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Frequently Asked Questions - Effort Certification

  1. What is effort reporting?
  2. How precise must my certification be?
  3. Why can't a departmental administrator certify my effort for me?
  4. Who is required to certify?
  5. How often must I certify my effort?
  6. Are there any other obligations related to Effort Reporting that I am obligated to fulfill in addition to certifying annually?
  7. What is ECRT, and what is its relationship to Effort Reporting?
  8. Is training in effort reporting required, and if so, how will it be made available?
  9. What happens if I don't complete the certification?
  10. When I reviewed my effort information, not all my salary was there. Why not?
  11. My effort on the various projects which I work on varies during the year. Is it necessary for me to change the way my salary is funded to reflect short-term fluctuations?
  12. I didn't know about these effort rules when I filled out my grant application. Is it too late to fix the problem now?
  13. Is there a maximum level of effort that can be charged to sponsored projects?
  14. Can administrative staff be directly charged to my sponsored project?
  15. Is the time that I devote to writing grant proposals chargeable to sponsored projects?
  16. If I conclude that I need to reduce the effort on (and therefore the salary charged to) my sponsored project, where will the funding for that non-sponsored effort come from?

What is effort reporting?
Effort reporting is the federally-mandated process by which the salary charged to a sponsored project is documented as being reasonable in relation to the effort expended on that project.

During the course of the year, the University charges salaries to sponsored projects and other accounts based on allocation instructions included in the MOE (i.e., the percentage of salary to be charged to one or more sponsored projects or other accounts based on committed effort) provided by department personnel acting upon instructions from Principal Investigators, Project Directors, and others who oversee those sponsored projects. Federal regulations require that throughout the course of the year, these charges be monitored to ensure that any significant change in effort or workload results in a change of the salary distribution. Twice a year, certification is required. 

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How precise must my certification be?
Federal regulations clearly acknowledge that precise determinations are not expected, and that reasonable estimates are acceptable. To quote directly from OMB Circular A-21, "it is recognized that, in an academic setting, teaching, research, service and administration are often inextricably intermingled. A precise assessment of factors that contribute to costs is not always feasible, nor is it expected. Reliance, therefore, is placed on estimates in which a degree of tolerance is appropriate." Consistent with the Federal regulations, you are obliged to use your best judgment in your certification, taking into consideration all of the activities that you were engaged in during the course of the fiscal year.

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Why can't a departmental administrator certify my effort for me?
University policy requires “primary individuals” (Principal Investigator, Project Director) to certify for themselves and their project staff. As noted above, Federal regulations require a certification that the salary charged is reasonable in relation to the effort expended. The regulations further require that the certification be signed by the principal investigator, responsible official or employee, using suitable means of verification. In the past, following the broad Federal requirement, UTB has required all individuals with any salary paid by sponsored projects to certify effort, as long as they have the requisite knowledge to do so. UTB, as recommended by UT System, has determined that “primary individuals” self certify their effort. In addition, a Principal Investigator/Project Director is now required to certify the effort of others charged to his/her sponsored project. 

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Who is required to certify?
All “Primary Individuals” who receive any portion of their salary from a sponsored project, or otherwise provide effort on a sponsored project, must self certify their effort. In addition, a Principal Investigator/Project Director is required to certify the effort of most other staff that devotes effort to his/her sponsored project. 

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How often must I certify my effort?
Answer: You are required to certify semi-annually. There is a limited period of time during which the certification process may be done; each year, you will be notified when the certification period begins and the date by which the certification must be completed. 

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Are there any other obligations related to Effort Reporting that I am obligated to fulfill in addition to certifying annually?
Yes. As noted earlier, there is also a monitoring requirement. You should monitor your salary allocation, via ECRT or through your monthly statements of account, to ensure that adjustments are made timely. Department Effort Coordinators may view monthly payroll reports  through ECRT. 

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What is ECRT, and what is its relationship to Effort Reporting?
ECRT is an on-line tool that facilitates both annual effort certification and monitoring requirements. 

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Is training in effort reporting required, and if so, how will it be made available?
There are two types of training: one in the policies and processes of effort reporting and the other in how to use the ECRT tool. For faculty and staff, both types of training will be available as classroom sessions. For faculty, an on-line effort reporting policy and process training module through the HR Training Post is mandatory. In addition, training resources about the ECRT tool also are available in this website. For more information, see the Effort section. 

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What happens if I don't complete the certification?
All “Primary Individuals” are required to certify, and to do so within the timeframe mandated by the University. Failure to satisfy this requirement may result in inactivation of current sponsored projects, the refusal to allow proposals to be submitted to sponsors and, if deemed necessary, removal of charges to sponsored projects for those individuals with uncertified effort. Disregard of the policy may also lead to other disciplinary actions in accordance with the University's policies. 

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When I reviewed my effort information, not all my salary was there. Why not?
With rare exceptions, only your "Institutional Base Salary" or IBS is reflected in ECRT. IBS includes your regular salary and summer salary as well as most other additional compensation received from the University. This includes most additional compensation paid for taking on additional activities, including teaching and administration. The salary reflected in effort reporting may be different from your actual salary is if some portion of your salary is excluded from IBS. But you still must allocate your effort based on all activities that are part of "Total Effort" or "Total Institutional Activities."

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My effort on the various projects which I work on varies during the year. Is it necessary for me to change the way my salary is funded to reflect short-term fluctuations?
No. The Federal regulations specifically acknowledge that this occurs, and state that short term fluctuations (such as one or two months) need not be considered as long as the distribution is reasonable over the longer term, such as an academic period. 

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I didn't know about these effort rules when I filled out my grant application. Is it too late to fix the problem now?
No. If you have concerns about your grant application, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs. 

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Is there a maximum level of effort that can be charged to sponsored projects?
The rules do not limit the percentage of effort that can be charged to sponsored projects; however, the effort charged to each project must be consistent with the level of effort to be devoted to that project. There is a minimum level of effort for PI/PDs: PI/PD effort on a sponsored project must be at least 1%. 

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Can administrative staff be directly charged to my sponsored project?
Generally, administrative staff may not be charged to sponsored projects. There are, however, two major exceptions to that rule:

  • where the nature of the administrative work relates directly to the science/project itself, or
  • where the extent of administrative work required by the project is very significant (for example, a Program Project grant).

For further guidance, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs. 

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Is the time that I devote to writing grant proposals chargeable to sponsored projects?
If the proposal writing relates to providing budget, technical and other materials on a continuing project (i.e., a non-competing renewal of an existing project), that time is part of the effort devoted to that project. For new proposals, if a portion of the proposal is a summary of work done on another sponsored project, that time may be charged to the other sponsored project. However, all other effort devoted to writing grant proposals for either new awards or competitive renewals of existing awards may NOT be charged to sponsored projects.

This is a requirement set forth by Federal regulations. As a general rule, a portion of a faculty or staff member’s time devoted to writing proposals should be charged to non-sponsored sources, as is the case for time devoted to teaching and administration. 

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If I conclude that I need to reduce the effort on (and therefore the salary charged to) my sponsored project, where will the funding for that non-sponsored effort come from?
Funding for non-sponsored activities such as teaching, administrative activities (including proposal writing as described above), as well as cost sharing on sponsored activities must be charged to non-sponsored sources (i.e., departmental funds). Under no circumstances may the costs associated with these activities be charged to sponsored projects; funding for these activities is a departmental and/or College issue and you should discuss this with your Chair and/or Dean. 

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