Three guideposts have steered the process for replacing our aging electronic research management and compliance legacy systems: determining the needs of our research community, evaluating all of the options to meet those needs, and identifying solutions that minimize additional effort and maximize additional functionality and efficiency. These considerations translated into several decision points that have resulted in the development of UT Research Management Suite:
- What is our approach to acquiring a solution? Will we build a solution or purchase these tools from an established provider, or a combination of both? After surveying over 100 top U.S. research universities, we investigated in greater depth a quarter of those that we identified as either UT Austin peers, UT System affiliates, or Texas-based institutions. Based upon that discovery process, we identified several options for our research community that would result in either a full research suite solution from a single vendor, a combination of research solutions from several vendors, or a fully-customized product built in partnership with vendors. Any solution that resulted would need to support System to System (S2S) proposal submissions to Grants.gov, would offer robust reporting capability, and provide a friendly, easy-to-operate experience for our community of users.
- Should we host the solution on campus or subscribe to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model? We elected the SaaS model with key customizations to tailor the service to UT’s needs while still allowing us to implement a continuous delivery of updates as the product is enhanced. Our goal is to provide a suite of tools that conform to our campus’s research management needs and broader regulatory obligations while keeping us within a delivered software model that won’t require extensive and expensive customization efforts with each new update. This places the development burden on the solution-provider, allowing the university to maintain a streamlined support staff that can focus on regular maintenance, testing and troubleshooting.
- What process will allow us to determine the best way forward? In 2018, we invited several electronic research management solution providers to campus to meet with our team and stakeholder groups across campus to answer questions about their products. Then we issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to give vendors opportunities to respond in detail to our requirements for the future solutions we will deploy and to provide estimates for implementation costs. From those responses, our evaluation committee worked with our executive sponsors to select Huron Consulting Group as our partner in developing the Agreements, IRB, Grants, COI, and IACUC modules of the forthcoming UT Research Management Suite. Since that selection, our Project Team has worked in partnership with our vendor to develop the project design and timeline, and with our research community stakeholders to define the requirements of our solution and the business processes necessary to ensure the organizational, efficiency, and reporting goals that continue to steer this effort.