Office of Financial Services: where the bucks stop – and start – for research

If there is one person on Lakehead University’s campus that every researcher knows, and knows well, it’s likely Margot Ross.
 
As Manager of the Research and Trust Accounting department in university’s Office of Financial Services, Ross and her colleagues are the first point of contact for researchers awarded any money. The office holds in trust any funds received, working closely with each researcher to ensure the money is used and reported in compliance with all the of terms of each granting agency.
 
“The most common thing we hear from researchers after their initial excitement of being awarded a grant, is “okay, now what?” and we’re there to answer the what, as well as the how, why and when,” says Ross.
 
“The principal investigators are ultimately responsible for managing their grants and awards, but we’re here to assist and advise them on making sure they have all the support, resources and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities according to the policies and regulations of each granting agency.”
 
The Office of Financial Services is the university’s hub for everything to do with money. From payroll and pensions to tuition and purchasing, this is a busy team of people supporting all of Lakehead’s students, staff and faculty.
 
A key part of this financial operation is the Research and Trust Accounting department, who are tasked with administering and monitoring the accounting for all research, endowed and trust accounts, while also providing reliable advice, training and support on accessing and using those funds.
 
And by all indications, the department is doing their job incredibly well: a recent Tri-Agency audit conducted by the three main federal research funding agencies passed Ross and her team with flying colours on their grant management framework, procedures, systems and controls that ensure research funds are used in accordance with all requirements.
 
At Lakehead, it all comes down to supporting a strong research culture on campus.
 
“The assistance we get from the Research Support Fund ensures we have the capacity to keep up with Lakehead’s fast-growing research enterprise,” says Anne Klymenko, Director, Research Services. “From hiring students, to purchasing equipment, to having all the right tools and resources in place to financially manage the funds, the research accounting support enabled by the Research Support Fund is vital to researchers after the work of getting a grant is done, and the business of conducting a leading research program gets underway.”
 
The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2017/18, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.