New online portal helps researchers track grants

Peter Schiffer, Lynn Pardie, and Mitra Dutta.

The three university vice chancellors for research — Peter Schiffer, Urbana-Champaign, Lynn Pardie, UIS, and Mitra Dutta, UIC — lead an initiative to give researchers 24-hour online access to their grant information. Photo: L. Brian Stauffer/Urbana-Champaign News Bureau

A new online tool will make it easier for researchers to spend more time on their work and less time on administrative duties.

The myResearch portal, scheduled to launch next month, gives researchers 24-hour online access to their grant information.

Principal investigators can log in to the portal to view grant status, financial data and other information.

“The beauty of this is that it allows the principal investigator to see what’s happening with their grants in real time, updated every night to see how many dollars are left, the start date, the end date — all sorts of information,” said Luisa DiPietro, associate vice chancellor for research.

The portal is part of a larger project, the Systemwide Tools for the Administration of Research and Training, an initiative led by Mitra Dutta, UIC’s vice chancellor for research, Peter Schiffer, vice chancellor for research at Urbana-Champaign, and Lynn Pardie, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at UIS.

When the multiyear process is complete, the electronic research administration system will contain all parts of the grant process, including tools to manage submissions, Institutional Review Board process and conflict of interest information.

Before the online portal, researchers usually received grant data from paper reports completed by their business managers, Dutta said. UIC researchers submitted 3,458 grant proposals requesting a total of $625 million last year, which produces a lot of paperwork.

“Some researchers have business managers entirely devoted to their project, others don’t get reports every month,” she said. “Now, I can go in every day at any time — midnight on a Saturday, if I so wish. It makes everything much more transparent.”

The paper system also took longer to coordinate grant submissions for multidisciplinary projects, she said.

“All of the signatures, approvals have to be routed around campus via paper. When there are multiple investigators in multiple colleges, you can imagine what a nightmare it is to collect all of the signatures,” Dutta said. “This will pull everything together and make the paper system go away.”

The system identifies for investigators exactly how many dollars have been spent and on what.

“We can see how much has been spent on salaries, supplies — and for those of us who are not in business, it’s carefully designed so it’s really easy to understand,” DiPietro said.

The online tool will not only save time for researchers but it encourages them to work with colleagues in other fields, said Jennifer Rowan, executive director for research administration and operations.

“One of the goals of researchers is to have multidisciplinary collaborations, so it will make it a lot easier for faculty members on all campuses to work together on proposals,” Rowan said.

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