UMass Boston

NCURA Peer Review

During the fall of 2020, an NCURA ‘Peer Review' team made up of highly experienced research administrators from across the country, conducted a series of interviews with over 100 faculty, research staff, institute centers/directors and administrators. As a result of this endeavor, the review team provided UMass Boston leadership with feedback on the support of research and externally funded programs and shared recommendations and national best practices that might be considered at UMass Boston as we look to improve research support and administration. The reviewers prepared a 114-page report with over 140 recommendations ranging from very large that require significant institutional investment (i.e., “Fill current vacancies; assess long term staffing needs”) to others that are quick fixes (“post the subaward matrix to the ORSP website”).

The full report is posted here for you to access (linked here) and a summary of the identified areas of improvement, recommendations and planned response are copied below.

We thank everyone who participated in this process.

Priority Area Recommendations Initial planned response/action
ORSP Staffing Prioritize central staffing and resources - Prioritize staffing centrally; Identify short, medium and long term staffing needs to support research/externally funded priorities; prepare a salary study to identify appropriate salary levels for the staff within ORSP to ensure competitive salaries and benefits are provided in relation to the Boston area. Hiring plan developed and proceeding with immediate and long-term implementation
Unit Staffing and Structure Prioritize unit resources and roles, responsibilities and oversight. Develop framework for coordinating research administration across entire campus. Building on this framework, evaluate research administrators across the university in relation to titles, functions, and salaries to ensure department administrators are appropriately supervised and being tasked with the activities in the research administration matrix and from the perspective of equity - if not re-evaluate and change structures. Require participation of their research  personnel for scheduled training and networking opportunities; ensure full support for researchers. ORSP/HR project evaluating unit resources
Regular messaging on the importance and expectation for research Communication of research mission - The Chancellor and Provost will provide clear and regular messaging on the importance and expectation for research at UMass Boston. The VPR and Deans will implement regular messaging on the role of research, as appropriate to each discipline and faculty member. Plan being developed  
Research Development Workshops; Training; Identification of funding opportunities; Professional Development; Increase seed funding and incentives - explore, with faculty input, the range and type of focused workshops that would be beneficial. Consideration should be given for short presentations (30-50 minutes) and the qualifications of the presenter. Collaboration with the Office of Faculty Development will be beneficial; developing a year-long plan for offering workshops and such a plan should demonstrate regularity and consistency in key offerings; identify areas of faculty interest for which there are current federal funding opportunities and explore planning workshops focusing on these areas. With additional pre-award staffing, this can be assigned and implemented.
Kuali Prioritize Kuali implementation; Critical assessment of Kuali - Continue to prioritize implementation of Kuali Research. Given the size and complexity of the research enterprise, managing proposal development and submission by email, and manually keying in awards is a big challenge for ORSP. Implementation of Kuali Research will reduce the amount of manual data entry saving staff time as well as reducing errors and will also connect research compliance functions with award information. Ensure long-term plan for supporting any IT related needs that arise after implementation; Critically assess the Kuali Research system’s ability to collect key data that reflects research activity metrics. This will become essential given the increasing attention by UMass Boston on research. In process; initial launch slated for September, 2021
Financial management Establish expectations to help faculty fiscally manage their projects; provide reports and training - establish standard business practices to help faculty fiscally manage their projects (and identify any central or unit staff responsible); define who holds responsibility for training in the use of Summit and implement training regularly for existing and new users; provide faculty regular accurate grant reporting from PeopleSoft or Summit, including burn rates to PIs and other staff who assist with post-award management.  Contingent upon increased coordination processes and necessary ORSP central staffing, unit staffing and identified and supervised roles and responsibilities.
Reporting Needs assessment for data reporting; develop and implement key metrics; Monthly reporting; reporting to PIs- burn rates. Collaborate with the colleges, centers and institutes to assess needs and define the scope and depth of regular data reporting. Develop a system for tracking and reporting key performance metrics; push out sponsored programs activity reports monthly to the Deans, Directors and leaders to keep research activity visible and allow key academic leadership to be cognizant of activity currently occurring. Contingent upon implementation of improved central staffing and ownership of VPR reporting.
Faculty Create faculty advisory committee  - form a research active faculty advisory committee consisting of senior research-active faculty. This will enable additional faculty input directly from the group that is impacted by policies, procedures, and practices related to the research enterprise. This group could bring forward various issues that impact their ability to seek funding and manage that funding once received. To be launched in September 2021