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Results of the Research Administration survey of researcher satisfaction with our support units, and a listing of workshops available to our researchers.

McMaster Research Administration: 2011 Researcher Survey

In the winter of 2011 McMaster’s Research Administration Support offices – the Research Office for Administration, Development and Support (ROADS); the McMaster Industrial Liaison Office (MILO); McMaster Research Finance (MRF); and Health Research Services -  solicited comments from researchers about provision of service.  At that time, we committed to providing the results of the survey to all respondents. The Research Administration offices greatly appreciate researchers taking the time to provide their constructive comments regarding the service we provide.  Responses showed a significant level of satisfaction with  the level of service provided and also suggested opportunities for service improvement.  As only three responses were received specific to the Health Research Services office, the responses below reflect suggestions for ROADS, MILO AND MRF.

Cross Departmental Issues

  •  Research Administration Contacts

As the research funding landscape continues to evolve due to shifting government priorities, MILO and ROADS have increased their efforts to co-ordinate reviews to ensure that institutional expertise is allocated to the best effect.  To manage the workload, each office maintains primary responsibility for selected programs. Information on these responsibilities can be found at http://milo.mcmaster.ca/whowhat

The ROADS Development Advisor for your Faculty can be found at:
http://roads.mcmaster.ca/about/contacts-by-department

The MILO Business Development or Contracts Advisor for your Faculty can be found at: http://milo.mcmaster.ca/about.us/staff_profiles.

  • Education and Awareness

The Research Administration Offices seek to increase the research community’s awareness of funding opportunities and the supporting requirements which facilitate research. Working in collaboration with appropriate partners, information sessions this past year have focused on:

  • Tri-Agency funding opportunities
  • Tri-Agency compliance requirements
  • Funding opportunities provided through Provincial Agencies
  • Opportunities made available through targeted calls 
  • Research Contracts, working with industry and commercialization


To ensure McMaster personnel are strategically positioned to take advantage of government and agency priorities, new workshops will be developed over the coming year and will include:

  • the needs of  new researchers
  •  international opportunities
  • graduate students and post-doctoral fellows
  • reading financial statements
  • a list of workshops can be found here

Purchasing at McMaster is handled through McMaster Purchasing Resources and is not part of the Research envelope.  As Purchasing support is however a critical component of a successful research program, ROADS organizes a series of information sessions to connect Purchasing personnel to the research community and to provide an opportunity for education regarding procurement policies and procedures.  Dates for “Buying at McMaster 101” can be found on the ROADS website at: http://roads.mcmaster.ca/events/.   

Department Specific Issues

Research Office for Administration, Development and Support (ROADS)

Issue: More communication needed about funding opportunities

In addition to the e-mails sent by ROADS regarding Tri-Agency and major funding competitions, there are now four ways of obtaining information on funding opportunities. 

These are:

Issue: Dedicated Support for Proposal Review

The research funding environment has changed significantly over the years.  Traditionally there was a busy “grant season”.  Today however, proposals are submitted to the many varied opportunities which occur throughout the year; in addition, competitions considered “major” or “institutional” occur on average every three weeks.  This results in ROADS personnel reviewing multiple applications or agreements at any one time.  Nonetheless, ROADS wants to help and has dedicated discipline-specific personnel trained in grant review to help with development of proposal and subsequent funding agreements.  While there are no doubt a number of reasons as to why this is the case, statistics indicate that proposals submitted to ROADS in time for full review have a higher success rate than those that are not.

For example:

  • NSERC Discovery 2012                                71% vs. 25%
  • NSERC Discovery 2011                                64% vs. 56%
  • SSHRC Insight 2012                                    35% vs. 9%
  • SSHRC Standard Research Grant 20122     44% vs. 26%

McMaster Research Finance

Issue: Financial processing

As was the case with many institutions, McMaster University received an unsatisfactory Tri-Council audit report two years ago which required immediate change to many of our processes.  Research Finance created a number of Task Forces and sought both researcher and administrator input prior to implementing change. One of our guiding principles was to minimize the amount of work required by the research community. In order to comply with the Tri-Council's requirements, we have had to implement many manual processes. We are anxious to develop new systems. The new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system -- the Mosaic project -- will include electronic work flow and approvals. As we develop these systems we will be soliciting input from both researchers and administrators.

Issue: Staff turnover

Research accountants receive a great deal of financial training. As a result they are highly sought after by other departments. Many research accountants have left our team to work with PIs or to go to TMG positions. This cycle is repeated often. Overall, the University benefits from the promotion, but Research Finance continually struggles to overcome recruitment and retention issues.

Issue: Travel and Purchasing

The survey generated several comments regarding both travel and purchasing. These comments will be passed on to our colleagues in central Finance. In an attempt to minimize the time required by central Finance to process payments and to ensure expenses are consistent with sponsor guidelines, Research Finance has a half-time person dedicated to the review of travel forms. 

We are encouraged by the recent changes made in Purchasing Resources. While accountants in Research Finance assist researchers and their administrators to process orders as quickly as possible, we do not set Purchasing Policy, nor do we resource that department.

Issue: Opening accounts

Research Finance opens accounts in 24 hours once the proper documentation has been received from either ROADS or MILO. An account cannot be opened without everyone’s acknowledgement of the financial terms. Proper documentation includes: an award notice, ethics certification, signed contracts, etc.  Research Finance has established a new process, granting ROADS and MILO the ability to assign account numbers. This will facilitate streamlining of the process.

McMaster Industrial Liaison Office (MILO)

MILO strives to provide the best services possible to researchers seeking to contract with industry, further develop intellectual property or commercialize their inventions.

The Issue: Joint Intellectual Property Policy

Under the direction of the Vice-President, Research & International Affairs, MILO is currently involved with the faculty working group tasked with reviewing the University’s Joint Intellectual Property Policy.  The review is scheduled to be complete by Autumn 2012 for presentation to the Joint Intellectual Property Board.

Commercialization:

 MILO will continue its efforts to build connections with both faculty and potential research partners in an effort to further develop understanding of commercialization and the research capacity of McMaster University. 

Systems Renewal

Many helpful comments were made surrounding the new ERP system, Mosaic. The systems upgrades are long overdue, and the University is now committed to invest in a modern system. The success of this project will depend on the level of user participation as systems are planned and processes are reprogrammed. This project will provide the corporate standards and processes that the University has long been without. It will improve financial accounting, support purchasing practices, improve travel processing, route research applications and provide information to various levels of management. A vast majority of the respondents to this survey look forward to these improvements. Improved work flow and access to modern systems are critical components of this undertaking. Barb McKenna, Director of Research Finance, is a member of the Mosaic Steering Committee and is the Chair of the Functional Area Advisory Committee on Research Administration. For any questions, concerns or feedback specific to the research systems process with Mosaic, Barb can be contacted by email mckennab@mcmaster.ca, or at extension 24681.