DoIT Supports Kent State's R1 Status by Creating App to Track $2M in Grant Money

From the Division of Information Technology’s Story Team

The future of tracking internal grant money within the university is here, and it presents a brand-new way of tracing the outcomes of funds distributed to professors for research projects. In partnership with the Division of Research and Economic Development (RED), the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has created a fund-tracking app to trace the path of grant spending.

As an R1 school, Kent State has the highest status for research recognition that doctoral universities can receive. This distinction was partly given due to Kent State’s funding for research.

The university provides monetary support through seed grants and gap funding for faculty research. These funds act as a springboard to jumpstart research that will ideally be continued through partnerships with external entities. Before the development of this application, tracking the outcomes of internal research funding came with a lot of challenges. The app helps answer questions about return on investment (ROI). For example, if a project resulted in a publication, patent or engagement with students during the project, the app allows awardees to report on those outcomes.

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The leadership of the university's research institutes and University Research Council were keen on deploying an application that would help them both see a broad perspective but also allow individual units to benefit from the data that's being collected. 

Within the Division of Information Technology, Wayne Fincher acted as the main developer of the app while collaborating with project manager, Jason Dunfee. Business Systems Analyst (BSA), Lisa Steigmann-Gall, was another key collaborator on the project. She helped keep the project on track while helping the team set appropriate goals.

The process of building the app required communication with stakeholders to identify solutions to the problem DoIT was approached with. This included biweekly meetings with Dr. Michael Kavulic, Assistant Vice President of Research Administration.

The Systems Development and Innovation team chose to develop the app internally through Microsoft Power Platform, leveraging Microsoft tools such as Sharepoint, Power BI, and Teams. This route allowed for a more user-friendly interface. “The professors just want to put in their data and be done with it. So designing something that was going to be easy for them but still captures all the data was the biggest challenge,” said Wayne Fincher.

“We had tried to Scotch tape and bubble gum a solution together, but it would not have been nearly as effective as what the team created. Without the little fairy dust that the DoIT team could sprinkle on it, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this.”

The communication between team members was described as fun, engaging, and highly responsive. “I think Wayne and I communicated 30% of the time in memes,” said Dr. Kavulic. According to Kavulic, the DoIT team played an essential role in the application’s success. “We had tried to Scotch tape and bubble gum something together and it would not have been nearly as effective as what the team created. Without the little fairy dust that the DoIT team could sprinkle on it, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this,” he said.

The application allows the university to capture the impact of internal grant funds, creating a platform for consistent data collection and reporting. This helps the university celebrate great work and insure that internal funding programs are used most effectively. 

The app is currently in its trial phase and will continue to improve based on user feedback. Over 50 different users have interacted with the app so far with a great deal of positive feedback. With this creative new development, the university continues to develop a thriving culture for research and sholarship.

The Systems Development and Innovation team built an efficient, resource-saving application that improves the workflow for researchers and continues to bolster our national distinction as an R1 university. The Division of Information Technology encourages other divisions to start a conversation with us about similar project partnerships.

POSTED: Friday, January 26, 2024 10:22 AM
Anna Rozic