Yale researchers seeking federal grants will soon be able to trade in stacks of tedious forms for a simplified Web-based application, which will be piloted in May.
After paying $7.6 million in December 2008 for allegedly making false claims on federal research grants, the University has begun to streamline the process for faculty to apply for research grants as part of a University-wide overhaul of administrative services called YaleNext. The new application will consolidate the several separate paper forms, previously required to request a grant, into one online template. The computerized form will prompt researchers to enter all of the information necessary to complete their grant proposals — ranging from the facilities they will use to the faculty members who will be involved in the projects.
In December 2006, the U.S. Attorney’s Office accused Yale researchers of using federal funds for purposes outside the terms of their grants by transferring the funds to separate accounts and paying themselves for unrelated work. The $7.6 million settlement in December 2008 concluded a two-year investigation of 6,000 grants Yale faculty had received from 30 different federal agencies. But YaleNext had been created in October 2008 and was already evaluating the grant application process at the time, said Bob Davis, YaleNext’s director of business administration.
“The settlement was an impetus of what was already going on,” said Anne Murray-Randolph, YaleNext’s associate vice president of finance and business. “Everyone knew we needed to do things differently. The settlement just made it more obvious.”
In recent years, the federal government has begun requesting more information from researchers applying for grants, YaleNext team leader John Jibilian said.
Making the transition from the paper application to a Web-based model will allow administrators to cope with the increasing complexity of research grant regulations without accruing additional costs, Murray-Randolph added.
Jibilian, who helped to design the new streamlined grant application, said YaleNext does not want the regulation changes to overburden faculty members applying for grants.
“We want to free up the faculty to do what they do best — their excellent lab work — while supporting them on the administrative side to make sure they adhere to regulations,” Jibilian said.
To save money in recent months, YaleNext has cut back on the number of consultants who would have worked on the grant application project, Murray-Randolph said in December. The decrease in consultants set back the original release date for the application, Jibilian said, and the team expects to release the first piece of the Web application in May, followed by the second pilot the following month. Depending on how successful the application is, Davis said, YaleNext may consider implementing more changes to the grant application process.
YaleNext is also currently finalizing the details of a new interactive tool, set to launch in late spring, that would allow multiple faculty members to work on a research proposal, Davis said. Jibilian added that the new tool would also provide more administrative support.
“This kind of change is a journey,” Jibilian said of YaleNext. “It’s in multiple steps. It requires a real partnership with faculty to move them forward.”
Since its inception in 2008, YaleNext has introduced a series of new administrative systems, including the Employee Service Center, where employees can receive assistance from Human Resources.