Bulletin Feature: ORI Launches Major Update to Research Tracking System
It’s mid-August at NC State, which means New Student Orientation is over, summer camps have packed it in and students are once again flocking to residence halls for move-in and the beginning of a new academic year. And if you’re a researcher or research administrator, it also means the demise of RADAR — the university’s longtime system for managing research projects — and its replacement by new modules in the Research Enterprise Data (RED) system.
On Aug. 7, the Office of Research and Innovation retired RADAR after about 20 years of faithful service to NC State’s research community. In its place, ORI launched a proposal tracking module and a post-award management module within the RED system. On the same day, ORI launched a sponsored research and reporting viewer, powered by SAS Visual Analytics, that will work with the two new modules to give users access to the information they need.
“We’re making this change to give researchers a system that will let them create, submit, win and manage awards as seamlessly as possible,” says Rusty Earl, ERA development manager with ORI.
The ERA in Earl’s title stands for Enterprise Research Administration — the umbrella term for ORI’s project to manage NC State’s vast research enterprise, which generated $1.5 billion in research proposals last year and brought in $460 million in new sponsored research funding.
When NC State first launched RADAR, it was a cutting-edge tool that proved highly useful in helping the university’s researchers and research administrators get a handle on some of the many steps involved in managing research funded by external sponsors. However, it was also a homegrown system that wasn’t designed to handle all the parts of research administration, such as reporting requirements governing conflicts of interest and animal care. To manage those areas, researchers had to use a variety of other systems, and none of the systems integrated well with each other.
That’s why, in 2019, ORI launched RED — a system that will eventually integrate the entire spectrum of research administration processes, from proposal development and submission through award management, financial administration and closeout.
The Goal: Seamless Data Integration
The first RED module to go live, in 2019, managed animal care and use. The next launch was a conflict of interest module in 2020, and now proposal tracking and post-award management are online too, along with a sponsored research and reporting viewer. All of these modules are integrated with each other, and the RED system as a whole seamlessly shares data with the university’s PeopleSoft financial applications.
“RADAR was part of a homegrown system that served our campus very well, but what it didn’t do was integrate data within itself across modules,” says Sherrie Settle, associate vice chancellor for sponsored programs and regulatory compliance in ORI.
“Because all the different modules didn’t talk to each other, there was a lot of manual work involved when trying to compare information between them or as you moved through the research life cycle,” she says. “People in a college research office had to reenter award information over and over again. Our first goal was to take all that duplication away, to better use staff time and reduce error.”
This increased efficiency will free faculty and staff to spend less of their time on administrative tasks and more time doing actual research.
The RED system, which the university has purchased from a third-party vendor, brings a host of other benefits, says Earl.
“Like everything in IT, research administration systems are changing all the time throughout the research landscape,” he says. “The advantage of using a vendor system instead of our own is that whenever a granting agency changes their system, the vendor will update RED so it stays compliant with any changes.”
So what does this mean for campus personnel who are accustomed to using RADAR for research administration?
“The activity that was captured in RADAR historically will instead be reflected in RED,” Settle explains. “For instance, if you want to verify how much of an award has already been received, or to check the status of negotiation for a new contract, if you used to log into RADAR to do those things, now you’ll log into RED.”
New Interface; Same Options
Some researchers are already familiar with RED through its modules for conflict of interest and animal care and use. If this is you, in RED you’ll now see a new tab for proposals that you can use to query for information you used to look for in RADAR.
“The RED interface looks a little different from RADAR, but the options are basically the same,” Settle explains.
One of the difficulties of making a switch like this is that there’s no way to avoid doing it midstream. Fortunately, ORI has accounted for that by importing all the RADAR data needed for pre-award, post-award, audit and public-records request purposes into RED. This includes all awards and executed agreements with an end date of July 1, 2016, or later; all proposals submitted from FY2020 through Aug. 7, 2023; and all “file only” records, such as master research agreements.
Up next in the ongoing development of the RED system is a proposal development module that will eventually take the place of the current PINS system, which will make research administration even more convenient and efficient. For now, once a proposal has been developed in PINS, it can be imported into RED for subsequent proposal tracking.
Training resources for the newly launched modules are available online at go.ncsu.edu/red-sp-training. You can also visit REPORTER to register for virtual or in-person training sessions on the new systems. If you need help in a more timely fashion, call the Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance Services helpline during regular business hours at 919-515-4267.
For answers to common questions about the transition, you can also visit https://research.ncsu.edu/era/go-live-faq/.