Minutes - Jan 29, 2009

Date of Meeting: 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Council members present:

Jordan Cohen, John Doershuk, Michael Flatt', Carin Green, Simon Holoubeck, Kenneth Hubel, Stephanie Hynes, Erin Irish, Bob Kirby, Johna Leddy, Paul Romitti, Cheryl Reardon, Catherine Ringen, Linda Snetselaar


Wallace Loh, Provost; Frank Abboud, Associate Vice President; Richard Hichwa, Associate Vice President; Ann Ricketts, Director, Research Development; Jay Semel, Associate Vice President; Charlotte Talman, Director, Clinical Trials Office;  Jim Walker, Associate Vice President

Chair Michael Flatt' called meeting to order at 1:32 p.m.

Discussion of 12/18/2008 agenda minutes:

Michael Flatt' suggested modifications. An updated draft will be submitted for approval at the March 5 meeting.

Agenda Item 1: NIH success rates (Richard Hichwa)

Richard Hichwa discussed the decline in NIH R01 research grant funding and their new truncated review process. The agency may eventually move to allow zero amended applications. Increased competitiveness and concise communication of research innovation are now key elements. Internal reviewers with sufficient knowledge and expertise, and agile, targeted responses to funding opportunities are needed.

Michael Flatt' noted the NSF's switch to allow zero amended applications five years ago, and the subsequent push of researchers towards other agencies. The quality of proposal reviewers' feedback is crucial if researchers are going to be competitive on the amended application.

Frank Abboud stressed the importance of senior mentors, and more integrated planning on strengths of department and research. Review groups need to be selected carefully and incentivized. There is awareness that the process of review could be improved.

Agenda Item 2: NSF re-submission guidelines associated with salary (Richard Hichwa)

Richard Hichwa discussed the NSF's salary support guidelines and stressed that the agency will adhere to the policy of funding only 2 months of salary per researcher, to be used during the summer or academic year. Researchers who use the two months of salary support during the 9 month academic term are eligible for a salary release from the University.

NIH does not have this restriction at the present time. The implementation of this policy by NIH could affect research faculty at the College of Medicine who are paid solely from grants.

Agenda Item 3: Update on TIG (Richard Hichwa)

Rich Hichwa informed the council that the 1 year contract with TIG has been finalized. There is no limit to the number of proposals that they will review; the key is to give the reviewers sufficient time to provide feedback and incorporate the suggested improvements. Their services are available to assist all faculty in increasing the competitiveness of their grant proposals. The University has set forth goals for their services, including to submit successful IGERT and STC proposals, as well as to increase the competitiveness of individual PI-initiated activities.

Michael Flatt' and Erin Irish reported that their TIG-reviewed proposals were returned with politically savvy, strategically-oriented comments.

Agenda Item 4: Update on Conflict of Interest (Jim Walker and Charlotte Talman)

Jim Walker updated the group on recent developments in the area of Conflict of Interest in Research. A recent letter from the NIH stated that the University's Conflict of Interest in Research policy was out of compliance. The NIH required the policy be updated so it is consistent with the current PHS regulations and notify affected parties within the University of this update. In cooperation with the Conflict of Interest Office, Deputy General Counsel Grainne Martin updated the policy found in section 18.6 UI's Operations Manual. The required changes included updated language for definitions, regarding record-keeping requirements, COI responsibilities for grant and contract subrecipients, and details on how the university addresses noncompliance.  Jim stressed that although the language in the Operations Manual is not compliant with the regulations, the UI's compliance program operates under the current PHS language and subsequent regulations.   

Agenda Item 5: Provost Wallace Loh

Provost Loh addressed questions regarding his recent memo. He noted that the University will remain invested in certain areas, including the translational sciences, sustainability, the arts and humanities. Certain critical areas such as financial aid, libraries, student safety, and utilities will be held exempt from budget reductions. Other states face far worse situations.

Provost Loh noted that current fiscal projections will depend on student enrollment.  The University could focus on adopting a philosophical vision or framework to invest in certain areas, particularly international student enrollment, which has the potential for strong growth and increased revenue. Options include focusing on retaining graduate students and providing assistance with language issues.

Departments' use of block allocation funds were reviewed, in part because the University is the only institution in the Big 10 that uses block allocations. He stressed that the total funds allocated to support graduate students has increased. The Provost's Office support for TAs and RAs totals 28.7 million. Preference is given students with an interdisciplinary focus.

Meeting adjourned at 3:25 pm by Chair Michael Flatt'