Recently there have been a number of announcements that have caused some concern and we (ORS) would appreciate the opportunity to clarify our intent and communicate what we are attempting to accomplish.
The communications in question relate to the new 2 day grant submission internal deadline introduced on January 1, 2014 and $100 late charge for grant applications that do not meet this deadline.
The ORS standard is to provide expert support to researchers and ensure that all grant applications are reviewed, signed, and successfully uploaded on the variety of e-submission platforms used by the research community. The average length of internal deadline amongst our peer U15 institutions is 3-7 days, so we are already shaving the deadline to the bone to enable researchers to spend as long as possible on their applications.
Our real challenge at ORS is volume. We just can’t manage a last day influx of 200 NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC submissions, which often come within a few days of other sponsors’ deadlines, and expect to complete a quality administrative review in ORS. This administrative review is important. We are still finding problems that would, without review in ORS, cause an application approval failure. Coordinating revisions and follow up on missing documents takes time and resources. In this new age of zero tolerance at the federal funding agencies, if there are any mistakes made during the submission process then the researcher has no recourse and the submission will be rejected. The two day internal deadline gives us barely enough time to complete an administrative review and ensure success in uploading grant applications and providing institutional approval.
The goal of the $100 late filing processing fee is not to be a money-making venture, but instead to hopefully dissuade researchers from last minute submissions or, when necessary, provide new resources for ORS to hire new staff to assist in admin reviews. The ORS budget has been effectively cut over the last 3 years and we have been forced to close 2 positions. This is in a time when the workload is increasing. We just do not have adequate staff to complete last minute reviews and provide service for researchers and their teams on questions related to upcoming grant submissions.
However, we understand that unforeseen circumstances can make last minute submission the only option. We are always willing to try to accommodate a last minute submission if there is a good reason and we are given advance notice!
We have been asked if researchers can submit a draft of the proposal with institutional signatures to ORS and then continue to work on the proposal up to one day before the sponsor deadline before routing the proposal electronically to ORS for review. Assuming no budget and only minor changes to the science and experiment plan, this would have been fine in the past for paper submissions where the researcher handled the actual submission to the sponsor. The electronic submission process has streamlined the process in many ways, but has put responsibility on to ORS for the successful submission of these applications. ORS’ role goes beyond reviewing just the application itself, but also requires confirmation of a variety of details (eg, the inclusion of the correct CVs, required letters of support, mandatory signature pages, etc) as well as the final submission.
For example, the CIHR Operating grant uses the ResearchNet e-portal for preparation and submission. ORS does not have access to the application until it is submitted by the PI to ORS for approval. Only when the PI submits on the portal can ORS verify that the application is whole and attachments are correct even with a draft version supplied in advance. To give a sense of the volume ORS deals with, at the end of February, 2014, there were two major deadlines by CIHR and MSFHR that fell within a few days of each other. Over 390 applications were submitted alone for just these two competitions.
As electronic submissions processes and systems evolve in the future, ORS will continue to work to minimize the administrative burden from the research community. Deadlines as well will be kept as short as possible to achieve success in the research proposal review and submissions processes.
Director, Office of Research Services
Associate Vice President Research