Pod Model FAQs

As part of GW’s overall assessments to evaluate efficiency within all functions, a new “pod” model was introduced for sponsored research administration. This change continues efforts that began a few years ago to decentralize research support and represents the next evolution of this decentralization principle to accelerate progress toward our goal of achieving preeminence as a comprehensive global research university. We realize GW’s research community may have questions about this new pod structure, including how it aligns with the faculty-led research ecosystem review.

We hope the following will provide answers to some of those questions, and we invite you to email [email protected] with additional questions.

The Provost’s office had already received some feedback about ways to enhance the administration of sponsored programs. The financial mitigation due to the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for the Provost’s office to lead a set of working meetings, through June and July, with Faculty Senate members and Deans to evaluate our operations in research, faculty affairs, career services, advising, and academic technologies.

The assessment data discussed in those working meetings showed that the level of sponsored project administration support to our investigators has varied dramatically across units. It also identified some inefficiencies in the interplay between the schools and central administration sponsored project staff.

Pods will manage the complete lifecycle of a sponsored research project and provide continuity from inception to award closeout. The new model enhances support for investigators and streamlines research administration by:

  • integrating central and local staff within the same unit to improve collaboration and communication;
  • distributing existing workload across teams of research administrators;
  • enabling staff to develop and share sponsor-specific expertise; and
  • pooling resources in a way that will make support more consistent for all units across the board.

The new model aligns with a number of themes that emerged from the Phase 1 ecosystem review, including requests for flexibility, improved communication, and a partnership-oriented approach to research administration. Notably, the ecosystem review highlighted a need for closer collaboration and communication between schools and the central research administration team. The more integrated pod model will improve all of these areas to increase service excellence to the GW research community.

Each pod supports two or more schools and their affiliated research centers and institutes. The pods are organized around similar disciplines and account for the relative volume of proposals, awards and transactions that would be handled by each.

The new model will consist of three pods managed directly by the schools and colleges:

  • Pod 1: Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Business, and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the College of Professional Studies, and Libraries and Academic Innovation
  • Pod 2: Milken Institute School of Public Health, the Biostatistics Center, and GW Law
  • Pod 3: School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and School of Nursing

We expect the pod system will continue to evolve over the next few months as we begin to fully leverage the synergistic and collaborative opportunities that are created. Additionally, within the next year we anticipate the creation of a new group focused on major proposals and awards that strengthens our ability to win and manage large, cross-disciplinary, center-level awards.

The Office of Sponsored Projects website has more detailed information about pod leadership, managers and how to contact the pods.

As the model evolves in the coming months, other research units will be assigned to pods. In the meantime, any unit needing assistance may contact [email protected].

The pods will be school-led and include both school and central research administrators. Each pod will have pre-award, post-award and contracting functions. By focusing on school-specific portfolios, research administrators will develop expertise in the requirements of common sponsors and funding mechanisms.

The model consolidates school-based and central functions within the new pods while streamlining workflows. The anticipated efficiencies will result in fewer staff positions.

All Office of Sponsored Projects staff will continue to report to the central office, including the pre-award, post-award and contracting officers that are embedded within the pods. Award set-up, subawards, document and data management, training and education as well as some supervisory and administrative responsibilities will remain within the central office. While the pods will have more autonomy and flexibility, the authority to commit the university will remain within central administrative offices.

Staff assignments and responsibilities may shift as the pods are implemented and personnel decisions are made, over time. The schools and the Office of Vice Provost for Research will communicate updates to the research community as they are available. Contacts for Office of Sponsored Projects staff will continue to be available on the OSP website. If you need assistance or have questions at any time, please contact [email protected].

A number of silos have been eliminated with the formation of the pods because multiple schools will be sharing research administrators. Collaboration across pods will also be easier, since there are fewer overall teams to coordinate.

Outside of the school research administrators and the Office of Sponsored Projects, no other research offices or functions are impacted by the new pod model at this time. The pod structure will streamline communication and collaboration between sponsored research administration staff and the staff of other research support offices.

The new model does not affect ongoing research enhancement projects, such as responding to recommendations of the faculty-led ecosystem review and the implementation of myResearch, the new electronic research administration tool. These projects will continue with only minor revisions to scope or timeline.

Phase 1 of the ecosystem review resulted in 167 total recommendations, including 22 recommendations focused on enhancing pre- and post-award operations. As of April 2020, all 22 of those recommendations have been addressed or a solution is in process. The launch of myResearch, a new web-based tool for faculty to manage proposals and awards, is anticipated to resolve a significant number of the outstanding pre- and post-award recommendations.