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What do Associate Deans of Research Find Important in an eRA System? A Requirements Focus Group Recap

Back in December of last year, the eRA Requirements Team held an especially informative focus group to gather requirements for the RFP that was recently released for a new eRA system. This particular focus group consisted of the 14 Associate Deans of Research comprising the Research Operations Council (ROC) with a variety of unique perspectives from different departments and colleges throughout campus. The ROC contemplates growth opportunities, identifies areas of excellence, promotes cross-disciplinary and trans-institutional collaborations, and unifies goals and objectives of local research with NC State’s research mission and priorities.

Because many of these individuals oversee an array of job functions in research administration, their suggested system requirements addressed many different aspects of the award lifecycle. Likewise, they also reinforced a number of suggestions from previous focus groups.

Top New System Requirements

What were the most commonly suggested requirements among this group?

  • Partner Profile Repository. Provide up-to-date database where PIs can easily search for potential partners based on expertise, experience, etc.
  • Resources & equipment search tool. Provide easy way to search for shared equipment/facilities on campus including map of available facilities/equipment w/ visuals rather than just a list; allow resource/equipment info in various databases/spreadsheets across campus to be uploaded into a searchable database. 
  • Proposal development tools. Provide a search tool to find those with high proposal success rate, and facilitate collaboration by providing a virtual meeting place. Provide examples of successful proposals and proposal templates when possible. Provide checklist  (with reminders) of steps left in completion of proposal.
  • Proposal management tools. Provide a timeline with notification tools. Provide indicators of high priority items needing attention. Provide ability to make small changes without having to start the approval process over again.
  • Improved communication tools. Provide, among other things, an award notification system that includes a checklist of the things a PI must complete before the award will be made available to him or her.
  • More data gathering/data analysis tools. Allow for data to be easily downloaded into spreadsheets, etc.

Commonly Desired Existing Suggestions

What were some previously mentioned requirements that were echoed in this group?

  • Provide “one-stop shopping for, among other things, upcoming funding opportunities — i.e. system should pull data on funding opportunities from foundations, NSF, Reporter federal database, etc.
  • Provide easily customizable management dashboard with a variety of tools.
  • Provide visibility into workflow/routing of a proposal.
  • Provide ability to track cost sharing and burn rates.
  • Allow for integration with PeopleSoft (HR System).
  • Provide system standardization and simplification.

As always, keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and the vendor may not be able to accommodate all of our needs, especially in the early stages of implementation. However, the focus groups have allowed the development of an RFP for a new system that will best fit the needs and desires of everyone affected. So thank you to everyone who’s participated, and to everyone who reads this blog to stay up to date. We’ll continue to provide updates, so please continue to check back regularly.