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Effort Reporting – A Faculty Perspective. Jeremy Forsberg, University of Texas at Arlington David Ngo, University of Wisconsin - Madison. Communication takes two - Perspective and Understanding Faculty perspective on effort reporting

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effort reporting a faculty perspective

Effort Reporting – A Faculty Perspective

Jeremy Forsberg, University of Texas at Arlington

David Ngo, University of Wisconsin - Madison


Communication takes two - Perspective and Understanding

  • Faculty perspective on effort reporting
  • Understanding the intent of the requirements for effort reporting and what should be communicated to faculty
  • Convergence of reality, intent, and regulatory compliance

Faculty/Institutional Responsibilities

  • Their Job Description: Research, Teaching, and Service
    • Commonly split:
      • 40% Research
      • 40% Teaching
      • 20% Service
  • Faculty annual reviews are based on these expectations

Research Activities:

    • Sponsored Projects
    • Unfunded Projects
    • Scholarly activities
    • Human subject Research
    • Animal subject Research
    • Publications
    • Discoveries
    • Grant Writing (sometimes considered “research”)

Instructional Activities:

    • Courses taught
      • Includes preparation time and meetings outside of class
  • Service Activities:
    • Advising activities
    • Board Service / serving on committees
    • Administrative appointments (Chair/Dean etc.)
    • Paid consulting

Faculty Survey for Time Allocation

  • Barry Bozeman, Georgia Tech, Albert Link, UNC Greensboro, and Christopher Swann, UNC Greensboro’s paper “A Time Allocation Study of University Faculty” consisted of a survey of 150 Research Intensive Universities with 1,403 faculty respondents. The results of the percent of time faculty spent on institutional responsibilities were:
  • Teaching 32%
  • Research 36%
  • Grant Writing 8%
  • Service 24%

Faculty – Outside Activities or Activities not recorded for Effort Reporting Purposes

  • Allotted 1 day a week for outside consulting activities
  • Supplemental Pay
  • Travel Reimbursements
  • Fringe
  • Payments for Outside Board Service

Faculty – Adding it up

  • Faculty activities are often intermingled (research, teaching, service)
  • Research activities are much broader than the time spent on projects that are funded or committed to
  • Much of their time on sponsored projects may be (in their minds) voluntary uncommitted cost sharing (compare this to committed effort – just didn’t receive “pay” for the time contributed)
  • The number of hours worked towards faculty activities still comprise of 100% effort.

Effort is based on percentages of time towards a sponsored project relative to a faculty member’s total activities (of their IBS)

    • For example, faculty member X works 80 hours a week and faculty member Y works 40 hours a week. They both are committed to the same project and have the same IBS - $100k). The amount the sponsor pays faculty member Y can be higher than faculty member X for less hours worked towards the project!
      • Faculty member X expends 15% effort/$15k for 12 hrpw
      • Faculty member Y expends 20% effort /$20k for 8 hrpw
the haywire of effort reporting
The Haywire of Effort Reporting

It’s busy work

Lots of unfunded work on projects and voluntary uncommitted cost sharing

Questions integrity to a very subjective compliance requirement

Faculty with research funding often work more hours than their colleagues

Do not get paid extra


Example Calculations of Effort

  • Sponsors may require or faculty may propose salary in three common ways: # of months, % effort, and $.
    • If Professor Ty Webb has a 9 month academic year salary of $90,000, what is his 12 month salary?
    • If Professor Webb commits 1.3 months of salary, what is the total salary requested?
    • What is the % effort?

Considerations of new activities:

  • The addition of a grant may affect effort on other grants.
  • Example: If Professor Bridgett Jones currently has a NSF grant paying 15% of her time and a NIH grant for 25%, what affect could a new private grant have where on her total effort on sponsored projects if she is paid another 20% time?
  • If Bridgett continues to work a total 40 hours per week on average after receiving the new grant, what adjustments need to be made?
The basic idea

In a grant proposal, we offer effort

At award time, we make a commitment of effort

Throughout the project, we charge salary to the sponsor

Periodically, sponsors want to know:

Have we devoted enough effort to justify the salary charges?

Even in cases where we are not charging salary to the sponsor, have we fulfilled our commitments?





Cost-Shared Effort

Non-Payroll Cost Sharing

Paid by Sponsor

Not Paid By Sponsor

What is Effort Certification?

Effort certification (or effort reporting) is the means of assuring sponsors that:

Salary charges are justified (or “they got what they paid for”)

Researchers devoted the effort that was promised in the proposal and agreed upon at the time of the award (or “they paid for that they got”)

This is not “timekeeping” or “activity tracking”

Researchers are not required to report how they spent their time

Who says we have to do this and who has to do this?
  • Certification is required for individuals who have paid or committed effort on sponsored projects
  • Effort must be certified by a person who has “suitable means of verifying” that the work was performed
    • Faculty, academic staff, and all PIs certify their own effort
    • PIs certify for graduate students, postdocs, and non-PI classified staff who work on their projects
It’s Not an Exact Science
  • Precision is not required
  • Sponsors recognize that research, teaching, service, and administration are often inextricably intermingled
  • Reasonable estimates are expected
    • But there are some rules to follow!
The Rules Require us to:
  • Be careful about what we offer in a proposal
  • Be careful when making commitments at award time
  • Change commitments when needed, and document the changes
  • Fulfill commitments
  • Charge salary in a way that’s congruent with actual effort
  • Certify effort in a way that’s congruent with what actually happened
The Rules Also Require us to:
  • Not charge a grant for time that doesn’t pertain to the grant
  • Not charge a grant for time spent writing a proposal for a new project or a competing continuation
    • Time spent on these activities must be covered by institutional or gift funds
  • Transfer salary charges off of a grant if the level of effort does not justify the salary charges

Commitments are Fulfilled

Tracking and Management

PROPOSAL: Commitments are Offered

AWARD: Commitments Become Obligations

Commitment Setup

Lifecycle of a Grant

Documentation & Reporting of Fulfillment

We Do Want to Get this Right
  • The consequences of not getting this right can be dire for the university
  • Effort reporting is the #1 target for federal auditors
  • Many universities have paid millions of dollars in fines
  • Audits are underway at many research institutions
  • Problematic areas: SCT’s and Recerts
recent effort reporting audits settlements
Recent Effort Reporting Audits & Settlements

St. Louis UniversityOverstatement of Effort

$1 million

Weill Cornell Medical College Committed Effort

$2.6 million

Yale UniversityEffort Reporting and Cost Transfers

$7.6 million

Florida State UniversitySalary/Non-salary disallowances

$3.0 million in requested refund

Fort Valley State

Lack of an Effort Reporting System

$500,000 settlement

Ohio State University

Commitments and Cost Sharing

$1.7 million in questioned costs

Effort Reporting


Significant Audits & Settlements

Louisiana Board of Regents

Effort Reporting, Cost Sharing

$1.9 million questioned costs

University of Nevada-Reno Effort Reporting System

Georgia Institute of Technology

Effort Reporting System

University of DelawareEffort Reporting

University of Alaska-AnchorageEffort Reporting and Grants Management

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Effort Reporting System

California State University - Fresno

Effort Reporting Commitments and Cost Sharing

University of Michigan

Effort Certification

University of Notre Dame

Subrecipientmonitoring and Effort Reporting

Arizona State University

Effort Reporting System


Effective Means of Communication

    • Policy considerations
    • Mechanisms for compliance
    • Education and Training programs
  • Perspective and Understanding
    • One on One with Faculty
    • Department Chair Meetings
    • The broader university systems


  • Contact Info
    • Jeremy Forsberg j.forsberg@uta.edu
    • David Ngo dvngo@rsp.wisc.edu