RCUK's aim is that the Research Councils should have a common research administration system enabling the electronic processing of grants, fellowships and studentships from submission to completion. Implementing this approach drives down the complexity and therefore cost of research administration and will deliver benefits for researchers, Higher Education Institute (HEI) administrators and the Research Councils alike.
The first phase of this research administration programme has been the implementation of the Joint Electronic Submission System (JeS), which currently supports online submission of research grant proposals, fellowships and expenditure statements. It also offers a service whereby research organisations can check the status of their grant portfolio online, helping to improve management of current awards. By the end of September 2006, around 25,000 research proposals had been received via JeS and over 300 organisations had registered to use the system. Following consultation with HEIs, Councils discontinued paper based submission at the end of March 2005.
The system is currently used by BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC and PPARC, AHRC and ESRC. In addition, the Higher Education Funding Councils have adopted JeS as the vehicle for handling the 2005 round of the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF). In addition the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have used Je-S to enable the submission of proposals for their Technology Programme. Around 1200 proposals have been submitted against 6 calls.
Building on these foundations, the JeS system is being developed further to cover later business processes in the life cycle of research proposals and to other funding mechanisms, such as studentships, through a series of Je-S Projects. This builds on a longstanding commitment to offer universities a harmonised approach in delivering e-business solutions, in line with Government targets and standards.
A hallmark of the Je-S initiative has been the close involvement of the university sector in the governance and oversight arrangements and through extensive web based consultation at the practical level. University administrators have reported that the benefits of the programme to universities include enabling the collaborative development of proposals, easier and more effective workflow management, reduction in paperwork and mailing costs, and reduction in time taken to complete forms. All of which make it easier for universities to manage and integrate their submission of research proposals.
The initial JeS project was praised by the Government for reducing bureaucracy in its response to the Better Regulation Task Force's Report on administrative red tape in the higher education sector. Also when the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee reviewed RCUK in 2005, their report stated "We commend RCUK's role in the implementation of the JeS system, which will provide significant improvements for researchers in applying for grants and will make interdisciplinary applications more straightforward".