Effort Reporting Frequently Asked Questions


Effort is the proportion of time spent on any activity and expressed as a percentage of the total activity expended for UMTB.

Effort reporting is a federally mandated process to confirm the salary charged to a sponsored project reasonably matches the effort expended on the project.  According to OMB Circular A-21, it requires certification of effort spent by all employees whose salaries are charged to federal and federal flow-through funds.

ECRT is UTMB’s online effort reporting tool. ECRT stands for Effort Certification Reporting Technology. The system is used by PIs during quarterly effort certification, as well as to provide information during the year to assist in monitoring effort. It is also the system that UTMB uses to manage and report cost sharing.

ECRT data is populated from other UTMB systems. This includes a person’s profile, UTMB ID, name, job information and email.  Data is loaded to ECRT via a Data Load every weekend.  Depending on the date of a general ledger posting data may not load the week of posting but the following week. If there are any inaccuracies identified in the ECRT system it will need to be corrected in their source systems.

The effort card is a screen in ECRT (our reporting system) that shows all of the effort information for each individual. This includes the sponsored accounts funding the individual’s salary during the period, the percentage of salary paid from each funding account, cost sharing information, and more. During the certification period the effort card becomes the certification form.

In order to access the ECRT system you must complete the appropriate training depending on your role within ECRT. For Primary Individuals (PIs) and Supporting Individuals (SIs) you have the option to attend a brief face to face training or opt to take the course online. If you are an Effort Coordinator or a Lead Effort Coordinator you will be required to attend one of the classroom training sessions for EC/LECs. For help getting training set up or to report completed training, please email the ECRT Help box confirmation of completed training so that access may be granted.

When accessing the effort card in ECRT, you will only be allowed to certify the effort period currently open for Certification. Most times the page will immediately open to the effort card of the current performance period. You will need to verify in the upper right hand box of the effort card that you are in the right certification period. If not, select the effort period needing confirmation and continue with certification.  Also, review the effort card to see if there is institutional suspense on the card (account beginning in SS).  Cards with suspense require a manual card, contact your LEC.  If the problem persists please email the ECRT Help inbox for assistance at

For effort purposes some projects may be listed as non-sponsored because they don't require effort reporting.  If you have a project listed as non sponsored and you feel that is an error, please contact Effort.  

Anyone performing work on a federal or non-federal sponsored project must certify their effort or have their effort certified by the PI or the PI designee.  Faculty, academic staff, graduate students, postdoctoral trainees and university staff all must certify. Each employee doesn’t certify their effort, but the PI or PI Designee does.
Suitable Means of Verification is an indication that the person certifying the effort of another individual has a reasonable knowledge of the work performed by the other individual. Reasonable knowledge can be established by direct knowledge of the certifier, reviews of payroll and personnel records, assignment of goals, or the monitoring of established project protocols and subsequent project evaluation.
All employees must complete mandatory training in order to gain access to their roles in ECRT. If you have already completed your training, please submit verification to your ECRT staff. If you have not scheduled your training, you can schedule it by contacting effort.  

All cards should be electronically certified with the following exceptions:

  • The card has salary suspense account listed.
  • The PI has left the institution.  The card would be taken to the Chair to be signed.
When a card is manually certified the certified effort on the manual card and the electronic card should match. Sometimes special circumstances arise that will be best resolved through manual certification at the approval of the Effort team.

All cards are certified based on actual effort.  The effort performed on the project should agree with the amount of effort that was applied for in the grant of a separate approval.   All effort is certified at a total of 100% across all projects listed on the card.  

For the purpose of effort, Training Grants are considered non sponsored because we are not required to track effort on these awards. Training Grants are still sponsored projects to the university, but on the ECRT card they are listed under non sponsored. 

Certified effort and computed effort should be within 1% of each other. Anything over 1% (even .01) will have to be corrected. For instructions, see Effort Card Reconciliation Process.

Cost Share in only allowable if it has been approved during the pre award process or later with approval from the Provost Office.  Departmental approval is not appropriate approval for Cost Share. 

-before the card is certified:  EC/LEC can add to the card. 

-after the card is certified but before it is processed:  EC/LEC can reopen card to add cost share. (Add Cost Sharing)

-After the card is processed:  LEC submits a cost share request for to Effort team to process. (Cost Share Request Form)

Cost share found on a card and no approval can be provided will be removed by effort and the department will be responsible for accurately correcting the card if the removal of cost share puts the card out of balance.  

On the process base effort statement page, all totals in the grand total line should be 100% either in green or black. If a number comes up in red and over 100%, the process button does not appear. The column this usually happens in is the cost transfer dollar column. This column is a suggested cost transfer amount based on the certified effort and computed effort. If your total for this column is red, simply adjust the numbers to make the column add up to 100%. This will make the process button appear. 

If you are authorized to certify on an award but those cards are showing up on another PI’s list, you would have to go into the card by typing the employee number or name into the search box.

When salary is on salary suspense, both a DBR and a Direct Retro are submitted together.

A list is sent out that shows DBRs that didn’t trigger.  If you find that your DBR did not trigger contact HRBBC and request that the submission be re-triggered.  If that does not work you may be instructed to submit a DR.  

The ECRT Team reviews all DBR and Direct Retros that have a sponsored project on it. If there is an expired project they will get approval to proceed from GCA. If there are any questions or concerns about the submission they will contact the submitter. If everything is clear on the submission, the team member will approve the DBR/DR. This sends it to HRBBC. HRBBC is responsible for processing it where it is posted to the GL.

Reconciliation lists are sent out for each quarter until all cards are balanced. An employee will remain on the list until their card balances.This allows the department representative to know that the card hasn’t cleared and allows the department representative to monitor if a person stays on the list for several runs. This might indicate that there was an issue with the submission.

The ECRT team monitors unbalanced cards based on the LEC. If you have received an employee on your list that is now yours but wasn’t yours during the period of time, contact the prior Lead Effort Coordinator (LEC) and work with them to clear the card. This allows direct communication between the LECs and allows the current LEC to monitor the status of the card.