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The Basics of Effort Reporting


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1. The basics of effort and sponsored projects
2. UMASS Effort and activities that are allocable to sponsored projects
3. Commitments to sponsored projects
4. The basics of effort certification at UMASS
5. Effort certification guidelines
6. How to certify your effort with ECC
7. Managing effort while working on your projects
8. Course wrap-up


This training document was largely developed as a course by the office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) University of Wisconsin – Madison and has been modified for use by the University of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts gratefully acknowledges and appreciates the use of this material for our time and effort training.
This course is for faculty and academic staff who work on sponsored projects, and for others who serve as principal investigators on sponsored projects. Administrators and other members of the campus research community may also find it useful.

Course goals

The goals of this course are:

  • To explain the key principles of effort on sponsored project
  • To communicate the requirements that apply in proposing, managing, and certifying effort on sponsored projects
  • To provide training in how to certify effort with the Employee Compensation Compliance (ECC) system

Why is it important to know this?

Each year, the university receives millions of dollars from organizations, including the federal government, that sponsor research and other UMASS activities. As the stewards of those funds, it is our obligation to comply with federal and university requirements to certify faculty and staff effort on sponsored projects.
To certify effort accurately, we must understand some key principles that are stipulated by the federal government. Many universities have paid multi-million dollar fines for not certifying in accordance with these principles
Currently, effort certification is a hot topic among federal auditors. A failure to propose, manage, and certify effort correctly could jeopardize the university's federal funding and lead to penalties for the university.

Coming attractions

Here are some of the key points you'll encounter in this course:

  • Effort is your work on a project, whether the sponsor pays your salary or not.
  • When you write yourself into a grant proposal, you are committing your effort to the sponsor.
  • If you reduce your effort, paid or cost-shared, on a federal grant by 25% or more, you must have agency approval. If you reduce your paid effort, you may choose to document cost-sharing so that the total effort does not decrease.
  • Many activities cannot be charged to a federally sponsored project. For example, the time you spend on the following activities cannot be charged:
  1. Writing a proposal
  2. Serving on an IRB, IACUC or other research committee
  3. Serving on a departmental or university service committee
  • If you work on a sponsored project, you must certify your effort.
  • Certifying effort is not the same as certifying payroll
  • Certification must reasonably reflect all the effort for all the activities that are covered by your UMASS compensation.
  • Effort is not based on a 40-hour work week.
  • Effort must be certified by someone with a suitable means of verifying that the work was performed.
  • Any indication that certification was based on factors other than actual, justifiable effort is a red flag for an auditor.

A word about terminology

Strictly speaking, graduate students receive stipends rather than salary. In this course, the term salary is used to refer to both salary for employees and stipends for graduate students.

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