Definition of Effort
Posted on July 16, 2008
Hermi R. Woodward (bio) explores complications concerning minimum effort requirements.
When a mechanism like a K award has a minimum effort requirement of 75 percent, anywhere between 75 and 100 percent, I do not think that the majority of people understand that that effort commitment is binding, so to speak. As long as you have the grant, it's the minimum effort of your total academic effort that has to go into this K.
This now means that it limits what else you can do during that time, which is great if you want to spend that time and develop your own research career. You have protected time. But they often think they can do a lot of other things on the side that then somehow can get absorbed under the K or they take on projects that have no effort on it, but require effort. And all these are violations that are potentially dangerous.
The principal investigator has to certify every year, "This is how I spent my time." And they have to exert as much effort as they committed to that project, and they can never exert more than 100 percent effort because that's the total effort that they have. So somehow this is something that people don't easily grasp.
It is complicated by the issue that a lot of people who are clinicians have separate clinical appointments that come through a different payroll system and that are not taken into consideration in the effort requirement, because the effort that you commit through an academic grant that goes through your university always only encompasses your university-based effort. It doesn't take into consideration if you moonlight at the emergency room on weekends because that's not part of your university-based salary. So a lot of young investigators and experienced investigators have questions about that.
In a non-K, if you were on a grant, you put the grant in committing effort to that grant and you keep personnel on that grant, you cannot reduce your effort by more than 25 percent without going to the agency and asking for permission. People constantly do it without asking for permission, and that's dangerous. If you're the PI on the grant, you have to make sure. You have to answer a question every time you put in a progress report if anything changed on the key personnel on your grant.