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OSP Director's Corner

by Dara Little

There has been a lot of focus on celebrating excellence over the past few weeks as our University celebrated the many accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff over the past year. Despite challenging times for higher education, NIU has much to be proud of.

The focus on excellence started me thinking about how we seek to achieve excellence in what we do each day in OSP to support faculty and staff external funding efforts.

In an era of increased competition and heightened scrutiny of sponsored programs, research administrators are integral to supporting the research enterprise. For OSP, it means supporting faculty and staff external funding efforts during both the proposal and award stage. In doing this, we’re keenly aware of the administrative burden that can be associated with securing external funding.  The 2007 and 2012 Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Faculty Burden surveys found that PI’s spend approximately 42% of their available time for research on pre and post award administrative activities (21% pre and 21% post, respectively). The overall percentage of time spent on administrative activities remained constant over the two surveys. However, the 2012 survey found that administrative burden shifted in recent years from human subjects compliance and subaward monitoring to animal care, managing equipment/supply purchases and payroll, evaluating personnel, and patent applications.

In OSP we work hard to keep these statistics in mind to continuously remind us that our primary purpose as research administrators at NIU is to balance the integrity of our sponsored programs while supporting faculty funding efforts in a way that minimizes administrative burden.

To do this, we strive to provide high quality support to all NIU faculty and staff throughout the sponsored program lifecycle and we seek to achieve excellence by being:

  • Present and available to all faculty and staff
  • Transparent and forthcoming in our policies and procedures
  • Able to balance faculty needs and interests with those of the University and Sponsor
  • Accountable to the faculty, University, and Sponsor

OSP staff have established a number of basic expectations to guide us each day in adhering to the above principles. As such, faculty and staff should expect the following when working with OSP:

  • That we read email messages & return calls in a timely manner (24-48 hours);
  • That we will attend to your proposals and other agency requests well in advance of the deadline when you have honored our internal deadlines;
  • That we will review your award and identify any concerns (e.g. pending compliance protocols) to you within one (1) week of receiving the award;
  • That we will provide your award to Grants Fiscal Administration (GFA) in a timely manner (within 1 week of award acceptance) so you can receive your grant account and begin work on your project;
  • That when we cannot accommodate your request for policy or regulatory reasons, during pre- or post-award, we will work with you to seek alternative solutions to help get you what you need.