Research Communication from VPDoR for Chairs and Directors - March 6, 2024

Dear Chairs and Directors,

This month, I am sharing updates on the following topics:

  • Neale Mahoney named next director of SIEPR
  • A 2024 VPDoR Priority: Research Agreements Project
  • Clarification of Indirect Costs (IDC) Rate’s application to remote work
  • Sherlock storage expansion
  • Marsh O’Neill Award nominations

SIEPR’s Next Director

In case you missed the story in the Stanford Report, I am delighted to share the news that Neale Mahoney has been named the next director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). He will succeed Mark Duggan, who steps down this summer after nine years of distinguished service. Neale, currently a professor in Stanford’s Department of Economics and the George P. Shultz Fellow at SIEPR, will assume leadership of the institute on January 1, 2025, following a long-planned sabbatical in the fall. Greg Rosston, a SIEPR senior fellow and former deputy director of the institute, will serve as interim director from September through December to support the transition.


Research Agreements Project

The volume and complexity of research-related agreements the University handles have increased sharply over the last five years. This has led to unprecedented pressure on our contracting offices and the various parts of the University that support research agreements (e.g., OGC, Privacy Office, Information Security Office, Stanford Research Computing). It has also generated some faculty dissatisfaction and concerns over the speed with which research agreements—such as data use agreements, material transfer agreements, and collaboration agreements—are negotiated and executed.  


In 2022, Kam Moler, then VPDOR, and Randy Livingston, Vice President of Business Affairs (VPBA) and Chief Financial Officer, commissioned a working group of faculty and senior staff to analyze the situation and develop recommendations for reforms. Last summer, the working group released its report, which included recommendations in three main areas:

  • Staff Support for Research Agreements: The spike in our contracting workflow necessitates additional human resources, particularly contract officers, as well as improvements in staff onboarding and training.
  • Information Systems: Automated contracting and lifecycle management software are now common in the industry. These tools have considerable potential to make research contracting processes more efficient, and the working group recommended adoption. More generally, improvements are needed to our “customer-facing” IT systems to allow researchers to have a clearer sense of the current status of their agreements, what steps remain, and the anticipated timeline to completion.
  • Internal Processes: The most challenging agreements to negotiate are often those that require input and sign-off from multiple offices across campus. Roles and responsibilities across offices could be clearer; there is room for more “parallel” as opposed to “sequential” processing; and researchers need more guidance regarding where to go, for what, and in what order.

VPDoR and VPBA accepted these recommendations. We have since initiated a project with eight workstreams to act on the recommendations, and implementation is well underway. For example, funding was allocated to launch a pilot contract lifecycle management software in our research contracting offices. The pilot is scheduled to begin in the spring quarter, and initial efforts will focus on demonstrating feasibility with data use agreements and material transfer agreements. Additionally, the Office of Research Administration and the Industrial Contracts Office have introduced a common intake form in the SeRA system for research-related agreements.


I will provide you with further updates on this important project as implementation continues through 2024 and 2025.


Indirect Costs (IDC) Rate and Remote Workers

In response to recent inquiries, we are updating RPH 15.1 Facilities and Administrative (Indirect Cost) and Fringe Benefit Rates to clarify remote working and its application of the Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rate. The clarification is as follows:


The off-campus F&A rate will not be applied when members of a research group conduct research via telework from a residence because Stanford’s research operating costs continue to incur and apply when project personnel work from their home. Remote working is a privilege that does not change how the university applies the indirect cost rate.


We recognize there may be unique situations that require additional assessment to determine if the on- or off-campus rate should be used. Stella Hu, Senior Director of Cost Management and Analysis, Office of Research Administration, is available to provide any further guidance.


Sherlock Expansion Complete

The Stanford Research Computing team has completed an upgrade of the Sherlock shared-compute platform’s scratch file system to provide 10PB of full flash storage. This technically challenging upgrade was performed with minimum disruption. It represents a major improvement for Sherlock’s 5,000-plus users and will allow data-intensive tasks (AI, CryoEM, etc.) to be performed with much greater efficiency. Congratulations to the SRC team for completing this project, and thanks to the Provost for supporting this investment in our community’s shared research computing. You can read more about the upgrade here.  


Marsh O’Neill Awards Nominations

The Marsh O'Neill Award For Exceptional and Enduring Support of Stanford University's Research Enterprise is an opportunity for Stanford faculty to publicly acknowledge outstanding staff members who support the university’s research activities. Any faculty member may nominate any staff member, including Academic Staff, who has made an exceptional and enduring contribution to research and scholarship at Stanford. The award includes a $5,000 prize.

Nominations are due Monday, April 8, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Additional information about the award and the nomination process is available on the DoResearch website.


As always, you are encouraged to share relevant parts of this letter with your faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students, who may find the information and links helpful.


Stay safe and be well,

David Studdert

Vice Provost and Dean of Research