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Effort Reporting

If you manage funds for federally sponsored projects, become familiar with the Electronic Certification of Effort and Reporting Tool (ECERT)

For any ECERT system related issues, or effort reporting questions that cannot be answered by your department's ECERT Coordinator, please contact the BFSupport (login required).

Please be advised that all ECERT system, effort reporting questions, and requests for assistance are reviewed on an as received basis. Thank you for your patience as we respond to your requests as soon as possible.

Announcement:

September 2016

We’re experiencing issues with PIs being unable to review their ‘My Projects’ and certify effort reports.  Fund Managers are unable to find and review effort reports.  Our ITS colleagues are still actively working to resolve the problem.  Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience as we continue to investigate this issue.

Please ask each employee to self-certify their own effort report if the PI is unable to certify.  We are sorry for the inconvenience.

Donna

ECERT Campus Coordinator

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What is effort?

All university work — including research, teaching, service, clinical work, and administrative duties — performed by an employee over a defined period of time is the employee's "effort." When UCSD accepts a federally sponsored project award, a legal obligation is made to certify that the effort required as a condition of the award has actually been completed.

  • The percentage of effort for a project is calculated as follows:
    Average weekly project hours / Average weekly UCSD hours = % project effort
  • Effort reporting is the method of certifying to granting agencies that the required effort has actually been completed. All employee salaries charged directly to federal and federal flow-through funds must be certified according to OMB Circular A-21.
  • Effort reporting is important because salary expenses are the major source of direct charges to federal funds. Improper or incomplete effort reporting can cost the university money in the form of audit disallowances, penalties and can jeopardize future federal research funding.
  • UCSD satisfies its effort reporting requirement through an effort reporting tool developed with other UC campuses and the Office of the President.  
  • Effort reports are required for all personnel paid directly from sponsored projects funded by federal sources, including private and state federal flow-through funds.

New PI Requirement for Effort Reports Certified After the Certification Deadline

Effective July 2013, ECERT system requires a comment whenever our PIs Certify Effort Reports after the certification deadline.  Certifications are due within 120 days after the end of each reporting period.  See an example ECERT Certify ERS Report - Comment Required (PDF) and Best Practices for more information related to managing certifications.

Policy Limits Salary from Federal Awards

Effective July 1, 2012, Principal Investigators may receive no more than 97% of their salary from federal awards, including federal flow through-funding. This Policy applies to all Principal Investigators whose salary is derived entirely from federal awards. Please read the full policy (PDF).

Best practices

Certification of effort charged to federal awards is a critical compliance area with significant risk potential to the university and its federally-funded research.

The Office of Post Award Financial Services (OPAFS) facilitates Effort Reporting Best Practices & Process Improvements to help ensure timeliness and accuracy during the quarterly certification process of employees paid through federal research awards.

Recommended communication and distribution of roles within your department or Organized Research Unit (ORU)

Establishing and maintaining good communication and clear roles is essential between ECERT Coordinators and Certifiers. Good collaboration and communication between Departments/ORUs can ensure that Effort Reports are completed timely and accurately. Distribute labor between these 3 roles:

  1. The intended certifier is the Principal Investigator (PI). PIs should certify their own Effort Report and Effort Reports for all non faculty members paid on his/her indexes.
  2. Identify who will have the role of ECERT Coordinator/Fund Manager. This can be the fund manager(s) or other appointees. The ECERT Coordinator/Fund Manager will do the following:
    • Preview PI certification lists
    • Review Effort Reports
    • Perform any needed adjustments using the Electronic Payroll Expense Transfers (EPETs) system. Ensure that ECERT Coordinators/Fund Managers have a thorough understanding of ECERT data, and how it is affected by EPETs.
    • Review Chart of Accounts (COA) and determine where COA overrides are needed to correct ECERT Coordinator/Fund Manager or PI assignments. Perform any needed Chart of Accounts (COA) Overrides
    • If needed - Check the Multiple Certifier box. This box may be selected for individuals who work on multiple projects for different PIs.
    • Email PI to notify them that the Effort Reports are ready for certification.
    • Monitor the status of certifications, ensuring certifications are completed timely [within 120 days after the end of each effort reporting quarter].
    • May train PIs on how to use the ECERT system.
  3. Identify a Primary Compliance Manager. This can be the Management Service Officer (MSO), Department Business Officer (DBO), or other appointee. The primary Compliance Manager will:
    • Monitor certifications for the whole Department/Organized Research Unit
    • Provide statistical progress reports within the department

ECERT Coordinators and Primary Compliance Managers work with their Department/ORU to ensure that PIs, or other employees, leaving the University, have certified his/her effort prior to separation. An individual's Effort Report can be generated on demand. If it is not possible to get the PI's certification, another faculty member with first-hand knowledge or suitable means of verifying the effort should certify.

Best practices for reviewing reports

  • Review ECERT data for completeness as soon as it becomes available:
    • Ensure that all participants on federal awards have effort reports.
    • Verify that all EPET/ COA adjustments are reflected.
    • Notify the faculty/ researchers when you are ready for them to certify.
  • If an EPET is necessary, adjust the "Adjusted Payroll %" column percentages in ECERT for the anticipated payroll change prior to PI certification, if possible.
  • Identify areas of concern and, if necessary, contact BFSupport (login required).

Best practices for communication with Principal Investigators

  • Ask the Director or Chair to speak at a faculty meeting about the importance of effort reporting.
  • Develop PI training strategies. (For example, target the PIs with the most employees to certify first, or PIs who are the most technologically savvy.)
  • If a PI is unfamiliar with a Business Systems account, enter their UCSD email address as their username and choose "Reset your password." The researcher will receive a password via e-mail to access ECERT.
  • Meet with Principal Investigators individually, especially the first time you ask them to certify.
  • Point the PIs to the Quick Reference Guide for Certifiers (PDF).
  • Establish internal deadlines for the PIs. (Certifications are due within 120 days after the end of each quarter.)
  • Develop e-mail templates for communication (and re-communication) with PIs.
  • Ask PIs to certify the report "as is" if the effort shown is within +/- 5% of the actual effort expended.
  • Ask PIs to consult with their ECERT Coordinators/Fund Managers if adjustments to Effort Reports are needed.

Best practices for staying in compliance

  • Appoint a Primary Compliance Manager who will review ECERT Status regularly. Use Effort Reporting Easy Queries to identify problem areas.
  • ECERT Coordinators should alert Managers to situations of noncompliance and remind them to communicate directly with the respective PIs to address any actions required for compliance.
  • Hold biweekly meetings between ECERT Coordinators, Fiscal Managers, Fund Managers, Payroll and Personnel Managers, and other fiscal staff to discuss ECERT compliance and other key issues.
  • Set up an appointment with the PI to certify in person if an e-mail notification is not sufficient.
  • Collaborate and communicate with other Department/ORU colleagues to facilitate the certification of Effort Reports for personnel appointed to your Department/ORU working for a PI in another Department/ORU, or the capture of multiple certifications, if necessary.
  • Establish an internal accountability plan for your Department/Organized Research Unit.

Cost Transfer & ECERT Forums

OPAFS Forums offer opportunities to:

  • Share best practices, build partnerships and collaboration between OPAFS and Campus Departments/ORUs in order to achieve 100% Timely Effort Reporting (within 120 days from the end of each reporting period) and minimize re-certifications (due to cost transfers and late pays);
  • Share knowledge and provide helpful tools (Blink, EPET, ENPET, ECERT and Queries) for UCSD Campus Departments/ORUs; and
  • Assist in the training of new or existing Fund Managers, ECERT Coordinators, and department personnel in the cost transfer and/or effort reporting areas.

Department key controls

Monitor the status of effort reports

  1. Access the ECERT system.

    If you don't have a Business Systems account, contact your Departmental Security Administrator (DSA) or self-register.

  2. Display the desired saved search.
    • Click the down arrow down arrow at the top left of the screen to access the Effort Report List page.
    • Click the Manage Searches menu box, and select the search you want to track.
  3. Monitor the status of the report using one of 2 options.
    • Filter the list by a specific status (e.g., only display reports with status "certified"):
      • Click the down arrow down arrow at the top left of the Effort Report List.
      • Select the desired status you want to display.
      • The display changes to only those reports with the status you selected.
    • Sort the list by status:
      • Click the column header in the Status column.
      • The display now shows all reports grouped by status.

Effort reporting schedule

Effort Reports are available electronically to departments as follows:

Months included Reports available Certifications due

FY16 JAN-JUN

January through June 2016

July 1, 2016 October 28, 2016

FY17 JUL-DEC

July through December 2016

January 4, 2017 April 30, 2017

NOTE:  To assist our campus enhance customer service and improve effectiveness, the FY15 OCT-DEC quarterly effort reports were our last quarterly effort reporting period.  Effective with the FY15 JAN-JUN effort reporting period, the Electronic Certification of Effort Reports will be required every 6 months instead of every 3 months.

Effort reporting system: ECERT

  • The Electronic Certification of Effort and Reporting Tool (ECERT) replaced the paper Personnel Activity Reporting (PAR) system in 2007.
  • ECERT system

Change a PI or fund manager at the active index level with COA overrides

PI and/or Fund Manager role changes to Effort Reports in the ECERT (Electronic Certification of Effort and Reporting Tool) system are processed in the CCM (Cost Center Management) system in FinancialLink/Tools by using the COA (Chart of Account) Override Maintenance.

COA Overrides, at the Index level, processed by departments are updated to ECERT on a weekly basis. (Tip: Hover your mouse on the description of “Sponsored Projects” in ECERT to see the results of COA Override.)  To ensure that PI and/or Fund Manager changes are loaded in the ECERT system, confirm the fund and ALL indexes associated with the fund are active before processing the COA Override. Delete all existing roles before adding the new PI and Fund Manager.

See a list of ledger cutoff dates at - http://blink.ucsd.edu/sponsor/BFS/divisions/general-accounting/ledger-dates.html

Frequently asked questions

General information

Q. What is effort reporting and why do we do it?
A. Effort reporting is the method of certifying to granting agencies that the required effort has actually been completed. Learn more about Effort Reporting.

Q. Who receives an effort report?
A. You are subject to effort reporting if you are an:

  • Employee who works on federally sponsored projects (the sponsor reimburses the university)
  • Employee who works on sponsored projects (funded by the university)

Q. What are "other sponsored activities" and "non-sponsored activities"?
A.
Sponsored activities are projects funded by non-federal sponsors, such as state agencies and private organizations. Employee pay on these projects does not require effort certifications.

Non-sponsored activities are funded by the university and include university-funded research, instruction, departmental research, and administration.

Q. Why is "By Agreement" compensation not allowed to be paid on Federal or Federal Flow-through funds?
A.
Visiting Scholars, and Other Visitors, are ineligible for compensation, whether in the form of salary or wages, from the University of California.  When Departments and Visiting Scholars, and Other Visitors, engaged in research activities agree upon a dollar amount, not tied to time/effort, the individual may receive payment for his/her "By Agreement" "Supplemental Income" compensation. (DOS Code BYA)

"By Agreement" "Supplemental Income" compensation payment(s) are just a way to distribute the individual's supplemental income and are not true effort.  These types of payments are not allowed to be charged on Federal or Federal Flow-through funds because federal funds require true effort for reporting.

Q. Why can anyone with ECERT access view payroll details?
A. Anyone designated certifier or preparer has access to the "View Payroll Detail" screens in ECERT. It's essential that those supervising effort certification can see all pay detail, whether or not the effort calculations include it because researchers may work on a grant or contract outside their home department. If pay information has been miscoded, the payroll details provide the evidence to make a correction.

All manner of compensation paid by the university is public record. However, due to the sensitive nature of this information, financial managers must use discretion when assigning employees access to ECERT.

ECERT and EPETs

Q. If I have to process a Electronic Payroll Expense Transfer (EPET), how will it affect Effort Reports in ECERT?
A.
Effort considerations when processing an EPET (PDF).

Q. When will I see my EPETs, Late Pay and Chart of Accounts Overrides reflected in ECERT?
A.
ECERT automatically reflects changes on a monthly basis after ledger close.

Once the EPET is processed and the PPS data is uploaded into the ECERT system, it automatically changes the Original Payroll percents. If the report has already been certified for a different amount, it re-opens and the status becomes Open/ Reissued. This means it requires recertification and the previously certified amounts in the Adjusted % column need to be manually adjusted to reflect confirmation of the change.

If a EPET is in process, but not yet reflected in ECERT, you can adjust the effort in the Adjusted % column in anticipation of the EPET. After certification these reports, the status becomes Certified/ Adjustment Required until ECERT receives and matches PPS data. Once this occurs, the status changes to Certified and no further action is needed.

Check the information for PPS entry and update deadlines here

Handling special situations

Q. How does ECERT handle K Awards?
A.
K Awards require 75% effort. The recommended way to handle certification when K Award funds a portion of the employee’s salary is to:

  • Modify the adjusted Pay % column to reflect the actual effort performed.
  • Allow the status to remain "Certified/ Adjustment Required" when the report is certified in this case.
  • Enter a comment. Ensure it contains the following:
    • "Please note that actual effort performed on the K award was ___%. The differential between the paid percent and effort percent is considered voluntary, uncommitted cost sharing and therefore no payroll adjustment is necessary."

If the 75% of the employee’s salary exceeds what the K award supports, set up their payroll to pay the non-K Award professional salary at the true rate and the K award salary at an adjusted (lower) rate to utilize the K Award. You then set up a By Agreement for the difference, since By Agreement pay doesn't impact effort percentages. This is similar to the way UCSD pays employees with an NIH salary cap

Q. When do I add an additional sponsored project to an effort report?
A.
Occasionally, an employee has no salary charged to a project but needs to report cost sharing because he/ she has expended effort on that project. In this case, you need to process retroactive payroll charges.

Q. How can an effort report total 100% when the employee doesn't have a full-time appointment with the university?
A.
Effort is not based on a 40-hour work week. Instead, it's based on the total time spent on university activities, no matter how many hours are worked.

Support

Q. What are the hours of availability for ECERT?
A.
ECERT is generally available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Q. What training will be available for my department?
A.
Customized hands-on training, Web-based training, and courses through UC Learning Center will be provided. See the next section to learn about these training options.

Q. Who do I contact with ECERT questions and issues?
A.
You can contact your department's ECERT Coordinator.  For questions that can't be answered by your department's ECERT Coordinator, contact the BFSupport (login required).

Q. Which departments participated in the pilots?
A.
An implementation team with representatives from 6 departments tested ECERT and began using the system in January 2007. The entire campus began using ECERT in October 2007. See ECERT Pilot Departments (PDF).

Training options

The Office of Post Award Financial Services (OPAFS) partners with campus Departments/ORUs to facilitate Effort Reporting Best Practices & Process Improvements to help ensure timeliness and accuracy during the quarterly certification process of employees paid through federal or federal flow through research awards.  We assist the campus by: 
  • The next Effort Reporting: ECERT Hands-on Learning Experience will be scheduled at the ACT Training Room located at TPC/S (Torrey Pines Center South) Suite 400.

Need help?

For questions that can't be answered by your department's ECERT Coordinator, contact BFSupport (login required):

  • Add additional employees to the database
  • Edit the Cannot Certify list
  • Update the employee PI indicator
  • Update effort report status
  • Please contact your Department's DSA/ECERT User Administrators to create permission and roles

Announcements

PI Requirement for Effort Reports Certified After the Certification Deadline

Our ECERT system requires a comment whenever our PIs Certify Effort Reports after the certification deadline. Certifications are due within 120 days after the end of each reporting period. See Best Practices for more information related to managing certifications.

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