AAU, COGR and APLU recommend a common federal portal for grants submission, invoicing/cash draw downs, and final reporting (e.g., progress, financial, equipment) with a single set of rules, forms and due dates (potentially using NSF policy and guidelines as a model). A common portal would significantly ease reporting burden.
- Consolidate federal proposal and award management systems, including payment systems, optimally with significant input from stakeholders, potentially through a committee of federal agency staff and stakeholder representatives. This could take the form of a single, web-based system that interacts with separate agency systems. For example, this single portal would have role-based access controls, allow for system-to-system data exchange (e.g., Grants.gov application process), and utilize online data file exchange mechanisms in standardized formats like XML or CSV (e.g., PMS data file exchange). Use of common data elements and standard federal forms, reports and due dates would enhance the usage of such management systems. However, a single system may be the optimal approach (versus multiple systems with a single interface).
A Uniform System for Proposal Submission and Award Management
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of electronic research administration proposal and award management systems imposed on grant recipients by federal agencies. This has frequently occurred with little or no input sought from those who must use the systems and without apparent interest in re-using or sharing good models that already exist. The Uniform Guidance, in §200.206, calls for “standard application requirements.” This means that there should be a uniform system for the submission and tracking of proposals and awards. The current situation requires both administrative offices and investigators to maintain access to a large number of grant submission portals as well as maintaining multiple sets of electronic credentials. Harmonizing the reporting requirements and elements among federal agencies will also reduce burden created by multiple systems.
Consolidating Federal Payment Systems
One reason that financial reporting is unnecessarily complex is the variation in systems across agencies. Institutions have to report financial data in multiple financial reporting systems, sometimes more than one system per agency.
- In a recent AAU-COGR-APLU survey, 48 institutions reported using an average of approximately 6.5 to 8.5 federal payment systems in FY14 (Low research: 6.5; Medium 8.5; High 8.4).
- Institutions were not asked to indicate which systems they use. Among those that did, roughly a dozen were identified including PMS; ACM$; ASAP; G5; GPRS; VIPERS; Payweb; WAWF; eLOCCS; Delphi and PARS.