RAMP reviews proposals for new research administration software

The Research Administration Modernization Project (RAMP), an initiative within the Administrative Transformation Program (ATP) to transform research administration at the University of Wisconsin, is reviewing vendor responses for an integrated cloud-based system to support UW’s research enterprise. The request for proposal (RFP) was posted on May 1 and closed June 1.

RAMP seeks to improve and modernize the processes, policies and technology that support UW’s  research administration operations. Part of ATP’s mission includes the implementation of a new Systemwide enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which would eliminate the Wisconsin Proposal Electronic Routing (WISPER) system, the primary administrative tool used by UW’s research administrators and principal investigators (PIs).

“The elimination of WISPER will have a profound impact on the work of research administrators – it’s a necessary tool,” says Kurt McMillen, who guides the work of RAMP as ATP’s Research Administration Strategy Lead. “But it’s not without its flaws: Its lack of comprehensive functionality has created a complex environment in which our administrative staff must complete their work.”

WISPER’s limitations are also compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for a modern and agile research administration system to support the world-class work of the UW’s research community – something WISPER doesn’t provide,” says McMillen.

WISPER is just one in a variety of systems and applications currently used by UW’s research administrators, PIs and faculty to perform pre- and post-award functions. This assortment of systems has led to inefficiencies, sometimes unreliable data and the potential for increased compliance risks during the award life cycle.

“The implementation of a single, integrated system has the potential to greatly improve the work of research administrators,” says McMillen, adding, “It will also result in less time being spent on administrative tasks and a greater focus on growing UW’s research enterprise.”

Research is a cornerstone of the University of Wisconsin System, which is home to two top-ranked research schools (“R1”) in UW–Milwaukee and UW–Madison. The latter ranks eighth in the national research rankings for public and private universities, with nearly $1.2 billion in annual research expenditures.

The RAMP selection team expects to review RFP responses through mid-June. The process will culminate with virtual vendor demonstrations in July, the details of which are still being determined. McMillen says his team hopes to announce the selected vendor in September.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what our vendors will show us this summer,” says McMillen. “Beyond that, I’m excited to work with UW staff to create better policies and processes, in tandem with the new software implementation, to better support the expansion and advancement of research at UW.”