Reports on Policies that Create Unnecessary Barriers (Oct. 2016-Apr. 2017)
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I write to provide an update on an initiative launched in fall 2016 to encourage faculty and staff to report university policies and procedures that are perceived to create unnecessary barriers.
The reports addressed here were submitted from October 2016 through April 2017. In the future, we will be able to respond to these reports in a more regular and timely way. Not every report received is addressed here, as some of them related to very specific department or unit -level issues that my office does not control and with which we would not interfere. In those circumstances, an email was sent about the issue (but without attribution) to the relevant unit.
I encourage faculty and staff to continue to report policy and procedure concerns online.
The first category of reports is about issues that have resulted, or will soon result, in a change in policy or practice at UIC.
- One person reported confusion about the training courses required for researchers. The confusion apparently comes from the nature of the communications from the Conflict of Interest Office regarding reporting of non-University activities and completing Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI) training.The Report of Non-University Activities (RNUA) disclosure must be completed annually, typically in September, by academic staff when they are newly hired or if the activities previously disclosed on the RNUA change. Academic staff must obtain approval for non-University activities prior to engaging in the activities.
The FCOI training and sponsor specific disclosure is only required for investigators and senior/key personnel on research that is sponsored by the Public Health Services (PHS) and other sponsor agencies that have adopted the PHS regulations. Compliance with the FCOI training and sponsor-specific disclosure is mandatory at the time when a proposal will be submitted to the funding agency. Sponsor-specific disclosure must be submitted annually, as long as the investigator continues to work on research for the PHS sponsor. The COI Office sends out monthly reminders to let investigators know when their FCOI training is about to expire. The FCOI training is valid for 4 years.
As part of ongoing process improvement efforts, the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research (OVCR) will combine the requirements for the PHS investigator to complete FCOI training and sponsor-specific disclosures in START myDisclosures, where the RNUA disclosures are also done. The OVCR anticipates releasing the update in July 2017.
- There was concern with the amount of time spent signing, in paper or PDF form, the grant Proposal Approval Forms (PAF) by every co-PI, senior personnel, and all of their department heads/chairs, and deans. In response, OVCR is currently working on an electronic system to streamline the process. The electronic system is estimated to be live by the end of the calendar year. Alpha and beta testing are already underway. Faculty volunteer groups for beta testing will be selected for piloting by September.
- There were complaints about rejected submissions and the length of time it takes for reimbursements to be made. OBFS is working on improving processes and systems. Right now, we are told that the Travel Expense Management (TEM) and expense request (ER) queues are at the lowest level in several years. In May of 2016, there were 16,890 ERs and an average of 42 days to process. As of Apr 27, 2017, 2042 ERs were in the TEM system for processing and they are now working within a 7-day processing window. The rejection rate has also decreased from 9.2% to 5.5% in that same time period. They will continue to implement, and collect data on, improvements.
- Another concern is the lengthy and confusing process for a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). When the legal-approved University BAA template is used and no changes are made, the processing time is 3-4 days. Part of what adds to the confusion and time is members not knowing where the BAA is processed. A BAA related to an expenditure is processed by UIC Purchasing. If the BAA relates to a sponsored project/grant, then Office of Research Services handles the BAA. Finally, if the BAA relates to a revenue activity or no fund agreement, the Office of Business Development Services handles it. In response, steps are being taken to update the OBFS website and BAA template to help units understand where to submit BAA transaction requests in the future.
- There were concerns with how we can most effectively deliver new and updated information to UIC students about the curriculum. The Office of the Registrar is working with the three campuses of U of I to put in place College Scheduler, which can interface more easily with Banner. Software of this scale is typically only attainable when done in concert with the 3 campuses, which is what we are now doing. The College Scheduler software is slated to be up and running by the end of June, 2017. Students will see the class descriptions, not just one line of information, when they register for courses.
- Some people have had difficulty navigating the Kuali Coeus (KC) grant management pre-award system. In response, OVCR is addressing the glitches and offering weekly open labs to walk business managers and faculty through the new system. There is indication that KC is now fully functioning the way it was designed to and people are now using the system without issue
- It was brought to our attention that when University ID cards expire after 5 years it is catching members of the UIC community off guard with loss of privileges and access. To address this, in fall of 2016 a system for emailing notification of upcoming expiration dates was implemented.
Submissions that are under further investigation
- There was a concern with the number of prohibited items that may not be purchased using a University P-Card. The Office of Business and Financial Services is assembling a cross-functional working group (Procurement Services, University Purchasing, University Payables, Risk Management Office, Legal Counsel and University Audits) to review and update the P-Card, T-Card, and purchasing prohibited and restrictive items list beginning in June 2017.
- There is a need to develop a Multi-PI grant vehicle that allows for indirect costs, and credit, to be split between multiple PIs, their departments and colleges in a way that is more fair and creates better incentives for faculty to work together across colleges. We are prepared to change this policy. We are investigating the practices at other big 10 universities while working with UIC deans, the OVCR and key faculty members to develop a new policy that addresses these concerns.
Additions to this reports that include 1) issues that do not require a change in policy and/or can be resolved at the unit or department level and 2) submissions that involve regulatory and other requirements and cannot be changed, can be found on my website.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs