Clear definition of roles and responsibilities, and collaboration from key stakeholders at all stages of a CFI project

October 27, 2016

At institutions, management and oversight functions may be held by several individuals across various units. For example, project leaders and their scientific teams, and the administrative support staff from the office of research services, financial services, the procurement department and the facilities management department may all have some level of responsibility over the proper management of CFI awards. In addition, in some institutions the administrative support staff in the faculties or academic departments, and in the research institutes or centres, may also be involved in the management of these awards. In order to be effective and efficient, and optimize limited resources, there needs to be a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities, with appropriate communication of this information to all stakeholders (e.g. job descriptions, information sessions, kick-off meetings).

Several institutions require that all relevant units (e.g. research services, finance, procurement, facilities management) collaborate from the proposal development stage onwards. The project leader works with these units to prepare the proposal, and in the event that the proposal is successful, to finalize the award and complete the acquisition of the infrastructure, satisfy the reporting requirements, sustain the infrastructure, and work with the communications team to promote success stories. These institutions benefit from a more efficient and effective administration of CFI awards. For example:

  • Easier administration of successful awards as relevant units are familiar with the project and have been involved in the consideration of critical aspects;
  • Increased accuracy and completeness of budget information in the proposal and onwards, and common understanding of project scope and infrastructure needs;
  • Reduced timelines for award finalization, acquisition and implementation of the infrastructure;
  • Timely identification and consideration of infrastructure changes;
  • Timely information sharing for assessing the progress of projects;
  • Improved risk management during project implementation and mitigation of adverse impacts (if any).

Some institutions have also established various mechanisms to clarify roles and responsibilities, promote the involvement of key stakeholders and foster collaboration at all stages of a CFI project.

Some of these include:

  • Kick-off meetings: All units that will be involved in managing a CFI project meet as a group at either the proposal stage and/or award finalization stage. These meetings often include the project leader, research services, finance, procurement, and facilities management (if a construction or renovation component is present). This introduces the primary contacts from each unit and allows for expectations, processes, and roles and responsibilities to be clearly defined.
  • Oversight committees: Many institutions have created oversight committees that meet regularly to discuss their portfolio of awards and implementation status. Membership usually includes several or all key units involved in the administration of the CFI projects.
  • Liaison positions: Some institutions have positions where an individual acts as a liaison between key units to ensure information is shared in a timely manner (e.g. between procurement and research services).
  • Service delivery centres: Also commonly known as service hubs, service delivery centres include the co-location of relevant units (e.g. research services, finance and procurement staff). At times, dedicated space is also available for representatives of other units who may be there on a part-time basis.

Here's how some institutions have implemented these practices.

University of Toronto

The University of Toronto operates in a decentralized environment with a wide range of management and oversight activities occurring within academic divisions and their units. The units are responsible for implementing departmental guidelines and procedures which ensure compliance with university and funding-agency policies and procedures. Project leaders and their research teams, as well as administrative support staff within the units, are responsible for executing proper oversight of the awards.

Roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders, including central administrative support units, are communicated, acknowledged and confirmed through a number of policies, guides and procedures (e.g. a research administration policy, a guide to financial management, checklists, annual administrative accountability reports, confirmation of undertaking in the university’s automated system for internal review and endorsement of research applications). This is also done through various training and process-related material, offered through the STAR (Strengthening Administration of Research) initiative and through information sessions and meetings with key stakeholders (e.g. project kick-off meetings).

Contact:

MayLiza Baak
Director, Institutional Initiatives
Research Services Office 
Phone: 416.978.7605
Email: m.baak [at] utoronto.ca

Western University

At Western University, all key units are involved during the entire life cycle of a project. The university presented a poster at the Canadian Association of Research Administrators 2016 Annual Conference that illustrates how the various departments collaborate to successfully manage CFI-funded projects over their full life cycle.

Contact:

Wendy McCallum
Financial Officer, Infrastructure Programs
Research Finance
Phone: 519.661.2111 ext. 85453
Email: wmccallu [at] uwo.ca

Queen’s University

Queen’s University’s Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) includes a member from the University Relations unit. This allows for the timely sharing of information between University Research Services and the main communications branch to support the communication of success stories and promotion of CFI-funded infrastructure.

Institution contact:

Melinda Knox
Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives
University Relations
Phone: 613.533.6000  ext. 9653
Email: knoxm [at] queensu.ca

Related topics

Training and information sessions for individuals involved in the administration of CFI awards
Important considerations for institutions with decentralized model