After you frantically worked against the clock to develop an
excellent proposal, sweated out the wait while it was reviewed, toiled for
months or years to deliver on what you promised, it should be time to relax,
right? Yes, but if and only if you have closed
out the project by delivering a quality final report to your sponsor.
Granted, the money is spent, the project is over, and you
have done a superlative job delivering on your proposal. Furthermore, the sponsor may not have any
leverage at this point to enforce their reporting requirements. It is tempting to treat the final report as a
nuisance and assume that it really doesn't matter a whole lot. This is wrong, and here's why:
Sponsors often need to make their own reports,
and they need your information to do it properly. Large sponsors with multiple programs use
final reports to monitor and improve individual programs and fine tune
solicitations. Many have measures that
they must report, which are gathered from your final report.
Some sponsors have enforcement mechanisms to
prevent consideration of further proposals until reports are submitted. NSF, for example, will not send a subsequent proposal
for review if you have an overdue final report from another project. This enforcement applies to all investigators
and co-investigators on a given project, even if they are at different
A good final report can enhance your reputation
(or not). In general, program officers
come from academia, and they are current with their fields. They know the experts in their area of
research; they talk to each other, and about each other. You should be known for your research record,
not for tardiness. A timely, responsive
report allows you to develop a better relationship with your program officer,
whose decisions may affect your future funding.
Through your final report, you represent
RIT. In some cases, the future success
of your colleagues depends on keeping the sponsor happy. Consider the New York Council for the Humanities. They disburse a relatively small budget every
year to fund public humanities programs across the entire state. An incomplete or unresponsive final report
could predispose them to spend their scarce resources elsewhere in future
years, hurting RIT's chances for funding.
So, before you move on to other things, be sure you have
given your sponsor what they need to finish the job and enhance your future
success. Let the sponsor know how the
project went and account for how the funds were used. Then celebrate a job well done!