NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Research development to build strong core facilities

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Karla Ewalt

Research Development is Fundamental to Building a Strong Core Facilities Infrastructure

Presenters: Karin Scarpinato & Fruma Yehiely
Key points from the session:
  1. Core facilities are often integral resources to an institution’s competitiveness (faculty recruiting and retention, sponsored research) and innovative potential.
  2. They serve as loci that foster campus collaborations. Research development strengths with strategic planning, interdisciplinary work, and collaboration can be effectively leveraged in the management and oversight of core facilities.
  3. NIH annual reports and FORMS D (effective with proposal due dates of May 25, 2016 and beyond) require more rigor, transparency, and validation. Core facilities can serve as the institutional experts for producing robust, rugged, and reliable analysis needed to satisfy these requirements.
  4. Funding programs fall into three main categories: shared instrumentation, instrumentation and technology development, and user/core facilities.
  5. Selected case study examples:
    • NIH P41 – Biomedical Technology Research Resource grant. Four key components of these proposals are: collaboration, training of external users, administrative management, and dissemination of information beyond the core. The research development team came in after the first submission was unsuccessful. They facilitated a careful review of all reviewer comments on the rejected proposal, drafted the administrative management component, carefully developed and brokered the institutional support, and connected the PIs to national networks for the national dissemination plan component, brainstormed on stronger projects and collaborators, and prepared for site visit.
    • NIH P30 – A very prescriptive RFA for funding equipment or services, not research, that requires multiple PIs with demonstrated funding bases. This example illustrated support by research development with modest resources to facilitate competitive proposals for the P30 mechanism. Initially, a 1/2-day workshop on P30 grant writing was held. The workshop was organized with a panel of successfully funded faculty members and opportunities to discuss what each faculty member might bring to the table. This resulted in a better understanding of potential PIs for P30s, a proposal resource library, and knowledge of potential teams for this limited submission opportunity. The workshop led to a team comprised of people from the engineering and medical schools. Once the RFA was announced, the team realized that they needed to skip an application cycle while faculty got funding lined up (8 PIs with RO1s) to meet the requirements specified in the RFA. Funding was provided for external review of R01 submissions to increase chances of getting the R01s so the team could apply for a P30. Also, seed funding was supplied to allow for a 2-day, off-site workshop to allow the team to brainstorm the proposal.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Research development principles can be applied to core facilities to create more effective administrative management, decision-making practices, and a central oversight structure. Centralized management of core facilities can provide the opportunity to conduct regular program review, develop meaningful reporting practices, evaluate resource allocations, enhance efficiency, and develop a management cohort amongst the facility leaders.

Presenters shared information on setting up a core directors meeting and a facility advisory committee. The core directors group meets monthly for rotating presentations on a particular facility and for round table discussions on common issues (rate structures, dealing with customers, etc.). The core advisory committee, which includes faculty users, core directors, and research administration staff, is charged with establishing policies and management practices, including reporting and metrics. Attendance is not required, but centralized management provides incentives for participation. In addition to enhancing facility management and decision making, the groups served to connect people who otherwise might not know each other and gave the facility directors a beneficial visibility and status.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

FASEB report Instrumentation: Federal Grants and Programs for the Life Sciences

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Consider an incentive (voucher) program for faculty who bring in sponsored research support for equipment (>$300,000).  Vouchers are provided to a PI of a funded equipment grant to pay for use of the equipment if it’s placed in a core. Such a program is designed to reward faculty who are successful in securing external funding for capital equipment and to strengthen the use and commitment to core facilities by researchers. The vouchers can’t be used for any other research expenses.

 

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NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Demystifyng the U.S. Dept. of Education

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Kristin Wetherbee

Demystifying the U.S. Department of Education

Presenter: Marjorie Piechowski

Key points from the session:

  • The U.S. Dept. of Education isn’t very consistent with funding opportunities. Programs may not be offered every year and there are few established due dates. Formatting and page limit requirements can vary. Also, some submissions must go through grants.gov while other must go through the U.S. Department of Education’s e-grants system.
  • Notices are announced via the Federal Register and the U.S. Dept. of Education website with a minimum 30 day notice (often, only 30 days’ notice is given).
  • Proposals should cite literature from the National Clearinghouse which holds documents about the current state of research.
  • Proposal components:
    • Personnel – must adequately describe role and credentials relative to the proposal
    • Project design and need – often weighed most heavily by reviewers
    • Adequacy of resources – need to address the specifics of what you’re asking for (cost per student, cost share, institutional resources)
    • Evaluation – often weighted heavily, up to 20% of total points. The Department seems to prefer external evaluators so you must provide excellent justification if using your own evaluation tool.
    • Special and competitive priorities – these may or may not be required. Bonus points may be given for addressing them so don’t make reviewers hunt for this language; state clearly and boldly in the proposal.
  • Program officers don’t have to be experts in the field and some PI’s have found that program officer comments are in direct conflict with what the review committee wants.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

The consistency of the Department’s lack of consistency.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?
What else from this session should NORDP members know?
You must routinely visit the U.S. Dept. of Education website to stay current on offerings and deadlines and must thoroughly review calls for proposals for changes from year to year. Also, if you’re interested in being a reviewer for the U.S. Dept. of Education, a Ph.D. is not required (master’s preferred). Register at http://www.g5.gov/.

NORDP 2016 Conference Report: Beyond the RFP

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Suzanne Lodato

Beyond the RFP: Ann Introduction to Diverse Methods and Resources for Identifying Funding

Presenters: Katie Keough, Christina Leigh Deitz, and Susan Clarke  

Key points from the session:

  • Both static (e.g., web pages on which information does not often change) and dynamic (e.g., regularly updated databases and lists) can be valuable tools for searching for funding opportunities.
  • For cash-strapped institutions, an impressive number of free online databases, lists, and digests are available from federal agencies, foundations, scholarly societies, professional organizations, and others.
  • Novel searching methods can be highly effective. Examples are:
    cited reference searching using award announcements and lists to identify opportunities, investigating peer institutions and organizations, checking the membership lists of funder affinity groups, read annual reports, strategic plans, foundation 990 forms, etc.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Although the presenters all subscribe to multiple lists and digests that sometimes overlap, they do not find overlapping listings to be a problem because they scan them quickly. The extra time it takes to scan duplicate listings is well worth the discovery of a good funding opportunity for their faculty.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? 

The slides list numerous sources – both free and subscription-based. We did discuss Guidestar, a free online database containing information on non-profit organizations, including foundation 990 forms that often contain the names of grantees and grant amounts.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Move beyond your daily opportunity list and do some detective work. It will pay off in the end!