Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: My Research Application & My Research Animal Protocols, RAISE (Research Administration Improvement & Systems Enhancement)
Year Submitted 2016
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Patrick Boal RAISE Project Manager, Office of the CIO
Judith Chadwick Assistant VP, Research Services & CAO
Professor Lori Ferris Associate VP for Research Oversight and Compliance
Cathy Eberts Director Solutions Development, Office of the CIO
Name of Institution University of Toronto
Office Address 215 Huron St.
Tornton, Ontario M7A 1A2
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Telephone: 416-559-8109
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Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Scott Mabury
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President, University Operations
Office Address 114, Simcoe Hall
27 King's College Circle
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1
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Telephone: 416-978-0231
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Abstract

The University of Toronto strives to consistently rank among the top ten public universities in the world. The University, along with its affiliated teaching hospitals, receives in excess of $1 billion in research funding annually from external sponsors. Of this, the University directly administers approximately $400M for 3,900 U of T researchers arising from 3,500 applications annually to over 600 unique sponsors.

World-class researchers, however, need and deserve world-class administrative support.

The Research portfolio, in partnership with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, initiated project RAISE (Research Administration Improvement & Systems Enhancement) to develop more effective and efficient business processes and on-line tools associated with research administration. The goal of RAISE is to establish the U of T as Canada's leading institution in research administration through the development of state-of-the-art tools and processes that ensure the effective, efficient, complete, accurate and transparent management of research activities, harmonized across central service units and partner offices in the academic divisions. As a result, the responsible management of research funds will be easier for everyone involved at U of T.

In spring 2013, the Division of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI), in partnership with the Division of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), replaced the previous aper-based process for internal review and approval of research applications with a webenabled solution - My Research Applications (MRA). MRA is now available to all faculty members at the U of T who are eligible to undertake independent research resulting in significant productivity savings across the institution and is the central component in a larger group of technological and business process projects that make up the RAISE project. Building on this success, the RAISE team recently launched MRAP (My Research Animal Protocols), providing Principal Investigators (Pis) with real-time access to their animal protocol information.

Both MRA and MRAP seamlessly integrate with the University of Toronto Human Resources Systems (HRIS), Research Systems (RIS), and Identity Management systems allowing for real time access to research applications within a highly secure environment, while eliminating many of the redundant data entry of the previous paper systems.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.
Transferability

Many institutions have implemented systems which automate the submission of research applications to their institutional research office. What sets MRA and MRAP apart is the scale and complexity of the institution and resulting processes for which the solution was designed. As such, it is the project approach, methodology, and application designs which the U of T would be most pleased to share with other institutions. The following summarizes the main areas of transferability to other institutions:

Project Approach: The success of this project is the result of a highly trusted partnership between the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Research Portfolio. Information as to how this was accomplished through the establishment of a dedicated Project Leadership Group comprised of senior staff within both areas, along with the structure of our project team of Information Technology (IT) staff, external consultants, and research services staff can be shared with other institutions.

Requirements Methodology: A thorough analysis of business processes prior to coding taking place was conducted by team. This very complex process yielded many lessons other institutions may also be struggling with such as: thresholds established by the U of T for decision making, options for delegation of responsibilities, security requirements, and our iterative approach to obtaining buy-in by various stakeholders.

Application Designs: While the resulting application is tightly integrated with the U of T Enterprise Systems, other institutions may be interested in our screen designs and structured process flows. These designs are extensive, including over 40 screen layouts and 35 process flows. The application captures much of the information required for regulatory requirements and the process flows accommodate the complexities involved in research oversight required at both the divisional and central levels. The University would be pleased to share the results of this work should others wish to design a similar system.

Quality Impact

Significant improvements in the quality of research applications and animal protocols have now been realized with the implementation of the new system. Since going live in spring 2013, approximately 10,000 applications have been submitted through the system. The application provides Pis with real-time access to their research proposals, protocols, permits, and funded research. The integration of the application with our enterprise systems eliminates the need for the re keying of data at critical stages of the application process, significantly reducing the potential for human error. Research application documents are now stored in a secure on line environment and are available to Pis, academic dministrators and staff, eliminating the need for the storage of paper and providing for considerable positive environmental impact. The system evaluates eligibility guidelines and ensures only those who meet these guidelines are able to submit applications or are authorized to approve applications in progress. Prior to MRA/MRAP, many applications lacked appropriate signatures and adherence to the strict regulatory guidelines regarding the use of human subject and animal protocols, and environmental health and safety permits, seriously compromising the University's research enterprise and its reputation. These issues have now for the most part been resolved. Optimized processes automatically route applications to the appropriate internal approvers providing for a comprehensive and transparent audit trail of all transactions, simplifying document retention, and facilitating compliance which is key to the retention of $400 million in annual research funding at the institution.

Productivity Impact

The RAISE project has revolutionized the way the University of Toronto administers over 3,500 research applications annually to over 600 unique sponsors and has already produced substantial savings and improvements in risk management as detailed above. At present approximately 3,900 U of T researchers have access to the new system. A conservative estimate of the cost savings resulting from the improved processes for faculty, staff and administrators, as well as material savings in paper, amount to approximately $300,000 for research applications (MRA) and $238,000 for animal protocol process (MRAP) annually.

Innovation

MRA automates the approval work-flow for research applications at the University and eliminates the "guesswork" in the determination of the proper internal approval hierarchy and the appropriate individuals. The core functionality of MRA/MRAP is 'role based' and key players have their roles assigned based on their HR record. Departmental chairs automatically have access to the system when they assume their role. This innovation renders the management of access to the tools possible. In order to accomplish this systematic automation the system had to be: a) programmable, both for implementation and long-term maintenance, and; b) comprehensible for users. Business rules and roles were harmonized across the institution and maintenance of those overarching functions is controlled centrally. However, due to the size and complexity of the institution there was a need to provide local users with the ability to configure some aspects of the workflow, e.g. while departmental chairs are derived from the Human Resources organizational structure, the Chair him/herself is able to designate his/her own alternate when on vacation. In a complex, distributed institution as large as the University of Toronto, the challenge of developing an application which allows for this flexibility while maintaining process flows that meet regulatory requirements, is a major challenge. The successful collaboration across administrative and academic units demonstrated in meeting this objective may be among the project's greatest cultural innovations.