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July 25, 2013

Technology Corner


Pitt’s faculty information system

People considering a career in academia typically learn about the tenure track process, the importance of grant funding and the pedagogy of their field. People with particularly generous mentors also are alerted to the most effective ways to navigate the demands of committee work and institutional service.

But rarely are faculty — or chairs and deans — prepared for the paperwork.

The fact that there is paperwork in this day and age catches some people off guard: Can’t we do all that online?

Identifying the needs

The reality is that faculty receive requests for information about their professional and scholarly activities from a number of sources: funding agencies, publishers, conference organizers, professional societies, department chairs, deans and more. The information may be needed for accreditation requirements, external reporting, internal decision-support or routine professional and career reports.

In turn, department chairs and deans are asked for aggregated information about the professional and scholarly activity within their units, for similar purposes.

The provost and the Council of Deans recognized that the University needed a secure, reliable and comprehensive online resource that would allow faculty to enter their professional information once and then be able to readily generate that information multiple times for multiple requests. That resource also would provide deans and other academic administrators with a source of available information, reducing the need to send out repeated calls for core information about faculty teaching, service, research and publication. The ideal system would prepopulate as much information as possible from existing sources, to further reduce the need to manually enter information.

CSSD was asked to develop an enterprise system to serve as this sort of resource for faculty and academic administrators. We met with Pitt faculty from a broad range of disciplines, ranks and experience levels to identify the kinds of information faculty would like to have ready access to and the types of information they most often are asked to provide to the academic administration, granting agencies and other audiences.

Consistent themes emerged in those conversations, and there was considerable overlap on three points. Faculty and administrative leaders want to be able to:

  • make data-driven decisions,
  • reduce wasted effort (and wasted paper) and
  • reduce repeated requests for the same information to be used for different purposes.

Faculty information system 2013

Pitt’s current faculty information system is an extension of a research networking application developed by the Center for Dental Informatics. Securely accessed through My Pitt (, the faculty information system is a web-based application designed for faculty — or their delegates — to enter, organize and share professional activity information such as awards, publications, research funding, teaching, service, presentations, etc.

Class information — course title, number of students enrolled, etc. — automatically is imported from PeopleSoft every term.

There currently are more than 3,000 accounts in the system. The system contains thousands of entries for faculty publications, presentations, courses, grants and service, as shown in the chart. Once information is in the system, faculty can use the system to generate curriculum vitae, annual reports to their chairs or deans, National Institutes of Health biosketches and online profile pages.


A work in progress

Faculty input is key to continued development of the system.  In response to faculty feedback in the system’s first year, we developed an alternate general template for annual reviews/reports, worked with schools to develop their own school-specific annual review templates and improved the search function.

We are working on a National Science Foundation biosketch template and adding entry forms for performances and products. While this is an enterprise service, developed to serve departments across the University, we know that one size does not fit all and will continue to work with schools on the specific needs of their discipline and organization.

Because this system will be most efficiently used when information can be prepopulated from other systems, we are working with the University Library System to create a mechanism for synchronizing the citation data in the D-Scholarship@Pitt system and the faculty information system. We also are prioritizing prepopulation of grant information.

Eventually, as the University’s various systems and databases are coordinated, the faculty information system also will be able to serve as a source of data for the University Data Warehouse; deans or others with access to the warehouse will be able to generate reports for senior administrators or accrediting agencies regarding their unit’s faculty activity.

Pro tips

If you are not currently using the faculty information system, try it: It may make your professional life a little easier in the long run. Go to and click on the faculty information system link under “My Resources” or in the right-hand column.

Search: Faculty and staff can access the system and use it to search for colleagues based on research interests, school and publication keywords.

Delegate: The first iteration of the faculty information system is designed to help faculty easily generate CVs and annual reviews (or annual reports) for their department chairs and deans. The initial task of entering one’s educational and professional history may seem daunting. If they wish, faculty can assign an administrative assistant, student or some other Pitt-affiliated person to serve as a delegate for adding or updating this information. The faculty member can log in to the faculty information system, go to “My Settings,” click on “My Delegates,” and click on the link to add a delegate.

Anne L. Fay is CSSD’s director of business intelligence and executive data assessment liaison.

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