Effort Reporting FAQs

Find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions on effort reporting at Case Western Reserve University.

Effort reporting is a method of documenting the proportion of work time devoted to professional activities, such as research, teaching, administration, clinical activity and service for which CWRU pays an individual’s salary. It is expressed as a percentage. Effort is not calculated on a 40-hour work week, but rather based on the actual hours worked. For instance, if an individual works 80 hours in a week, 40 hours these activities would represent 50% effort.

As a recipient of significant sponsored funds, Case Western Reserve University must assure federal and other sponsors that the assignment of effort and associated salary and fringe benefit costs to projects they sponsor is fair, consistent and timely. The Effort Certification Form is the document that CWRU uses to confirm effort on externally sponsored projects. Forms for reporting effort are available in Spiderweb.

Signed or electronically submitted Effort Certification Forms are considered legal documents in which an individual attests to the accuracy of the effort spent on sponsored projects. Material inaccuracies in Effort Certification Forms can result in the misallocation of costs to sponsored projects. An improper allocation of costs reported by internal, external or federal auditors may result in substantial restrictions in ongoing research activities and can affect Case Western Reserve and the individual researcher both financially and publicly.

Every individual who devotes effort to sponsored activities, whether paid or unpaid, is subject to effort reporting.

No. The effort percentages on the Effort Certification Form must total 100%—neither more or less. All CWRU compensated effort (and for clinical faculty, CWRU compensated effort and practice plan compensated effort) must be accounted for; and obviously the sum of the individual effort categories cannot be greater than 100%. Working more than the typical 35- or 40-hour week does not alter this rule. For example, an individual who spends 40 hours a week on sponsored research and 40 hours a week on clinical activity would report an effort percentage of 50% for each category, totaling 100% for the report period.

Individuals are expected to commit some level of effort (>0%) on sponsored projects on which they are listed as a principal investigator or key personnel with the exception of equipment and instrumentation grants, doctoral dissertation grants, student supplement grants and institutional/individual training grants (for faculty mentors).

To ensure that the effort reporting system reasonably reflects actual effort expended in the various categories during the report period, the person completing the Effort Certification Form must be a person with first-hand knowledge of the effort expended. In general, this is the individual whose effort is being reported. Therefore, at CWRU, the individual named on the Effort Certification Form should sign/certify his or her effort except for non-faculty key personnel and other staff (e.g. graduate students, post-doctoral fellow, research assistants) whose effort is certified by the principal investigator of the sponsored project for which they are contributing effort.

Faculty with 12-month appointments, staff and students complete Effort Certifications on a semi-annual basis, based on the fiscal year. The certification reports cover Jan. 1-June 30 and July 1-Dec. 31. Faculty with 9-month appointments complete Effort Certifications on a semester basis, spring (January to April), summer (May to August) and fall (September to December). See the complete Effort Reporting Schedule.

Faculty are required to review, modify as necessary and certify that the effort percentages for themselves and their key personnel are reasonable estimates of the actual work performed. Federal guidelines and CWRU policy recognize that the activities that constitute effort are often difficult to separate. Effort certification must often rely on a reasonable estimate of effort, and when estimating, a degree of tolerance is appropriate. However, a change in effort noted on the effort certification form (regardless of how small the change is) must always be accompanied by a change in the payroll or cost sharing.

Effort may need to be reduced at the time of award as a result of reduced funding and/or scope of work or because there is a change in the amount of effort available to devote to the project. If the effort needs to be reduced by 25% or more, you may need to obtain prior approval from the sponsor. Please check with your institutional representative in Pre-Award Services and Agreements. (Office of Sponsored Projects Accounting or SOM Office of Grants and Contracts) to determine if prior approval from the sponsor is required and the steps required to request approval.

Certified effort forms assert that the information represented is to the best of the certifier's knowledge, accurate and complete. Changes to previously certified effort erode the credibility of the certifier as well as the entire effort certification process. For these reasons, changes to a certified effort form are not allowed except in limited circumstances, which require extensive documentation as to why the effort was originally certified incorrectly. Likewise, it is important for administrators to complete known salary distribution corrections and salary transfers before the effort form is certified, since changes to payroll distribution that contradict certified effort are not allowed after certification.

The Effort Certification Form requires that effort expended on an activity be reported, whether or not that activity is funded by an outside source. For example, if a faculty member expends effort on a sponsored research project but does not charge the project for all (or any) of his or her salary for that effort, the entire effort must still be allocated to that project. The unfunded effort is generally considered cost sharing and must be recorded in the cost-sharing column next to the listing of the specific sponsored research project on the Effort Certification Form. As an example, if a faculty member expends 75% of his or her total effort on a sponsored project, but the sponsor is charged for only 50% of his or her salary, the 50% is entered on the Effort Certification Form in the column marked "Payroll" and the 25% is entered in the column marked "Cost-sharing." It is important to understand that this rule applies only to effort specifically expended on a sponsored project.

Office of Post-Award Services and Compliance is responsible for retaining the signed/certified Effort Certification Forms (either hardcopy or electronically signed versions), based on federal record retention guidelines. Grants Accounting strongly recommends that departments retain signed/certified Effort Certification Forms for a period of three years from the close-out of the project.

This can vary as a function of the individual and department and whether they are engaged in activities other than externally sponsored research conducted through CWRU. Examples of the types of documentation that could support the Effort Certification Form include the annual faculty activity summary, clinic schedule, personal schedule, consult schedule, class schedule. These supporting documents should be kept for a period of three years from the close-out of the project (i.e., for as long as the Effort Certification Form is kept).

Yes, formal workshops and seminars about Case Western Reserve's effort reporting system are provided throughout the academic year. In addition, individuals knowledgeable about CWRU's effort reporting policies and procedures are available to assist on an as needed basis. 

Reports for faculty and staff should be completed in the person’s current department. While you won’t have direct knowledge of the employee’s effort while in the previous department, you will have access to the salary distribution history which can be used as a baseline when discussing the effort with the employee. Additionally, our office is able to help coordinate between the departments to confirm the effort between the old and new Administrator.  Please note that this is different from the process for students who work in or move between departments during a reporting period. For students, they should have an effort report for each department in which they worked during the cycle. You will only certify for the effort completed in your department. 

If the employee had no effort on a reportable sponsored project during the reporting period (this would be effort on a project with an RES, TRN, or restricted SPC speedtype), then the report does not need to be released to and certified by the employee. In these cases, send an email to effort@case.edu and the Effort Team will review and remove the report if appropriate or contact you with additional questions. 

In a small population of reports, there is a known issue of one or more project lines being duplicated. For example, the line for project RES123456 will be listed twice in the report and will be summed in the total effort at the bottom of the report. If you try to remove one of the two lines, both get deleted. Our IT Team is working to identify why this happens to some reports. 

There is a workaround for these cases. Once the correct effort is listed on the report in the duplicate lines (If employee had 10% effort on RES123456, then both lines for RES123456 should reflect 10%), click the “Printable” button at the bottom of the page. The pdf that is created should only show one line and total 100% overall effort. Please have the employee sign the paper report and return that to effort@case.edu. Our office will hold onto the report and upload once the duplicate issue has been resolved. 
Please note that the report will still show as uncertified in Spiderweb, but we will do our best to not include those reports in any follow up we may have with you regarding uncertified reports. 

Tuition paid under a salary account code (512XXX) is considered compensation for work performed at CWRU. Therefore it should be included in the effort calculation. 
Tuition paid under the Scholarship (571XXX) or Fellowship/Trainee (572XXX) account codes are considered a cost of living allowance, not compensation, and therefore should be excluded from the effort calculation. 

No. Additional pay is not normally taken into consideration in the variance calculation. Since it is received for work done outside of an employee’s contractual duties, it is not part of the 100% effort of that employee and is excluded from the calculations. 

Generally, an effort report will be created if an employee received salary from an RES, SPC or TRN speedtype during the reporting period. Additionally, reports are generated for anyone listed as the principal investigator (PI) or as key personnel for an active RES, SPC or TRN speedtype. Any person who expends effort on a sponsored project should complete an effort report. 

Please send an email to effort@case.edu and our team will review the issue. If you have an employee with an effort report who you don’t recognize, has no effort on sponsored projects or is no longer with the university or your department, send their name to effort@case.edu. The Effort Team will review and assist with a plan of action which could include removing the effort report for the open period, moving the employee to another department or liaising with multiple departments to confirm effort across Management Centers. 

If the deadline to complete the effort certification has not passed, please send an email to effort@case.edu and we may be able to remove the certification and to allow for edits. If the deadline to complete the effort certification has passed, any removal of certification to allow edits will be due to extraordinary circumstances. Simply discovering a variance is not sufficient justification for removing a certification. If the effort certified is less than the amount paid in HCM, the overage can be moved to cost share or another speedtype so long as it does not impact any other reporting lines. The Office of Research Administration will review requests to recertify and discuss the decision with the effort administrator submitting the request. 
To request a certification be removed to allow for recertification of a report

  • The effort administrator should print a copy of the certified printable form from Spiderweb 
    • There is a “Printable” button at the bottom of the employee form that will generate a PDF of the certification. 
  • The correct effort percentages should be written to the side of the certified values. These new percentages should equal 100% and indicate either Direct Effort or Cost Share. 
  • The following questions should be addressed, either on the PDF or on a separate sheet of paper: 
    • Why was the effort report certified incorrectly on the original report? 
    • How was it determined that the certified effort was incorrect on the original report? 
    • What processes and/or procedures have been established in order to prevent this from recurring within the department? 
  • The person who certified the original form must sign and print their name on the edited form. 
  • The request and explanation should be forwarded to effort@case.edu for review.