Research Ecosystem Report Emphasizes Communication, Flexibility

The report offers recommendations from faculty-led working groups examining four key areas of GW’s research environment.

April 8, 2019

A new report released Monday identifies several high-priority themes that can strengthen the George Washington University’s research ecosystem, concluding the first phase of work to review GW’s research efforts and marking a milestone for the university’s research strategic initiative.

In the report, groups largely made up of faculty, as well as some staff and leadership, identified “common themes and areas for investment,” including: clear communication, training and education, greater flexibility, timeliness and efficiency and a more customer service-oriented research administration culture.

“The report is a result of a strong collaboration between the GW faculty and the administration,” said chairs Karen McDonnell, associate professor of prevention and community health, and Kausik Sarkar, professor of engineering and applied science, thanking working group members for their participation. “The committee looks forward to specific steps to be undertaken based on the report to improve the university research environment, and ultimately making GW a comprehensive, global preeminent research university.”

The teams began their efforts last September to review pre-award processes, post-award processes, research integrity and compliance and non-sponsored research and scholarship. They presented their findings to the Faculty Senate Committee on Research and, more recently, to university leadership.

“I am thankful for our faculty’s active engagement and support throughout this first phase of our research ecosystem review,” said Vice President for Research Robert Miller. “This report provides precisely the feedback we need to prioritize changes and grow GW as a highly respected research university.”

University officials already have implemented or are planning to implement improvements, including some based on suggestions in the report, with the goal of improving communication, streamlining systems and workflow and reducing administrative burden on researchers, Dr. Miller said. This includes:

  • Changes to the administration of the requirement that investigators route proposals to the Office of Sponsored Projects five days prior to a sponsor’s deadline. Specifically, investigators will no longer be required to seek approval for missing the five-day deadline.
  • Enhancements to the Principal Investigator (PI) Dashboard, including award status, a streamlined login and improved data visualizations, will begin to be rolled out over the summer.
  • A new electronic system for research integrity and compliance processes that aims to reduce the time required to review research protocols has already been implemented.
  • GW has launched a search for a comprehensive electronic sponsored projects lifecycle management tool.
  • Increased levels of intramural funding will continue into the next fiscal year and beyond.
  • The university has instituted panel reviews for the University Facilitating Fund applications, at the request of faculty, to support enhanced equity in awarding funding.

A second phase of the research ecosystem review will begin in the coming months after participants are identified to serve on working groups, which will examine four more areas: shared research facilities, high-performance computing infrastructure, workforce development with a focus on postdoctoral support and resource allocation.

“The first phase of this review has been a truly collaborative process among faculty and administration—to terrific results,” said Provost Forrest Maltzman. “We will continue to discuss this report and make improvements that support the important work of all researchers. In the meantime, I am excited for the start of the next phase of our review.”

Read the executive summary (PDF) of the research ecosystem review phase I report.