Certifying Your Time & Effort
Each year, the UMass Boston receives millions of dollars from organizations, including the federal government, which sponsor research and other university activities. As the stewards of those funds, it is our obligation to comply with federal and university requirements to certify faculty and staff effort on sponsored projects.
URGENT: All effort must be certified in order to be in compliance. Failure to propose, manage, and certify effort properly could jeopardize the university's federal funding and lead to penalties for the university and sanctions for the individual.
To certify effort accurately, you must understand some key principles that are required by the federal government. Many universities have paid multi-million dollar fines for not certifying in accordance with these principles. Failure to propose, manage, and certify effort properly could jeopardize the university's federal funding and lead to penalties for the university and sanctions for the individual.
Effort is the time you spend on an activity, expressed as a percentage of all the time you spend on your job duties as an employee of the University of Massachusetts Boston.
A Sponsored Project is activity funded by a grant contract or cooperative agreement under which there is a scope of work, a specific budget, and specified terms and conditions. It requires detailed financial accountability and compliance with the sponsor's terms and conditions.
If you worked on a sponsored project, you are required to assure the sponsor that you devoted effort to the project at a level that corresponds with how you were paid from the project and that you have met your commitments of effort to the project, regardless of whether the sponsor did or did not provide salary support. Effort certification is the university's means of providing this assurance to sponsors.
You are not expected to calculate a precise accounting of your time. Sponsors recognize that research, teaching, service, and administration are often intertwined. Reasonable estimates, however, are expected.
Sponsored and Non-sponsored Activities
If you teach a class and work on a research project, you are probably aware you cannot charge your teaching time to your sponsored project. The time you spend on your research project is sponsored activity. Classroom instruction is an example of a non-sponsored activity.
Sometimes it is difficult to decipher whether an activity is sponsored or non-sponsored. For example, mentoring a graduate student is sponsored activity only if the mentoring is specific to a research project. Otherwise, it is instruction – a non-sponsored activity. The federal government is very specific regarding the activities that are allocable to sponsored projects. When determining your effort distribution, you must distinguish between activities that are allocable to sponsored projects and those that are not.
Whose Effort Must be Certified?
Effort must be certified for all University of Massachusetts Boston faculty, staff, students, and postdoctoral researchers who either charge part or all of their salary directly to a sponsored project or expend committed effort on a sponsored project, even though no part of their salary is charged to the project.
Who Certifies for Whom?
Effort must be certified by a responsible person with suitable means of verifying that the work was performed. This is a federal requirement and it is unacceptable to circumvent this rule.
Each principal investigator (PI) certifies his or her own effort in addition to the effort of the professional staff, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and classified staff who work on his or her research projects. Sometimes the PI does not have a suitable means of verifying the effort for all the people who work on a project - and someone else, such as a lab manager, does. In such cases, the PI and the effort coordinator can work together to establish a designee's authorization to certify for project staff members.
Sometimes a staff person works on multiple projects for two or more PI's. In such cases, each PI certifies the staff person's effort related to the PIs particular project(s).
When Must Effort be Certified?
Effort must be certified three times per year once each semester (Fall, Spring, Summer). Each time you certify effort, you do so for a specific period of performance. The time during which you certify effort is called the certification window.
If you think you have certified effort incorrectly, contact your effort coordinator or Kim Roselando, research compliance specialist, for guidance.
Once the last date of the certification window has passed, a subsequent recertification can call into question the reliability of the certification process. Therefore, your request must explain why the effort was erroneously certified and why the requested change is more appropriate within the context of law, federal requirements or University policies and procedures. Your written request will be reviewed by the director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
How to Certify Effort
Be sure to collaborate with the designated Effort Coordinator in your area for support. He or she must review your effort card and those of your researchers for accuracy.
Education and Training
Prior to certifying your effort or that of a researcher that you support, you must complete the following tasks.
- Read and understand the University of Massachusetts Guidance on Effort Policies.
- Review and understand the presentation Time and Effort Reporting via ECRT.
- Review and understand the presentation University of Massachusetts ECRT Effort Coordinator Training (Coordinators Only).
- Schedule and complete an ECRT training session with Kim Roselando.
- Review and understand the ECRT “How To” training movies upon logging into the system.
Additional Education and Training
- How to Use ECRT to Certify Effort: A Guide for Principal Investigators
- How to use ECRT to Certify Effort: A Guide for Effort Coordinators
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Please review our extensive FAQs for detailed information about time and effort certification/reporting and the ECRT system.
Time and Effort Reporting/Certification noncompliance is unacceptable. You must be mindful of University policy and federal requirements. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Acknowledgement: This information was largely compiled by the office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) University of Wisconsin – Madison and has been modified for use by the University of Massachusetts Boston. UMass Boston gratefully acknowledges and appreciates the use of this material for our time and effort training.