VOLUME 33, NUMBER 23 THURSDAY, April 4, 2002

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FSEC proposal criticizes OASIS

Reporter Assistant Editor

The Faculty Senate Committee on Research and Creative Activity has drafted a proposal calling for the SUNY Research Foundation to either fix OASIS, the Oracle data management software program that manages grants and contracts for researchers at UB and across the SUNY system, or abandon it entirely.

OASIS is a fiasco, John Ho, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Physics and chair of the Committee on Research and Creative Activity, told senate's executive committee at its March 22 meeting.

Ho said that many faculty and professional staff members have been suffering in silence while monthly grant and contract reports issued by the Research Foundation have erroneous balances, leaving principal investigators and grant administrators confused about where their grant balances stand.

The resolution as drafted by the committee calls the January 2001 conversion by the SUNY Research Foundation to OASIS—at a cost of more than $20 million—"a disaster."

"Not only are the original promises of online transactions and monitoring not fulfilled, but the unreliability of the system and its inability to provide even such basic information as accurate account balances are severely hampering the management and conduct of sponsored research at UB," the resolution states. "The inadequacies and inefficiencies of OASIS and its failure to carry out proper fiscal accounting of grants and contracts are costly in time and effort, and are also jeopardizing our chances in future grant applications."

The resolution cites "the heroic efforts by our campus administrative colleagues in trying to cope with an almost impossible situation."

Bernice Noble, professor of microbiology, noted that other major universities have documented similar problems with OASIS, and that intensive investigations were under way at Cambridge University to look into the how OASIS was sold to the university, as well as to analyze problems inherent in the software.

Noble said it was almost eerie how the problems at Cambridge mirrored the problems with OASIS at UB. "It's actually an international crisis over these data-management systems," Noble said, "with no end in sight."

Lilliam Malave, associate professor of learning and instruction and acting director of the Urban Education Institute, pointed out that the Research Foundation has tried very hard to fix the problems with OASIS, but has been unsuccessful.

President William R. Greiner said the Research Foundation is well aware of the problems with OASIS, but that there was no possibility of "moving off" the software because there is not another system available. He added that the problems with OASIS might not be fully solved for another year. "There is no higher priority," Greiner said, than solving the problem of inaccurate account balances.

William Baumer, professor of philosophy, asked that the FSEC place the resolution on the agenda of Tuesday's Faculty Senate meeting for immediate action, dispensing with a first reading.

In other business, Jack Meacham, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the SUNY task force to determine outcomes of student learning, updated the committee on the SUNY General Education Assessment Review (GEAR) process. Meacham noted that the GEAR group was formed to review the proposed assessment plans of all SUNY campuses.