PINS Tips

If you don’t see the name of the Principal Investigator on the pull-down list

Recently, we enhanced PINS to restrict the pull-down lists to only those names which a user had edit or approval permission for (including their own by default). The good news was that it speeded up the system, since
it didn’t need to load thousands of unnecessary names. But it did cause an occasional problem where an investigator or staff member was trying to enter a proposal for someone else, and their name didn’t show up on the pull-down.

To remedy this, we’ve added the “Expand Investigator List” button, just under the Principal Investigator field. If you click that button the form will reload itself, and the PI field will have every name in the database available.

Two things to be aware of: you will need to save your proposal before clicking, if you have begun data entry; and it will take a few moments for the form to reload, since it will be much bigger than the default.


Adopt? I have enough trouble with my OWN kids!!

The “Adopt” function has been added to the approval lists in order to let SPARCS organize our upcoming paperless proposal processing procedures more easily. This feature lets the person handling the proposal mark it as “theirs”, letting  others know that it’s being handled and by whom. Just clicking the “Adopt” button will mark the record, and list the person’s Unity ID, and the date and time of the adoption. All the other processors at this level then know that this  proposal is being processed, and who would be able to field questions about it. We use the Unity ID instead of the full name to save space on the screen. If a proposal is transferred to someone else for processing, that second person can  click “Adopt” and replace the adoption information with their own Unity ID and the current
date.

The “adopter” information (Unity ID only, no date) is also shown on the View Proposals in Process list, which lets others at other points in the approval process know who is handling the proposal at the time. If the proposal is pending at more  than one unit in a step (two college offices, for example) you’ll see two Unity IDs if someone has adopted the proposal in each office.

We developed this feature to help us organize our work, but we’ve made it available to everyone who approves  proposals. Offices where there are more than one or two people handling proposals may find this feature
useful. If you don’t use it for internal orgaiization, you can use it to let people know who to call about a particular  proposal.

The Adopt function doesn’t change anything in the way a proposal is routed or approved–it’s completely optional as far as the PINS functions are concerned. We hope that research administration offices on campus will find it useful. If you  have any questions, please call the PINS Helpline (5-4267) for more information.


New Approval Process for College Research Offices

The approval screen at the College Research Office step has been changed slightly. Before you approve the proposal, you will be asked to indicate whether the proposal will be signed in the college office, signed in the SPARCS office, or signed in SPARCS with rush handling.

When we move to paperless proposal processing in January, 2005, this information will help us to determine which  proposals will need immediate attention without a paper copy to act as a prompt. We’ll do this by color-coding our  approval lists according to the information entered at the college approval step.

Please note that the Rush designation refers only to a request for SPARCS to rush the proposal while signing it–it does  not have to be checked if the proposal has received rush handling in the college office, but was signed there and can  receive normal handling in SPARCS.

This change is effective immediately–the system will not accept an approval unless one of the three options is checked.  As always, please do not hesitate to call the PINS Help Line at 515-4267 if you have any questions.


Viewing Your Proposals in Process

This new main menu item returns a list of proposals that fit three criteria: first, the routing has been initialized; second,  you have the right to approve it at one or more steps; and third, it has not yet been approved at Sponsored Programs (the final step).

For investigators, this means that you have a list of all your proposals that are still in process, which you can use to track their progress along the approval path.

For department heads and center directors, it means that you can get an early look at proposals before they come to your desk for approval, and you can track them as the proceed through the college and Sponsored Programs approval  steps.

For college research offices, you can see what your upcoming workload is likely to be, and see which proposals still need to be processed at the final step (the proposals will drop off the list when they are approved at Sponsored Programs).

In the near future we will be adding more information to this screen, including information about which step the  proposal has reached in the approval process, and which individual in Sponsored Programs is handling the proposal.


Windows XP, Internet Explorer and Popups

We have received reports of some problems using PINS on machines equipped with Windows XP, especially in the  routines that add work locations to PINS proposals. Here are some tips that should help your work go more smoothly.

First, check to be sure that you don’t have a third-party popup blocker operating. The popular Google toolbar has a popup blocker operating by default. You can see a message on the toolbat that reads “xx popups blocked”. To allow  popups from PINS just click on that message while PINS is active (it’s also a button). The message will change to “Site popups allowed”.

If you are using Windows XP, Service Pack 2, it has installed a popup blocker into your copy of Internet Explorer. Again, it’s on by default, and you need to specify which sites you want to allow. To do this, select Tools/Pop-up Blocker/Pop-up Blocker Settings from the IE menu, type the name of the site you want to allow in the “Address of Web site to allow” box, and click Add.


Advice on Browsers

We have designed PINS to work on as many browsers as possible. However, there are a few things you should be aware  of.

First, your browser needs to have Javascript and cookies enabled in order to use the ACS authentication system (this is  usually enabled by default). You also need to have popup windows allowed, not blocked. If you use a popup blocker, add the site acspins.oit.ncsu.edu to your list of allowed sites. Sometimes a third-party popup blocker can be added to your system without your knowledge–check your toolbars if you have trouble accepting popups.

Our recommended browser for all platforms is Mozilla–it is free, easy to download and install, and comes in versions for  Windows, Macintosh and UNIX/Linux. We have also tested PINS on Windows using Internet Explorer (version 6 and later only) and Netscape (version 7 and later only). You should avoid earlier versions of IE and Netscape, especially Netscape 4.x.
On the Mac both Netscape and Safari work, but Mozilla provided the best performance in our tests. The latest version of IE for the Mac is too old to provide reliable performance with PINS. On UNIX/Linux, you should get good performance with Mozilla–we have not been able to test as thoroughly and invite feedback from users.

Remember to take advantage of the typeahead feature when using long drop-down lists (investigators, sponsors, etc.). When the field is in focus, just start typing the name you want to see and the selected item will change to match what you type.


Handling Documents

Currently, PINS does not have the capacity to delete uploaded documents. However, you can overwrite documents by uploading the correct document using the same file name as the one you want removed. This will replace the original document with the new one. If you do upload an incorrect document and can’t replace it, please put a note in the “Comments” section of the proposal asking us to ignore the wrong file.

If you attach the wrong document type to a document (calling it an abstract instead of a budget justification, for example), just upload the document again with the correct type selected. This will replace the old type with the correct one.