Effort Reporting & the Effort Reporting System (ERS)

NOTE: The last effort reporting certification cycle at UCSF was completed in August 2020 for the period of January 1 through May 2, 2020. Effort reporting has been replaced by award verification.

Refer to the Award Verification section of the Controller's Office website for the current procedure used by UCSF to meet federal guidelines under Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR §200.430 - Compensation-personal services and UCSF Campus Administrative Policy 300-19.

Effort is the portion of time spent on a given professional activity and expressed as a percentage of the total professional activity for which an individual is employed by the University of California. (Total professional activity includes research, teaching, patient care, administrative and other University appointed activities.)

As recipients of federal funding, educational institutions must abide by Title 2 Code of Federal Regulations (2 CFR), part 220 (formerly Office of Management and Budget Circular A-21). 2CFR, part 220 requires an effort certification system that:

  • Encompasses all employee activities (100% effort)
  • Confirms effort expended after-the-fact
  • Requires certification to be performed by an individual who has first-hand knowledge or used suitable means of verification to determine if the work was performed
  • Requires certification to be encompassed in the institution's official records

Effort reporting is the method used to confirm to sponsors that the effort spent on a sponsored agreement reasonably reflects the salary and wages charged to that agreement. An effort report is an after-the-fact reporting of activities for which the employee was compensated by the institution.

Effort reports are required for all employees paid from federally sponsored agreements. If any portion of pay was from a federally sponsored agreement during the reporting period, an effort report is required.

For the purpose of effort reporting, an individual’s effort is expressed as a percentage of the total amount of time spent on work-related activities (instruction, research, administration, etc.) for which the University compensates an individual. Effort always equals 100% regardless of the number of hours worked or the percentage of the appointment. The effort report details both the percent of effort spent on a project and the percent of salary charged to that project.

It is important to understand the distinction between payroll distributions and effort distributions. Payroll distributions reflect the allocation of an individual’s salary, while effort distribution reflects the allocation of an individual’s effort to individual projects independent of salary.

While payroll distributions to sponsored agreements may be initially based upon the planned or estimated workload, the actual effort of each individual working on sponsored agreements must be monitored, with the distribution modified as necessary based on variances between the estimated and actual effort.

The Effort Reporting System (ERS) is a web-based tool to enable the University to meet the reporting requirements of the Uniform Guidance ERS calculates the distribution of effort for all employees paid from federal and federal flow-through funds, captures certification electronically, and provides a mechanism for processing corrections and re-certifying reports.

Sources of ERS Data

Effort reports substantiate the effort expended by an employee in fulfilling the employee's obligation to the University. Effort always equals 100%, even if the appointment is less than full time. Effort is divided into two categories: (1) Federally Sponsored Projects and (2) Other Sponsored Projects and Non-Sponsored Activities. Federally Sponsored Projects cover effort spent conducting or administratively supporting federal or federal flow-through projects for research, training or public service. Other Sponsored Projects are projects funded by non-federal sponsors, such as state agencies or private organizations. Non-Sponsored Activities are funded by the University and include University-funded research as well as activities like instruction, departmental research, public service, and administration.

Generally, total effort and salary should not be assigned to sponsored projects in a given period, because many faculty, academic and staff members are engaged in teaching, public service, administrative, and other duties in addition to their work on sponsored projects. Accordingly, unless the circumstances demonstrably warrant otherwise, the total effort and salary should not reflect 100% to sponsored projects in a given period.

For University personnel who are paid on or have commitments on federal contract and grant funds, a certification of effort must be completed by the employee or responsible official certifying the percentage of his or her total work effort applicable to sponsored research. Failure to certify effort accurately and on a timely basis may result in the charge being disallowed by the federal agency funding the research.

PIs and other faculty in Professorial, Professional Research, and Management titles are required to certify their own effort since they are in the best position to understand how they are spending their time in support of the various activities in which they are engaged. This is consistent with the OMB Circular A-21 requirement that the distribution of salaries and wages be supported by activity reports that are confirmed by a “responsible person with suitable means of verification that the work was performed.”

The effort of staff employees who are paid on or have commitments to work on federal or federal flow-through funds must be certified by the PI, employee, or other designated official with suitable means of verification that the work was performed. Other designated certifiers may be a co-principal investigator, lab manager, or direct supervisor who has first-hand knowledge of the employee’s effort. Suitable means of verification includes, but is not limited to, (i) time records that include effort distribution that have been signed by the employee and/or supervisor, (ii) written documents including email messages from the principal investigator confirming the distribution of effort, or (c) department-created reports that include effort distribution and are signed by the employee, supervisor, or the principal investigator. To certify as an “Other Designated Certifier”, approval must be obtained from CGA.

The Uniform Guidance provides for “a degree of tolerance” in the preciseness of effort reporting. According to the UCOP Contract and Grant Manual, section 7-330 Confirmation of Personal Services (opens in new window), each site is allowed to define the preciseness level appropriate for their campus. UCSF has defined the preciseness tolerance at +/- 5%. Therefore, individuals may certify a level of effort for an award or activity that is within five percentage points of their best estimate of the actual effort expended during the reporting period.

UC San Francisco is committed to ensuring that effort reports made in connection with federally sponsored agreements are accurate, timely, reasonably reflect the actual level of effort expended, and comply with all federal requirements. UC San Francisco is further committed to ensuring that effort reports are certified within 120 days of the end of the reporting period. Each department is responsible for establishing a business process to certify effort reports on a timely basis. If certification is past due, CGA will follow the established Effort Report Escalation Process and work with  departments who must follow up with their PIs and other certifiers to ensure that the delinquent effort reports are certified as quickly as possible. Effort reports that are not certified within 120 days may result in action being taken by the campus to reverse the charges on the award, may jeopardize submission of future proposals, cause a proposal to be withdrawn, and/or jeopardize the acceptance of future awards.

Cost sharing represents the portion of costs that are not borne by to the sponsor but by the University or other third-party sources. Cost sharing commitments are made at the time of the proposal. If the proposal is awarded, the institution is then obligated to meet those commitments (“committed cost share”). Federal regulations require that only committed cost shared effort be certified. Uncommitted cost sharing (effort that was spent on the project but was not included as part of the proposal or award) and non-effort based commitments, such as equipment or supplies, are not part of effort certification.


Effort Reporting System (ERS) Login (via MyAccess)

Locate UserID: Ask your Effort Report Coordinator
Set (or reset) Password: Click the “here” hyperlink on the ERS sign-in page

Navigate and Subscribe to PI’s My Projects Lists (when first using ERS)

  • NAVIGATE: Click the page title to navigate between pages

IMPORTANT: Do NOT use the People or Award searches to create search lists as this often results in differences AND lists will need to be updated every reporting cycle.

  • SUBSCRIBE: Find the Effort Reports your PI needs to review and certify
    1. From Manage Saved Searches page, click “Subscribe” button on bottom left corner of page.
    2. Find PI, and click “Subscribe” next to PI’s name. [This adds a My Projects search to your Manage Saved Searches page, which will update with every reporting cycle.]
    3. Repeat step 2 for each PI under your responsibility.

ERCs: use the Department Search to identify all Effort Reports under your responsibility.

Find Effort Reports (after you’ve Subscribed and Saved Searches)

  • VIEW EFFORT REPORT LIST: Navigate to Effort Report List page (or click on a saved search from Manage Saved Searches page)​ 
    • Display Saved Search: switch between saved searches
    • Show Status: filter list by specific status (or “ALL”)
    • Reporting Periods: filter list for specific Reporting Period (or “ALL”)

IMPORTANT: Filters remain set until you select a new value

    • From Effort Report List, click on the row to view an Effort Report
    • Use arrows to scroll through a list of Effort Reports

Questions to ask when deciding whether or not to certify an Effort Report

REMEMBER – The certifier MUST have first-hand knowledge of the effort

  1. Is the Effort Report for another PI or Faculty member?​
    • YES: DO NOT certify
    • NO: Go to question 2
  2. Does PI have first-hand knowledge of all effort on the Effort Report?
    • YES: PI can certify entire report
    • NO: Go to question 3
  3. Does PI have first-hand knowledge of some effort on the Effort Report?
    1. YES: Use Multiple Certification feature so PI can certify individual row(s)
    2. NO: DO NOT certify anything

Key Questions

What if another PI certified effort on my PI’s (or Faculty’s) Effort Report?

Your PI or Faculty can re-open the report and re-certify it. PIs DO NOT certify for other PIs or Faculty. Notify the other PI’s ERC of the error to prevent it from occurring in the future.

What if someone else certified an Effort Report on my PI’s My Projects List?

This may be OK if they addressed the questions in the box above. Your PI may not be the only one with first-hand knowledge of the effort.

Why does ERS use Payroll to estimate Effort?

A basic assumption is that people are paid at a level equivalent to their Effort. Therefore, payroll data is used to estimate effort. Part-time employee effort is extrapolated to 100%. For example, a PT employee is paid 5% on a fund and works only 35% time: ERS % effort displays as 14% (5% divided by 35%).

NOTE: See ERS K Award job aid for specific issues and solutions regarding effort.

Why are there multiple versions of an Effort Report and where are the Comments?

Effort Reports start as v1.0 and are saved as new versions each time a report is changed, saved or certified. Comments are saved to the version on which they are added. To view comments for all versions of an Effort Report, click on the Comment Log tab. To view all versions of an Effort Report, click on the View/History tab.

What are the next Reporting Cycles and Deadlines?

The last effort reporting certification cycle at UCSF was completed in August 2020 for the period of January 1 through May 2, 2020. Effort reporting has been replaced by award verification.