University Libraries Logo University Archives of Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech
Governance Minutes Archive

January 22, 1992

                                    Minutes

                            COMMISSION ON RESEARCH

                               January 22, 1992

                                206 Sandy Hall

                                   3:30 p.m.

 

 

  MEMBERS PRESENT:  T.  Brandon,  C.  Burger, E. G. Henneke, G. R. Hooper, I.

                    Leech  (for  R.  Lytton),  R.  Olin,   P.   Scanlon,   M.

                    Stephenson,  E.  R.  Stout,  L.  A.  Swiger,  V. Wall, J.

                    Wightman, T. Wildman

 

  MEMBERS ABSENT:   V. Bonomo, J. Cowles, D. M. Denbow, M.    Lambur,  J.  C.

                    Lee, R. Rich

 

  INVITED GUESTS:   M. D. Shelton, J. Tank, A. Snoke, S. Muse, J. Hoernemann,

                    G. Linkous

 

 

 

  1.  ANNOUNCEMENTS.   a.  Dr. Stout provided the Commission with copies of 2

      articles related to the future funding of science.  b.  The Conflict of

      Interest procedures have passed University Council.   It will  be  dis-

      tributed  to  the general faculty.   c.   Special Faculty Appointments.

      Dr. Stout stated he had met with the Commission on Faculty  Affairs  in

      December  and that they had passed it with a requirement for a reorgan-

      ization of the structure.  The Commission on Faculty Affairs  want  all

      the  benefits  written  into a separate section instead of in every de-

      scription.  A new section - 2.4.7, Special  Faculty  Research  Appoint-

      ments  -  Benefits, was added.   It will get to University Council very

      shortly.  It will go as a joint resolution from the Commission  on  Re-

      search  and  the Commission on Faculty Affairs.  d.  Budget.  Dr. Stout

      stated that he could not add much to the budget information the member-

      ship had read in the newspapers.   The Research Division  5%  reduction

      for  FY93  is $1,352,188.   In addition to that 5% there is a couple of

      other hits we will get.  The College of Veterinary Medicine  since  its

      beginning  has  had a $50,000 appropriation for research.  It is a spe-

      cial appropriation to support new projects in the College of Veterinary

      Medicine when the college was established and it will not be there next

      year.  Dr. Stout also stated that our 2 Commonwealth Centers - Va.  In-

      stitute  for  Materials  Science  and Wood Science and Technology would

      face a 30% reduction in the second year of the biennium.   In the  fol-

      lowing  biennium  the Commonwealth Centers are supposed to gradually go

      to zero funding.  Over the next four years that will  cost  us  over  a

      million dollars in those two centers.

 

      Dr.  Wightman  asked if there was any good news.  Dr. Scanlon stated he

      had heard that they were trying to do something new with  trust  funds.

      He stated that that can be good.  Dr. Stout stated that he had received

      a  note  from  Larry Hincker that the higher education part of the pro-

      posed bond issue has been released at $401M and our part is $43M.   Dr.

      Swiger  stated  that  all  those  items  in  our pamphlet for the first

      biennium are in at a reduced rate.  Dr. Scanlon stated  that  they  are

      being strongly supported by the Secretary of Education.

 

      Dr.  Stout  stated that the CIT is under major stress.  They will get a

      33.6% reduction next year, and the following year there is  nothing  in

      the budget for the CIT.  There will presumably be a review of their ac-

      tivities  and  accomplishments  starting sometime in February or March.

      It is to be completed by August.  The Governor's budget staff  will  do

      the  review.  He informed the Commission that Governor Holton is confi-

      dent that CIT shall prevail.  Dr. Stout told the members that in the  6

      years of CIT's existence, this University has had something over $22M -

      direct  CIT funding and another $30M in industry funding that came with

      the CIT funding.

 

  2.  AGENDA.  Dr. Art Snoke asked if his being  there  was  covered  on  the

      agenda.    Dr. Stout responded yes under item 6 and proceeded to intro-

      duce other guests of the Commission on Research.   He  stated  that  he

      wanted  to expand item 6 basically to include suggestions from the mem-

      bership  about  what kinds of services the Office of Sponsored Programs

      and Research Division should be supplying.   He introduced  Dr.  Arthur

      Snoke,  Department  of  Geological  Sciences,  and  from  the  Research

      Division/Office of Sponsored Programs:  John Hoernemann - Systems  Ana-

      lyst,  Sandra  Muse  - Director of Financial Administration, and she is

      also OSP liaison with the controller's group who  deal  with  FRS,  Bud

      Harris,  Associate  Director,  and Garnett Linkous, Manager of the Pro-

      posal Review and Negotiation Section.   Motion to  approve  agenda  was

      made and seconded.  Agenda was approved.

 

  3.  MINUTES  OF DECEMBER 11, 1991.  Dr. Burger motioned approval of Minutes

      and Dr. Wall seconded.  Minutes were approved.

 

  4.  FRS DISCUSSION.  Dr. Stout wrote on the board those problems  with  FRS

      mentioned.   1.   Report format - cannot read the report; 2.  Technical

      report due dates; 3.  Payroll detail; 4.  Dr. Wightman stated  the  re-

      cent addition of SPO's entered from the department and appearing on the

      printout  was positive; 5.  Legal jargon; 6.  No way to encumber salary

      dollars; 7.  No projection of budget needs; 8.   Attribute  coding;  9.

      Object  codes; 10.  Unusual transactions; Dr. Olin stated one member of

      his department was overpaid by NSF off of 2 different grants.  She  put

      the money back into the grant but cannot see where the money went.  11.

      Lots of delays in billing the sponsors; 12.  Account statements are of-

      ten too old to close out account; 13.  List of object codes for founda-

      tion  accounts.    Dr. Burger said that they had called and asked for a

      list of codes and that they wouldn't give it  to  them.    Dr.  Scanlon

      stated that he had not heard major complaints about the Office of Spon-

      sored  Programs  and that one person there was referred to as an angel.

      He stated that the only negative was that there seems to be  a  problem

      with  rotation  of  the people that meet you when you bring over a pro-

      posal.  Dr. Swiger stated that he had a myriad of compliments  to  pass

      on  concerning the Office of Sponsored Programs.  Dr. Stout stated that

      as soon as FRS was discussed, OSP suggestions would be discussed.

 

      Mr. Shelton then led the discussion of the  FRS  items.    Mr.  Shelton

      stated  he wanted to specifically go over the first 2 items.  He said a

      few items he could do something about, and some he felt he may  not  be

      able  to  at all.  In the first one he stated that they recognized when

      they put the system up that the report formats were probably not  going

      to  be  what everyone wanted.   The advice from the manufacturer of the

      software and the consultants was to put the system up for  a  year  and

      run  it in its standard form so people could find out what they did and

      did not like.  That was the plan.  Mr. Shelton stated that one  of  the

      things  that  they probably did wrong was not telling everyone how much

      of a phased approach they were designing in the system.  Unfortunately,

      after that the budget cuts came and the staff to do some of the techni-

      cal things did not come along nearly as fast as needed.    However,  he

      stated  that  they were addressing that item because they are using an-

      other software product called Focus that has a report menu being devel-

      oped right now.  He stated that he felt the report menu would go a long

      way towards addressing a lot of these problems.  Mr. Shelton said  that

      one  of  the  things they did when they looked at the accounting system

      was to interview over 200 people on campus to find out their views.  He

      stated that many of those things they listed have been  done,  some  of

      them  are  still  on  the  to do list and some have been written off as

      never being able to do them.  Mr. Shelton stated that they are ready to

      test the FRS menu process.  They are going to go to Engineering and see

      if they want to pilot this product.  Mr. Shelton asked for a  committee

      of  users  to  assist  in designing a report format for OSP.  Dr. Stout

      stated he will send a memo to the members asking for nominations.

 

 

      Mr. Shelton stated he hopes that he has a good answer  for  the  second

      item  -  technical  report due dates.  The system has an on-line screen

      that provides the attribute being requested.  He stated that  they  are

      coming  up  with a different set of attributes that will define all the

      possible  report  due dates.  They plan to build a table based on that.

      They plan two proposals:  1.  Within that FRS menu screen  there  would

      be  a  separate  menu screen that provides all the technical report due

      dates.  2.  They could create an E-mail message which would send out  a

      message  so  many  days  before the report due date alerting the person

      that the report is due.  Dr. Snoke asked if this could be progress  re-

      ports as well as final reports.  He told Dr. Snoke that would be possi-

      ble.   Dr. Stout asked the membership if an E-mail message was the most

      direct way to do this?

 

      Mr. Shelton stated that he was not sure what was meant by  payroll  de-

      tail.  Ms. Sandra Muse said that even with the new payroll distribution

      sheet  they  would  still like to see the names of those people paid on

      the printouts.  Mr. Shelton said that that is not an FRS problem - that

      it is a payroll system problem.  He said that the payroll  system  that

      we have is not capable of sending that information over to the FRS sys-

      tem.    He  said  what  we have to do is write a new program that would

      shift that information from one place to the other.   Mr. Shelton  said

      that  they  had had that on their list and delayed it several times be-

      cause of something else more pressing.

 

      Dr. Olin asked that people be sensitive to acronyms and  jargon.    Mr.

      Shelton  stated  that  he could appreciate that.  He said he would make

      sure that he talks to his folks about that.

 

      Mr. Shelton stated that salary encumbrances were on their to do list as

      well.  He stated that it will be addressed, but he does not  know  when

      because of the payroll system.

 

      Mr.  Shelton asked about the item "lack of projection".  Dr. Swiger re-

      ported Vernon Boggs stated that there was no projection of budget needs

      - FRS is more of an accounting tool and not  a  budgeting  tool.    Mr.

      Shelton  said that parts of this system that they bought has some budg-

      eting function in it.  He said that they had not acquired that and  did

      not  feel that they ever would.  The system will handle all the budgets

      that are out there, but it will not do forecasting or projecting of the

      budget.

 

      Concerning attribute codes, Dr. Swiger said that it could  use  refine-

      ment especially in cost sharing accounts.  Mr. Shelton said that if the

      attributes  could  be refined that would help people like Vernon a lot.

      He stated that they do need to be revised.

 

      Dr. Swiger provided some comments from Pat Ballard.   She  stated  that

      the  current  move  to get FRS attributes streamlined is very positive,

      for example getting college codes all under one set of numbers by using

      current senior management as the one and only code.  Concerning  object

      codes  Dr.  Burger  provided an example.  She said that they had redis-

      tributed money to researchers to take a trip and it came up under  med-

      ical  and  lab supplies.   Mr. Shelton agreed that that does sound odd.

      He said that he doesn't have a solution other than the fact that all of

      those codes should be coded at the department level.  Mr. Shelton  said

      he  did not know why the foundation will not give out the object codes.

      Dr. Burger said she was told sorry we do not give those out.

 

      Mr. Shelton asked if unusual transactions were miscellaneous  or  other

      types  of  transactions.   Dr. Olin referred back to the faculty member

      who was overpaid by NSF and put the money back into her grant but could

      not see where the money was deposited.  Mr. Shelton said that  the  re-

      venue section is covered by the same thing as an object code.  There is

      a  revenue source code that would take care of the bulk of all entries.

      There are other revenue source codes that would spread out other  types

      of  revenue.    If  the  transaction did not get entered into the right

      source code it would get buried in with everything else.   Mr.  Shelton

      asked  Dr.  Olin  to  have that person call him.   Dr. Snoke asked when

      questions  come  up  who should one get in touch with.  Mr. Shelton re-

      sponded that all the expenditure ones the right person to call is Larry

      Lawrence.  Also Lenwood McCoy gets a lot of calls.   Mr.  Shelton  said

      that they do try some sort of training on an individual basis.

 

      Delays  in billing the sponsors.  Mr. Harris stated that the accounting

      statements that the administrators bill from,  the  administrators  can

      see  something is wrong but they can't see what the correct data should

      be.  Mr. Shelton said that they have had problems in the past in  bill-

      ing  letters  of credit.  He said letters of credit billing are current

      so those projects that have letters of credit funding should be  seeing

      revenue  coming in quickly.  He said they have currently underway a de-

      velopment project where they are writing some  computer  programs  that

      will  extract  data  automatically from FRS and develop billings to the

      federal agencies for reimbursable contracts.

 

      Mr. Shelton said that he had a good answer for late statements.    They

      will be available on line anytime.

 

      Mr. Shelton summed up that 3 or 4 of the items we are working on or are

      willing  to work on, 2 or 3 are on the in process list and there are at

      least a couple that they don't know if they will ever be able to solve.

      He said that one of the real complaints that they often have  with  FRS

      is  that the data is inaccurate.  He said that when they really explore

      that, they find that it is not timely but not inaccurate.

 

  5.  RESEARCH DIVISION/OFFICE OF SPONSORED PROGRAMS.   Dr. Stout  stated  at

      the outset that we certainly view the Office of Sponsored Programs as a

      service  organization.    We are there to serve the faculty but we have

      several others to serve:  sponsors, auditors, etc.   First  of  all  we

      want  to  serve the faculty.  We are here to listen to suggestions that

      you have that you would like to see us  do  or  maybe  there  are  some

      things  we do that you would like to see us quit doing.  Dr. Snoke sug-

      gested a sort of tickler and he said that the system being suggested by

      Mr. Shelton would go a long way toward that.  He said that the  letters

      sent  out  after  you receive a grant have vastly improved - a lot more

      informative, a lot less jargon, comprehensible in ways that the earlier

      ones weren't.  Dr. Snoke said NSF is very bad about communicating  with

      individual  researchers.    Places like NIH communicate with individual

      researchers, but NSF persists in sending announcements to the  institu-

      tion.    Dr.  Stout  asked if OSP receives the communications from NSF.

      Ms. Muse stated that we usually get a notification of a  change.    She

      stated  that they don't supply us with multiple copies of that informa-

      tion.  We have to request it, and it is very limitedly provided.    Dr.

      Hooper asked if they had that on-line from NSF.  OSP and others receive

      information on bitnet.

 

      Dr.  Scanlon  stated  that he was wondering whose responsibility things

      are.  He said he did not feel he needs prompting to know when  his  re-

      port  is  due  because  it is part of his responsibility.  He said that

      putting together a budget for a proposal is a good exercise,  that  you

      know  what  is  going on and you know how to manage your project better

      when you do that.  Dr. Olin said he did not send anything in until they

      ask for it and so far that system has worked just fine.   He  said  the

      Math  Department  has solved the problem with NSF.  Every area of math-

      ematical research with a principal investigator in the Math  Department

      has  a connection with a program officer at NSF.  They send E-mail back

      and forth.  OSP receives E-mail messages from NSF.  The problem is  how

      do we get those in the hands of the people who need them?

 

      Dr.  Leech  asked  for more support in the area of statistics - working

      through a project.  Dr. Stout responded that there is  the  Statistical

      Consulting Lab in the Statistics Department that provides that service.

 

      Dr.  Scanlon  asked  if  there  is  an area that you can fall between 2

      budget cycles in the same organization.  You know the money  is  coming

      and  the current agency does, but the administrator does not.  He asked

      how we deal with that.  Dr. Stout responded that it would be one of two

      ways.  If your department head is sufficiently  convinced  that  it  is

      coming,  we  will accept a letter of guarantee from the department head

      and set up a project based on that.  In a few other cases on a  one  on

      one  basis  with the department and the college participating we figure

      out from somewhere how to carry a person for a month or something  like

      that.   Dr. Scanlon stated he felt that people don't skillfully use the

      cover sheets.  He said faculty don't know how to negotiate with depart-

      ment heads, deans or whomever.  Dr. Hooper stated that it could be  ad-

      dressed  in  a  newsletter  sometime.    Dr.  Henneke  stated that, for

      example, they always check that they do not need  more  space,  but  in

      fact they really do need more space.  When the project starts they find

      another  corner  of a lab that they can squeeze things into.  Dr. Snoke

      asked what attitude does the University have if you ask  for  resources

      which  are  beyond  the  capability of the University?  Dr. Hooper said

      that there had been cases where proposals don't go because space  isn't

      available.    Dr.  Snoke  asked where does the responsibility end?  Mr.

      Harris stated that some people really  do  use  the  Internal  Approval

      Form.    Some  forms come through almost looking like contracts between

      the faculty, department and college.  Dr. Stout stated that the more of

      that you have spelled out up front the fewer headaches you  have  later

      on.

 

      Dr. Snoke asked what they could take from this?  Dr. Stout said we will

      certainly go back and discuss each of the items.

 

  6.  ADJOURNMENT.  Meeting was adjourned at 5:15PM.

 

  ERS/php

 

 

 

Current Virginia Tech Governance Minutes Archive

Return to Virginia Tech Governance Minutes Archive


VT History | Digital Library and Archives | Special Collections | University Archives


Send questions or comments to:

Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist
University Libraries
Virginia Tech
P.O. Box 90001
Blacksburg, VA, 24062-9001

URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/minutes/cor/1992/January+22++1992.html
Last modified on: Tuesday, 25-Sep-2001 13:57:25 EDT