Effort Reporting

Effort is the proportion of time spent on professional activities such as research, teaching, administration, service for which an individual is employed by CWRU or for which one is appointed as a CWRU faculty member.

To find out more information about Effort Reporting at CWRU, please visit one of these links:

Helpful tools available: NIH has a website for Frequently Asked Questions regarding the "Usage of Person Months." This will help with questions regarding the conversion of percent effort to calendar months. This link contains a worksheet under the second question that will assist you with conversions. http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/person_months_faqs.htm#q2

Council on Governmental Relations (COGR):
Policies and Practices: Compensation, Effort Commitments, and Certification (posted 3-1-07) 

The Uniform Guidance Subpart E §200.430 contains the federal regulatory requirements for internal controls over certifying time expended on sponsored projects.

Responsibilities: There are many individuals involved in the Effort Reporting process and each one has a role in ensuring that certifications are accurate and completed on time.

Principal Investigators (PI's)/Faculty Members

  • Understand their own as well as their staff members’ (non-faculty personnel) levels of effort committed, charged and reported on all applicable awards
  • Review, initiate corrections if necessary, and electronically certify their individual Effort Report
  • Communicate significant effort changes to department administrator
  • Review salary charges on awards on a routine basis with department administrator and identify any effort-related changes

Department Administrators

  • Monitor effort commitments, salary charges, and cost sharing on all applicable awards
  • Communicate to the appropriate Pre-Award Office (Office of Sponsored Projects or SOM Office of Grants and Contracts) any changes that require sponsor notification and/or approval
  • Review salary charges with PI/faculty member and post any salary distribution updates and/or corrections in a timely manner
  • Review effort certifications for accuracy during the review period
  • Monitor that effort certifications are completed within the certification period
  • Monitor compliance with the University Effort Reporting Policy
  • Coordinate with the University central sponsored programs offices (OSP or SPA) on any questions or issues

Pre-Award Office (Office of Sponsored Projects or SOM Office of Grants and Contracts)

  • Communicate significant changes in effort to sponsors

Office of Sponsored Projects

  • Maintain the University Effort Reporting Policy
  • Provide effort reporting training, guidance on requirements, and oversee University-wide compliance with the University Effort Reporting Policy
  • Manage the business/functional aspects of the electronic effort reporting system (Spiderweb)
  • Provide customer service to faculty and department administrators, respond to functional questions and issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Effort is the proportion of time spent on professional activities such as research, teaching, administration, service for which an individual is employed by CWRU or for which one is appointed as a CWRU faculty member.

For clinical faculty at the School of Medicine, effort also includes clinical activity for which they receive compensation from CWRU or a clinical practice plan or other source of compensation for clinical activity. Effort does not include activities such as consulting that are conducted outside the terms of employment at CWRU or outside a CWRU faculty appointment.

Effort reporting is a method of documenting the proportion of work time devoted to these professional activities as a percentage of total professional activity. It is important to note that effort is not calculated on a 40-hour workweek. If an individual works 80 hours in a week, 40 hours represents 50% effort.

Payroll and effort distributions are not the same thing. Payroll distributions describe the allocation of an individual salary, while effort distributions describe the allocation of an individual's activity to individual projects "independent of salary."

CWRU's effort reporting process relies on payroll distributions to provide a general reminder of the projects on which an individual's salary was charged during the certification period. Individuals completing effort reports are required to identify other areas where they provided effort with no salary support and to ultimately report the appropriate distribution of effort over all activities.

As a recipient of significant sponsored funds, Case Western Reserve 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 utilizes to confirm effort on externally sponsored projects.

Signed 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.

IBS is the annual compensation paid by the University for an employee’s appointment (9 or 12 months), whether that individual’s time is spent on research, teaching, or other activities. IBS does not include bonuses, one-time payments, or incentive pay.  Additionally, IBS does not include payments from other organizations or income that individuals are permitted to earn outside of their University responsibilities, such as consulting. IBS must be used as the base salary on all grant proposals unless there is a statutory limit on compensation (e.g. NIH cap). 


Cost Sharing is the project costs that are not borne by the sponsor. Cost sharing of effort is the provision of faculty, staff, and/or student time and related fringe benefits that were committed and provided in support of a project but are not paid for by the project sponsor.  There are three types of cost sharing which consist of:

  • Mandatory Cost Sharing - required by a sponsor as a condition for making an award and usually refers to an overall percentage of total projects costs to be contributed by a source other than the sponsor. 
  • Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing – University faculty, staff and/or student effort that is over and above that which was not committed or budgeted for in a sponsored agreement.
  • Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Sharing – University faculty, staff and/or student effort that is over and above that which is committed and budgeted for in a sponsored agreement.  This differs from mandatory or voluntary committed cost sharing which is cost sharing specifically pledged in the proposal’s budget or award.

The total amount of effort expended to accomplish the professional activities of Case Western Reserve faculty, staff, and students regardless of the actual number of hours expended on those activities. This normal includes all effort expended on CWRU-compensated sponsored research, administration, teaching, unsponsored scholarly activity, and other activity and, in the case of clinical faculty, clinical activity compensated by clinical practice plans. 100 percent effort is not defined as a single, standard number of hours or days per week, since it will likely be different for each person and may vary during the year. The number of hours implicit in an individual's 100% effort must be reasonable and supportable to department, school, university, and external reviewers, if requested. In most circumstances, a minimum of 40 hours (assuming a full-time schedule) and a maximum of 80 hours would be considered a reasonable average work week.

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%. Again, just because an individual may work more than a normal 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 the January 1st to June 30th and July 1st to December 31st.  Faculty with 9-month appointments complete Effort Certifications on a semester basis, Spring (January to April), Summer (May to July) and Fall (August to December).


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 (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.

Grants Accounting 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. These individuals are in the Grants Accounting office, the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, and in specific research offices at the school/college level.