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COVID-19: Information from SPA/OSP/CGA

Sponsored Programs Advisory Committee

What is SPAC?

Chaired by the Assistant Vice President for Research and Innovation, Twila Reighley, the Sponsored Programs Advisory Committee (SPAC) was created in 2014 with guidance from the MSU Strategic Plan and was tasked with the role of listening to those involved in providing SPA/OSP/CGA support. During its first year, SPAC established its goals and process, communicated on key issues, highlighted the need for data and metrics, reviewed perceived/actual bottlenecks and improvements, and provided ideas and prioritization.


  1. Enhance understanding and promote intended outcomes - improved practices, compliance, communication, and support.  
  2. Provide thoughtful consideration on issues and/or practices that have conflicting requirements and expectations, particularly those that impact faculty. 
  3. Gauge impacts of implementation of new requirements through diverse perspectives and experiences.
  4. Inform the Assistant Vice President for Research and Innovation (AVPRI) on faculty concerns related to existing practices within Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA), Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), and Contract and Grant Administration (CGA). 

Who is on SPAC?

SPAC is comprised of eight faculty (two of which are college research deans) and five to six college or department administrators.  Each member is nominated by their college, and it is anticipated that they serve a three-year term, meeting 3-4 times per academic year, and representing more than eight colleges.  During the 2020-2021 academic year, three regular SPAC meetings were held, plus an additional orientation meeting for new members.

2021-2022 SPAC Members

2020-2021 SPAC Members

2019-2020 SPAC Members

2018-2019 SPAC Members

2017-2018 SPAC Members

2016-2017 SPAC Members

2015-2016 SPAC Members

2014-2015 SPAC Members


  • During the 2020-2021 year, SPAC reviewed and contributed feedback on policies and processes that impact SPA/OSP/CGA, including the review process for hardship and advance approvals.
  • SPAC members provided valuable input on SPA/OSP/CGA online resources and suggested possible future improvements to the Account Explorer PI Portal tool and to the Global Activities e-Disclosure.
  • SPAC provided feedback on RA training initiatives, including the transition to virtual delivery of the Essentials of Research Administration series.  Members were favorable to the idea of continuing to offer some virtual training options post-pandemic but recommended that a mix of virtual and in-person options be offered once in-person training can safely resume.  Members suggested some possible improvements to help make the online training sessions more interactive and engaging for participants, which were shared with the SPA training team and with the SPROUT Training Subcommittee.
  • Members served on the recommendation panel for the 8th and 9th Unit Research Administrator Spotlight Awards.  A total of four people served on at least one of the two panels for the Fall and Spring Awards.
  • SPAC provided positive feedback on SPA/OSP/CGA’s virtual delivery of services, with members noting that they continue to receive excellent service from SPA/OSP/CGA, and that they have not experienced a decline in quality since the offices transitioned to remote work.  Members were supportive of the offices continuing to provide services remotely into the foreseeable future.
  • SPAC members reviewed various changes to agency requirements, including updates to the Uniform Guidance and changes to NIH’s Biosketch and Other Support forms, and provided ideas to improve MSU’s compliance and implementation efforts.
  • The SPAC discussion on the NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing helped inform communications with COGR to advocate for practical implementation of the policy.
  • SPAC members reviewed the proposed changes to capture Areas of Research data within the KC system and were supportive of SPA/OSP/CGA implementing the changes.
  • SPAC was asked to provide feedback on external trends and possible improvements that SPA/OSP/CGA can work on in the future.  The committee expressed interest in alleviating some of the growing administrative burden that faculty members face.  Suggestions included integrating the various disclosures that faculty members must complete, clarifying expectations, and making additional resources available to faculty at certain times of the year.  SPA/OSP/CGA has worked on creating additional tools and we are keeping these concepts in mind as additional resources are put in place to deal with evolving requirements.
  • During the 2019-2020 year, SPAC reviewed and contributed feedback on policies and processes that impact SPA/OSP/CGA, including updates to the OSP follow up and escalation procedures, input on documentation for internal controls for account review, and updates to the Proposal Timeline guidance.
  • SPAC’s feedback on the new FCOI system resulted in revisions and improvements to faculty resources, including the Small Business FAQ, the Board of Trustees Review & Approval FAQ, and the Faculty Disclosures & Resources handout and timeline. Based on SPAC input, a new question and additional language was added to clarify impacts to students.
  • SPAC discussed pursuing equitable benefits and support for fellowships at MSU with the new Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. As a follow-up to this conversation, SPAC reached out to the Graduate School to discuss the possibility of implementing a procedure to consider waivers for tuition not covered by the sponsor for fellows, rather than asking the faculty mentor to pay for it out of their discretionary funds.
  • SPAC members reviewed and provided input on proposed agency policies, including NIH’s proposed data sharing policy and the OSTP Request for Public Comment on Desirable Repository Characteristics of Repositories for Managing and Sharing Data Resulting from Federally Funded Research. SPAC’s input on the OSTP request was shared with the MSU Library’s Data Management Team and COGR and the comments influenced the Library’s and OSVPRI submission and COGR also considered for their response to NIH and OSTP.
  • SPAC members provided valuable input on SPA/OSP/CGA online resources, which resulted in several improvements. These include enhancements to the user interface of the upgraded KC Conflict of Interest (COI) module to improve ease of use, along with suggested enhancements to the PI Portal in AE, revisions to the certification language in the KC Proposal Development module, and input on the Global Activities Disclosure.
  • SPAC provided feedback on RA training and recruitment initiatives, including the recently released RA Recruitment Video and providing input on the plan for delivery of KC training.
  • SPAC provided positive feedback on the current service delivery model and as follow up, OSP worked with a college to provide clarification on FastLane User Roles.
  • Members were asked to provide input on the sixth and seventh cycle of Unit Research Administrator Spotlight Awards. A total of four people served on at least one of the two Recommendation Panels for the Fall and Spring Awards.
  • Improvements to reporting options were also of interest to SPAC members, including encouraging improvements in reporting in order to eliminate the need for shadow systems. CGA has been working on improved visibility/reporting of financial information and reviewed some of the developments with SPAC and received their input.
  • SPAC was asked to provide feedback on external trends and areas for improvement within SPA/OSP/CGA to work on in the future. SPAC’s ideas were shared with the associated office.
  • During the 2018-2019 year, SPAC reviewed and contributed feedback on policies and processes that impact SPA/OSP/CGA, including the communication and process regarding NSF reporting on harassment, the new travel workflow design, OSP follow up and escalation procedures, and sponsor input on accessibility to data.
  • The SPAC discussion on leveraging resources along with the follow-up input from CORD and the SPA/OSP/CGA Management Team resulted in the creation of three new workgroups on campus focused on enhancing administrative capacity: the RA Improved Public Awareness Workgroup, the RA Classification Workgroup, and the RA Recruiting Video Workgroup.
  • The Proposal Timeline graphic was created with input from SPAC. This resource is available on the SPA/OSP/CGA website, and will be made into a handout to distribute at the New Faculty Orientation. The Proposal Timeline is a resource to help faculty, and new faculty in particular, along with the administrative staff supporting them better manage their time in planning their proposal preparation and submission activities.
  • SPAC members provided input on the Roles and Responsibilities documents for proposal and post-award activities and their feedback resulted in updates to improve the usefulness of these documents, which are intended to provide clarification on responsibilities for college and department research administrators, PIs, and central SPA/OSP/CGA staff. These documents were posted to the SPA/OSP/CGA website in March 2019.
  • SPAC members provided valuable input on SPA/OSP/CGA online resources, which resulted in several improvements. These include visual enhancements to the user interface of the upgraded KC Conflict of Interest (COI) module to improve ease of use, along with input on the Fee for Service process diagram and the PI Portal in AE.
  • Asked for input on the fourth and fifth Unit Research Administrator Spotlight Award and process. A total of four people served on at least one of the two Recommendation Panels for the Fall and Spring Awards.
  • SPAC was asked to provide feedback on external trends and areas for improvement within SPA/OSP/CGA that the group may want to work on in the future. The committee expressed an interest in looking into ways to improve employee well-being and satisfaction in order to reduce staff turnover among research administrators. Improvements to reporting options were also of interest to SPAC members, including encouraging improvements in reporting in order to eliminate the need for shadow systems. These ideas will be shared with the SPA/OSP/CGA Management Team to pursue in greater depth.
  • SPAC members identified OSP/SPA/CGA Best Practices, including assessments and training. A minimum training requirement for research administrators was discussed, and members offered suggestions to make the ERA certification process more accessible, including offering courses more frequently and making courses available to take online. Suggestions were shared with the SPA training team and the SPROUT Training Subcommittee.
  • 2017-2018 was the first full year of SPAC meetings after Kuali Coeus (KC) go-live to campus.  SPAC provided input to increase the functionality of the system including the following:
    • After a member expressed interest in improving reports in KC, meetings with the member and several staff from SPA/OSP/CGA evolved into the inception of the Reporting Group, a group of research administrators and individuals from SPA, OSP, and CGA that meets often to discuss current and future reporting needs from KC and training on its functionality.
    • A change was executed in the system when a couple of members pointed out a circular pattern when faculty complete information in the Conflict of Interest module. The solution makes it more clear when the disclosures are complete.
    • Implemented changes to better alert faculty after they’ve approved a proposal.
    • Through discussions and examples in a SPAC meeting, it was discovered that a Facilities and Administrative Cost code in KC was no longer relevant and was subsequently removed.
    • Members joined in thoughtful conversations on scenarios and language for a new question to be added in Proposal Development which will allow for more efficient identification of projects involving children.
  • Members provided feedback on processes and changes as developed in Office of Sponsored Programs:
    • Early in the 2017-2018 year, OSP Director and two OSP Managers presented to members the creation of the OSP Award Process Project. Awards have been assigned a projected range of time to be processed based a predetermined complexity level.  The Project evaluated efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency based on a number of factors.  SPAC was briefed on the process and members offered valuable input to increase the efficacy of the Project, including how to best communicate with research administrators and faculty.
    • SPAC members gave feedback on reference materials developed to understand which agreements are negotiated by OSP, Business-CONNECT, and other units on campus.  
  • CGA Director asked for input on post-award website enhancement ideas that would impact client satisfaction and support.  The committee provided valuable feedback that influenced next steps
  • SPAC was asked to provide feedback on leveraging resources on campus and in central administration to support faculty.  Members offered information on both what was working well and where there were some gaps.  The areas that indicated there were resources that could be better leveraged were disseminated to the Council of Research Deans (CORD), SPAC, and the SPA/OSP/CGA Management Team to individually rank items that they would like to see explored.  The results were compiled and analyzed and action will be pursued on six priorities.
  • To ensure SPA/OSP/CGA share the right kind of information with new faculty at the New Faculty Orientation, SPAC was asked to review New Faculty Orientation materials and provide input on what they felt was most important for new faculty to know.  Ideas were shared and they will influence the design of the presentation at the next orientation.
  • SPAC gave feedback on topics for videos that would be helpful to faculty and research administrators.  The feedback will be considered for future videos.
  • A member of the SPA Training Team gave a demonstration of the eLearning course in D2L on the Essentials of Research Administration (ERA) elective on International Research to gauge interest in pursuing more electives in the same format.  SPAC was receptive to continuing this pursuit and also provided comments on additional methods (e.g. webinars) for offering courses electronically which will help in future eLearning decisions.
  • During the 2017-2018 year, SPA/OSP/CGA made several website improvements based on SPAC contributions.  Some include creating an index of the regular KC Updates for an improved browsing experience, developing a webpage of frequently used acronyms in research administration, and increasing visibility of the Account Explorer video training by changing the color of the button on the page.
  • Asked for input on the second and third Unit Research Administrator Spotlight Award and process.  A total of five people served on at least one of the two Recommendation Panels for the Fall and Spring Awards.
  • Obtained member input for planning to understand what key success measures would be for the year, what members want to be updated on, and items of interest.
  • Kept committee current on the Research Administration Project (RA) updates including several guest speakers to provide background information, progress of implementation and a demonstration of the system.  Feedback from the committee was taken back to the Project.  For instance: 
    • Feedback impacted KC Helpdesk extended service hours. 
    • Shared idea that Kuali Coeus (KC) communicate through posters/visuals.
  • The design of a “Welcome” page on the SPA/OSP/CGA website was because of comments from the committee so that visitors may better understand the structure of the website and contact information.
  • Switched to using a Google search engine on the SPA/OSP/CGA website because of feedback from SPAC that the current custom search results could be improved. The new Google search will provide more accurate search results.
  • SPA/OSP/CGA is documenting minor and major changes to its website based on feedback from the committee that they were unaware of some changes or improvements.  The changes will be communicated on the website, through email listservs and at other committees on campus as needed. 
  • The meetings served as a good space to share experiences.  For example, a committee member shared a successful story of working well with a counterpart on continuation of funding and its challenges.  By sharing the example, it made others aware of what they could do in the future and how SPA/OSP/CGA could also help.
  • Asked for input on the first Unit Research Administrator Spotlight Award and process.  Three committee members served on the Recommendation Panel to recommend the awardees. 
  • Feedback from members led to showing specific metrics in different ways and at each meeting.  This allowed for transparency of data and dialogue of logic behind the results.
  • SPA/OSP/CGA have taken steps to make SPAC more visible in the SPA Newsletter, CORD, and on its website based on observations from some of the SPAC members.
  • Kept lines of communication open with SPAC regarding updates within SPA/OSP/CGA and asked for input on various topics such as OSP Proposal Committees (budget review and progression map) and Point of Service Survey feedback on proposals and awards.
  • The committee provided comments to pass on to the Export Controls and Trade Sanctions office about ways to improve the current Export Control and Open Research Review Worksheet (ECORRW) and the process to determine if a project is exempt from needing an ECORRW
  • Provided suggestions on a training video created in SPA/OSP for international subawardees.  For instance, SPAC provided feedback on validating usefulness of the information and improving the visual to explain what documents are included in a subaward.
  • Invited guests from Business-CONNECT and CGA to speak on fee-for-service accounts and activities and a guest from the Human Research and Protection Program (HRPP) office to discuss general structure of HRPP, IRB Office, Compliance Office, IRB Committees and IRB Reliance Agreements with other institutions.
  • Kept committee current on the Research Administration Project (RA) updates including requesting and getting input on proposal questions for more accurate data collection.
  • Invited Business-CONNECT to discuss their process and how it differs from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP)/Contract and Grant Administration (CGA).  Decision soon after for Business-CONNECT to use the Activity Log.
  • Made committee aware of the establishment of the International Sponsored Awards Workgroup, its progress, and asked for input on process.
  • Gave demonstration of OSP/CGA website redesign and requested feedback.  Confirmed the layout was intuitive.
  • Prioritized tasks from the Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA)/OSP/CGA Strategic and Action Plan 2015-2018.  Influenced the SPA/OSP/CGA discussions.
  • Requested and received clarity in hardship versus advance accounts and how to request for incrementally funded grants.
  • Clarified guidance with voluntary committed cost share and how it’s documented in OSP/CGA and OSP/CGA took more ownership to support documentation.
  • Prompted research on the background of why an approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is required for research with human subjects and from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) for research with vertebrate animals prior to an account being setup in CGA.  Confirmed the requirements related to doing so.
  • Discussed the process for eTransmittal revisions and how it will translate with the implementation of RA, and confirmed that more defined processes need to be identified.
  • Demonstrated how to retrieve proposal and award information from the SPA website and CGA’s Account Explorer tool.  Feedback was positive and more communication to campus was encouraged.
  • Covered the team approach structure in OSP and CGA and confirmed it made sense.
  • Invited Export Control and Trade Sanctions (ECTS) office representative to speak on the ECTS process and metrics.
    • Discussions influenced improvements with ECTS process which included adding a specific option in the Export Control and Open Research Review Worksheet (ECORRW) to execute more effectively and allowing the worksheet to be started earlier in proposal development.
  • Perceived/actual bottlenecks were discussed at the initial meeting and addressed throughout the year. By identifying the areas of concern, the SPAC isolated opportunities for improvement.
  • The Proposal deadline policy was implemented shortly after the first meeting. Best practices on ways to adhere to the policy in each college were exchanged.
  • As a result from a suggestion from the SPAC, a Proposal Checklist was created. Simply enter in the sponsor's deadline and "today's" date, and it will fill in the due dates that follow the proposal deadline policy. It includes the steps from the Proposal Preparation Guide, asking the user to confirm that all areas are complete prior to each deadline.
  • The release of the Activity Log in the Office of Sponsored Programs occurred during the SPAC's first year. A demonstration of the Activity Log was given to the committee. Its purpose is to increase transparency with the proposal and award tracking system for campus use. It also allows central administration to keep accurate metrics for reporting and be able to provide more ad hoc reports (e.g. proposals that were not submitted due to proposal deadline policy).
  • A central location for SPA/OSP/CGA metrics was added to the SPA/OSP/CGA website. Metric information is updated frequently.
  • Developed a plan to approach Life Cycle Stages communication to display OSP/CGA goals and commitments to turnaround time frames throughout the life cycle of the award. It includes typical/median processing time for steps from Proposal to Award Closeout.
  • FAQs as well as contact information for all groups in OSP and CGA added to the website.
  • Explanations provided for lag between creation of the account number and it being functional, timely close-out of accounts, and general guidelines for invoicing.
  • Point of Service survey results from Proposal and Award Negotiation/Account Setup discussions.
  • Examined OSP/CGA service delivery methodologies. Received feedback on pros and cons of splitting each group by college, sponsor, transaction type, and by manager discretion.
  • Implemented cross-training a few individuals between OSP and CGA which allows them to have a broader knowledge of the life cycle of the award.
  • Provided more clarity on the Export Control Process and opportunities for training on export control issues.

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