Wednesday, February 7, 2018

“Improving the research experience”: The role of RAIT in Research Administration

Since 2014, the Research Administration Improvement Team (RAIT) has met regularly to tackle the issues that slow down the progress of UVA’s research enterprise. Inspired by the ambitious goals set before the organization to expand and enhance research, the group, made up of staff members from a variety of schools and units, has improved technology, processes and culture for the greater good of research at UVA.

Historically, the cross-functional group facilitated by Organizational Excellence has been instrumental in improving communication between Sponsored Programs and the units it serves. They have compiled feedback from faculty and staff for use in shaping new processes. One of RAIT’s most lasting achievements has been helping to bring about ResearchUVA, the in-house developed software platform that facilitates business functions in sponsored programs at the transactional level as well as provides a data analytics and visualization platform.

Carey Reinicke, Senior Research Administrator at SEAS and longtime RAIT member, says the group’s aim has always been to do whatever was needed to improve research administration.

“A variety of issues have come up as things have continued to change in the research landscape,” she said.

“RAIT discusses how those things will affect departments and what changes might be needed to help us all improve our work.”

The changes the group has helped come to fruition have reduced paper and centralized documentation, and have steadily increased the transparency of research administration and the research enterprise itself.

“We started many years ago by getting rid of a manual ‘paper driven’ system resulting in eliminating hundreds of file cabinets worth of paper documentation. This was no small task,” laughed Lee Baszczewski of Organizational Excellence, adding that the changes the group have influenced include a new ‘data driven’ culture that reduces administrative burden on faculty more each year.

As communication increases and availability of data grows, the RAIT has continued to look for additional ways to improve infrastructure and support faculty undertaking research. The group is also focused on supporting a collaborative culture among administrators that matches the collaborative culture of faculty.

2017 has been an especially productive year for RAIT. And the timing of this work could not be better, given UVA’s current unprecedented climb in research growth. 

RAIT Accomplishments in 2017

Projects RAIT helped to shepherd through feedback, testing, and implementation:

At a recent meeting, the group celebrated 2017’s accomplishments, and Baszczewski, along with Elizabeth Adams, Assistant Vice President for Research Administration, commended the group for their continued dedication, and involved the group in identifying additional areas on which to focus in 2018.

Although Reinicke, like all the other RAIT members, keeps a very busy schedule, she is absolutely committed to continuing her work with RAIT, and her commitment is shared by the group’s membership.

“It makes sense that I spend the time and effort to do this,” she said.

“As a member of RAIT, I can help improve everyone’s work. Focusing on the issues and implementing more efficient processes will make my job and everyone else’s job easier. You have to spend the time on the front end to make things better on the back end.”

In 2018, RAIT members will continue to play a vital role in the transformation of how UVA manages sponsored programs, and in ResearchUVA’s ongoing development and prioritization schedule. Currently underway in ResearchUVA is the in-house developed software that facilitates business functions in sponsored programs at the transactional level as well as provides a data analytics and visualization platform. a major improvement in the way sponsored awards are recorded and tracked.

Current RAIT membership:

Emily Patrick, Organizational Excellence
Lee Baszczewski, Organizational Excellence
Elizabeth Adams, Sponsored Programs
Vonda Durrer, Sponsored Programs
Urmila Bajaj, Sponsored Programs
Kelly Morrison, Sponsored Programs
Alice Reuther, Sponsored Programs
Kristy Hall, Sponsored Programs
Andrew Sallans, Sponsored Programs
Chris DiVita, ITS CACS
Timothy Mulholland, ITS CACS
Stewart Craig, School of Medicine
Lauren Armstrong, School of Medicine
Katie Winters, Batten School
Carey Reinicke, SEAS
Catherine Church, SEAS
Ruthanne Porreca, SEAS
Danielle Richardson, Curry
Catherine Thompson, Curry
Anjula Joseph, VPR
Cheryl Wagner, VPR
Erika Priddy, Finance Outreach & Compliance
Neal Grandy, Arts and Sciences
Christine Holt-Hull, School of Architecture
Christopher Peper, Curry
Gareth Evans, Sponsored Programs
Ashley McFadden, School of Nursing

Read more about research growth at UVA

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