By Dan Nordquist, Associate Vice President, Office of Research Support and Operations

Within the Office of Research, the Office of Research Support and Operations (ORSO) is here to support and assist WSU and its faculty with any and all of their research, scholarly, creative, and service activities.

One of the most frequent questions we hear is, “Is there any way to reduce the red tape on my grant?” When I hear this, a couple of things jump to my mind:  How is my team responding to this issue? What are we doing to stay ahead of issues like this? What is happening at the national level to help with this issue, if anything?

Well, here’s how ORSO helps reduce the regulatory burden on your current research.

National Changes

Federally, there have been significant legislative changes that we track to ensure the WSU community’s voice is heard. We do so by maintaining an institutional membership with the Council on Government Relations (COGR), an association of research universities, affiliated medical centers, and independent research institutes. The primary function of COGR is to advocate for policies and practices that fairly reflect the mutual interests and separate obligations of federal agencies and research institutions.  We also stay very involved with several other regional and national organizations to keep up with the latest policy and procedure developments that impact faculty grants and contracts.

Several relatively recent federal laws have helped make life a bit easier for faculty members and staff. For example, the 21st Century Cures Act includes provisions recommended by the National Academies, National Science Board, and others for reducing research regulatory burden, including the creation of a Research Policy Board. This board will be made up of representatives from the research community to help flag and address regulatory challenges.

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (“COMPETES”) also featured research regulatory reform measures, including the creation of an interagency working group to address research regulations and work to streamline both pre- and post-award requirements. Finally the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 increased the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000, which makes research purchases easier. A matrix of the specific updates that were considered in each of these laws is available here.

Making Our Voice Heard

In addition, federal agencies have been seeking comments on regulations, paperwork requirements, and other obligations that can be modified or repealed to reduce administrative burden as part of the implementation of Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” (issued on January 30, 2017) and Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda”(February 24, 2017).

The COGR group, mentioned above, surveyed its membership about very specific measures regarding the reduction of faculty administrative burden and whether we, as institutions, would implement or have implemented the recommended actions. We compared extremely well in the implementation of these important recommendations when compared with schools like Emory, USC, Stanford, and others.

On Campus Efforts

Lastly, we have many fronts on campus where we collect feedback and get the word out regarding our improvements to the proposal and award processing system, including the WSU Research Council,  the Pre- and Post-Award (P2) Advisory Group, the Research Administrative Community (including its listserv), and the various working groups associated with the Drive to 25 metrics. In addition to the improvements to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee online systems earlier this year, we’re also working on improvements to the Human Subjects online system and other online forms.  In addition, each of the groups ORSO is involved with provides direct recommendations for improvement and communication of its services.

For more information, contact us at orso@wsu.edu.


Research Highlights

WSU Number 1 in USDA research, development expenditures
In 2016, Washington State University topped the list of U.S. Department of Agriculture research and development expenditures. Researchers at WSU expended $42.8 million in USDA research and development funding, leading the list of 350 universities nationwide.

Department of Energy and WSU team up on hybrid power systems research
The Department of Energy has teamed up with WSU to research new hybrid power systems. Dustin McLarty, Ph.D., received a $678,014 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to further his research into fuel cell systems.

Researchers use single-atom catalyst, convert CO to CO2
Researchers from WSU and Tufts University have demonstrated for the first time that a single metal atom can act as a catalyst in converting carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, a chemical reaction that is commonly used in catalytic converters to remove harmful gases from car exhaust.

WSU receives $1 million from Keck Foundation to develop self-replicating materials
Washington State University scientists have been awarded $1 million from the W. M. Keck Foundation to develop molecular machines that self-replicate, producing pounds of 100-percent pure material. This is the first step toward a new paradigm in manufacturing where everything from smartphones to life-saving cancer drugs could be designed one atom at a time and then grown out of a vat.

Early warning system for deadly amphibian pathogen
New technology being developed at WSU could help save amphibians around the world from a deadly fungal pathogen. Over the past 30 years, this pathogen has caused the decline or extinction of at least 200 species of frogs and has been implicated in the disappearance of Central American salamanders