Effort Reporting FAQs

2019-20 Effort Reports - first period with UCPath data

  • What period do the Oct 2019 - Sep 2020 effort reports really cover?
  • The data in ERS for this reporting period is from UCPath only.  This is a 13-month report.  For monthly employees, the period is 09/01/2019 - 09/30/2019; for bi-weekly employees, the period covers pay from 09/08/2019 - 09/19/2020.


  • What is the difference between effort commitment and effort reporting?
  • Visit the What is Effort Commitment page for information on the differences between effort commitment and effort reporting.
  • Is there a help desk for ERS questions and issues? What other help is available?
  • There is ERS Help Desk assistance available for users who have questions or experience issues while working with the Effort Reporting System. The ERS Help Desk can be contacted by completing the Help Request Form that is available as a link in the header section of the ERS or on the main Effort Reporting Help page. This form captures the necessary information that will assist us in providing answers to your questions.

    In addition, there is online help built into the ERS. Click on the "?" icon in the header bar to retrieve a help screen which provides information on the specific screen or report type that you are using. Some of the help screens contain links to training modules that provide a more detailed overview of a specific process.

    The ERS Help Desk can be contacted directly at ERSHelp@ucdavis.edu.
  • What are the hours of availability for ERS?
  • ERS is generally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is a scheduled maintenance downtime once a month on Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (local Pacific time). There may be other occasional downtime for other maintenance. 
  • Why are the cost sharing and direct salary charges for the same project listed separately on the effort report?
  • Payroll charges and cost sharing information come from two separate systems - the Kuali Financial System (KFS) and the Cost Share Tracking System (CSTS). It is not possible at this time to combine the data onto one line of the report. It is acceptable to show the cost sharing on the same line as the payroll charges for the same fund, or on its own line.
  • How can an effort report total 100% when the employee has a less than full-time appointment with the university?
  • Effort is not based on a 40-hour work week; it is based on the total time spent on university activities, no matter how many hours are worked.

    The following example of an employee who has a 50% appointment at the institution and who is working 25% on a sponsored project and 25% on other non-sponsored activities demonstrates the concept of 100% total effort:

    Employee A - paid 50% time for the period:

    % of Time / % of Appt = % of Effort


    25% / 50% = 50% sponsored project

    25% / 50% = 50% non sponsored project

    = 100% Total Effort

    In the next example, the employee has a 100% full-time appointment at the institution and works 50% time on a sponsored project and 50% time on other non-sponsored activities. This employee's effort also totals 100%.

    Employee B - paid 100% time for the period

    % of Time / % of Appt = % of Effort

    50% / 100% = 50% sponsored project

    50% / 100% = 50% non sponsored project

    = 100% Total Effort​​​​​​

ERS Functionality/Access/Permissions

  • If a faculty member changes their % of effort on the report when they certify, will staff in the department office be alerted about that change?
  • Users can tell a certified report requires payroll adjustments because of the status Certified/AdjustReqd. Changing the cost share and certifying a report does not trigger that status.
  • Is it possible to share a saved ERS search with another user?
  • Yes! This option can be useful when one ERS Coordinator covers for another on vacation or otherwise out of the office. On the Manage Saved Searches screen you may share a search with another user. To the left of the name of the report that you wish to share, click on the icon with the arrow. A new e-mail message will then open on your screen. The e-mail will include the link that the recipient can use to access and save your search. Enter a valid email address in the To field and send.

    The person who sent the search remains the owner. If the owner makes changes to the search, others who have been granted access to the search will automatically see these changes.

    If you decide to make changes to a search that was shared with you, you will be given a private copy and will no longer be associated with the original shared search. Likewise, if you delete a search that was shared with you, other copies of the search will not be modified or deleted.
  • When is a comment required for a report in ERS?
  • A comment is required when:
    > making a change to the data in the Adjusted Payroll % field
    > reopening a report that has previously been certified
    > checking or unchecking the Report Options Report requires Multiple Certifications and Report allows for Cost Sharing Offset against Other Sponsored Projects
    > unchecking a line item certification (removing the certification) when in Multiple Certification mode

    The comment should indicate why the change is being made. Note that once a comment has been added to a report, it cannot be modified. If additional information is necessary at a later time, an additional comment can be added. Simply adding a comment to a report will not increase the version number of the report.
  • How does ERS determine which employees will receive an effort report?
  • Employees receiving pay from federal or federal flow-through funds or who have established cost share tracking entries are included in the ERS and will be required to certify their effort on those funds.
  • If I have view-only access is it possible to add or edit a comment on an effort report?
  • No. Comments can only be added by those ERS users who have edit rights. Users with view only access may read the comments, but they cannot add a comment.
  • I'm not receiving the e-mail notifications that effort reports are ready for certification. Why not?
  • E-mail notifications are sent to ERS users who are assigned the coordinator role with a viewer or payroll permission. If you are an ERS Coordinator and are not seeing the e-mail notifications, you may want to check your email filters, including junk/spam folders to ensure that they are not being sent there. The email address used by ERS is the one that is recorded in the campus directory database. To verify your email address or to forward to a different email address, visit the Computing Accounts Services page.

    PIs, faculty, and designated self-certifiers also receive e-mail notifications periodically during the certification period.
  • I'm not set up with the correct access in ERS. I can't do what I need to do. How do I change my access in ERS?
  • Access in ERS is based on the role that you have been assigned in ERS. Roles and permissions are assigned and reassigned by the Contracts & Grants Accounting office staff. To request new Coordinator permissions, complete the View or Edit Access Request Form. To remove permissions, send an e-mail message to ERSHelp@ucdavis.edu.
  • Does changing the effort on the effort report trigger an automatic payroll adjustment?
  • No, the payroll transfers must be processed manually at this time.
  • One of my projects is not appearing on my effort report. How do I add it?
  • 1. Clicking on Edit Report tab
    2. Clicking on Add Additional Sponsored Project button
    3. Clicking on the search icon and using any of the search criteria to find the project to add to the report
  • How does the PI List determine which reports belong to a PI?
  • The report retrieves information based on the PI (and co-PI) indicated in the KFS Award document which is maintained by Contracts & Grants Accounting.
  • My PI wants me to make the effort changes on the report so he/she can just review and certify. How can I get permission to edit reports?
  • Use the View or Edit Access Request Form to request additional permissions, specifying which employees/department/organization you want to edit. Edit permissions require an explanation detailing how the user will know the correct level of effort for the report (i.e. the requestor must have first-hand knowledge or a suitable means of verifying the effort.)
  • Some of the students who work for my PI are in another home department. How can my PI get permission to certify their reports?
  • Your PI should already have permission to certify their reports, as long as the PI is listed as the PI on the Award document or Account document in KFS. If he/she is not, please complete the Certification Permission Request Form.  Certification permissions require an explanation detailing how the user will know the correct level of effort for the report (i.e. the requestor must have first-hand knowledge or a suitable means of verifying the effort.)
  • I changed effort on the effort report. Does that information update the UCPath or the Cost Share Tracking systems?
  • Changes made to effort in ERS do not update UCPath or the Cost Share Tracking (CSTS) systems. When changing the effort on the effort report, corresponding changes must be made via payroll transfers or changes to CSTS. If changes are made in CSTS after the effort report is generated the effort report is not updated.

Data/Reporting Issues

  • What types of Description of Service (DOS) codes are excluded from effort reporting?
  • Payroll transactions with no associated effort (% time) are excluded when calculating effort. A few examples include: VAC (vacation), SKL (sick), HBZ (hospital compensation by agreement), HON (honorarium), STP (stipend), and TRM (termination). Note that this is not a complete list.
  • What types of activities are considered "Other Sponsored Activities?" What are "Non-Sponsored Activities?"
  • Other Sponsored Activities 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, and administration.
  • How often is ERS updated? When will my updates appear in ERS?
  • ERS is updated monthly with new information from KFS and the Cost Share Tracking System, generally within a week of the monthly ledger close. During the monthly update, new effort reports will be added and existing effort reports will be updated as necessary to reflect the new pay transactions.

    When users add comments, change effort, and/or certify reports in ERS, those changes are immediate. Any user looking at reports in ERS will see the changes as soon as they have been saved.
  • What happens if I enter cost share data in the Cost Share Tracking system (CSTS) after the effort report for the period has already been generated? Will the cost share information update the effort report?
  • No. Cost share changes alone will not trigger a re-calculation of the effort report. Cost sharing information is applied to the effort report at the time the report is generated, and anytime there are new payroll transactions that update the effort report. Data added in CSTS after the report generation may be added to the report manually in cases where no payroll changes are expected.
  • What happens when a payroll transfer is processed after an effort report has been certified?
  • New payroll data triggers a re-calculation of the effort report percentages.  If the effort report status was Certified/AdjustReqd, and the new effort percentages match what was certified, the report status changes to Certified and no further action is needed. If the effort report was on Certified status and the payroll transfer causes a difference greater than 1% between the certified effort and the payroll percentages, the report will change to Reissued status, and either the payroll must be adjusted again to match the certified effort, or the effort must be changed and the report recertified (not recommended).  See the ERS Status Codes page for more information on the meaning of each status.
  • What are the situations where an individual report must be generated?
  • Some situations may require the generation of an individual effort report. These situations include:
    > Employee termination
    > No report was generated because there were no payroll charges or cost share for federal funds, but there should have been

    If report generation has already occurred for a period, employees who did not receive a report can be generated manually. For future periods, a report may be generated for any individual employee, and will include all pay up to the date of generation (if that pay has already transferred from KFS to ERS). This should only be done when an employee terminates, because additional pay transactions will re-issue the report.
  • PI Smith charged 30% of her salary to Project A for the entire effort reporting period. At the time of certification, she believes she only worked 28% of her time on the project. What should she do?
  • It is not always possible to determine time spent on any project with absolute certainty. The current practice in the University of California is to certify effort within +/- 5 percentage points.

    For example, if the effort report shows 30% effort for a project, either directly charged or cost shared, and the actual effort determined is 28%, the report can be certified because it is within the tolerance range.
  • Why is there effort in both the Payroll % and Paid Effort to Certify % columns on my effort report?
  • ERS populates both the Payroll % and Paid Effort to Certify % fields on the effort report. If the user changes the effort in the Paid Effort to Certify % column and certifies the report, the report status becomes Certified/AdjustReqd and payroll transfers are expected. When the payroll transfers are processed, the Payroll % is recalculated to reflect the change, then the new Payroll % is compared to the Paid Effort to Certify %. If the percentages match, the report status is changed to Certified. If not, the report is Reissued.
  • What does the cost share percentage on the effort report represent?
  • The cost share percentage shown on the effort report is taken from the Cost Share Tracking System(CSTS) and adjusted to weight-average the period of the cost share entry against the period of the report.

    For example, PI Li has a cost share tracking entry in CSTS showing a 20% commitment from January 2018 to December 2018. The effort reporting period is October 2018 to September 2019. The commitment was in effect for three months of the 12-month effort reporting period. Based on the calculation 20% x 3/12 = 5%, the effort report in ERS will show 5% cost share for the entire period of October 2018 to September 2019.


  • Is negative percentage of effort allowed on the effort report?
  • Negative effort is not allowed. Negative effort can be created when a payroll error occurs. The effort report must be corrected and certified based on actual effort expended and payroll adjustments must be prepared to correct the error.
  • What is the minimum level of effort required for an externally sponsored project?
  • All federal research awards require some level of committed faculty or senior researcher effort. A reasonable and measurable amount of effort, as determined by the PI/project director/other equivalent responsible official, is required. If this effort is not directly charged to the sponsor, it must be captured as cost sharing.  This requirement does not apply to non-research projects such as awards made for equipment, construction, training, or public service. See the Policy and Procedure Manual, section 330-31, for further information.
  • If an award is funded at an amount less than what was proposed, do I still need to meet the levels of effort commitment proposed in the original proposal submission?
  • Yes. However, if the awarded amount has been reduced there may be a reduction of scope which would change the original proposed effort on the project. In these situations it may be reasonable to negotiate a lower level of effort than what was originally proposed. The Sponsored Programs Office in the Office of Research can assist in necessary negotiations with the sponsor to appropriately amend the proposed level of effort originally committed to the project.
  • What happens when effort changes during the project period?
  • Payroll distributions in the payroll system are used initially as a method for distributing salary charges based on an estimate of the effort that will be expended in support of various activities in which the individual is engaged. If significant changes in effort occur, it is expected that the payroll distributions will be updated in a timely manner to reasonably reflect the actual effort expended in support of the sponsored project. Department administrators are responsible for making updates to the payroll distributions.
  • If an employee is paid on grants outside of my organization, who should certify the effort?
  • The PI is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all effort reports are certified on their projects. Normally, an effort report can be certified either by the individual or by a direct supervisor or someone with first-hand knowledge of the work performed by the employee. Occasionally, an effort report may require multiple certifications if the individual works on multiple projects, has multiple supervisors, and is not aware of which projects their effort is benefiting. In that case, multiple certifications may be required and can be activated using the multiple certification functionality in ERS. Click the checkbox at the bottom of the effort report which indicates Report requires multiple certifications, enter a comment, and save the report. When this functionality is activated, individual line certification will be available for certification.

    Work with the other department to determine the employee’s effort percentage on all projects, as it isn't possible to know what percent of time was spent in one department without knowing the total time spent. Each PI should certify only his/her own projects.
  • When would an additional sponsored project need to be added to an effort report?
  • Occasionally, an employee may have no salary charged to a project, but needs to report cost sharing because he/she has been expending effort on that project. Also, if payroll transfers will add a new project to the report, but the certifier wants to certify now, the project can be added to the effort report as long as the account exists in ERS.
  • If someone voluntarily works on a sponsored project and the individual was not included in the proposal (voluntary uncommitted cost sharing), is it necessary to certify the effort?
  • No. Office of Management & Budget (OMB) issued a clarification in January, 2001 which specified that voluntary uncommitted cost sharing should not be certified or included in the organized research base for computing the Facilities & Administration (F&A) rate.
  • Can an MSO certify effort reports?
  • An MSO can certify the effort reports of any employees they directly supervise. They must have first-hand knowledge of the work performed and the ability to make a reasonable estimate of the effort expended on each sponsored project. MSOs cannot certify for Principal Investigators or faculty.
  • When must changes be made to an effort report?
  • Changes must be made to the effort report if the difference between the effort report’s percentage and the actual effort expended is greater than 5%. If changes are made, an explanation must be entered in the Comments area and a Payroll Expense Transfer must be completed.
  • What are the possible consequences of not certifying a report in an accurate and timely manner?
  • Timely certification of effort reports is a condition of acceptance of federal funding when direct salary charges are contemplated and incurred or cost shared salary is proposed on an award. Principal Investigators and their campus departments are responsible for ensuring full compliance with effort reporting requirements. Campus departments and Contracts & Grants Accounting offices shall take progressive action to prompt corrective action and resolution according to local campus policy when required, including:
    > Notification of the Department Chair or director for resolution
    > Notification of the Dean to expedite resolution
    > Notification of the Vice Chancellor—Research and/or Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor and request intervention and resolution

    The university shall require all effort to be certified within 120 days of the end of the reporting period. Effort 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.

    Certification of effort after 120 days may be allowed under certain circumstances, but must be fully explained and justified by the principal investigator.
  • What are the implications of making a change in the effort percentages on the effort report?
  • A change in paid effort requires a corresponding payroll transfer or cost share entry. With an annual effort reporting cycle, by the time the effort report is generated the 120 days allowed for processing cost transfers will likely already be past. As such, it is critical that ledgers are reviewed in a timely manner.
  • How does a PI know which reports need certification?
  • Email notifications are sent to PIs, faculty, and designated self-certifiers when effort reports are ready for certification. When a PI logs in to ERS, the My Certifications list is automatically shown. When the list is filtered properly (Status = ALL-Open, Period = All) a list of effort reports that require certification is shown. 
  • Why do I have a report that's Not Required? Do I have to do anything?
  • Effort reports are generated each reporting period for all PIs, regardless of charges to federal or Federal Flow Through (FFT) funds. Since a PI should have at least one project and almost all projects require some PI effort, ERS generates a report for every PI. If the PI does have effort on a federal or FFT award, he/she can easily add the project to the report and enter the percentage of payroll and/or cost share, then certify the report. If the PI does not have effort on any federal or FFT awards, he/she can leave the report with the status Not Required and it will not be considered outstanding.
  • Should a PI certify for everyone on his/her My Projects list?
  • No, a PI's My Projects list contains effort reports for all employees who charged any portion of their salary or had committed cost sharing on a project led by that PI. It may include other PIs and faculty, as well as other designated self-certifiers who must certify their own effort. Refer to the My Certifications page for further explanation and a comparison of the two lists.
  • If a Principal Investigator or other employee leaves the university or is otherwise unable to certify, who should certify his/her effort?
  • If it is not possible to get the PI's certification, a person with first-hand knowledge or a suitable means of verifying the effort should certify. If the PI is a faculty member, the certifier must be someone up the faculty chain of command, and should use the available documentation (e.g. progress reports, logs, task checklists) as the suitable means of verifying the effort. For a PI, an appropriate certifier would generally be the Department Chair or Dean or equivalent.

    For other employees, if they have first-hand knowledge of their activities, they should certify their own reports at termination. If the employee does not have first-hand knowledge or is not available to make the certification, a lab supervisor or other manager who has knowledge of the employees' time should certify the effort reports. If there is no person with first-hand knowledge, then someone up the employee's chain of command should use the available documentation (e.g. timesheets, logs, task checklists) as the suitable means of verifying the effort. For staff, an appropriate certifier would generally be the Lab Supervisor. An MSO or other administrator should not certify for lab staff unless they directly supervised the employee.

    In most cases, the certifier will need special permissions set up in ERS to certify the reports. Complete the Certification Permission Request Form to request this access.
  • What should be done if a PI inadvertently certifies for another PI or faculty member?
  • If a PI has already certified an entire report for another faculty member, there are two possible solutions. If the effort certification is correct, the faculty member should add a comment to their effort report stating concurrence with the certified percentages. Comments may be added after certification by using the Comments tab.

    If the effort certification is incorrect, the faculty member should re-open their effort report using the Reopen Effort Report button, make the appropriate changes and re-certify the report. In some cases, the PI will have certified only the project line for his/her project. The faculty member can use the Certify button to certify the entire report, which will prompt him/her to remove the line certification.