21st Century support for research

03 February 2016 | Story by Newsroom

3 February 2016

Dear colleagues and students

21ST CENTURY SUPPORT FOR RESEARCH

Implementation of new software that will automate and streamline the research project lifecycle

Research at UCT is booming: every year, we sign more research contracts, attract more postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows, increase our publication count, and attract more donations and funding. At the same time, we are operating in a rapidly-changing research landscape, with the growth of big data, open access and international collaboration. If one adds to this mix the fact that universities are under extreme financial pressure as governments restrict research funding and donors demand more from research groups, it is clear that supporting the research enterprise of a university is becoming an increasingly complex task.

Despite constant innovation in this area, the solutions – both electronic and manual – created by the various offices that support research at UCT have often proved to be less than ideal, both for researchers and those who support them.

In order to overcome the shortcomings and gaps in research management that have developed over the years – and they range from grant applications and financial management to calculation of the publication counts – we will be implementing an electronic research administration (eRA) system, to provide technological solutions to the problems we have identified. The cornerstone of the system is Converis, supplied by Thomson Reuters.

What Converis means for researchers

At present the research project lifecycle can be a cumbersome administrative process, made all the more difficult by minimal online systems, duplicate data entry, a lack of templates and many manual steps involving internal mail or hand delivery. The implementation of Converis will change that, lifting the administrative burden through automation and streamlining the process at every step of the research project lifecycle.

As the diagram below shows, Converis will provide the researcher with a 'one-stop shop' to manage and track the administrative workflow within a project lifecycle and beyond. The software guides the researcher from the point where an idea is born and a funding opportunity identified, through to post-publication with automatic CV updates. Converis offers streamlined and automated workflows, where the departments involved –  including ethics, finance and research contracts –  are automatically notified of a project application coming their way. Researchers can track their application through the automated process, reducing the risk of an application lying unseen in an inbox. Converis will also help researchers keep on top of their contract compliance requirements and integrate with SAP to track project funds. Through its online portal, researchers can create and manage their CV which they can draw on to apply for grants and funding and use to create a publicly visible profile.

Progress Diagram

What Converis means for the university

The implementation will free up resources so that the university can support research more effectively and with more efficient administration. Converis will allow for:

  • Improved strategic understanding of all research;
  • Improved ability to track research impact and collaborations;
  • Reduced financial risk through improved financial controls;
  • Improved support for researchers, including proposal development; and
  • Better management of data, analytics and reporting to support strategic decision-making and control.

Implementation of Converis

A team of specialists is working on developing the systems according to UCT's needs, rollout of live modules, training of relevant staff and ongoing help-desk support. Because of this, Converis will be implemented in phases over the next two years.

Phase Diagram

We will continue to update you on progress with the implementation of Converis and the new features as they become available. Researcher training and workshops will be held regularly over the course of the next two years to introduce both researchers and PASS staff to the new software.

In the meantime, I hope and anticipate that, as the system rolls out, all parts of the research community will come together to make it work and will feel its increasing benefits.

Sincerely,

Professor Danie Visser
Deputy Vice-Chancellor


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