VERA system advances to iterations phase

By Jenna Somers and Jane Hirtle

The university’s transition to the new Vanderbilt Electronic Research Administration system, provided by Huron, recently entered the iterations phase of its implementation timeline after concluding the configuration phase, which took place from May to July.

During the configuration phase the VERA project team, including 26 stakeholders from across the university and the 12 members of the Core Configuration Team, completed more than 100 hours of meetings over 10 weeks to curate a comprehensive list of 51 configuration upgrades that will align Huron’s software to serve Vanderbilt’s unique needs. In line with the core principles guiding the VERA project, the changes will provide maximum flexibility for faculty to develop competitive proposals with the strongest scientific and scholarly content and reduce burdens on research administrators by streamlining administrative reviews and approvals while ensuring compliance.

“We could not fulfill these principles without deep engagement from our research community. I want to thank our research administrators for the many hours they have devoted to configuring VERA, and thank our faculty for their continued guidance as well as their eagerness to take part in early testing,” Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan said. “The invaluable insights you have shared in countless meetings and the recent VERA town hall enabled by the Faculty Senate are much appreciated, especially in light of all the additional demands on your time related to COVID-19 safety. As we move forward, we will use your feedback to develop a testing process that responds to your needs.”

Over the next two months in the iteration phase, Huron developers will program these changes to the software to create a Vanderbilt-tailored version of Huron. The Research Administrator Working Group and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to test and provide feedback on every new configuration to ensure that the changes will meet the requirements to support the Vanderbilt research community. Additionally, upcoming town halls will feature demos and Q&A sessions, allowing all researchers to engage with the transition to the new system.

As VERA evolves, so, too, will some current business practices. Research community members—including the Leadership Advisory Committee, Steering Committee, Research Administrator Working Group, Vanderbilt University Research Council, Faculty Senate and Process and Solution Implementations—will continue to methodically direct a smooth transition, mindful of the impacts to critical processes. In particular, Hilda McMackin, director of Research Administration Systems and Reporting, Greg Kyle, assistant provost for Process Solution and Implementations, and Jane Hirtle, senior research projects manager, will continue to provide guidance as the implementation and operations leads.

The iteration phase will continue throughout the fall, followed by the test, train and deploy phase in late fall and spring 2021. Researchers with questions not answered in the Sponsored Programs Administration’s FAQs are encouraged to email Laurel Duncan Biqiku ( for additional guidance.