The report offers recommendations from faculty-led working groups examining four key areas of GW’s research environment.
By Kristen Mitchell
A new faculty-led report identifying how to strengthen George Washington University’s research ecosystem has been released, marking an important milestone in the second phase of work to review the university’s research efforts as part of its mission to become a preeminent comprehensive global research institution.
The report examined four key areas—the operation and utilization of shared facilities, big data and high-performance computing infrastructure, workforce development, and resource allocation. Faculty-led working groups evaluated each of these high-priority themes to determine present capabilities and potential for development. The report on the second phase of the Research Ecosystem Review, launched in 2019 as part of GW’s Strategic Initiatives, was presented to university leadership in March.
The working groups delivered 83 total recommendations on actions GW could take to bolster research at GW, including improved communication and transparency, institutional uniformity, increased training and needed investments or prioritization.
“This was a very robust and collaborative process where a large number of faculty members devoted their time very generously,” said Kausik Sarkar, a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and co-chair of the ecosystem review. “We heard very clearly the community speak about what kind of challenges they face, and following phase one, the university has taken steps to address those challenges and update us on the progress.”
Christine Pintz, a professor in the School of Nursing and co-chair of the review, said the collaboration between faculty and the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) has been a positive process she hopes will continue as GW grows its research enterprise.
The first phase of the ecosystem review focused mostly on streamlining and improving the day-to-day processes and systems associated with administering GW’s research ecosystem. The second phase largely focused on the strategies, investments and goal setting. OVPR is reviewing the recommendations, engaging interested parties across campus and evaluating solutions for challenges raised.
”A preeminent research institution requires a robust and efficient ecosystem to support its faculty, students and staff,” said Vice President for Research Robert H. Miller. “The faculty-led working groups did tremendous work. The collaborative process produced two reports that set clear priorities and aspirations that will guide our work for the foreseeable future.”
Update on Phase One of the Ecosystem Review
GW’s research ecosystem touches numerous offices and divisions across campus. OVPR has been leading a process where those offices can come together and discuss solutions to the 84 recommendations presented in the phase one report, published in February 2019.
While the process is ongoing, a number of changes have been implemented that remove administrative burdens on researchers. Fifty-four of the initial recommendations have been addressed as of early May, and changes related to the remaining 30 are in process. OVPR has been providing regular progress reports on the ecosystem review and recommendation implementation to the Faculty Senate Research Committee.
Some accomplishments following the launch of the ecosystem review:
- A number of processes have moved from paper forms to electronic systems that improve communication and transparency. Processes are being reviewed and changed to ensure that every step or approval is necessary and does not add undue burden or inefficiencies.
- The Finance Division has launched a new tool, Forte Participant Payments, that streamlines the payment of research participants and reduces the administrative burden associated with these transactions.
- OVPR is piloting a new online resource, Protocol Builder, to aid investigators in the development of research studies that involve human volunteers.
- Additional staff have been hired in the Office of Research Integrity for critical quality control and compliance functions.
- User-led advisory committees are being formed to provide regular input into operations and ongoing improvements related to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).
- A new director of Research Technology Services has been hired in the Division of Information Technology to coordinate IT-related support services for GW researchers.
- [email protected] and Beyond, a semester-long course on responsible conduct of research topics, was launched in the spring semester and enrolled its first cohort of participants, including students, faculty and research staff.
- The Office of Sponsored Projects has published documents to clarify the roles and responsibilities of various offices and personnel during key research administration activities.
Implementation of New Electronic Research Administration System is Underway
The phase one report concluded that the modernization of core research infrastructure is essential to support GW’s vibrant and growing research community. In response to feedback gathered during phase one of the review, OVPR is spearheading the implementation of an enhanced electronic research administration (eRA) tool.
Project planning and vendor selection began in spring 2019, with initial implementation efforts beginning in spring 2020. The new eRA tool will replace multiple standalone systems and include a number of features that will make it easier to build and submit proposals, manage sponsored awards and track and report on key efficiency metrics for over 3,000 research faculty and staff.
Key collaborators on this project include the Faculty Senate Research Committee, school research leadership, school research administrators, Office of the Vice President for Research, Continuous Improvement and Business Advisory Services, GW Information Technology, and Grants and Contracts Accounting Services. The system is expected to launch in 2021.