Snails and Solutions in the Nation’s Capital

August 14, 2013

What do competitive swimming, escargot, and stuffed owls have in common?

All made an appearance at the 55th annual National Council of University Research Administrators in Washington, DC.

In between a heated swim race in the hotel pool and adventures with snails at a French restaurant, we had the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones. The wise Sophia stuffed owl also made an appearance and was again a crowd favorite with the sponsored research administrators who stopped by our booth. During the two day conference, we spoke to more than 150 sponsored research administrators on topics ranging from pre-award grant submission, post-award compliance and budget requirements, and clinical trials research management.

During session breaks, we had quite a few visitors to the booth seeking solutions to issues they face in daily tasks. Some of the problems we discussed included the inability to generate required reports of project activity or budget allocations, the difficulty of tracking compliance with ethics boards and grantor requirements, and the lack of a central system to maintain clinical trial enrollment information. Many of these issues can cause major delays to the progress of grant submissions and awards and hinder the application process for future grants.

Administrators also described the time-consuming effort to coordinate information between groups when data is held in separate systems. For example, it can be difficult to generate reports that require data from both pre-award and post-award administrators when each group has their own method of storing data. Many visitors to the booth discussed the desire to unify all sponsored research groups into a single database to simplify the process of sharing information. These problems prove why it’s so important for research administrators to work and innovate together, bringing in ideas and solutions that they didn’t even know were possible.

Having worked with administrators, and as a project manager with Wellspring Worldwide, I have to agree that unifying is critical and is a reason why Open Innovation software is so necessary.  There are several reasons why we at Wellspring Worldwide support unifying multiple systems into a single source:

  1. It eases the burden of data entry across groups by preventing duplication of data across multiple systems.
  2. It allows access to all data for reporting requirements.
  3. It reduces overhead in training staff on multiple systems. ‪
  4. It creates a single point of entry for the principle investigator to view a project’s progress, thus increasing communication between researchers and administrators.

The NCURA conference offered a great opportunity to not only speak with so many administrators, but we also appreciated the chance to discuss solutions to everyday problems faced by sponsored research administrators.

We look forward to the conference next year in DC—and a rematch at the pool!




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