Celebrating success: how Kansas State University and others are modernizing their eRA systems

By Elizabeth Midgorden posted 10-30-2020 15:33


Modernization has never been more critical, given the new world research teams have had to adjust to due to the pandemic. After a decade-long trend of institutions modernizing their processes and systems, as highlighted in 
the recent LISTedTECH report, this year has pushed modernization to the forefront for even more research teams.

To highlight this trend, as well as people and organizations that are leading the way in modernization efforts, we were happy to recognize Kansas State University and Mollie Robbins, eRA Systems Manager & Training Coordinator, as our first annual Modernization Award winner at this year’s Connect Conference. 

In this post, we’ll share background on K-State’s success in modernizing, as well as how a few other institutions modernized recently, which we also honored: the University of Windsor, Mohammed Bin Rashid University, and the American University of Sharjah.

Kansas State’s journey to eliminating dozens of homegrown systems

The research team at K-State was facing a lot of challenges: paper-based systems, antiquated business processes, and more than 60 homegrown research administration systems that were disconnected from each other. But those 60+ systems weren’t dependable or supported by IT anymore, and leaders were asking for more interactive and transparent reports. As if those challenges weren’t enough, work volume was skyrocketing. 

Mollie Robbins and her team knew something had to be done. They knew they needed to replace their pre-award database, which held millions of proposal records, with something that would better protect data integrity. K-State had adopted Cayuse’s Sponsored Projects app in 2009 but not fully implemented it to its full capabilities. It was time to finish implementing a comprehensive system that allowed K-State’s data to be released to constituents in an interactive and modern reporting protocol that allowed the underlying data to be manipulated to tell the story required by the user.

Mollie and her team assessed their needs and dedicated themselves to improving their processes, prioritizing: 

  • Electronic proposal development, routing, approval, and submission
  • Electronic award routing and approval
  • Robust, interactive, modern reporting
  • Document archiving
  • A comprehensive system that would share data

They thoroughly reviewed and re-engineered business processes, eliminating duplicate data entry and ensuring quality control of their data archives. And it’s been extremely helpful. Mollie describes having an electronic workflow tool as “a game-changer,” supporting communication and helping to monitor inter- and intra-office workflow. 

Their modernization even inadvertently prepared them for quarantine. Once COVID-19 hit, they seamlessly migrated to telework during a time when their research productivity shattered all previous records. “The entire research community at K-State is ecstatic that our fears of a total shutdown of research administrative processes did not materialize,” Mollie says. Their research enterprise not only survived but grew, which is truly outstanding!

The University of Windsor cut a 4-hour process down to 10 minutes

The University of Windsor is another institution that recently modernized their electronic research administration systems. Previously, they had some major communication bottlenecks, as well as a paper-heavy system coupled with outdated processes. They had wanted to go paperless for years. 

When the pandemic struck, they took the opportunity to modernize in a few ways:

  • Eliminating many paper forms, including three paper forms with multiple signatures
  • Adopting an electronic approval signature process
  • Adopting Cayuse’s electronic communication tools

Today, they’re seeing some major benefits in time and energy, such as cutting a 4-hour process down to 10 minutes. Research accounting is much faster, and they’re poised for even greater success! We were excited to be able to honor them also as a winner of our Connect Modernization Award. 

Modernization tips from Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences is another modernization success story. Originally, they were tracking their research portfolio manually, which made it difficult to analyze data and stay ahead of milestones. They were constantly playing catch-up, and remaining award funding was difficult to pinpoint. It’s a scenario that’s all too common in the research world.

To overcome these fundamental research administration challenges, they adopted electronic systems to manage the entire research lifecycle, human study protocols, and award funding utilizing Cayuse’s Sponsored ProjectsHuman Ethics, and Fund Manager solutions. Now they’re enjoying the following benefits:

  • Truly seeing the scope of their research portfolio and pipeline for the first time
  • Discovering some research superstars at the university who were previously overlooked
  • Creating an organizational research unit that reports directly to the provost

From a departmental level to university-wide, they’re seeing major improvements thanks to their modernization efforts. And they’re the very worthy recipients of our Connect Modernization Award honorable mention!

How American University of Sharjah streamlined funding allocation and protocol management

The American University of Sharjah is another trailblazer adapting to the future of research administration that we celebrated with an honorable mention. They knew they needed to upgrade manual grant competitions and human-centric research protocol reviews in order to minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Secure, paperless, modern systems for grant management and protocols would better position them for growth, compliance, and success.

Despite COVID-related disruptions to their business cycles and an extremely strict quarantine lockdown in the United Arab Emirates, their research administration team was dedicated to modernization. They adopted two cutting-edge apps to streamline funding allocation and protocol management (Cayuse Competitions and Human Ethics).

As a result of their hard work and dedication during an especially challenging time, the university can now allocate research funding with complete accountability and automate protocol compliance processes to reclaim thousands of wasted hours annually.

We hope these modernization success stories have inspired you and given you some ideas about how to modernize at your research organization. We’re always happy to help you figure out the best solution for your needs, so reach out if you have any questions!