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Streamlining Administrative ProcessesResearch

The Challenge: Use Technology to Improve Administrative Processes

The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is responsible for processing proposals and awards that come into Penn State for sponsored research, instruction and service. Negotiations for awards and contracts are conducted in this office, as well as oversight for adherence to University and Agency policies and procedures. Prior to 1999, proposal and award information available in paper-based systems and individual online systems varied from area to area. The same data were entered more than once, at both the individual unit and at OSP. There were delays in communications between central contract/grant negotiators and their colleagues in colleges and departments, and it took more time to process awards.

The Solution: SIMS, a Centrally Maintained Software Application and Database

SIMS web site


Penn State's Strategic Information Management System Reports (SIMSreports) is used by research executives, administrators, researchers, and staff at all Penn State locations to track, manage and report upon proposals and awards. Initially implemented in 1999 as a home-grown, centrally maintained, software application to manage the grants and contracts proposal and awards process, SIMS streamlined and consolidated these processes. SIMS is a complex software application with an associated database; the system contains over two hundred thousand lines of source code, over one hundred database tables and hundreds of stored procedures.

Leveraging of the SIMS system made possible other efficiencies and led to more effective decision making regarding research within the University. This system provides better access to more accurate, current data, and faster communications among those providing and using the information. SIMS has provided the infrastructure that made possible other improvements and enhancements over the following years. These include:

  1. The ability to monitor the University’s research enterprise in a real-time basis.
  2. The ability to perform extensive trend analysis on proposal and award trends for the University, individual colleges and departments.
  3. The ability to monitor the grant and contract performance of University research initiatives.
  4. Improved access to grant and contract documents through a fully integrated electronic documents system.
  5. Reduction of communications delays between central contract/grant negotiators and their colleagues in colleges and departments.
  6. Reduction of duplicative data entry by enabling colleges and/or departments to enter proposal data directly into the system.
  7. Reduction in time to process awards.

The system is available and used University-wide, at all 24 campuses and at all levels of the organization. Penn State ranks first among all U.S. universities and colleges in defense grants and contracts, first among all public universities in industry-sponsored research and development (R&D), and eleventh overall in total R&D expenditures; SIMSreports has played a role in contributing to Penn State's success.

For more information about SIMS, visit or contact Kenneth Forstmeier, Director, Office of Research Information Systems,

March 2008

Eva Pell
Eva Pell,
Senior Vice President
for Research and Dean of The Graduate School
"SIMSreports presents me with..."more
David Richardson
David Richardson,
Assistant Vice President for Research and
Director, Office of Sponsored Programs
"SIMSreports is an exceptional research management tool..."more

Emily Broking
Bonnie Cavanaugh
Peggy Considine
Paul Crum
Kenneth Forstmeier
Rich Gabel
Chris Lose
Todd Sherman
Susan Sillanpa
Jeff Tate
Michael Whyte
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