Improving Research Administration - Scope & Methodology

UC Berkeley’s world-leading research depends on staff and faculty working collaboratively in an atmosphere of mutual respect in order to obtain and execute sponsored-research projects. Timely and accurate administrative support is essential to Berkeley’s success as a research enterprise.

UC Berkeley is committed to continuously improving its research administrative services, enabling faculty and principal investigators (PIs) to sustain Berkeley’s reputation as the world’s leading center for the creation of new knowledge. Our goals are to:
1) provide effective support to faculty and PIs;
2) ensure that we are using resources safely, ethically, and efficiently; and,
3) foster a high-performing culture and integrated network of processes and systems that lead to continuous improvement.

The  Research Administration (RA) Improvement Initiative will achieve its goals through the efforts of two projects: integrated service delivery and end-to-end process improvements.

Integrated Service Delivery - the "Regional Model"

Results from a survey conducted in February, 2017, indicated that 58% of respondents were “dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied” with research administration end-to-end services and processes.  This is due, in part, to structural problems in the design of administrative services which prevent our dedicated and talented staff from performing at their best.

A new model for delivering integrated research administration and other services has been developed and is currently being piloted. ERSO, the regional services team serving the College of Engineering, the School of Environmental Design, and the School of Information, has been in operations for several years and is considered the first regional service team. The CHaMPS region, serving the College of Chemistry and the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences; and the BEST region, serving the College of Natural Resources and the Division of Biological Sciences both became operational in 2018. The approach is now being deployed across additional regions to support academic and research units across campus with a goal of all regions being operational by early 2019. 

As part of the integrated model, a new web portal for research administration services will be deployed to the pilot region clients for testing and eventual rollout to the entire faculty.

End-to-end process improvements

The services required to acquire, manage, and close-out sponsored-research projects requires several individuals and dedicated teams. In the summer of 2016, the RA improvement initiative created, for the first time, a high-level map of the entire “end-to-end” process of providing these services. Several processes within the end-to-end pipeline were identified as having redundant, unnecessary, or needlessly complex steps.

Together with input from faculty, the initiative team identified which sub-processes were in need of immediate process improvement efforts and assigned dedicated project teams to each effort. Since fall of 2016, three processes, Proposal Development & Submission, Award Set-ups, and Sub-Awards, have identified and implemented improvements to more than 60 sub-processes in the end-to-end pipeline.  In the coming months, new working groups will begin similar improvement efforts on three additional processes: Purchasing,  Sub-Award management, and Award Close-out.