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Research equipment grant competition announced

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - September 24, 2007

A grant competition of $2 million for the purchase of research equipment was announced recently by Provost Peter J. Nicholls.

Researchers are invited to submit proposals by Oct. 31. The awards are expected to be announced by Nov. 15.

“This competition is intended to strengthen the research capabilities of the University,” says Suman Singha, vice provost for academic administration.

The funds were made available by re-allocations in the Provost’s Office, combined with a $1 million match from the Office of the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

In future years, the money will be used for new faculty hires, but since those faculty members will not join the University until fall 2008, $2 million is available during the current academic year on a one-time basis.

“The Provost’s Office decided that one-time funds of this magnitude could have the most impact through the purchase of research equipment,” says Singha.

“We have not had this type of money available for equipment before, and we hope it will give faculty leverage in securing external funding.”

The funds will be restricted to the purchase of major items of equipment or arrays – clusters of equipment that function in tandem – costing in the six figures.

The money may be used to purchase equipment for proposed research activities or to replace existing equipment that is out-of-date.

“Funding agencies look at the University’s research capabilities,” adds Singha. “We have excellent faculty. Having the equipment that’s needed will enable us to be more competitive in securing research funding.”

Proposals are invited from groups of researchers.

“We wanted to have maximum impact on programs at the University, not just on individuals,” says Gregory Anderson, vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school.

“We hope to provide the opportunity for a group or groups of people to add a piece of equipment they feel is critical to moving their research to the next stage, or update equipment that will allow them to be more productive and competitive in their research and publications.”

The money will be awarded through an open competition, with proposals evaluated by a six-member faculty committee drawn from the life sciences and physical sciences and from across the schools and colleges.

Although faculty from any discipline may apply, major equipment needs are generally in the sciences.

The committee will be chaired by Anderson and Singha, who will review but not vote on the proposals.

The committee members are: Amy Howell, Chemistry; Kazem Kazerounian, Mechanical Engineering; Debra Kendall, Molecular and Cell Biology; Charles (“Skip”) Lowe, Psychology; Dennis Wright, Pharmacy; and Theodore Rasmussen, Animal Science and Center for Regenerative Biology.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) specifies that the research must benefit a group of researchers, enhance external funding prospects, and advance one of the areas outlined in the Academic Plan.

Applicants must indicate where the equipment will be housed and how maintenance costs will be met; describe how the proposed equipment will enhance the University’s research profile; and outline collaborative and multi-user arrangements.

With proposals due six weeks from the issuance of the RFP, and awards to be announced just two weeks later, the competition is on a fast track.

Singha says the aggressive timeline is necessary because large equipment purchases must go through a bidding process.

The goal, he says, is to have the equipment in place by the end of this academic year.

Singha says it would be ideal if funding of this order of magnitude could be available on an ongoing basis.

For now, however, he sees the one-time competition as “a golden opportunity.”

As extramural funding increases, he says, the amount of indirects – the portion of externally funded research grants the University retains to cover the costs of the research infrastructure – increases, generating more money to put back into the research enterprise.

“The equipment grant competition is a strategic investment in the research enterprise,” he says.

“We hope it will enable us to achieve a better return on our resources – whether in terms of dollars and cents, or by enhancing the University’s research productivity and profile.”

The RFP is available on the Provost's website.

More information about the academic plan is on the Academic Plan website.

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