. Often universities will have online tools to train faculty to how to review their effort, but it fails to answer this question. So if an auditor were to ask the one question, “did you work this time?” the faculty member would still be likely to say, ” I just put the number that the system told me to.”

Research Administrators Are Vital to Effort Reporting Compliance

For these reasons, research administrators need to pre- and post-review effort for research faculty they administer – not business administrators or financial administrators. This means that it is vitally important for research administrators to be able to answer questions and guide faculty as they complete their effort report. This is different than telling faculty how to certify.

For information on how to do that, review our previous discussion on effort reporting.

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