Directing, coordinating and facilitating that enormous volume of research activity falls under the supervision of the Office of the Vice President of Research (OVPR), and one especially critical determinant of success is what happens at the pre-award level. That’s where Shari Thompson, Research Enhancement Analyst, brings her impressive skills and InfoReady’s capabilities to the fore.
Prior to InfoReady, GW’s OVPR staff utilized email and massive Excel spreadsheets for limited submissions and internal competitions. Not surprisingly, they experienced the same issues affecting manual administration at other institutions – errors, inconsistencies, unopened emails, lost files, and huge outlays of administrative time and workload required for each competition. “It makes me cringe when I think of it,” recalls Shari.
After familiarizing herself with the InfoReady platform, Shari began exploring limited submissions using two major intramural competitions as a test bed, with the latter actually the first use case at GW. “I prepared a draft set of instructions,” Shari noted, “included a link, and asked applicants to input their information into the InfoReady portal. I made certain to write my instructions in plain English, sequentially added every step beginning with how to log on, and clearly communicated what needed to be submitted by when. I also provided open and close dates and added the official OVPR ‘notice to proceed to sponsor submission’ when appropriate.”
From Learning to Teaching
Part of Shari’s role at that time, and one which remains of primary importance, was training other InfoReady users. “I’d ask other units and departments if they needed InfoReady training, then go around with my PowerPoint presentation and even offer to come to individual offices for one-on-one training. I was always accessible and that seemed to be a key to adoption. Everyone I worked with was very receptive, too, although, to be fair, I think my science background also helped in terms of credibility and acceptance, especially in the early days. That said, I’ve found more admins today being educated on the science side and I think that really helps immensely.”
Consistency is Beautiful
“One of the perhaps understated benefits of InfoReady, at least for me, is that it mandates consistency as part of the process, and that’s so critical in terms of both helping applicants and reviewers and achieving greater award success. Before we started using InfoReady, we’d have to manually catch any skipped or incorrectly
completed fields and send them back to the investigator or reviewer or the application couldn’t go forward. With InfoReady, the application can’t be submitted unless required fields are completed, so while that may seem a minor issue, it’s really a huge one in terms of saved time and frustration for everyone involved.
Shari goes on to explain that another significant benefit of the platform is that, thanks to the InfoReady developer staff’s enthusiasm for continuously improving and adding functionality, she’s been able to maximize her own proficiency. “For example, I was able to shorten and simplify our limited submission competition forms to a two-page version that doesn’t even require a budget submission, just a project summary, requested amount, key personnel, and a CV. Now it takes me only two or three minutes to launch any limited submission.”
To learn more, read the full case study.