Monday, July 25, 2011

The "Proposal-Award" communication void

For several years I have had a productive working relationship with a client who has funded research in my lab. Of necessity this client has had to fund the research on a year-to-year basis depending on their ability to secure adequate resources. In late 2010 we began negotiations for an extension of the project into the 2011 field year. A work plan and budget were approved in principle by the client and by UVM/OSP and I transmitted the final documents with our standard letter of transmittal on 13 Jan 2011. However, nothing further transpired.

Recently I became aware that this new award was "missing" and after several panicked calls was able to determine that it was likely that the funding was still available and would be awarded as soon as possible.

However, the reaction from OSP (now SPA) on this matter illustrates a management issue that needs to be addressed. Specifically, nobody asked the simple question "Why, after 7 months, have we not heard anything on this award?" In any other corporate entity (and UVM is a corporate entity), if a final work plan had been negotiated with a client who had promised to provide funding, someone would follow up if the client failed to provide the promised award.

So, what was UVM's response? After a period of time the file for this work plan was marked "inactive" and set aside.
No one contacted the client to ask: "Where is that award letter?" No one contacted me to ask: "Do you want us to mark this folder as inactive?" No one contacted anyone to ask: "Should we archive this budget which is still open?" No one asked: "Why is the last entry in InfoEd on this project marked "submitted" with absolutely no follow up?"

We have spent considerable sums in recent years on software and people whose function it is to manage our sponsored programs. The miscommunication I've described here is not acceptable for a university that aspires to be a first-tier research university. The time it has taken me to track down this problem takes away from time that I could be using to analyze data, write papers, teach students, or write proposals. So, it impairs my ability to do research that benefits the state, the university, my students, ...and ultimately me.

We must do better. The key need here is better communication during the critical period between the date a proposal is submitted and the date it is awarded.


No comments:

Post a Comment