Electronic proposal routing in ResearchUVA: delivering complete transparency into UVA’s proposal review and submission process

Elizabeth Adams head shot

Elizabeth Adams, Assistant Vice President for Research Administration, discusses new-fiscal-year changes to the way Sponsored Programs supports UVA's growing research enterprise

As we begin FY18, Sponsored Programs is excited to announce the soft-launch of the Electronic Proposal Routing Form (ePRF) in ResearchUVA and through this, our institutional transition over the next few months to the online development and routing of all UVA proposals. This marks a momentous change and is something our research community has been asking for.

The link to the ePRF is now live in ResearchUVA and available to anyone who has a ResearchUVA role that enables them to start a proposal (i.e., those who are currently, or have previously been, involved in proposal development). While we want as many people as possible to begin using and reaping the benefits of the ePRF, our most research-intensive schools will manage the ePRF rollout within their own organizations. However, all units will be required to be working within the system later this summer.

Managing the University’s sponsored programs portfolio requires use of the latest technology

The business of research at UVA includes more than $1B in proposal activity and $340M in awards annually. We cannot maintain the value of our research enterprise, or create value and support growth, using paper and PDFs. We need a reliable platform and set of processes that ensure we capture complete and accurate data at the proposal stage, facilitating downstream post-award
efficiencies as well as data-driven decision-making at UVA.

The change we’re making is about more than just a form

The PRF is a valuable tool in the way we manage research  The PRF is an internal UVA document containing critical financial and non-financial data about all proposed extramurally-funded activity. Until two years ago, we were filling out paper PRFs (AKA Goldenrods) to start UVA’s proposal submission process.   A PRF – when it contains accurate and complete information – functions like an executive summary that we use throughout the entire lifecycle of a sponsored program. While moving to an ePRF benefits us all, it’s important to remember this is a tactical part of a larger strategic University initiative to significantly grow UVA’s sponsored research base over the next several years.

Routing UVA proposals electronically offers us unprecedented efficiency and intelligence within our research enterprise. For the first time, we will have complete transparency into our entire proposal review and submission process. We will also be able to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the way we manage sponsored programs at UVA.

The ePRF represents a modern, user-friendly and intelligent way of supporting UVA’s growing proposal volume and research appetite. We created it - working with representatives from schools, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and Organizational Excellence - to be easy to use and understand. We also looked at vendor-supplied systems currently on the market as we designed a form with our users' needs and perspectives in mind.


A new grid view where you can see and access ePRFs in development.
A new grid view where you can see and access ePRFs in development.

Why are we doing this?

There are many benefits to moving to an ePRF and electronic routing process for all UVA proposals:
  • We meet research community needs. Researchers and research administrators have been asking for an electronic PRF for several years. Through ResearchUVA, we have delivered a faculty-facing portal, a repository of scanned documents and, over the last year, a view into OSP’s queue of transactions in process. We are proud to now fulfill our promise on the ePRF. 
  • We become more efficient and create more transparency to support data-driven decision making. The ePRF will enable us to solicit complete, quality data from ResearchUVA users at the start of the proposal routing and submission process. Complete and accurate data facilitates shared understanding of the proposal, as well as efficiency in processing and reporting. It also reduces rework later for the user and OSP, by eliminating errors that must be corrected down the line. 
  • We enable system-to-system submissions. The ePRF is a commitment to data in the research enterprise that will ultimately permit UVA to submit federal proposals to the government “system-to-system” via an HTML feed, representing another major efficiency for us to gain (and one which most R1 peers already achieved some time ago).

What does this mean for you?

This change is designed to benefit us all. On a very practical level, the ePRF and move to the electronic routing of proposals means we’re asking people to enter complete and accurate data into a web form (no longer a piece of paper, or even a PDF) to kick off the proposal routing and submission process. You’ll see much of the information is the same as it’s always been. What’s changed is you’ll be using a ‘smart web form’ to enter proposal information, helping us minimize errors and duplicative data entry.
Image of the sidebar menu as it appears in ResearchUVA
Start your ePRF from the sidebar menu in ResearchUVA

The move to the ePRF and electronic routing also means fast and easy access to data we’ve never had access to before. For example, you’ll be able to log in to ResearchUVA to check the real-time status of your proposals in the proposal-routing process, document business considerations and decisions related to proposals directly in an enterprise system, and report with confidence on data elements such as committed effort or anticipated F&A recovery across proposals.

What we need from ResearchUVA users

Recognizing our most research-intensive schools will manage the ePRF rollout within their own organizations, we want other administrators and their teams to start using the ePRF immediately to begin reaping the above benefits, as well as provide us feedback so we have an opportunity to improve the platform from the user perspective. The early adopters of the ePRF will also benefit from having more time to get used to using the form before all research-active units are required to be working within the system later this summer.

We will be meeting with school and research administrators over the coming weeks to talk more about our move to the electronic routing of all proposals at UVA and will soon be rolling out training and materials to support users. We also welcome your feedback; please share your thoughts via researchUVa-help@virginia.edu so we can ensure your questions and comments are forwarded to the appropriate team members for response.

A big thank you to the ITS Custom Applications & Consulting Services (CACS) team working on the ResearchUVA project for all they do, but especially for their efforts on the ePRF.

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