ICG: Adopting New Technologies

In recent weeks, the Industry Contracting Group (ICG), part of the Office of Technology Transfer, has commenced a migration from its old system for delivering notices of award. Rather than using an office-wide server to store files and other critical information, from here on out ICG will use OnBase, a software package that allows researchers and tech transfer employees to share important documents.

When a sponsor approaches a research group at Emory to offer funding for research or clinical trials, ICG is responsible for coordinating with the two parties in an approval process that generates a fair amount of paperwork. Previously, researchers and ICG used two separate systems for storing their forms. These forms include compliance documents such as Institutional Review Board approval for clinical trials or regulatory approval of experimental drugs as well as conflict of interest notices and budgets. Researchers housed these documents in a campus-based online database which ICG employees could view and access. However, for their own bookkeeping, office members used the “iDrive” – an independent server that housed these various procedural documents.

This system meant that important documents underwent two uploads – once to the campus-wide server by researchers, and then once again to the iDrive for the office’s internal records and use. Not only was the system redundant, it caused gaps in record-keeping. An important approval might exist in one server but not the other. More importantly, the office might finally generate a notice of award but without knowledge of the researcher, as it existed only in the iDrive.

Instead of simultaneously managing two databases used by two groups of people with different levels of access, OnBase software consolidates communications to one channel. By offering a central location to store information, OnBase halves the procedural workload on the tech transfer side and standardizes access to the funding process. The software doesn’t directly impact any step of the approval process, but rather provides a better management system.

Employees in ICG have already responded well to the shift. Daniella Carter, a Sr. Sponsored Research Analyst, remarked that “It’s saved me time, which is the main thing. The old way we uploaded documents was really slow. I would literally have to do one click, turn and do something else while it’s loading, do the next click, wait and do something else – that’s how long it would take. OnBase is user-friendly and saves me time.” Mekia Hardy, a Sr. Assoc. Sponsored Research Analyst, felt similarly. While she expressed there had been “some hang-ups” during the early part of the transition period, she insisted about OnBase that “to maneuver through it is fairly easy and requires less steps.”

Regarding the hang-ups noted by Hardy, ICG coordinated an in-person training session to explain the new software. Furthermore, the office brought in a team of job aides specifically qualified to show employees the software’s features. Luckily, the shift to OnBase software will not greatly impact researchers, who will continue to be responsible only for submitting documents. Their adjustment will largely involve getting used to one platform over the other, while tech transfer employees will have to navigate files more adeptly. As time progresses, our office’s team is positioned to work even more efficiently towards securing outside sponsorship for the impressive intellectual work done at Emory.