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Frequently Asked Questions

What is effort certification?

Effort certification is the method by which the University assures the federal government and other research sponsors that they are charged only the appropriate labor expenses and that faculty and staff has met their commitments to sponsored projects.

Why is effort certification important?

Effort certification is required by some research sponsors, especially the federal government. Failure to certify effort correctly and in a timely manner could be viewed as fraud and result in sanctions and/or charges against both the institution and the individual.

What does this mean for me?

  • If your salary is charged in whole or in part directly to a sponsored project, you must have your effort certified.
  • Also, if you expend committed effort on a sponsored project, even though no part of your salary is charged to the project, you must certify your effort.
  • All PIs certify their effort.
  • All graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and non-PI classified staff will have their effort certified by their PI.

Who is required to be the certifier?

OMB Circular A-21:

Section J10b(2)(b) ... Direct cost activities and F&A activities may be confirmed by responsible persons with suitable means of verification that the work was performed. Suitable means is having direct knowledge which could encompass the Principal Investigator, the individual performing the actual work or a direct supervisor who have sufficient and verifiable knowledge of the work being performed, including an understanding of the individual's regular duties and responsibilities

What is suitable means for certification?

Suitable Means is defined as : Having sufficient or required properties for a certain purpose or task And to denote confirmation by evidence that something that was believed is correct, serving to support or corroborate

  • Oral verification from a faculty member to an administrator will NOT pass the test of "suitable means of verification."
  • Verification, at a minimum should be accompanied by some form of written documentation
  • All documentation used as suitable means must be retained for audit purposes to support certification, consistent with the award's record retentionrequirements
  • The means of verification must take into consideration and be consistent with other University documentation in existence
  • Must be sufficient to support a reasonable estimate of effort expended
  • The responsible person/official certifying the report shall maintain a written description of what was used as the suitable means of verification for future audit purposes

I generally work 50 to 60 hours per week. Is my effort computed as a fraction of the 'standard' 40 hour work week?

No. Your effort should be computed as a fraction of the total hours you spend in your professional capacity, not as a fraction of a 40 hour week.

Can I reallocate effort simply to use up unspent funds or to clear a deficit on a federal project?

Generally no. A person's effort must be charged to the cost centers where the actual work was performed. However, it should be noted that any "unfunded" effort on the project should be allocated to the cost sharing code and charged to a non-federal source of funding. By so doing, the effort is appropriately associated with the sponsored project while, at the same time, the cost is charged elsewhere

My PAF indicates that I am spending 90% of my time on sponsored projects, but I am actually spending 20% of my time on instruction, serving on committees and working with students. What should I do?

The PAF must be adjusted. Work with your administrator so that s/he can make the appropriate changes to your PAF to reflect your actual effort. A retroactive adjustment may be necessary to correct your effort for past months. If the effort adjustment results in funding problems, work with your administrator, PI and/or your director/ Department Chair to resolve the issue.

I am fairly new to the research community, and I am not sure I completely understand the nuances of effort reporting and certification policies and procedures. What should I do?

It is vital that each researcher with federal effort report that effort correctly. Contact the Office of Post Award Management. We can help you understand how effort reporting and certification impacts you and how to reflect your effort on your PAF. All investigators with federally supported effort are encouraged to take online effort reporting training.

How do I certify my effort?

This is a two-step process:

  1. Complete a mandatory training course on Effort Certification and Time Reporting. This can be done on-line.
  2. Log into ECRT during the certification period (semiannual for faculty, academic staff, graduate student and postdoctoral trainees/quarterly for classified staff).

Where can I go for help?

  • For questions about the ECRT program email Lori Taccino in the Office of Research or call 972-883-2173.
  • For questions about your sponsored projects, contact your Grants & Contract specialist in the Office of Research or your school's fiscal officer.