Improving Sponsored Research Turnaround Times: Progress Update

May 8, 2019
Background
In an email sent April 19 to the Northwestern community, Provost Jonathan Holloway and Senior Vice President Craig Johnson outlined the University’s actions to assist the Office for Sponsored Research in resolving backlogs in some parts of the office. This plan included adding new full-time positions, hiring additional temporary staff, and providing monthly progress updates via the Sponsored Research website.
 
May Status Update
In recent months, the Sponsored Research team has made great strides, streamlining internal processes such as onboarding and scheduling while simultaneously filling several staff vacancies. However, hiring and training new staff members does take time. In the weeks ahead, we expect to steadily increase operational capacity as staff complete onboarding and training.
 
Full-time staff
  • In the past seven months, Sponsored Research has hired nine new staff members. Some of these people are very recent hires who are still being onboarded and will be steadily taking on more work as their training progresses.
  • The Corporate Contracts team anticipates hiring a new coordinator dedicated to processing Material Transfer Agreements (MTA) and Data Use Agreements (DUA). This person will start by the first week of June, at which time all Sponsored Research functional teams will be fully staffed. 
 
Additional temporary staff
Sponsored Research also has hired two outside contractors to help specifically with reducing backlogs in Subcontracts and MTAs: 
  • The subcontracts staff member began working with the team April 26 and is currently being onboarded and trained.
  • The MTA contractor completed a three-day onboarding and began working with the team on May 3.
 
Monthly online updates
Sponsored Research is developing a more in-depth performance tracking section that will be added to the existing metrics information already available on the Sponsored Research website.  This new tracking will be available the beginning of June, following the first full month of Sponsored Research operating at increased capacity.