Texas A&M Stakeholders Operations Committee(TSOC)

On September 1, 2015, the administrative responsibility for The Texas A&M University System Office of Sponsored Research Services (SRS) was transferred to Texas A&M University’s Division of Research, reporting to the vice president for research. Following this transition, the vice president for research established the SRS Transition and Services Operations Committee (TSOC) to assist with the transition of SRS to the University and to continue the efforts of the SRS System Roles and Responsibilities Committee to optimize SRS services for principal investigators. The TSOC consists of research administrators from  A&M System members, SRS management, and representatives from the faculty including the Council of Principal Investigators and the Faculty Senate. 

TSOC and SRS made significant improvements to the services offered by SRS and to the procedures used that affected sponsored research activities. A total of 41 TSOC Recommendations have been submitted to and approved by the vice president for research. With the successful hiring of a new executive director of SRS, Ms. Kristi Billinger, and the implementation of her executive management team, the vice president for research in March 2016, approved the restructuring of the SRS Transition and Services Operations Committee to the Texas A&M Stakeholders Operations Committee, keeping the acronym TSOC. This restructured committee has been asked to address system member level recommendations, while continuing to come up with commonalities where feasible across the clients of SRS. Most importantly, TSOC will take a comprehensive look at research administration in an effort to remove obstacles in policy and procedure. Additional information regarding the restructure of this committee is detailed in TSOC Recommendation No. 41 below.  

 

TSOC Current Membership

Gerianne Alexander, professor and cornerstone fellow, department of psychology (URC)
Helene Andrews-Polymenis, associate professor-Department of Microbial Pathogenesis Immunology (CPI)
Lesley Bell, associate executive director, Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services 
Kristi Billinger, executive director, Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services
Julie Bishop, associate executive director, Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services
Rodney Bowersox, department head, Department of Aerospace Engineering 
Crissy Stratta, associate executive director, Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services
Carol Cantrell, senior associate vice president for research, Division of Research
John Crawford, assistant vice chancellor and chief financial officer, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
Joseph Dunn, chief financial officer, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Les Morey, professor, Department of Psychology (Faculty Senate)
Steve Schulze, assistant vice chancellor, Texas A&M AGRILIFE Research 

 

TSOC Recommendations Focus

  • Provide a Clear Understanding and Documentation of Roles and Responsibilities (SRS, PI, Department, System Member Research Offices, Fiscal Offices, Research Compliance Office, and Other Offices)
  • Develop SRS Organizational Structure That Redirects More Resources and Priority to Core Functions
  • Enhance Services and Processes to Ensure Quality Service and Compliance
  • Enhance SRS Employee Recruiting, Retention and Morale
  • Enhance MAESTRO (User-Friendly, Reflect New Research Administrative Organization)
  • Build Consensus among System Members with a Target for Commonality in Processes
     

Recommendation #1 – Establish Stability in Departmental Assignments of SRS Personnel

Major Concerns

  • Inability to develop strong working relationships with PIs, departments, and SRS
  • Time and effort involved in retraining of SRS staff to support departmental grants, sponsors, etc.
  • Employee morale (SRS & PI)

 
Status

  • Accepted as “Guiding Principle” by SRS
  • Defer implementation until “SRS turn-over” stabilizes

Recommendation #2 – Transfer Industry and “For-Profit” Proposal and Contracts from SRS to System Members

Major Concerns

  • Industry partnerships can best be negotiated close to those making the deal
  • Avoid duplication of negotiations
  • Avoid confusion and frustration from the sponsor that may be working with two groups of negotiators


Status

  • Implemented
  • System members may still require SRS assistance on "federal-flow through" involving industry

Recommendation #3 & #4 – Transfer Purchasing Services to System Members With Project Compliance Remaining at SRS

Major Concerns 

  • Purchasing services at SRS for Texas A&M limited due to Texas A&M’s use of AggieBuy
  • In anticipation of BuyA&M (BAM) - full Texas A&M System implementation
  • Redirect SRS resources to core functions

Status

  • Completed
  • BAM routes to SRS after purchase
  • No major changes to Texas A&M departmental workloads
  • Central “purchasing” services available at DAS (Departmental Accounting Services) (FMO)

Recommendation #5 & #6 – Transfer Travel Services to System Members With Project Compliance Remaining at SRS

Major Concerns

  • Travel services at SRS for Texas A&M limited due to Texas A&M’s use of Concur
  • In anticipation of broader implementation of Concur throughout the System

Status

  • Completed
  • Exception: accounts payable and project compliance to be performed by SRS on unique travel requirements

Recommendation #7 – Create “Award In House” Notifications at SRS

Major Concerns

  • Time lapsing between award and project setup or other communication to PIs and departments
  • Notifications assist PIs and departments in planning, hiring, getting the appropriate compliance permits (IRB/IACUC/IBC/GLP) in place, etc.

Status

  • Completed
  • Implemented with help from MAESTRO

 

Recommendation #8 – Expedited Interim Funding for Eligible Projects 

Major Concerns

  • Need for faster project assignment (target: within 48 hours) to avoid payroll corrections and cost transfers
  • Removal of administrative processes and approvals to allow prompt project number assignment to assist the PI with working on project 

Status

  • Completed
  • Only for eligible federal and state projects
  • Can be no outstanding research compliance issues and proposal must have been sent by SRS to sponsor

Recommendation #9 – Implement A “Core-Function” Management Model

Major Concerns

  • Previous organizational structure did not have proposal administrators being evaluated by director of proposal administration
  • Structure was not conducive to training and building expertise in core functions

Status

  • Implemented

Recommendation #10 - Update Roles and Responsibilities Documentation

Major Concerns

  • Identification and documentation of roles and responsibilities between System members and SRS is critical to organizational effectiveness
  • Updating good efforts of the previous System Roles and Responsibilities Committee with TSOC changes

Status

  • In progress

Recommendation #11 - Establish the "Uploading of Proposal Documents" as a Standard Service of SRS

Major Concerns

  • SRS needs more resources in proposal administration to provide comprehensive services
  • PI and departments were being asked by SRS to upload documents
  • Service determined to be standard service of SRS

Status

  • Completed

Recommendation #12 - Increase the Beginning Salary Rate at SRS to a Level Commensurate with Responsibilities

Major Concerns

  • Starting salaries were too low
  • Inability to recruit and retain
  • Exceptions to starting salaries need to be utilized and supported

Status

  • Implemented
  • Adjustments made to SRS staff salaries to new minimum
  • Other process in place for exceptions

Recommendation #13 -– Establish Eight (8) New Mid-Level Supervisory Positions at SRS

Major Concerns

  • Supervisory span of control was unacceptable
  • Need additional levels of supervisors to assist with services to PIs and training of new SRS employees

Status

  • Implemented
  • Positions approved by human resources
  • Posted and filled by SRS

Recommendation #14 - Adopt a New Career Ladder for the SRS Core Functions and Review Requirements for Promotion, Etc.

Major Concerns

  • Salary ranges need to be increased for SRS core function positions to recruit and retain
  • Position requirements needed to be tweaked to better reflect the nature of the research administrator position
  • Exceptions to standard qualifications should be exercised

Status 

  • Completed
  • Approved by human resources
  • Implemented by SRS
  • Re-reviewing job description to reflect progression through the ladder with help from human resources

Recommendation #15 - Review SRS Budget and Identify Savings from Reorganization that Can Fund Core Functions

Major Concerns

  • Need for more resources in core functions
  • Need to stop doing “back office” services (account payable, purchasing) that can be done cheaper and easier in fiscal offices, etc.
  • Redirect more resources to PI services

Status

  • Completed
  • Will be able to redirect resources to core functions and provide rebates to System members accepting new responsibilities

Recommendation #16 - Transfer All Accounts Payable Functions to System Members with Project Compliance Remaining at SRS

Major Concerns

  • Need to move voucher audit to System member fiscal operations to free up resources for project administration
  • Need to change emphasis from “back office” to “project administration” and issues important to PIs

Status

  • Completed
  • Approved and implementation in progress with programming changes

Recommendation #17 - Disseminate Information on House Bill 1295 Regarding the Disclosure of Sponsors and Data Generated in the Performance of Research

Major Concerns

  • Need to implement and communicate new legislation
  • Need to publish requirements for reference

Status

  • Incorporated as ethics policy
  • Distributed on listserv/Division of Research website
  • Working on incorporating into conflict of interest training

Recommendation #18 - Establish an Organizational Structure where the Supervision of the Project Administrative Areas and under Project Administration

Major Concerns

  • Need to incorporate the supervision of project administrative responsibilities such as cost sharing, salary compliance, project allowability/compliance, etc. under project administration
  • Remove organizational structure obstacles to oversight of comprehensive project administration

Status

  • Completed
  • Organizational structure approved by TSOC and the vice president for research
  • Transfer of employees and reclassification of job titles 

Recommendation #19 - Establish Working Groups to Identify and Recommend on MAESTRO "Difficult to Find" Information

Major Concerns

  • PI input that MAESTRO needed to be more user friendly
  • Administrative input that MAESTRO critical information was difficult to find
  • Other concerns as to MAESTRO training need to be enhanced

Status

  • Completed 
  • Working groups (PI and administrative) established
  • Identified “difficult to find” information and made recommendations as to what was needed

Recommendation #20 - Reduce Reviews and Streamline Processes for "Low-Risk" Charges to Sponsored Projects

Major Concerns

  • Accounts payable/project compliance reviews needed to be streamlined to reduce SRS workloads
  • More emphasis on high risk expenditures should be given by project administration (equipment, consultants, travel, etc)

Status

  • Completed
  • Approved and being implemented in routing of BAM
  • Defining roles and responsibilities of service center (FMO – approval/audit of rates) (SRS – ensuring only approved rates charged to sponsors)

Recommendation #21 - Determine Solutions and Possible Improvements to EPA Process

Major Concerns

  • Delays in routing and approving EPA produce payroll corrections
  • More routing and approving required for salary compliance on sponsored projects
  • More routing and approving required for multi-disciplinary center activities

Status

  • In progress
  • Payroll representatives meeting with working groups 

Recommendation #22 - Determine Process for Project Setup to allow Partial Access to Funds Pending Research Compliance Approvals (IRB/IACUC/IBC/GLP)

Major Concerns

  • Need to support the research activities being performed that are not restricted by research compliance requirements
  • PI needs to perform some work on the project before the request for the appropriate compliance permits (IRB/IACUC/IBC/GLP) can be submitted and approved.

Status

  • Working group met with representatives from SRS, research compliance, TSOC, and PI
  • Working group provided recommendations for solutions

Recommendation #23 - Establish a TSOC Website to Better Communicate Recommendations and Receive Input from Research Community

Major Concerns

  • Need to communicate and solicit input on changes

Status

  • Developed and incorporated into the Division of Research website

Recommendation #24 - Establish a "Pledge" of Comprehensive Preparation of Proposals and Quality Checks If Received by SRS by Deadline

Major Concerns

  • In order to do quality proposal administration and quality assurance, SRS must have sufficient time before sponsor deadline
  • Need to review SRS proposal workload distribution of work among SRS proposal administrators
     

Status

  • SRS with Dr. B. Don Russell, distinguished professor of Electrical Engineering and Chair of the Distinguished Professors Executive Committee, who is facilitating with the transition of SRS, will be reviewing a solution through discussions with PIs and administration
  • SRS executive director is working with the TSOC and VPR on Solutions through discussions with PI's and the administration.

Recommendation #25 - Establish an Acknowledgement from SRS to PI as the PI's "Intent to Submit Proposal"

Major Concerns

  • Need to formalize communications between SRS and PI
  • Establishing relationship between SRS proposal administrator and PI to begin conversations as to needed information, etc.

Status

  • In progress
  • Pending implementation at SRS

Recommendation #26 - Establish a Working Group to Review Supervisory Levels in Project Administration

Major Concerns

  • Need to ensure that project administration has supervisory roles at all levels regarding project administrative responsibilities
  • Ensures “return of the project administrator” and eliminates “conveyor belt” organizational structure at SRS

Status

  • Completed

Recommendation #27 - Review Supervisory Levels Outside of Project Administration

Major Concerns

  • Need to ensure that project administration has supervisory roles at all levels regarding project administrative responsibilities
  • Exception is accounts receivable as separate unit
  • Ensures “return of the project administrator” and eliminates “conveyor belt” organizational structure
  • Elimination of accounts payable, purchasing and travel

Status

  • Completed

Recommendation #28 - Deferred Name Change of Sponsored Research Services (SRS)

Major Concerns

  • Concerns over moving too quickly on name change until TSOC recommendations and SRS organizational structure have been implemented and more visible to research community

Status

  • Completed

Recommendation #29 - Clarify Required Documentation and Backup Needed to Transfer Charges to a Sponsored Project via "Departmental Correction Request (DCR)"

Major Concerns

  • Need to clarify only what is needed for project compliance
  • Ensure requirements provided to SRS
  • Remove any unnecessary departmental administrative burdens

Status

  • Completed
  • Working group to be established

Recommendation #30 - Prioritize Training Needs for SRS with Special Emphasis on System Member Risks

Major Concerns

  • Need to prioritize training needed so resources can be re-directed
  • Need to strengthen training and interface between System member research officials and SRS on difficult issues or risks

Status

  • In progress

Recommendation #31 - Review SRS Services on Research Foundation (RF) Projects to See How SRS Changes Will Impact

Major Concerns

  • Excludes IODP processes performed at IODP
  • Need to review changes in accounts payable, purchasing, travel services, voucher audit, etc.
  • Need to review procedures for System member and SRS approval to use RF

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #32  - Revise and Update the Delegation of Authority from System Members to SRS to Assist with Changes in Personnel that will Not Require Updates to the Authority Documents

Major Concerns

  • Lack of guidance at SRS as to which offices are required to be involved with special requirements or risks
  • Facilitate signature process at SRS through changes in personnel

Status

  • Completed by Texas A&M University
  • System Members in process of updating delegations 

 

Recommendation #33  - Reiterate and Clarify in the Roles and Responsibilities Matrix that All Waivers of Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A)/Indirect Costs Require System Member Approval. This Rate Includes the Use of F&A Rates in the Out Years on a Proposal that are Less Than the Rate Approved By DHHS for the Fiscal Year.

Major Concerns

  • Lack of clarity as to roles and responsibilities and approvals required for resource allocation
     

Status

  • Completed

Recommendation #34 - Establish a Working Group to Address Audit Findings and Comments, and Provide Documentation for Internal Controls

 Major Concerns

  • Lack of consistency across System Members in response to audits, documentation, and internal processes

 Status

  • In progress

Recommendation #35 - Establish a SRS Procedure that requires System Member Approval Prior to Accepting Contract Language Considered to be High-Risk or Relating to Secure Data 

Major Concerns

  • Need to address new federal high risk contract terms relating to but not limited to research data
  • Lack of official internal documentation for high-risk approvals
     

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #36 - Establish SRS as a Consortium of System Members Collaborating to Provide Efficient and Effective Sponsored Research Contract and Grant Management Services to the Campus Research Community 

Major Concerns

  • A consortium arrangement would provide more effective and efficient services and support to stakeholders
  • Need an increased focus on multi-disciplinary research support

Status

  • Being discussed by the Chief Research Officers of the System Members

 

Recommendation #37 - Develop Service Agreements between SRS and Member Clients to Provide Expectations of Service and Turn-Around in Return for Funding Rates

Major Concerns

  • Lack of detail for both Member and SRS roles and responsibilities

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #38 - Strengthen and Complete the TAMU Implementation of MAESTRO Research Data Inventory as a Pilot to see if there is interest in other Members Using this to Address Research Data

Major Concerns

  • MAESTRO is not being used to maintain research data inventory for TAMU in a way that it can be updated by the PI or System Member
  • Lack of data entry services for researchers

 Status

  • Implemented for TAMU grants

 

Recommendation #39 – Establish a Pilot Program for Payment Cards on Sponsored Research Projects

Major Concerns

  • Need to reduce administrative burden on departments

Status

  • In Progress

 

Recommendation #40 - MAESTRO Security and Access to System Members Handling Sponsored Contracts Outside of the SRS Location in College Station

Major Concerns

  • Lack of efficiency due to large number of System Member staff having more than “View Only” access to proposal, contracts, and projects in MAESTRO

Status

  • In progress


Recommendation #41 - TSOC Changes to Committee Name, Structure and Purpose

 Major Concerns

  • TSOC structure needed to reflect the personnel changes at SRS, Which included hiring an executive director, and management team

Status

  • Completed 

 

Recommendation #42 - Establish a Working Group to Determine Processes, Roles and Responsibilities between SRS and System Members for Disallowances or Losses Including Separate Processes for Major and Minor Disallowances 

Major Concerns

  • Non-effective collections of revenues and financial management by SRS

 
Status

  • In progress 

 

Recommendation #43 - Establish a Working Group to Determine Requirements for Time and Effort Reporting Under the New OMB Uniform Guidance Regulations. Assess Current Processes at All Levels with New Requirements and Need for Effective Internal Controls to Meet OMB Requirements.

 Major Concerns

  • Need to reduce researcher administrative burden for compliance process 

 Status

  • In Progress

Recommendation #44 - Establish a Working Group to Develop Better Processes and Written Guidelines for Departments and Colleges as to What Constitutes a Sponsored Agreement Subject to Financial and Administrative (F&A) Versus a Gift for Which No F&A is Assessed as there are No Deliverables, Statement of Work/Proposals or Terms and Conditions

Major Concerns

  • Lack of guidance/clarity on differentiating between a gift and a sponsored agreement 

 Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #45 - SRS Shall Continue to Administer Intergovernmental and Other Inter-Personnel Agreements (IPA) Due to the Need for Proposal Administration, Contract Negotiation, Project Administration, Salary Compliance and Sponsored Billings and Collections Requirements

 Major Concerns

  • Need more effective administration of IPA Agreements and support for faculty engaged in working at another location

Status

  • Complete

 

Recommendation #46 - TSOC Participate in a COGAR Survey on Actions to Reduce Administrative Burdens. Establish a Working Group to prepare a consolidated response from System Members and SRS.

 Major Concerns

  • Nation wide need to reduce administrative burden of research administration and compliance

Status

  • Working group established
  • Survey in progress

 

Recommendation #47 - Review the Distribution of Unrestricted Funds Charged as a Direct to the Project as a Fee for Rights to Future Technologies

Major Concern

  • Need to create more equitable distribution of research revenues not related to funds to perform the project

 
Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #48 - SRS Project Administration Receive Some Background and Training in Coding Information that is Submitted to NSF for National Ranking Purposes.

Major Concern

  • Ensure SRS project set-up assigns the proper Field of Science code to each split project to accurately reflect multi-disciplinary activities
     

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #49 - System Members Further Review and Study the Requirements, Costs and Benefits of Establishing a Crowdfunding Mechanism(s) or by Contracting with an Outside Entity for Services 

Major Concern

  • Provide new potential sources of funds for research activities and for students

Status

  • In progress 

 

Recommendation #50 - Assess the Possibility of Combining or Rewriting some of the Research Compliance Training Programs to Assist with Training Requirements

Major Concern

  • Enhance all research training programs
     

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #51 - Establish Working Group to Develop Written Procedures for Departments, Divisions, and Colleges to Process Non-Payroll Stipend Payments (REU, etc.) on Sponsored Grants Through TAMU Student Financial Aid.

 Major Concern

  • Enhance compliance with OMG Uniform Guidance on payments of scholarship or non-compensation payments to students

 
Status

  • In progress 

 

Recommendation #52 - Identifying the SRS Basic Services Packages to Ensure Equity for All Customers When Paying Assessments to SRS 

Major Concerns

  • Enhance teamwork and equitable return of investment

 
Status

  • In progress

Recommendation #53 - Establish a Working Group to Review Processes for SRS and for System Members to Ensure that Off-Campus Work has the Appropriate F&A Rate as Negotiated by DHHS for the Campus

Major Concerns

  • Enhance F&A compliance with DHHS agreement
  • Mitigate risk and costs of non-compliance in regard to F&A rates charged on federal grants

 
Status

  • In progress

Recommendation #54 - Establish a Working Group to Determine the Processes and Account Structures Needed in Both MAESTRO and FAMIS to Allow for Center Data Management and Accounting in Addition to Accounting by Primary Departments.

Major Concerns

  • Effective management evaluations of centers, departments and colleges as well as proper credit for individual research efforts

Status

  • In progress

 

Recommendation #55 - Add iRIS Replacement System to the Ongoing New Research Information System Initiative in Order to Completely Integrate Compliance with the Grant Management System

Major Concerns

  • Need reliable and easy to use system for compliance and research information

Status

  • In progress

 

Contact Information:

Carol J. Cantrell
Senior Associate Vice President for Research
c-cantrell@tamu.edu

(979) 845.8585