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Saying Goodbye to Paper

Screen shot of Start ePRF page in ResearchUVA

Elizabeth Adams, Assistant Vice President for Research Administration, discusses new-fiscal-year changes to the way UVA manages its sponsored programs

As we begin FY18, we are excited to announce the soft-launch of our Electronic Proposal Routing Form (ePRF) in ResearchUVA and through this, our institutional transition over the next few months to the electronic routing of all UVA proposals. This marks a momentous change in how we operate and is something our research community has been asking for: the ePRF represents a modern, user-friendly and intelligent way of supporting UVA’s growing proposal volume and research appetite.

Managing the University’s sponsored programs portfolio requires use of the latest technology

The business of research at UVA includes more than $1B in proposal activity and $340M in awards annually. We cannot maintain the value of our research enterprise, or create value and support growth, using paper and PDFs. We need a reliable platform and set of processes that ensure we capture complete and accurate data at the proposal stage, facilitating downstream post-award efficiencies as well as data-driven decision making at UVA.

The change we’re making is about more than just a form

While moving to an ePRF is going to benefit us all, it’s important to remember this is a tactical part of a larger strategic University initiative to significantly grow its sponsored research base over the next several years.

The PRF is a valuable tool in the way we manage research

The PRF is an internal UVA document containing critical financial and non-financial data about all proposed extramurally-funded activity. Until two years ago, we were filling out paper PRFs (AKA Goldenrods) to start UVA’s proposal submission process.

A PRF – when it contains accurate and complete information – functions like an executive summary that we use throughout the entire lifecycle of a sponsored program.

Routing UVA proposals electronically will offer us unprecedented efficiency and intelligence within our research enterprise. For the first time, we will have complete transparency into our entire proposal review and submission process and will be able to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the way we manage sponsored programs at UVA.

The ePRF has been designed with the end user in mind, with significant input from schools over the last several months and years about their proposal development and submission processes. We also looked at vendor-supplied systems currently on the market as we designed a form with our users' needs and perspectives in mind.

Why are we doing this?

There are many benefits to moving to an ePRF and electronic routing process for all UVA proposals:

  • We meet research community needs. Researchers and research administrators have been asking for an electronic PRF for several years. Through ResearchUVA, we have delivered a faculty-facing portal, a repository of scanned documents and, over the last year, a view into OSP’s queue of transactions in process. We are proud to now fulfill our promise on the ePRF.
  • We become more efficient and create more transparency to support data-driven decision making. The ePRF will enable us to solicit complete, quality data from ResearchUVA users at the start of the proposal routing and submission process. Complete and accurate data facilitates shared understanding of the proposal, as well as efficiency in processing and reporting. It also reduces rework later by the user and in OSP.
  • We enable system-to-system submissions. The ePRF is a commitment to data in the research enterprise that will ultimately permit UVA to submit federal proposals to the government “system-to-system” via an HTML feed, representing another major efficiency for us to gain (and one which most R1 peers have already achieved some time ago).

What does this mean for you?

This change is designed to benefit us all. On a very practical level, the ePRF and our move to the electronic routing of proposals mean we’re asking people to enter complete and accurate data into a web form (no longer a piece of paper, or even a PDF) to kick off the proposal routing and submission process. You’ll see much of the information is the same as it’s always been. What’s changed is you’ll be using a ‘smart’ form to enter proposal information, helping us minimize errors and duplicative data entry.

The move to the ePRF and electronic proposal routing also means fast and easy access to data we’ve never had access to before. For example, you’ll be able to log into ResearchUVA to check the real-time status of your proposals in the proposal-routing process, document business considerations and decisions related to proposals directly in an enterprise system, and report on data elements such as committed effort or anticipated F&A recovery across proposals.

What we need from ResearchUVA users

The ePRF is now live, and we want administrators and their teams to start using it immediately to begin reaping the above benefits, as well as provide us feedback so we have an opportunity to improve the platform from the user perspective. The early adopters of the ePRF will also benefit from having more time to get used to using the form before all research-active units are required to be working within the system later this summer. 

We will be meeting with school and research administrators over the coming weeks to talk more about our move to the electronic routing of all proposals at UVA. Please submit feedback through researchUVa-help@virginia.edu so we can ensure your questions and comments are forwarded to the appropriate team members for response.