Less paperwork, more productivity: U of T enhances support, systems for researchers

Blue arrows merging and moving forward

In 2013, U of T launched the My Research Application (MRA) to provide researchers, academic administrators and staff with a tool that ensures the effective, accurate and transparent management of research activities.

To date, close to 23,000 applications have moved through MRA in a well-defined approval process, ensuring visibility and awareness at multiple levels within the institution.

The system now includes over 1,000 annual non-funded research agreements supported by the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO) such as confidential disclosures, material and data transfer agreements. It’s a development that will help reduce administrative demands on U of T’s 2,800 researchers research.

“MRA has been a great productivity tool and we’re delighted to celebrate its expansion,” says Derek Newton, assistant vice-president, Innovation, Partnerships and Entrepreneurship. “MRA will now include a greater range of research agreements and these can be linked to research funds, regulatory permits or requirements and will make the process easier for our researchers.”

What’s Included in My Research Non-Funded Agreements?

  • Confidential Disclosure Agreements
  • Data Transfer Agreements
  • Material Transfer Agreements
  • Visiting Scientist IP Agreements
  • Research Memoranda of Understanding
  • Equipment Loan Agreements
  • Non-Funded Collaboration Agreements

Not only does this application streamline processes for researchers, but it also gives department chairs and deans direct visibility into these agreements.

“This application helps me to see at a glance all of the non-funded agreements at the Faculty of Medicine – in the past, this information was stored in various locations, but now I can easily view everything on my computer or phone,” says Professor Richard Hegele, vice dean, Research & Innovation. “Kudos to the way this application was developed and rolled out – the team implemented feedback from multiple testing sessions and by and large it’s been a fairly smooth transition.”

The system also provides transparency to researchers.

“The system allows researchers to identify who to contact,” says Renee Brost, chief administrative officer of the Division of the Vice-President Research and Innovation. “They know what stage their agreements are at and can follow them through the process – much easier than tracking multiple emails. Plus, the new application stores documents so researchers can quickly refer to past information.”

But building a system to support the size and scope of U of T wasn’t an easy task.

“We have researchers accessing different types of materials or data from around the world,” says Newton. “These could include biological materials for medical research, or data that can improve classroom teaching methods and student success.”

Professor Yu Sun is familiar with the complexities. His research spans biomedical engineering and mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.

“We collaborate with hospitals and industry, and need to have agreements in place. For example, we collaborate with clinics to test new devices for IVF treatment – for less invasive penetration of cells and for non-invasive selection of a single sperm with high DNA integrity. Instead of using hand-written forms, this application is efficient and easy to use – you just click through and submit!”

The non-funded application enhancement also uses a new user interface, which will be rolled out to the rest of My Research in the future. It’s part of a three-to five- year project, called the U of T Enterprise Modernization Project, which will transform the entire HR Talent Management Suite and the core HR, Research and Finance systems.

“We’re excited to put this new user interface from SAP into practice,” says Cathy Eberts, executive director of Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration. “Our goal is to provide a consistent, intuitive and streamlined user experience so that we can support our researchers and U of T’s mission.”

What’s next for My Research?

“We’re looking forward to continuous improvements in user experience,” says Brost. “Our goal is to support U of T’s mission by improving processes for our researchers so they can spend less time on paperwork and more time focusing on their work.”