Announcer: From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland this is All About Grants.
Megan Columbus: Welcome to another edition of All About Grants. My name is Megan Columbus. I’m from the NIH Office of Extramural Research. Today I have with me Scarlett Gibb. Scarlett leads the Electronic Research Administration team who is responsible for the eRA Commons. NIH has a longstanding history (you may not always believe it out there) of working hard to reduce the administrative load on scientists so they can focus more on their research. Today, we’re going to be taking about a feature in the Commons that has recently been improved, that helps investigators and administrators to delegate tasks. Scarlett, can you talk to me a little bit more the purpose of the delegation feature?
Scarlett Gibb: Sure. The delegation feature is just as it sounds. It allows the scientists to delegate a lot of their administrative tasks, as you said, to the administrative staff members in the institution. So, it allows scientists to delegate things like grant reporting needs and fixing their own personal data and looking at things that come in through submission.
Megan: What are some of the more common tasks that an investigator might delegate?
Scarlett: Well, an investigator will probably delegate things such as status, which allows other staff members to view the status of their applications and help them with the submission process.
Megan: So by status we’re talking about being able to view as the application’s coming in, being able to see..?
Scarlett: The application coming in, see if we’ve received it, if there are errors or warnings that they need to address before the deadline date, and where it is in peer review, basically, what progress it’s made, and if it’s been awarded.
Megan: And that would also allow the person who is delegated this authority to view the application image in the Commons? And to see the study section assignment in the Commons?
Scarlett: Yes. They may see the study section assignment. They can see the date of the study section and the application itself.
Megan: Can they see the scores?
Scarlett: No, they may not see the scores. That is one of the things that we, as a policy, have stated that only the principal investigator is allowed to see the review outcomes. Those outcomes include the percentiles, the impact scores, and the summary statement.
Megan: So that an investigator could feel confident in delegating knowing that their information that’s protected still remains protected.
Scarlett: That is correct. And if they feel they wish to share these things with their administrators then they may personally do that outside the system.
Megan: What are other things that investigators may be interested in knowing that they can delegate?
Scarlett: Well, another big delegation that allows them to free up a lot of their time is progress reporting. We have given them the ability to delegate not the submission, but the preparation of progress reports to other administrative staff, so that they may prepare things such as the work on the human subject’s portion, the checklist, the budgets, things like that. Another delegation we have for the principal investigators is xTrain, which allows them to delegate their duties regarding a training grant. So if they’re the principal investigator on a training grant, they can delegate the administrative duties of nominating, appointing trainees, amending the trainees’ appointments and terminating—initiating the terminations of those appointments to administrative staff. The last delegation that we have for scientists is for all scientists, and it is for post docs, trainees, principal investigators, and it allows them to delegate the editing of their personal profile to other people in their staff. This is something that the principal investigator, if they wish to, has to do themselves. The administrator, the signing official, of their institution, may do some of the other delegation for them, such as progress reports; however, because of the personal nature of this, we require that the person delegating the personal profile actually click that button for delegation themselves. And it allows your assistant to do things such as change your personal information such as degrees, addresses, phone numbers, emails…
Scarlett: Publications, it does allow them to work on your publications.
Megan: Does NIH limit the PI’s ability to delegate particular tasks?
Scarlett: There are particular tasks that cannot be delegated by a PI, things such as initiating the progress report, as I stated earlier. It is a legal sign-off for us, and because there are certain tasks in the eRA Commons that we use as electronic signature, such as initiating and then routing your progress report, it is a legal sign-off on the PI’s portion, and things such as submitting your appointments and your amendments to NIH, those are also signatory authority and therefore cannot be delegated to anyone.
Megan: For those training grants, right. So the thing that I’m always impressed with your team is that you work closely with users as you’re developing new features. I think that’s particularly important. Often times people think that government agencies are working over there without any consideration to the processes and institutions, and I’d like to throw out some kudos for you because I think you work really hard to make sure that you try and understand how institutions are using features and to implement things that will help streamline rather than hamper.
Scarlett: Thank you. We do try to walk that fine line where we’re meeting the NIH needs for policy and requirements, and helping the institutions perform their duties as easily as possible.
Megan: The delegations features not just for scientists. Are there things that administrators could delegate?
Scarlett: There are some tasks that administrators can delegate, and actually can delegate some tasks for the scientists also. So they can allow a principal investigator to submit their own progress reports as the signing official for the institution.
Megan: And so that delegation of being able to submit progress reports directly from the investigator is actually an institutional decision.
Scarlett: It is an institutional decision, and we have found mostly that a whole institution allows all their scientists or none of them to do it; however, there is the option for the administrator to pick and choose the scientists they feel are responsible and can submit their own.
Megan: Is there anything else you think folks need to know?
Scarlett: Just that they should if they have not become familiar with the new delegation process, they should get in there and take a look at it. We’ve made it a lot easier. Before you used to have to go into each function to actually do the delegation, such as go into the xTrain function to delegate xTrain. It’s all now right on one screen it allows you to pick and choose which functions you wish to delegate.
Megan: Thanks so much for joining us today. For NIH and OER, this is Megan Columbus.
Announcer: To find the delegations screen, log into your eRA Commons account and click on the Admin tab.