FAQs: Effort Reporting

What is an effort report?

An effort report is the official document used by the University to document all effort, whether directly or indirectly charged, for sponsored agreements. This document is required by Uniform Guidance A-81 §200.430, and OMB Circular A-21 §J (10).

Why do I have to certify an effort report?

As a recipient of Federal contract and grant funds, the university must comply with the Uniform Guidance A-81 and OMB Circular A-21. Because cost sharing is not identifiable in the financial accounting system, the effort report confirms how effort was spent on projects, and directly charged or charged to other non-research project sources.

Who must complete an effort report?

Monthly paid employees who work on federally funded sponsored projects and projects subject to A81 and A-21 ruling, and who are:

  • Paid directly on the project cost center.
  • Paid by university’s non-sponsored project funds.

Effective March 2014, RD2K generated effort reports are required for those hourly employees who record their time electronically.

Do I report effort in the summer?

Yes. Uniform Guidance A-81 and OMB Circular A-21 requires documentation of charges for work performed by faculty members on sponsored agreements during the summer months or other periods not included in the base salary period. Summer effort reports only include direct salary charges applied to sponsored project for effort performed during the period 6/1 through 8/31. 

When is effort reporting due?

The University of Houston certification occurs 4 times a year.  When the effort certification period becomes available, the appropriate staff will be notified. 

How Do I submit an effort report?

Instructions for submitting effort reports are available through the Division of Research's SharePoint site with CougarNet credentials. Instructions include:

Other resources include a guide to the effort reporting form, a calculation worksheet and the NIH Cap calculator.

Where do I go to do effort reporting?

The reporting system is paper-based. The reports will be printed by department staff from the RD2K system, verified and given to researchers to report time and certify the data. Once the researcher returns the signed report to department staff, the information is entered into RD2K and the signed copy is scanned and uploaded to RD2K for recordkeeping.

How does a payroll reallocation affect effort reporting?

Effort reporting should drive the payroll reallocation. If effort was charged incorrectly to the sponsored project and a payroll reallocation is being processed to change the distribution of effort, the effort report should reflect this change. If payroll reports change, the effort report must be re-certified to reflect the change. In other words, re-certification is required.

How do I submit a re-certification?

The department may either revise the departmental copy of the original certified activity report or submit a new re-certification form.

  • If revising the original, write “Revised” at the top of the document and make the required change(s). Attach documentation supporting the revision. The faculty member must initial and date the changes or re-sign and re-date the form.
  • If submitting a new form, identify it as so by marking it “Revised” at the top of the document. Cross out the original form and attach it to the new form. The faculty member must initial and date the changes or re-sign and re-date the form

What happens if I do not certify my effort report?

If you do not certify your effort report, you will not be in compliance with the Uniform Guidance A-81 and OMB Circular A-21. The university is then at risk of losing existing and future funding from sponsoring agencies.

Who can certify effort reports?

Every employee should sign their effort report. However, the Principal Investigator or his designee must certify or sign the report as well. If the employee is no longer at the university, the PI’s signature is the only signature needed on the report. On the PI’s effort report, only his/her signature is needed. One person should never certify for the entire unit. The person who certifies the effort report is responsible for the submission or omission of any information in the report.

How is additional compensation treated on effort reporting?

Additional compensation is usually posted in PeopleSoft as 3% FTE in addition to the employee’s 100% FTE. When additional compensation is included in the IBS as described above (appointment to the office of the Chair, Dean, Center Director or other long term assignment) it is included in the effort calculation. When additional compensation is for incidental pay and short time work overload, it does not have to be included in the effort reporting calculation. 

What percentage effort do you report for graduate students?

Graduate students positions are normally 50% FTE for their full effort on a project at the University. Therefore, graduate students should report 100% if they are working the maximum number of hours allowed by the University.

What is total effort?

Total effort is not the same as FTE. It is the cumulative number of hours spent each day to accomplish the tasks in the appointment or in the assigned job for which the individual receives an annual base salary, also known as the Institutional Base Salary (IBS). For example, a full-time regular work week is 40 hours represented by 100% FTE in the payroll system. However, total effort is the number of hours actually worked that week. The total number of hours worked and the total effort could be more or less than the official 40 hours designated on the payroll system. The effort to be reported is a percentage of the total number of hours worked.

What is Institutional Base Salary?

IBS is defined as the annual compensation paid by the University for an individual's appointment, whether that individual's time is spent on research, instruction, administration, or other activities.  It does not include effort for which the employee receives compensation directly from another entity (e.g., outside consulting work). The IBS is the salary amount that is used in calculating effort.  IBS can be comprised of the following salary sources:

  • Regular Salary - The professional base salary in the academic appointment.
  • Summer Salary - A salary amount outside of the academic appointment paid in the summer months.
  • Administrative Supplement - A salary amount paid in addition to regular salary and includes the individual’s appointment to the office of the Chair, Dean, or Center Director. The added payment is for assuming a higher-level of responsibility and is usually approved in a written appointment letter on file with the Office of the Provost. The work performed is within the employee’s usual hours and duties of the primary job, and the additional stipend is assigned to the office; it is not a part of the base salary of the person holding the office, and will be relinquished when the individual leaves the office. Job titles may include:
    • Administrative Stipend
    • Dean Stipend
    • Chair Stipend
    • Center Director

Is additional compensation allowed on a sponsored project?

Unless there is prior approval by the awarding agency, charges of a faculty member's salary to a sponsored project award must not exceed the proportionate share of the IBS for the period during which the faculty member worked on the award. For example, if a faculty member’s full time (100%FTE) monthly rate during a 9 month appointment is $8,000.00, then he/she cannot receive more than $8,000.00 per month for the equivalent time during the summer months, which are outside of the appointment period (100% FTE). 

Faculty members are not expected to receive additional compensation for Intra-university consulting since such consulting is assumed to be undertaken as a university obligation and should not result in an increase of the rate of pay. However, in some cases additional compensation may be allowed under certain conditions and when such consulting arrangements are specifically provided for in the award or approved in writing by the sponsor.  The conditions must meet the following criteria:

  • The payment amount is in accordance with the written policies of the university.
  • It can be shown conclusively that the work performed is beyond the level of the faculty work load as described in appointment letters or other documentation.
  • The payment amount is commensurate with the IBS rate of pay and the amount of additional work performed.
  • The payment amount falls within the salary structure and pay ranges established by and documented in writing or otherwise applicable to the university.
  • The total salaries charged to the grant including extra service pay are paid for allowable activities for the grant.

Should I document voluntary cost sharing or cost sharing not committed/promised to the sponsor on my project proposal budget?

Cost sharing should be documented when Principal Investigators and other university employees spend a significant amount of time on sponsored projects that is not reimbursed by the sponsor. Ultimately, what is considered significant is left to the judgment of the Principal Investigator.

Who sets up cost sharing or budgeted committed effort to sponsor?

Budgeted cost sharing and direct charge to the sponsor is set up on the effort report by the Research Administrator at the beginning of an award and is updated as needed. The percentage committed either as direct or cost share will show up when the report is printed so that the anticipated percentages are reflected on the effort reports. Researchers are required to enter an amount that reflects the actual committed time (direct and cost shared) each month until you have met this commitment overall.

What is cost sharing (as it relates to labor/effort)?

Cost shared effort is defined as work performed by employees on sponsored projects that are not paid by the sponsor. It is included on the effort report as it is a component of the total effort that an employee works.

The following situations involving cost shared effort cannot and should not be documented on effort reports. In each of case below, an after-the-fact memo should be used to explain and document this type of cost sharing:

  1. Cost sharing funded by another sponsored project.
  2. Cost sharing funded from federal appropriations.
  3. Cost sharing performed by bi-weekly paid employees.
  4. Cost sharing performed by 9 or 11-month paid faculty during the summer period.

How is effort reported when I am sick or on vacation?

The university policy is to pay vacation and sick leave to all benefit eligible employee and charge it to the fund source they are being paid. Therefore, this time should be reported as if you were at work. Extended leaves of absence while being paid on sponsored research funds warrant further review and discussion with your department administrator, and/or department chair.