Effort Reporting at UTHealth

Frequently Asked Questions about Effort Reporting

  1. What is effort reporting?

  2. How precise must my certification be?

  3. Why can't a departmental administrator certify my effort for me?

  4. Who is required to certify?

  5. How often must I certify my effort?

  6. Are there any other obligations related to Effort Reporting that I am obligated to fulfill in addition to certifying annually?

  7. What is ECRT, and what is its relationship to Effort Reporting?

  8. Is training in effort reporting required, and if so, how will it be made available?

  9. What happens if I don't complete the certification?

  10. My effort on the various projects which I work on varies during the year. Is it necessary for me to change the way my salary is funded to reflect short-term fluctuations?

  11. I didn't know about these effort rules when I filled out my grant application. Is it too late to fix the problem now?

  12. Is there a maximum level of effort that can be charged to sponsored projects?

  13. Can administrative staff be directly charged to my sponsored project?

  14. Is the time that I devote to writing grant proposals chargeable to sponsored projects?

  15. If I conclude that I need to reduce the effort on (and therefore the salary charged to) my sponsored project, where will the funding for that non-sponsored effort come from?

  16. What is Committed Effort?

  17. Who must certify their Committed Effort?

  18. When we have individuals on funding from another school within UTHealth whose responsibility is it to remind the PI to sign off? Should I notify the PI or the other school effort coordinator or both?

  19. I have some funds that are clinical contracts with hospitals, etc. and they always show up as “sponsored projects”. In the past I have sent a list of individuals paid on these contracts that do not require effort reporting to effort@uth.tmc.edu to have them automatically processed. Will this still be the case?

  20. I have an individual with multiple positions in different departments/ schools. If one position was not certified and became delinquent, the PI would say he/she had certified the effort card not knowing there was another position. Who should contact the other department/school to certify the remaining lines?

  21. Is there a report that shows effort by individual/department for the six month or fiscal year period?

  22. What is the retro personnel action process and the steps once an effort card has been closed out and needs to be reopened and certified?

  23. Since clinical trial payments are typically received only when milestones are met, there is usually a lag time involved in getting enough money in a clinical trial account to where you can assign salaries. What is the best practice in this case?

  24. What is the process of certifying effort for faculty that are above the salary cap and have several staff reporting to them under ecrt®?

  25. We recently came into some issues with our research faculty where they were 100% budgeted on a grant. This grant was approved several years ago and only recently did we get flagged for exceeding the maximum effort. We as the department were unaware that this was an issue since the grant itself was intended to recruit these faculty (Emerging Technology Grant).

  26. Is Maximum effort based on the 6 month effort period or by fiscal year? Should we just average the maximum effort over the 6 month/fiscal year period or is it at all times? For example, could I have a faculty 100% sponsored for half the year and then 50% sponsored/50% departmental for the other half of the year and not need the maximum effort waiver because averaged over a year it will be within policy?

  27. What happens when an effort card is put on hold?

  28. How do I look at historical effort cards?

  29. When is the data loaded to ECRT?

  30. What happens if a PI/Faculty has left before certifying?

  31. Can an account be added to an effort card for cost sharing purposes only?

  32. Can I attach documents to an effort card?

  33. Why does the effort coordinator have to process an effort task from the Manage Effort Tasks?



Q: What is effort reporting?

Answer: Effort reporting is the federally-mandated process. The purpose of the process is twofold:

  1. To document that the salary charged to a sponsored project is reasonable in relation to the effort expended on that project

  2. To ensure that commitments to the sponsored projects are fulfilled.

Discussion: During the course of the year, the University charges salaries to sponsored projects and other accounts based on allocation instructions (i.e., the percentage of salary to be charged to one or more sponsored projects or other accounts based on committed effort) provided by administrative department personnel acting upon instructions from Principal Investigators and/or others who oversee those sponsored projects. Federal regulations require that throughout the course of the year, these charges be monitored to ensure that any significant change in effort or workload results in a change of the salary distribution. Certification is required twice a year. The certification periods are January-June and July-December.

Q: How precise must my certification be?

Answer: Federal regulations clearly acknowledge that precise determinations are not expected, and that reasonable estimates are acceptable. To quote directly from OMB Circular A-21, "it is recognized that, in an academic setting, teaching, research, service and administration are often inextricably intermingled. A precise assessment of factors that contribute to costs is not always feasible, nor is it expected. Reliance, therefore, is placed on estimates in which a degree of tolerance is appropriate." Consistent with the Federal regulations, you are obliged to use your best judgment in your certification, taking into consideration all of the activities that you were engaged in during the course of the reporting period. 

Q: Why can't a departmental administrator certify my effort for me?

Answer: University policy requires faculty to certify for themselves and their project staff. As noted above, Federal regulations require a certification that the salary charged is reasonable in relation to the effort expended. The regulations further require that the certification be signed by the principal investigator, responsible official or employee, using suitable means of verification. In the past, following the broad Federal requirement, the University has permitted a variety of individuals to certify effort, as long as they have the requisite knowledge to do so. The University with input from UT System has determined that best practices dictate that faculty self certify their effort. In addition, a principal investigator is now required to certify the effort of others charged to his/her sponsored project.

Q: Who is required to certify?

Answer: All faculty members who receive any portion of their salary from a sponsored project, or otherwise provide effort on a sponsored project, must self certify their effort. In addition, a principal investigator is required to certify the effort of most other staff who devote effort to his/her sponsored project.

Q: How often must I certify my effort?

Answer: Certification is required twice a year. The certification periods are January-June and July-December. There is a limited period of time during which the certification process may be done; each year, you will be notified when the certification period begins and the date by which the certification must be completed.

Q: Are there any other obligations related to Effort Reporting that I am obligated to fulfill in addition to certifying annually?

Answer: Yes, you should monitor your salary allocation, via ECRT or through your monthly statements of account, to ensure that adjustments are made timely.

Q: What is ECRT, and what is its relationship to Effort Reporting?

Answer: ECRT (Effort Certification Reporting Technology) is an online tool that facilitates both annual effort certification and monitoring requirements.

Q: Is training in effort reporting required, and if so, how will it be made available?

Answer: Effort Reporting does not require mandatory training; however it is highly suggested that users utilize the resources on the Effort Reporting website to become familiar with the concepts and processes of effort reporting. Training resources about the ECRT system are available on the training page of this website. Additional training is available via the SPA Training sessions. 

Q: What happens if I don't complete the certification?

Answer: All faculty members are required to certify, within a timeframe mandated by the University. Failure to satisfy this requirement will be subject to the escalation schedule and corrective action plan that the university developed and implemented on June 1, 2010. 

Q: My effort on the various projects which I work on varies during the year. Is it necessary for me to change the way my salary is funded to reflect short-term fluctuations?

Answer: No. The Federal regulations specifically acknowledge that this occurs, and state that short term fluctuations (such as one or two months) need not be considered as long as the distribution is reasonable over the reporting period (six months). 

Q: I didn't know about these effort rules when I filled out my grant application. Is it too late to fix the problem now?

Answer: No. If you have concerns about your grant application, contact Sponsored Projects Administration. 

Q: Is there a maximum level of effort that can be charged to sponsored projects?

Answer: The required maximum level of committed effort for a university primary individual who has effort commitments on sponsored projects is as follows:

Faculty Position

Max Effort

Executive Leadership (Presidents, Vice Presidents, Deans, Institute Directors)       

70%

Academic Leadership (Department Chairs, Division Directors )

80%

Tenured and Tenure-track Faculty

90%

Non Tenure-track Faculty

95%


There are rare occasions for a primary individual to be appointed 100% on sponsored projects. These occasions are rare due to the likelihood the primary individual will perform other activities whose costs are not allowable under OMB A-21.

The required minimum level of committed effort listed for a university primary individual is 2% on every sponsored project he or she is involved in. Exceptions to this minimum level of effort are granted for equipment and instrumentation grants, doctoral dissertation grants, and augmentation grants. The minimum level and the primary individual’s actual effort should be commensurate with his or her responsibilities on that sponsored project.

Exceptions to these minimum and maximum levels require review and approval by the respective Dean and the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs, by submitting a waiver to effort@uth.tmc.edu with all the required signatures.

Q: Can administrative staff be directly charged to my sponsored project?

Answer: Generally, administrative staff may not be charged to sponsored projects. There are, however, two major exceptions to that rule:

  • where the nature of the administrative work relates directly to the science itself, or

  • where the extent of administrative work required by the project is very significant (for example, a Program Project grant).

For further guidance, contact Sponsored Projects Administration.  

Q: Is the time that I devote to writing grant proposals chargeable to sponsored projects?

Answer: If the proposal writing relates to providing budget, technical and other materials on a continuing project (i.e., a non-competing renewal of an existing project), that time is part of the effort devoted to that project. For new proposals, if a portion of the proposal is a summary of work done on another sponsored project, that time may be charged to the other sponsored project. However, all other effort devoted to writing grant proposals for either new awards or competitive renewals of existing awards may not be charged to sponsored projects.

Discussion: This is a requirement set forth by Federal regulations. As a general rule, a portion of a faculty member's time devoted to writing proposals should be charged to non-sponsored sources, as is the case for time devoted to teaching and administration. 

Q: If I conclude that I need to reduce the effort on (and therefore the salary charged to) my sponsored project, where will the funding for that non-sponsored effort come from?

Answer: Funding for non-sponsored activities such as teaching, administrative activities (including proposal writing as described above), as well as cost sharing on sponsored activities must be charged to non-sponsored sources (i.e., departmental funds). Under no circumstances may the costs associated with these activities be charged to sponsored projects; funding for these activities is a departmental and/or university issue and you should discuss this with your Chair and/or Dean. 

Q: What is Committed Effort?

Answer:  Committed effort, also referred to as commitments, is the amount of effort proposed in a grant or other project application that is accepted by a sponsor, regardless of whether salary support is requested for the effort.

Commitments are specific and quantified, and are generally expressed in terms of a percentage of your time worked over a given project period.

A commitment is an obligation that the University must fulfill.  

Q: Who must certify their Committed Effort?

Answer: All faculty at UTHealth including instructors and faculty associates must certify their committed effort.

Q: When we have individuals on funding from another school within UTHealth whose responsibility is it to remind the PI to sign off? Should I notify the PI or the other school effort coordinator or both?

Answer: It is the responsibility of each schools PI/Faculty and effort coordinator to validate the effort percentages and pay on their accounts. It is also that department’s responsibility to certify and process on time. Although this is the case, you may also feel free to communicate with that schools effort coordinator and/or the effort mailbox.

Q: I have some funds that are clinical contracts with hospitals, etc. and they always show up as “sponsored projects”. In the past I have sent a list of individuals paid on these contracts that do not require effort reporting to effort@uth.tmc.edu to have them automatically processed. Will this still be the case?

Answer: Yes, submit the list to effort@uth.tmc.edu stating that those individuals should be “ No certification required” due to Clinical Trials. For any individuals with a similar situation, this will be the process. The comment will be saved in the notes section for auditing purposes. This is not applicable to Faculty. Faculty will still be required to certify their effort.

Q: I have an individual with multiple positions in different departments/ schools. If one position was not certified and became delinquent, the PI would say he/she had certified the effort card not knowing there was another position. Who should contact the other department/school to certify the remaining lines?

Answer: It is the responsibility of each schools PI/Faculty and effort coordinator to validate the percentage effort and pay on their accounts. It is also that department’s responsibility to certify and process on time. Although this is the case, you may also feel free to communicate with that schools effort coordinator and/or the effort mailbox.

Q: Is there a report that shows effort by individual/department for the six month or fiscal year period?

Answer: The “External Audit Report” will pull an individual or department in a format similar to an effort card. This can be found under Data & Workflow ->View Reports ->External Audit Report. 

Q: What is the retro personnel action process and the steps once an effort card has been closed out and needs to be reopened and certified?

Answer: When a retro personnel action is submitted to Systems & Data Reporting (SDR), SDR will submit it to the Post Award Finance Team (PAF) for approval. Once approved by PAF, SDR will enter the retro PA into HCM. The retro PA will be loaded onto the effort card when payroll loads on the 3rd or 17th of each month. Once approved by PAF and the correct data has hit the effort card through data load the effort coordinator can contact the effort team to re-open the card that will need adjusting. The departmental effort coordinator should then place the card on hold to prevent the Faculty member from certifying before adjustments are made. The effort coordinator shall find the individual effort card to be re-opened. The effort coordinator will then need to take the card off hold and make the adjustments under certified effort to match payroll and click “Save to complete later”. Once Save to Complete Later is clicked, the card is ready to be certified by the Faculty member. When certified the card will be back in the effort coordinators “Manage Effort tasks” box for processing.

NOTE: All cards placed on hold should have an effort note as to why it is on hold

Q: Since clinical trial payments are typically received only when milestones are met, there is usually a lag time involved in getting enough money in a clinical trial account to where you can assign salaries. What is the best practice in this case?

Answer:

  • The minimum of 2% effort should be reflected for each clinical study on which a PI is working.
  • If no pay is given from the study, the cost share should be noted in the text box and the non-restricted account covering the cost share should be identified from accounts listed.
  • If they wish to pay salary, we suggest that they apply salary as funds become available, thereby relieving the cost share for a given period(s) when applied to the clinical study.
  • Cost sharing CANNOT occur on other restricted accounts.
  • Cost sharing MAY occur on gifts if meeting the intent of the donor.

 

Q: What is the process of certifying effort for faculty that are above the salary cap and have several staff reporting to them under ecrt®?

Answer: The system builds the card from payroll. A calculation worksheet was developed to assist in your salary cap faculty effort calculations. It is the effort coordinator’s responsibility to change the certified effort column during the pre-review prior to opening of the certification period. You can run a report from the old system (PeopleSoft HCM under UT Effort Reporting>Reports>Funding History File) please note that this is the only useful report from the old system. This report will allow you to retrieve a 6 month period of all the funding PA’s that were submitted and entered on the Department Budget Earn report showing the effort percentage and FTE percentage. You can use this to plug the percentages into the Effort Calculation worksheet. At the very end of the worksheet, it will show you how the effort card should look.

Faculty/PI must certify all their support staff paid on their projects, by going to Certify My Support Staff Group View. Refer to the Faculty Quick Start Guide.

Q: We recently came into some issues with our research faculty where they were 100% budgeted on a grant. This grant was approved several years ago and only recently did we get flagged for exceeding the maximum effort. We as the department were unaware that this was an issue since the grant itself was intended to recruit these faculty (Emerging Technology Grant).

Answer: HOOP Policy and UTS 163 states effort caps for faculty that have commitment obligations. If the faculty is over the maximum or not meeting the minimum effort percentage, a waiver is required justifying why they may be over or under the committed effort level.

Q: Is Maximum effort based on the 6 month effort period or by fiscal year? Should we just average the maximum effort over the 6 month/fiscal year period or is it at all times? For example, could I have a faculty 100% sponsored for half the year and then 50% sponsored/50% departmental for the other half of the year and not need the maximum effort waiver because averaged over a year it will be within policy?

Answer: Effort is reported and tracked every 6 months and should be averaged by that six-month period. The periods are based on calendar year and not fiscal year. The effort calculation worksheet is available to assist in determine effort levels to report.

Q: What happens when an effort card is put on hold?

Answer: An effort card can only be put on hold by the effort coordinator or the central administrator. When an effort card is put on hold a text box opens and the effort coordinator must make a comment on why the card is being put on hold. Upon completing, an email is automatically sent to the card owner that the card is being placed on hold. This action removes the Certify Button, allowing the effort coordinator to make the necessary changes before the PI has to re-certify.

Q: How do I look at historical effort cards?

Answer: Once a card is certified, the certifier can view historical cards by simply logging on and clicking on View My Historical Data. For an effort coordinator to view the card, they must use the Department Dashboard to open any card that is visible. Once open, you have the option to view any period that has passed.

Q: When is the data loaded to ecrt®?

Answer: Data is loaded to ecrt® after each payroll has completed in HCM. You are able to view this data at any time on the effort statement after a data load. This load happens on the 3rd and 17th of each month.

Q: What happens if a PI/Faculty has left before certifying?

Answer: Manual Certification is required. The effort coordinator must have the Effort PDF File printed and signed by the chair of the department or a person with suitable knowledge of the work performed. A manual certification cover sheet should be attached and can be found on the Effort Website . The document must then be scanned and emailed to effort@uth.tmc.edu for processing. Please name your document with Last Name EMPLID Reporting Period (S01 YYYY=Jan-Jun Period and S02 YYYY=July-Dec) EX: Doe 111111 S01 2013

Q: Can an account be added to an effort card for cost sharing purposes only?

Answer: Yes this can happen by using the Add Project/Speedtype link. You must document this action in the effort notes section.

Q: Can I attach documents to an effort card?

Answer: Yes you can, but the file must be in PDF format or any other format that is not editable.

Q: Why does the effort coordinator have to process an effort task from the Manage Effort Tasks?

Answer: If a correction is made to the card, a note is added, or a file is attached, then once the card is certified it will route back to the effort coordinator for one final look. Effort coordinators will have the option to click “Process” or “Return to Certifier”.