Two urgent administrative questions preoccupy many principal investigators as they work their way through funded research projects: How much money is left on my grant? Have my graduate students and post-docs been paid?

In the past, faculty without a large support staff needed expert knowledge of PeopleSoft, a pair of reading glasses to contend with the small type on multi-page PDFs and a free afternoon to answer them.

With the launch in early March of a new accounting tool called PI Portal, comprehensive, up-to-the-minute, well organized financial data will be available to faculty researchers two clicks and a net ID log-in from the UVM homepage.

“What used to take me a few hours will now take a few minutes,” said Adrian Del Maestro, associate professor of Physics and director of UVM’s Vermont Advanced Computing Core. “In an age where we’re used to having our banking software on our phone, this is exactly that.”

Brian Prindle, executive director for research administration and integrity at UVM, conceived of the PI Portal project and spearheaded its development over a full year.

“Faculty write grant applications, win grants, do research and then have to shoulder the responsibility of managing the Sponsored Project funds,” he said. “The new portal gives them a tool to quickly, efficiently and accurately monitor their spending, so they can keep tabs on where they are and plan effectively for the future.”

The development and testing work of the PI Portal was done as a partnership between the Sponsored Project Administration and Enterprise Technology Systems. Lana Metayer of SPA and Susan Skalka of ETS collectively used their backgrounds in Sponsored Projects and PeopleSoft to extract the necessary data and assemble it into intuitive, user-friendly pages. PI Portal is easy to navigate and does not require special training or user guides, Metayer said.

During January and February, Prindle, Metayer and Skalka gave over a dozen demonstrations of the PI Portal to more than 40 faculty.

“The reception was very positive and the feedback was great,” Metayer said. Prindle said faculty suggestions have already been incorporated into the portal.

Del Maestro couldn’t be happier. “The PI Portal allows PIs to spend less time focusing on the financial details in the administration of the grant and more time doing science -- and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Faculty reaction like that is music to Prindle’s ears. “Providing a Sponsored Project accounting tool that allows our investigators to focus on what they do best, their research, tells me we did something right, we hit the sweet spot.”

The portal was created for investigators, Metayer said, but it will also be useful for unit administrators who support faculty research activities.

For more information, visit the PI Portal webpage and watch for the Go Live announcement in early March.

PUBLISHED

02-28-2019
Jeffrey R. Wakefield