Guide to best practice for effort commitment changes

Date last modified: 7/17/24

Effort Commitment is the level of approved effort currently in effect for the person on the project. Current Commitment reflects the effort commitment made to the sponsor for the current project period. Effort commitments may need to change over the life of the award but should not change as often as the Effort Allocation.  

Effort commitments may change due to:  

  • Significant project scope or objectives changes, 
  • Alterations in available resources or personnel, or  
  • Unforeseen circumstances affecting the project.  

Changes in effort greater than 25% for Senior Key Personnel require prior approval by the Office of Research Administration, and in some cases the Sponsor. The guidance below outlines best practices for preparing the prior approval request for submission.  

For effort commitments that require sponsor approval

Sponsor level approval is required for Senior Key Personnel named on the notice of award.  A Change in Commitment Request for Sponsor Approval Level should include the following: 

  • A letter of request prepared by the department that should be addressed to the Program Officer and the Grant Management Specialist listed on the Notice of Award. 
  • Identify the project by agency number and title: (e.g., 1R01-HL012345-01, Study of genetic factors). 
  • State why we are submitting a letter of request: (examples below)   
    • I am writing to request a reduction of effort greater than 25% for Principal Investigator James B. Duke, MD, on the referenced project. 
    • I am writing to request replacement of the Principal Investigator James B. Duke, MD, with Samuel L. Jackson, MD, on the referenced project. 
  • State why this change is needed.  What has changed from the time the effort was committed in the application to present day to justify the reduction in effort? The information should be specific to the work or timeline associated with the referenced project.  (examples below) 
    • Work on Specific Aim 2 (description of aim) has progressed more rapidly than we had anticipated, and we have moved from collecting data to analysis phase. 
    • With access to new equipment/protocols/samples, we are able to run assays more frequently. 
    • After advanced training in new techniques, I have delegated activity (describe activity) to a senior researcher in my lab which requires less of my effort.  
    • The Senior Key investigator’s work on the project is complete and no additional effort is needed.  
    • The Project is in a non-active period (provide a brief explanation)  
  • The following reasons for reducing effort may require you to REPLACE your effort on the project with another Senior Key person: 
    • Receiving a new grant that now requires your effort so you need to reassign effort on the referenced project; 
    • Change in institutional mission assignments for teaching, clinical or administrative duties; activities outside of Duke appointment; or flexible work schedules.  
    • Other projects that requirement more effort. 
    • Sabbaticals require additional information. 
  • If you are replacing your effort on the project / assigning your effort to another Senior Key person, then identify that individual and their role on the project or expertise to fulfill the released effort. If the individual is new to the project, you will need to submit a Biosketch and Other Support document. 
  • Budget based reductions of effort are NOT allowed. The examples below represent unacceptable reasons for changes to effort: 
    • Promotion or salary increase so need to reduce effort to stay within budget. 
    • Not enough funds so the need to free up salary to use in another budget category. 
  • Provide a statement as to whether the reduction in effort impacts the budget and how the released funds will be utilized. 
    • Budget statement is only needed if the impact to the budget is significant but the GMS may ask so including the statement may eliminate a request for additional information 
  • Provide a statement regarding whether the request to reduce effort will change the scope of the project or have a significant impact on the timeline or overall success of the project. 
  • Provide signature of the Principal Investigator 
  • Provide signature line for ORA 
  • Upload the letter into the Commitment Change Tool 
  • In the commitment change tool:  
    • Identify the effective date of the change (must be future date with adequate time for review process). 
    • Identify the budget periods that the reduction will impact (i.e., current and future) The default will be to current budget period only if future periods are not specified. 
  • Submit request to ORA

Access Effort Change Justification Examples and Guidance

Duke central approval level

Duke Central approval is required for Senior Key Personnel that are not named on the notice of award. A Change in Commitment Request for Duke Central Approval Level should include the following:  

  • Identify investigator and enter the effort reduction amount. 
  • Provide a project specific explanation of why the effort needs to be reduced.  State whether the effort will be reassigned to another researcher, or the work has been completed for the reduced effort.  Include whether the effort reduction changes the scope or negatively impact the ability to successfully complete the project as originally outlined in the specific aims. Ensure you identify the person’s role on the project. 
  • In the commitment change tool: 
    • Identify the effective date of the change (must be future date with adequate time for review process). 
    • Identify the budget periods that the reduction will impact (i.e., current and future) The default will be to current budget period only if future periods are not specified. 
  • Submit the request to ORA 
*Subcontract PIs at Duke for incoming awards
  • If the personnel is named in the Prime Institution’s NOA, follow Sponsor Approval Level Guidance.  
  • If the personnel is not named in the Prime Institution’s NOA ORA will need authorization from Prime Institution PI via email.