NAVREF Response to the
GAO Westat Report Assessment
BACKGROUND:NPCs have voiced concerns for a number of years about the process of determining where federal awards will be submitted and administered. At some sites it was alleged there was no approved deliberative process, decision-makers were sometimes conflicted, and the academic affiliate (AA) wielded disproportionate influence.
In response to our members’ concern, NAVREF raised this issue with the VA Office of Research & Development and discussed it as part of testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations in June 2016 and 2017. At the 2017 hearing, Dr. Ramoni announced she would engage an outside firm to thoroughly review the management of extramural funding across the VA research enterprise. In October 2017, ORD contracted with Westat to perform this review and many of you participated in their interviews and surveys over the last 12 months.
FINDINGS: Westat’s final report released by ORD on 9-28-18, contained a number of findings, including:
- A majority of respondents felt NPCs were not used to their full potential
- A majority of respondents felt indirects at the AA do not benefit the VA
- No single policy exists across VA research regarding administration of extramural grants
- NPCs with written policies are healthier, on average, than those without written policies
- The “preponderance rule” is the most common approach to determining where awards are administered
- At 1/3 of sites, the AA does not provide sub-awards
- 42% of AA-managed grants fund work conducted mostly or fully at the VA
- 24% of projects managed by AAs use a majority of veterans as subjects
- At NPCs with less than $4M revenue, the AA is much more likely to administer NIH awards
We appreciate the fact that what works at one site may not be suitable at another, and that each VA, AA, and NPC need to jointly establish a process that works for them. The key is that all three parties work together with the common goal of serving Veterans. Many sites already enjoy this collaborative relationship.