Effort Allocation, Certification, and Salary Recovery

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Your time is among the most valuable commitments you make to a project, and failure to devote time as promised can have serious consequences. Here is how to be sure you plan effectively and report accurately.

What is essential?

Effort is expressed as a percentage of the totality of the time you devote to your university responsibilities. If you are employed full time at Lehigh, then by definition, your total available effort is 100%. If you are employed less than full time, your total available effort will be a lower percentage of a full time equivalent. For planning purposes, it can be helpful to think about effort in terms of full-time months.

At Lehigh, we use the common plan-and-confirm approach to effort allocation: Prospectively, personnel plan how they will allocate their time in accord with all of their commitments to their university responsibilities. When salary has been charged to a project, personnel must provide certification of the effort that was, in fact, devoted to the project.

At Lehigh, formal certification of effort occurs at the end of each semester. Planning should therefore occur in advance of each semester, and should take into account obligations that will need to be met over the ensuing semesters.

Why it’s Important

When you commit your effort, or the effort of those you supervise, to a sponsored project, you make a commitment that must be upheld. When salaries and stipends are charged to a project budget, it is with the clear understanding that contemporaneous effort is being devoted to the project.

Failure to comply with salary and effort reporting and certification requirements risks your reputation, and the University’s. Consequences for failing to uphold commitments include jeopardizing the university’s eligibility for federal funding. Claiming that work was performed when it was not can subject individuals to significant repercussions, including civil and criminal penalties under the Federal False Claims Act and investigation and discipline under the university policy on Ethical Conduct in Academic Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities.

How to Comply

For members of the faculty:

  • Prospectively plan the use of your time based on the totality of the commitments you’ve made. We do not endeavor to quantify the effort required to serve on a particular committee, teach a particular course, etc. Yet your commitments to sponsored projects must be reasonable in light of everything you have on your plate, including formal commitments such as courses, committees, and research projects. Routine involvement in departmental, University, and other professional activities, including writing proposals for future support, must also be considered. If you have doubts about your ability to fulfill any of your commitments, raise and resolve these with your department chair and make any necessary adjustments to arrive at an amenable plan.
  • Ensure that any salary charged to sponsored programs reflects effort you are able to fulfill.
  • Be certain that your end-of-semester effort certification for federally sponsored projects reflects your actual effort.

 

For Principal Investigators, and others with project oversight responsibilities:

  • When changes must be made, work with ORSP and seek prior approval or provide notice to sponsors according to their requirements.
  • Ensure that staff members and students under your supervision understand their roles and responsibilities and are devoting effort consistent with commitments and reimbursements of salaries, stipends, and tuition. Note: A Graduate Research Assistantship is a half-time position, though timely progress toward degree typically involves periods of greater commitment to a student’s research and a student may, therefore, contribute more than 50% effort to a sponsored project.
Helpful Resources
  • If you are a member of the faculty, you should collaborate with your department chair and/or dean’s office in keeping account of your responsibilities and commitments and arranging your effort accordingly. Remember that effort ultimately reported to sponsors must be reasonable in light of the totality of your commitments and you are certifying the accuracy of effort reporting by you, your staff, and students under your supervision.
  • Your Contract and Grant Specialist can help you to understand sponsor requirements for prior approval and reporting.
  • A simple tool such as this one can be helpful in pre-semester planning.