UW logo
Office of Research (OR)

Historic Service & Process Improvements

Since becoming Vice Provost for Research, Mary Lidstrom has been focused on core areas of faculty concern and improving the day-to-day work environment of researchers. In her own words, Lidstrom expands on the the services improvements offered through the Office of Research (OR) and its units: OSP, ORIS and HSD.

Developing Alternate Sources for Research Funding

OR's Bridge Funding Program helps support key research programs that have lost or have yet to establish extramural support. Although the funds for this program are quite limited, the program does offer faculty a new source of financial support as they face increased competition for limited federal and non-federal funds. Funded by the Provost’s Office, the program’s structure and decision-making guidelines are based on the recommendations of a faculty advisory committee.

Additionally, OR’s Royalty Research Program provides support to faculty exploring new directions in research, scholarship or the arts. Since it was started in 1992, the RRF program has funded over 900 projects in the arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, and natural sciences, and provided over $21 million in research support to UW faculty. Although the individual grants are relatively small, RRF funding has had big impact on many UW academic careers, enabling faculty members to compete successfully for further funding from more traditional sources and pursue important new directions in their work.

Enhancing Compliance Services

Promoting responsible research practices is central to the mission of OR, and we've devoted much of our energy to this area since I became vice provost. We're enhancing OR's compliance services related to human subjects protection and conflict of interest, and collaborating with other UW compliance offices to develop coordinated policies and processes that are clear, consistent, and whenever possible, ease the administrative burdens on PIs.

Our goal is to provide members of the research community with the services, tools and information they need to ensure compliance. Joe Giffels, our Associate Vice Provost for Research Compliance and Integrity, will provide crucial leadership in these efforts, and I encourage you to contact Joe with ideas about how we can continue improving compliance services at the UW.

Recent achievements

  • Reduced review time for industry-sponsored clinical trials, most of which are now managed through a contract with Western IRB.
  • Reduced review time for many cancer-related studies. HSD has developed a new collaborative relationship with the Fred Hutchinson IRB, which now reviews studies by UW faculty who are members of the Cancer Consortium. Because of its expertise in cancer research, the Fred Hutchinson IRB can provide quicker turnaround for these projects.
  • Enhanced web-based information and training resources, developing new customized courses for Biomedical and Social/Behavioral researchers, staff and students.
  • Developing metrics to identify areas for overall quality improvement in UW's oversight of human subjects research.
  • Improving the minimal risk review process. HSD's goal is to significantly reduce the review time for minimal risk applications.
  • Implementing new database for managing review process and cutting review time.

Designing and Implementing Electronic Research Administration Systems  

We’re committed to rebuilding the University’s infrastructure for research administration, and positioning the UW to excel in the decades ahead. The Office of Research Information Systems is providing leadership as the University transitions from a paper-based to electronic research administration (ERA), and the entire research community -- faculty, deans and chairs, and the many UW offices that provide administrative support to researchers – is partnering in the design of these new systems. Our goal is to develop a cohesive, user-centered ERA system, with the strength to meet current users’ needs and the flexibility to adapt quickly as those needs change.

Recent achievements

  • Streamlined management of the UW’s ERA project, creating a tiered decision-making process that’s more responsive to changing user needs.
  • Collaborated with School of Medicine to produce a new online guide that offers step-by-step instructions for using Grants.gov, with information and resources tailored to the needs of UW researchers. Although written with health sciences researchers in mind, the guide is proving to be a useful resource for researchers across campus.
  • Developed new SAGE features that allow users to upload, route, and review files related to grant applications. Launch of the new tools will be phased over several months, so that the SAGE team can monitor system performance and users’ experiences. The new tools will be available campus-wide in time for major spring application deadlines.

Supporting Researchers During the Transition to Grants.gov

OR and OSP are providing support to researchers as they work with Grants.gov, which has created sweeping changes in the federal grants submission process. Over the past year, Office of Sponsored Programs staff have collaborated with the research community to anticipate potential problems, and develop a range of resources and strategies to help PIs and research administrators.

  • OSP developed a central website -- Grants.gov at the UW – to serve as the central access point for Grants.gov resources and information, including updates from sponsors, online training resources, and access to a network of peer mentors who can assist users with Grants.gov applications to specific agencies.
  • Collaborated with schools and colleges to identify potential problems with Grants.gov, and develop a coordinated response to Grants.gov at central and departmental levels.
  • Produced a series of classes, demonstration sessions and online training resources to assist users applying for funding through Grants.gov.
  • Added temporary staff in OSP to process submissions before key deadlines.

Building Interdisciplinary Leadership

To be an effective advocate for researchers, I believe that OR needs a leadership team that reflects the complexity and quality of the UW research program. I couldn't be more pleased with the group I've recruited to work with me. They understand the needs and strengths of the UW research community and are skilled at building partnerships across academic boundaries. Each associate vice provost is targeting specific OR activities.

  • Joe Giffels:  research compliance and integrity
  • Carrie Harwood:  centers/institutes, limited submissions (including Bridge Funding), federal relations
  • Mani Soma:  industry relations, APL, PNNL, international

Clarifying Policies, Processes and Procedures

Achieving administrative transparency is a fundamental part of our overall effort to restructure and enhance OR’s client services, engineer better research business systems throughout the UW and ensure that UW research policies are understood and shared by our stakeholders. Over the past year, we’ve worked with the research community to identify inefficiencies and inconsistencies in our processes and policies and to examine how OR’s systems overlap and interact with other UW units. In some cases, we’ve found that although a policy is sound, we need to simplify or clarify our explanation of it, and in other areas clear-cut policies or procedures still need to be developed or documented. Some examples of our ongoing efforts in this area are now available online—

Enhancing communication

In an institution as large and complex as the UW, where there is so much work to do, it’s easy to lose sight of how the work of one person or one unit fits within the larger goals of clients, colleagues and the University. Over the last year and a half, OR has been working with the university community to address this problem by building better communication networks, identifying key communication gaps and developing new approaches for bridging them.

Web Portal for Business Users

OR collaborated with Development, Tech Transfer, and Marketing to develop a central access point for these users. A featured link on the UW homepage, the portal offers business users easy access to UW resources and helps foster valuable interactions between the private sector, students and faculty.

Communicating the Value of Research

The UW is a public university, created and owned by Washington’s citizens. As our partners, they have a right to know how research relates to their concerns and benefits their lives. Just as important, we need to clarify how the research program enriches and broadens students’ educational experience. With the leadership of colleagues in External Affairs, OR is collaborating on new initiatives to communicate these messages more clearly, both within and outside the University. I invite you to look at one example of these efforts -- Ideas with Impact, a new feature on the OR website, which offers concrete examples of the many ways UW research benefits the State’s citizens.