New research proposal system streamlines proposal process


new research proposal system streamlines proposal process

Iowa State is implementing a new research proposal system that is intended to streamline the research proposal process and enhance the user experience.

Starting July 5, Iowa State University is set to introduce the Streamlyne proposal development and routing system. Streamlyne will replace its current systems including GoldSheet, Cardinal Sheet, Liquid Office and Cayuse.

For over 20 years, Iowa State’s research proposal system has been a multi-step process that has presented multiple usage challenges for researchers across campus.

According to the Office of Sponsored Programs and Administrations’ (OSPA) website, Streamlyne will improve tracking and reporting methods, save time for principal investigators and allow improved access to past proposals.

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and OSPA are collaborating with colleges and user groups across campus to perfect this new system.

During fiscal year 2022, Iowa State submitted over 2,100 proposals to external funders and received just over 1,700 grants/awards totaling $284 million, stated Peter Dorhout, vice president for research, in an email response with the Daily.

“To put that into perspective, that’s an average of more than one proposal submitted per hour of every weekday of the year,” Dorhout stated.

Nichole Richter, the OSPA Streamlyne project manager and research administrator, said the system will streamline the research proposal process and make it more sustainable.

“If [research] is sponsored by the federal government or the state government or industry–, or really any organization that’s not Iowa State– researchers have to run that proposal through our office or through the Iowa State University Foundation,” Richter said.

Richter said being a state university, Iowa State follows certain federal and state regulations, and OSPA ensures proposals meet those requirements before they are accepted. She said the Streamlyne system will combine multiple proposal processes into one.

“Right now, the systems that we’re using– liquid office, and people put together what’s known as a GoldSheet, that’s what we call the current system that goes through OSPA, or a Cardinal Sheet,” Richter said. “ The GoldSheet comes through us but Cardinal Sheet goes through the Iowa State University Foundation and so we are combining those two processes into one.”

Richter said principal investigators (PIs) currently have to fill out the documents and send them through any existing system with the GoldSheet. Principal investigators complete the form with campus staff, and it must be signed off by everyone involved in the project.

People who need to sign the form can include principal investigators, co-principle investigators, the department itself and if a center or an institute is involved, they would also need to sign off on the document. Richter said this all happens sequentially.

“In the new system, all of that signing off can happen in a series of three steps instead of, you know, if there’s 20 people, 20 steps because the PIs and co-PIs can all sign off at the same time,” Richter said.

Jim Reecy, the associate vice president for research, said because the system is integrated, users will only have to enter their data once and will be able to comply, versus the current system.

“Right now, we have a system for when you’re asking for money from an external funder that would go through [OSPA] and it’s an entirely different process if there’s a request for the money to be donated to the ISU foundation,” Reecy said. “You have to know two different processes, and now [with Streamlyne] all of that will be integrated together.”

Reecy said this also applies to non-disclosure agreements and material transfer agreements, which currently runs through a third, separate system.

Reecy said as an institution, Streamlyne will allow improved tracking and reporting methods proactively compared to the current system at Iowa State.

“As an institution, we can track things better, and actually be able to report back to the U.S. Federal Government about things that, today, are very problematic because we do things after the fact as opposed to proactively and that’s just a byproduct of the system we have now,” Reecy said.

Richter said with the new system, principal investigators are going to be able to see where their proposals are in the workflow and they’re also going to be able to view all the listings that have been submitted through that system.

“Going forward, [PIs] will be able to produce on their own a list of all the proposals that they’ve submitted and they won’t have to keep records outside of the system, because they will be able to access the budgets they’ve submitted, the scientific papers they’ve submitted and any other documentation that goes with a proposal,” Richter said.

Richter said some proposals may be as small as a few documents, while others could be over 100 pages long. She added that principal investigators will now have access to all of this material and will be able to make copies of their complete proposals, which is not possible with the current system.

Richter said the entire process will be a time saver for principal investigators, in that they will be able to use past proposals for similar projects in the future.

“The advantage there is if they are doing a proposal that’s similar in nature, they can start with a proposal that they’ve previously done, and then just make the changes that they need to,” Richter said. “For example, let’s say someone’s doing a field trial, and they’re working with an industry partner and it’s someone that they work with on a regular basis, they can continue to have the same materials and just update it based on the research that they’re doing with that partner.”

Reecy said a specific function within the new system which will allow users to copy information from one proposal to the next.

“For many labs, the types of proposals they write are really quite similar when it comes to like people and materials and supplies and travel and now you can just copy it over; so you already have a template that you could work from,” Reecy said

Richter said the only challenge she foresees with the new system is that it is a new concept and will take time for users to learn and perfect.

“I think that because this system is more comprehensive than the systems we’ve had in the past, […] It takes a little time to get used to the idea of learning something new, I think once people get in and start using it, they’re really going to like the system,” Richter said.

Reecy also said that because this system is over 20 years old, the unknown and new concepts will be the biggest challenge.

“We’ve been using this now [20] year-old system and we haven’t had any change in that space for that lengthy period of time,” Reecy said.

Richter said the project team has initiated a group of campus users who have been working with the new system to test it and work out any difficulties as well as advocating for what people across campus think about Streamlyne.

Sara Erickson, a grants specialist II for Human Sciences Administration and one of the campus users, said OSPA invited Grant Specialist colleagues from all colleges to assist with the creation and testing of the new system.

“By bringing us all together in this workgroup, we’ve seen different perspectives and questions, which helps to, you know, better isolate and resolve any problems in building the new system,” Erickson said.

Erickson said she is grateful that OSPA staff is offering training sessions to assist in the struggle to learn an entirely new system. She said there is different terminology she has had to adjust to.

“There’s even new terminology within the new system– we know what we called it in the old system, but it’s a new term now, so just navigating it will take a little time,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the new system is very user-friendly and she became very familiar with it quickly after exploring and “clicking around.” Erickson estimated that she spends five to 10 hours a week testing out Streamlyne.

“[Campus users] have been meeting weekly for an hour and a half to two hours as a group,” Erickson said. “We can come together and report on our assignments and the certain tasks that have been given out to each of us, and so week to week, we’ll spend time on our own in the system entering in realistic proposals that we support investigators on.”

Erickson said the university is shifting to earlier routing deadlines, which she believes people will need more support with at the beginning of the transition.

“My advice to investigators on campus during the transition period, is that as soon as you know you want to propose some research or you know, apply for some external funding,” Erickson said. “I recommend you reach out right away to your grant support person or team; we’re going to be needing a little more time to offer support to each team or person, especially in the beginning of the transition.”

Richter said training sessions will be held to prepare users for the new system’s implementation. There are two online trainings May 11 and May 19 and an in-person training May 17, specifically geared toward principal investigators.

“There are other opportunities open to anyone who wants to come in and learn how to use the system, available at Workday Learning,” Richter said.

Richter said the project team will be rolling out a pilot in early May with predetermined groups on campus, who will be beginning submissions through the system.

“It’s going to be a phased rollout; we’re going to move forward with this slowly to make sure you know everything works and is going the way we expect it to go so that by the time it’s open campus-wide on July 5, we’ll have it up and running and have any kinks worked out,” Richter said.

Richter said there is a limit to the number of people that are allowed in each training to ensure everyone has the opportunity to understand the new system. She said there is also a handbook that the project team has put together on how to use the system.

“Ultimately, we think it’s going to be a great thing for campus,” Richter said. “It’s going to be very streamlined compared to what we currently do, it’s a sustainable system and we’re not going to have to worry about the issues that we currently have.”

More information about Streamlyne is available at