When Khamis Abu-Hasaballah, assistant vice-president of research informatics, arrived at the UConn Health Center’s IT Department, he was confronted with a long-standing problem that had been vexing faculty and administrators alike.
“A tremendous amount of time and energy is wasted just updating someone’s CV,” says Abu-Hasaballah. “But it’s not only time consuming, it’s disruptive, can lead to multiple, outdated electronic and paper copies that are hard to manage which can result in delays in meeting request deadlines.”
A current curriculum vitae is crucial for any faculty member and at the same time, administrators want to have access to a centralized repository of CV data where a list of publications, grant support and community service is readily available.
Abu-Hasaballah and his IT team along with development staff started researching possible solutions. “We thought creating a Comprehensive Faculty Activity Registry (CFAR) would be a win-win. It would serve the faculty by streamlining the data management process for their CV’s. It would also provide the administration access to reliable, up-to-date, complete data.”
They quickly realized that a commercial, “off-the-shelf” product would not be feasible nor offer all the options the Health Center would require.
A “home-grown” system needed to be created. A committee of stakeholders including faculty members and administrators gathered together to talk about what they wanted in the system and how to go about making it a reality.
Several months later they started the actual programming or coding of the system and one year later they had the first – albeit limited – version of the CFAR.
“It’s quite a unique system” says Abu-Hasaballah. “The only institution that has a similar system is the University of California-Davis. They have a similar system they use for their tenure track and promotion.”
Along with having a large, comprehensive database of CV information, the CFAR can be used to automatically generate faculty websites, NIH biosketch templates, and performance appraisal template information.
“This was definitely designed with the faculty first and foremost in mind,” says Abu-Hasaballah. “And we now have enough data in the system that the faculty can go in and look at it and update it for accuracy.”
“The idea was, let’s find a way that we could avoid having to cut and paste the same information over and over again into our CV,” says Doug Oliver, professor of neuroscience and the first faculty member to try out the new system. “It comes down to money. If the administration feels like they can use the data to make judgments about progress and productivity and if the faculty feels they can use the data to argue in favor of a better raise – then the system will be used.”
As a community service, the IT staff will enter the data for faculty members if they send them their CV. They will also regularly update the information. For instance, once a month the IT staff checks PubMed, a database of biomedical journals, and downloads publications authored by Health Center faculty and add to the CFAR. And every week, they check the Office of Sponsored Research to see if they have any new grants that have been awarded to UConn faculty and input that information into the CFAR.
“It’s important to have a single source of truth,” adds Abu-Hasaballah. “When you introduce multiple systems you can have inaccuracies and problems so this way you have a single system that offers consistency, accuracy and the elimination of unnecessary tasks.”