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eRA 2019 rollout updates

UCT is taking its research administrative processes online through the electronic Research Administration (eRA) programme which will standardise research processes at the university. This system will be rolled out in phased modules during the course of 2019.

See below for the latest updates from the eRA team.

  • eRA pre-awards to roll out in October (07 August 2019)

    The electronic Research Administration (eRA) pre-awards module will be rolled out to all faculties – with the exception of Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) where it has already been rolled out – on the 1 October 2019.

    This decision was made after consultation with faculties (including the Graduate School of Business), as the pre-awards application is a new process for researchers outside of FHS.

    While many in our research community do see the need for and the benefits of this kind of tracking and risk mitigation tool for the pre-award stage of the research lifecycle, many have requested more time to prepare for this change in behaviour and to familiarise themselves with the system.

    We have also had feedback from a pilot that took place at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and from the eRA pre-awards rollout in FHS on how the system can be improved and would like to implement this feedback before university-wide rollout to ensure optimum system functionality.

    Between now and 1 October we will be working to identify and implement suitable pilots for the pre-awards module in each faculty to familiarise key role players with the system. At this stage we have identified the Global Challenges Research Fund Networking Grant as an appropriate pilot opportunity. All researchers applying for this grant will thus automatically be a part of the pre-awards pilot and receive the necessary dedicated support throughout the application process.

  • Preparing for change in your funding application process (18 July 2019)

    The eRA pre-awards module will be rolled out across all faculties at UCT from the 1 October 2019. For researchers, the impact of this rollout will be felt when you apply for an international or external grant. With several large international funding calls opening in the coming months – including, but not limited to, the Global Challenges Research Fund (Networking Grants); Global Challenges Research Fund (Challenge Clusters) and the Wellcome Collaborative Awards – we need to make sure you, our researchers, are prepared.

    eRA stands for the electronic Research Administration system and its pre-awards process is a straightforward one for the principal investigator (PI) applying for funding.

    • The PI uploads the requested project documents and captures key project information and details relating to resourcing, ethics and biosafety online.
    • The form is sent (also online) to departmental finance staff to complete project-related finance information that was discussed with the PI prior to submission of the form.
    • The PI confirms their agreement with this financial information.
    • Internal review and approval is completed by relevant faculty finance and deanery staff, with final submission to the funder actioned by either the Research Contracts & Innovation (RC&I) Office or the PI.

    This process helps to manage risk (in terms of resource use, research ethics, health and safety and finances) to both the PI and the university, and serves as an internal review to ensure all information required by the funder is complete upon submission.

    There are, however, key requirements researchers need to be aware of ahead of their submission to the funder:

    Internal deadlines now apply: internal deadlines allow for a thorough review of the applications and enough time to make any necessary amendments. Internal deadlines may differ faculty by faculty but we recommend that PIs should submit the pre-awards approval form 10 working days before the funder deadline to obtain timeous approval from both faculty and RC&I (where relevant). PIs will need to liaise with their faculty approval signatories about turn-around times.

    There are a number of different roles and responsibilities in the pre-awards approval process:

    • The budget reviewer is a staff member in your finance department (e.g. departmental finance officer) who will help you develop an appropriate budget and will complete the financial information in the approval form.
    • The finance approver is the research management accountant or faculty finance manager who will be responsible for the internal approval of the budget developed by the PI and finance department.
    • The final faculty approver is the dean or deputy dean of research or a delegate* who will conduct a final check to ensure key areas of risk have been thought through and planned for (like ensuring a project is appropriately costed, sufficient office space for additional staff members is accounted for and ethical approval has been considered).

    *the delegate cannot be the same person as the finance approver

    Not all applications require a pre-award approval form: as a general rule of thumb all external funding proposals need a pre-award approval form, but if in doubt ask yourself: will what I am submitting pose any potential risk to UCT, whether in terms of resource use, research ethics, health and safety, and finances? If the answer is yes, then complete an approval form. For further information see our frequently asked questions page.

    In the coming weeks the eRA team will be intensively engaging with the various faculties regarding the rollout of the pre-awards module. If you want to know more about presentations to your faculty, or would like to schedule an information session for your department or research unit, please contact our internal communications officer, Natalie Simon.





  • A new eRA in research at UCT (11 June 2019)

    The electronic Research Administration (eRA) programme is an ambitious project to create one streamlined software solution for the myriad research administration processes at UCT.

    The next phase of the eRA rollout is the pre-awards process, in which researchers will get the necessary internal consistency check and application workflow for their grant applications before submission to the funder. This process, which was successfully piloted in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the IDM, will standardise research processes at UCT to ensure the university can effectively support international grant applications.

    The pre-awards process will be rolled out to the rest of the university in August. Leading up to the rollout, the eRA team will be engaging with individual faculties to find out more about how this pre-awards module is likely to affect existing research processes in individual disciplines.

    Contact Natalie Simon, internal communications officer in the Research Office if you wish to set up such a meeting in your department.

    Why do we need a standardised pre-awards process?

    Researchers at UCT are relying more than ever on external funding to fund their research. External funding agencies require increasingly detailed reporting to track how their funds are being used and to manage risk.

    The eRA pre-awards process will standardise the internal review process for grant applications to ensure budgets are correctly costed, the necessary ethics and biosafety approvals are in place and other due diligence has been completed to help manage risk for the institution and researcher.

    What does this mean for you?

    Once rolled out to your faculty, your application for an external grant (with some exceptions, like the NRF) will need to involve completion of a standard approval form online through the eRA system before submitting your proposal to the funder.

    The principal investigator (PI) will need to capture key project information and details relating to resourcing, ethics and biosafety online and then send the form (also online) to departmental finance staff to complete project-related finance information. Internal review is then completed by relevant faculty finance and deanery staff for the proposal to be considered approved for submission to the funder by either the Research Contracts & Innovation Office or the PI.
    The PI receives an automated notification every time they are required to action an item on the system. PIs can track the status and updates to the internal review and approval of your application through the online system and follow up if necessary.

    Training materials
    The eRA team has created how-to guides and videos to help you through the various aspects of the system. You can watch the video to guide you through the pre-awards process here.
    Additional guides for the various modules on the eRA system can be found on the research support hub.
    You can also request on-site training through our online form: the eRA team are happy to provide a training session for a group of 10 or more researchers and their support staff.
    Logging in
    Log in to the eRA system with your UCT single sign-on credentials.
    Click here to access the eRA system and log in on the top right-hand section of the page.
    If you run into any problems please visit our FAQ page hereemail us or log a call.
    Your eRA profile
    The eRA research portal is already available. You can visit the portal here and begin updating your profile for easy integration with UCT Drupal (website content management system) and greater visibility.
    We encourage you to spend a bit of time updating your profile and familiarising yourself with the system. For help and support with building your eRA profile, please visit our how-to section on the research support hub or log a call here.
    Log in to update your eRA profile here.

  • Helping our researchers compete on the global research funding stage (05 June 2019)

    Dear colleagues

    This message is from the DVC Designate, Professor Sue Harrison

    Research at UCT has grown significantly in the past two decades. In stark contrast, national funding for research has been shrinking and will likely continue to do so. Many of our researchers have already responded by seeking (and winning) international funding, and more and more of our researchers will need to follow suit.

    The university needs to support this growth, both to enable continued and even increased success at winning international grants, and to ensure that it manages the financial, human-resource and legal risks involved. For instance, if a researcher does not fully consider factors like inflation, exchange-rate fluctuation and indirect costs in their budget, this puts additional financial pressure on both the project and the university. When researchers are not protected from such errors and find themselves unable to meet their funder requirements, this leads to reputational damage with funding agencies that will impact negatively on subsequent applications.

    The electronic Research Administration (eRA) system, developed to bring a number of research administration processes online, will help the university support international grant applications more effectively. In August this year, the eRA pre-awards module – already piloted in the IDM and Health Sciences Faculty – will be rolled out across campus. This will provide a much-needed online consistency check and application work flow to help PIs plan effectively for external – and particularly international – grants.

    In order to achieve this, the process involved of applying for external grants will need to be standardised across the university. This allows central research support offices to assist at the point where they are needed, and helps the institution to flag both with PIs and their faculty deans where there are areas of risk.

    Thanks to the eRA system this process is now also streamlined and automated. The system takes much of the bureaucratic burden off the researcher, while ensuring that by the time they submit their application to the funder, all the fine print has been taken care of.

    This system, and the change in processes required when it is rolled out, aims to ensure that UCT researchers continue to uphold their excellent reputation with international funders and increase their already outstanding success rate.

    The eRA team will shortly begin engaging with researchers in each faculty to find out more about how this pre-awards module is likely to affect existing research processes in individual disciplines, and how this can be managed to the benefit of researchers. If you wish to set up such a meeting within your own research unit or department, please do contact our Research Office internal communications officer, Natalie Simon

  • Electronic Research Administration system rollout in 2019: addressing the challenges (13 February 2019)

    UCT is taking its research administrative processes online through the electronic Research Administration (eRA) programme, which will standardise research processes at the university. Many of you will already have used the system, or will do so as we roll out the modules.

    By the end of the year researchers will need to use eRA to:

    • Obtain internal approval for grant applications to external funders
    • Apply for internal funding
    • Apply for ad hominem promotion
    • Create a researcher profile (which can be displayed onto your group’s website)

    You will be informed in more detail about specific functionalities as they go live, so please be on the lookout for communications from the eRA team in your Research Announcements.

    Please visit the eRA section on the Research Support Hub to learn more about what eRA is and why it is necessary.

    What are the challenges?

    The eRA system already includes internal (visible only to UCT members) as well as public researcher profiles. The public profile appears on the UCT Research Portal and offers researchers greater visibility, and can also be displayed directly onto other UCT websites. To create these profiles, eRA pulls data from other UCT source systems, such as personnel data from the HR system. Where there is fragmented and inconsistent data in these other systems it has led to problems in automated uploads to eRA.

    For those who have already come across this problem firsthand, we apologise for the inconvenience.

    These underlying data issues are an institutional problem beyond the specific remit of eRA and are being addressed by UCT via the University Data Quality Task Team. For eRA this data issue means that staff appointments prior to 2013 and publication data prior to 2016 are not currently automatically pulled into the system.

    What is the eRA team doing to address this issue?

    For the appointment data, we are working on importing staff appointments prior to 2013 into eRA. We will let you know when these are imported and you will then be able to populate your profile with up-to-date data for those years.

    For the publication data the Research Office will offer training opportunities on how to populate your eRA profile with historical publication data.

    Please keep an eye on the Research Announcements emailed to you for more about these training opportunities.

    What can you do to make sure you are ready for eRA rollout?

    If your UCT appointment was held from 2013 onwards, we encourage you to update your profile data and watch our how-to video to find out how to automatically pull in recent publications from databases like Web of Science, ORCID or Scopus onto your eRA profile.

    You can keep hidden any information you choose by making it internally visible only.

    If your UCT appointment was held from before 2013, then as soon as these data have been imported you will be able to populate your profile and publications.

    See our how to update your research profile video and pdf for more on how to hide elements of your profile. If you still experience challenges, please log a call.

  • Research contracts can now be tracked in eRA (21 February 2019)

    The electronic Research Administration (eRA) project is implementing new software to automate and streamline the research project lifecycle. The latest module in this project – the contracts module – has been live from 1 February 2019.

    This means the university is no longer using IRMA for new contracts.

    This switch will happen automatically. Researchers can (for now) continue to submit their grants as they would have in the past.

    Researchers whose grants are at the contract stage will receive an email informing them that their contract has been logged on the eRA system, the name of the contracts manager assigned to their contract and the option to log in to track the progress of their contract.

    You can use your UCT log-in credentials to sign in to the eRA system.

    Download the one-page guide to the new research contracts process.

    If you experience any difficulties with the system, you can log a call here.

  • eRA research contracts module going live (1 February 2019)

    As from today (Friday, 1st February) the electronic Research Administration (eRA) system research contracts module will be phased in. This means that all new contracts will be captured on eRA and access will be limited to the RC&I staff members.  The IRMA system will not be used for new updates on existing contracts from the 1st to the 8th February to allow for migration of the contracts still under negotiation to the eRA system.  As from the 11th of February these contracts will be available on eRA.

    What this means for researchers?

    This process will happen automatically and does not require any change in behaviour from researchers whose grants are at the contracts stage.

    The researcher, and faculty representatives can, as was the case with IRMA, log into the eRA system and track the status of their contracts.

    What about the previous system?

    From the 1st February 2019 all new contracts and those that are not finalised will be processed through eRA. The data, from contracts completed before 1 February, have not been uploaded onto eRA yet and, if researchers or administrators wish to look up on those contracts, they can continue to do so in IRMA.

    Once the migration of data is complete we will inform the community accordingly and IRMA will be discontinued.

    We thank you for your patience and support in this process.  If you have any questions, please log a call here for assistance.


  • Linking the eRA portal profiles to departmental websites (22 November 2018)

    You can now link your profile on the eRA portal to existing departmental websites. This means that researchers’ public profiles on eRA can have their information automatically populate their departmental websites. Update your profile on the eRA system, then ask your page manager to link it to your departmental website so you can increase your research visibility on both platforms.

    Our colleagues from Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research (CIDER) were the first to showcase their researcher profiles from the eRA portal on their website – ensuring it’s automatically up to date.

  • eRA Post Awards (30 October 2019)

    Phase I of the eRA post-awards module was rolled out on 1 November 2019, affecting only new projects where the contract is signed off through eRA from 1 November. This phase was developed to assist researchers and project administrators to manage the spending of contract funding and grants. This process will also enable researchers to capture project milestones and deliverables against contacted objectives.

    Phase 2 was rolled out on the 13th December 2019, to facilitate the project award closure process after all the necessary checks have been done by relevant stakeholders.