Helping faculty focus on research

Author: Carol Bradley


A researcher needs to buy a motorcycle to conduct fieldwork for a grant project in a foreign country. Can we do that? How do we handle the purchasing? Who owns it? And what happens to it once the grant has ended?

Faculty may not be trained in business, human resources or risk management. But the Office of Research can now offer faculty the equivalent of a chief financial officer for their research business, says Liz Rulli, associate vice president for research.

The Office of Research was reorganized in the fall of 2011 to better partner with faculty, Rulli says. The initiative was developed by Robert Bernhard, vice president for research, and John Sejdinaj, vice president for finance.

Without good administrative support, research nationally has shown that college and university faculty can spend as much as 40 percent of the time available for research on administrative responsibilities associated with grants.

As a result of the reorganization, about half of Office of Research staffers have been shifted to offices in the colleges, with central support services—training, reporting and systems, contract review and acceptance—housed in Grace Hall. Deployed staffers manage pre-award, post-award and transactional support for research grants.

With the assistance of the Office of Research, Rulli says, “Faculty can focus on the science. Our goal is to help faculty with administrative functions so they can focus on their passions—we want them to achieve their research objectives with a minimum of hassle.”

Moving staff into the colleges makes Office of Research teams readily available to faculty in engineering, science, architecture, arts and letters and other centers and institutes, as well as business and law.

“The teams assist pre-award with getting grant proposals out. They assist post-award with accounting and grant management. We also have a new team, grants business management, that handles things like hiring staff, purchasing equipment and making travel arrangements,” Rulli says.

Different faculty members have different access to support, she notes. “We help by providing support directly, by providing tools and training to existing support staff, and by playing a role in facilitating unusual situations.”

One of the challenges has been getting the word out to faculty about services the Office of Research can offer. The office will be hosting a series of open houses so faculty can meet the teams and find out more. The first takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, 258 Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering. Others will be announced later in the semester.

For more information, contact Melanie DeFord, 631-8805 or, or visit