Fol­lowing a pre­sen­ta­tion from Prof. Vin­cent Harris, the Fac­ulty Senate voted on Wednesday to adopt rec­om­men­da­tions to improve the Office of Research Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

The Fac­ulty Senate voted on Wednesday to adopt a set of rec­om­men­da­tions drafted by a com­mittee charged with studying the oper­a­tions of Northeastern’s Office of Research Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance.

The 2011 Research Policy Over­sight Com­mittee, chaired by Vin­cent Harris, the W. L. Smith Chair Pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Engi­neering, cre­ated six rec­om­men­da­tions to make obtaining and spending research funding easier for fac­ulty. The rec­om­men­da­tions — including improved training ini­tia­tives and a user-​​friendlier com­puter infra­struc­ture — were adopted unan­i­mously by the Senate.

Fac­ulty mem­bers were largely sat­is­fied with the work done by ORAF during the funding appli­ca­tion process. “We’re hearing them described as hard-​​working, dili­gent, excep­tional, ded­i­cated — and over­worked,” said Harris, reading from com­ments left by pro­fes­sors during last year’s survey.

There was less sat­is­fac­tion with ORAF after funding had been awarded, with pro­fes­sors calling the office “unre­spon­sive,” “unsat­is­fac­tory,” and the source of “extended delays.”

“It’s worth noting that when you look at the pre-​​award side, you’re looking at people helping you get money, while in the post-​​award phase you’re get­ting people who are telling you that you can’t spend it (in cer­tain ways),” Harris said. “Those two sides are, in a way, dia­met­ri­cally opposed.“

Many of the committee’s rec­om­men­da­tions have already been adopted by ORAF, which recently launched a new web­site fac­ulty mem­bers say is more helpful, and has con­ducted its own focus-​​group testing to improve the ser­vices it pro­vides to North­eastern fac­ulty and researchers. Fur­ther improve­ments endorsed by the Fac­ulty Senate include improve­ments to the Banner system, the web-​​based finan­cial system.

The Senate also voted, with sup­port from all but one member, to begin a three-​​year process to with­draw from the Uni­ver­sity Press of New Eng­land, a pub­lishing con­sor­tium of uni­ver­si­ties that Vice Provost Mary Loef­fel­holz said costs North­eastern both money and pres­tige. As it departs from the press, North­eastern will deter­mine how best to pub­lish schol­arly work, either by rein­stating the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Press or through some other mech­a­nism.

The sole dis­senter, jour­nalism pro­fessor Charles Foun­tain, said he feared that voting to leave UPNE without a plan for future schol­arly com­mu­ni­ca­tions could lead to the long­standing North­eastern imprint “going dark.”

“It trou­bles me,” said Foun­tain, a former member of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Press’ edi­to­rial page. “If you were here with a pro­posal that the NU Press would re-​​emerge as a free­standing press, I would be all for that.”