Webinar Wrap-up: “Helping Junior Faculty Jumpstart their Search for Research Funding!”

Did you ask a question during our last webinar but didn’t receive an answer due to time?  Lucy Deckard took the time to answer more of your questions from his discussion, Helping Junior Faculty Jumpstart their Search for Research Funding!

Q: What funding agencies will be appropriate for a faculty with statistics background but appointed in the department of Curriculum and Instruction within the College of Education?

A:  I’m assuming that your research will focus on the use of statistics related to educational research questions. If that’s the case, you have a number of possible funding agencies, depending on your specific research topic. It’s likely that a competitive project would be a collaboration between you and an education researcher (unless you feel you have the needed education research background). NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) would be one of the first places you should look. Of course, the US Department of Education – particularly the Institute for Education Science (IES) – would be a very good place to consider. You might also look at foundations that focus on research such as the Spencer Foundation.

In addition, you might be a strong partner for larger projects where some educational assessment is involved, if that’s of interest to you. These might include large projects such as Centers with strong education components (e.g., NSF Engineering Reseach Centers, NSF Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeships (IGERT)). However, you’ll want to think hard about whether that kind of work (i.e., serving as a statistical expert for educational assessment) is in line with your research interests. If so, you might work with your research office to make them aware that you are available to work on those larger projects since they are more likely to know about proposals to those programs.

Q: What do you think about paying senior faculty to review the proposals from jr faculty?  Our institution has started paying $1,000 for a review and a bonus if the proposal is funded.

A: I think this is a good idea assuming the senior faculty are knowledgeable about the agency to which the proposal will be submitted. I would also encourage some follow-up once the PI has worked to address the issues raised, either in the form of another review by the senior faculty or, if that’s too much to ask, in the form of work with someone else. (My experience has been that one iteration is just not enough for junior faculty who are new to writing proposals – they need help with addressing the issues raised.)

Q: A question that is slightly off-topic- We are a public university.  Due to our budgetary situation, we are shifting to a more philanthropic and grant-funded basis for faculty research.  We have many older faculty at our university who are not accustomed to pursuing grant funding for research- especially in the nonprofit and private sector.  How can we encourage them to pursue grant funding?

A:  A lot of universities are in this position and are struggling with this issue.  Of course, basing annual evaluations on proposals submitted and rewarding grants funded is a first step toward motivating faculty. However, it’s important to give them support and training in parallel with new expectations, or they’ll feel that the university has set them an impossible task. Realistically, if senior faculty have not been publishing in a research area, it will be very difficult for them to compete successfully for research funding. For those faculty, it would make more sense for them to go after curriculum-enhancement and education-focused grants such as the NSF TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM), STEP (STEM talent expansion program) and S-STEM (Scholarships in STEM). Often, they have a lot of very valuable expertise related to education in their discipline that can help them come up with good project ideas in these areas. However, they’ll need assistance in developing these proposals if they don’t have grant writing experience.  If the faculty have been publishing in their research area, then providing assistance with identifying funding opportunities and mentoring them through the grant process may help them to get started.

To be honest, though, for universities trying to change to their grants culture, the biggest impact can be made with new and junior faculty. They’re fresh from getting their PhDs and have published in their research area, and they have likely come from an institution where pursuing grant funding was part of the culture. They’re primed to go after grant funding, but they’ll need support and infrastructure. By focusing on ensuring that the infrastructure is there to encourage and support your junior faculty not only when they’re developing and submitting proposals, but also when they receive a grant and need help administering it, you’ll encourage them to continue to pursue grant funding, and that will help change the culture at your university. You’ll also want to make sure that they are rewarded and celebrated when they do receive grant funding – maybe some teaching release or extra travel money, plus a write-up on the university website or a lunch with the VPR – that kind of visibility will help others see the rewards of taking on the extra work of pursuing grant funding.

 

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