At the National Council of Research Administrator’s 58th Annual Meeting, the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry gave a presentation on how they capture grant data and utilize it to better manage sponsored projects. The presentation focused on the roles and practices of the Office of Grants and Contracts. The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Grants and Contracts can be broken down into five main teams: pre-award, port-award, fiscal, personnel, and the data team. Each of the teams uses a combination of grant management databases.
- Pre-award team: Grants Tracking Database
- Post-award team: Grants Tracking Database & Grants Accounting Database
- Personnel Team: Grants Accounting Database, Personnel Database, & Agreements Database
- Fiscal Team: Grants Accounting Database & Faculty Database.
We will explore an assortment of the databases, three of the teams, and important grant data takeaways.
Grants Tracking Database
The grants tracking database encompasses a wide variety of information, including personnel distribution, effort history, effort certifications, and submission history. It also maintains an ever evolving list of active, pending, and expected funding reports. This is particularly helpful for projecting faculty effort and support distributions. These projections can be integrated with salary budgeting and funding cycle monitoring.
Grants Accounting Database
The grants accounting database imports and manages information pertaining to spending, encumbrances, fiscal projections, and online module reports. The financial reports are generated throughout the life of the grant, and include data such as which salaries are attributed to a project, and what cost transfers are due. This grant data is reconciled with the General Ledger on a monthly basis.
Personnel and Agreement Databases
The personnel and agreement databases manage information on trainees, external agreements, and internal agreements. The external agreements, such as a Professional or Contracted Service agreement, track the development and necessary steps of the partnership. By contrast, the internal agreements, such as Memorandums of Understanding, generate the actual agreements, store invoices, and monitor fiscal balances. All of the grant data is used to prompt renewals and payments when appropriate.
The pre-award team focuses on proposal submissions for grants, contracts, and trainings. In particular the office tracks grant review outcomes. The PIs send the data team the captured grant data, which is analyzed and utilized for prioritizing request response times, submitting grants predicted to have a high success rate for early account activation, and better forecasting future spending. To manage these various responsibilities they utilize the grants tracking software.
The post-award team’s responsibilities center upon fiscal management and monitoring compliance with sponsor regulations. To guide the overall process, the office regularly produces reports that include start dates, expected funding amounts, submission histories, and outstanding tasks. The post-award team relies on the grants tracking and accounting databases for their day to day projects.
The personnel team is involved with the majority of the Human Resource activities. In interfacing with the personnel and agreements databases the office can use the grant data to automate consultant agreement renewals, and provide email reminders and alerts for related invoicing needs.
Grant Data Takeaways
The data team sits at the center of all the activity, and manages the infrastructural development and grant data capture. The University of Pittsburgh has learned that with data entry coming from 1.5 individuals per data access point, it is imperative that each team continually “cleans” their databases to protect the integrity and clarity of the stored information. Additionally, it is important to be prepared to add new data fields, link across databases, and track when new data will begin, so to prepare for any inevitable updates. Each team within the Office of Grants and Contracts plays a role in the procurement and utilization of grant data, and with an understand of the tools, each office’s responsibilities, and data team takeaways, they can be better prepared for the grant management process.