Minutes - Mar 24, 2008

Date of Meeting: 

Monday, March 24, 2008


Denburg, Dickson, Grassian, Hesli, Hynes, Jung, Kirby, Knosp, Malanson, Snetselaar, Subramanian, Wichman, Hay, Hichwa, Reardon, Ricketts, Semel, Sharpe


Joe Kearney, Associate Dean


Fan, Flatté, Folsom, Leddy

Professor Vicki Hesli called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.

Welcome of Interim Vice President for Research, Jordan Cohen

Vice President Cohen’s introductory remarks included background information on his plans for his time as interim Vice President for Research. His goals included:

  1. Working in a pro-active way the Research Council and fostering communication between the Vice President’s office with the rest of the University.
  2. Providing an environment that will facilitate the expansion of research.
  3. Support applied research, such as applied technology and projects which contribute to economic development, define very broadly and in synergy with other UI missions.
  4. Increasing the number of large, interdisciplinary programs and bringing together the various resources across the University.
  5. Increase liaisons with the Government Relations Office.
  6. Evaluate and learn from other successful programs across the country.

Vice President Cohen answered various questions from members of the research council, including ones about IT support, the content of the strategic plan, the role of the Hygienic lab and interaction with the Graduate College.

Internal Funding Initiatives (IFI)

Associate Vice President Hichwa summarized two of the Internal Funding Initiatives:  Biological Sciences Funding Program and Mathematical and Physical Sciences Funding Program

The Biological Sciences Funding Program summary included the following information:

  • 34 applications all of which were very good with little separation in scores by the reviewers.  Ten applications were funded. The rank of the applicants was varied and included research scientists and professors
  • Applications are reviewed on:
    • Scientific merit, feasibility, and need
    • ROI – the probability that the project will lead to successful outside funding

The Mathematical and Physical Sciences Funding Program summary included the following:

  • 15 applications, seven were funded
  • The applications came from widely distributed departments across campus, but most were from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • They were judged on the same criteria as the Biological Sciences Funding Program

Whether a project was funded or not also depended on how well the applicant could communicate about the project.  While the reviewers were knowledgeable, they were not always experts in the area. The project had to stand on its own for scientific merit, innovation, feasibility, and departmental support.

Associate Vice President Semel talked about the Social Sciences Funding Program and Arts & Humanities Initiative.

The Social Sciences Funding Program is also a seed grant, but more geared to the social sciences.

  • 9 applications were received and 7 were awarded
  • Five recipients were assistant professors, two were associate professors
  • The same criteria as the Biological Sciences Funding Program/Mathematical and Physical Sciences Funding Program are used.

There were several changes made to the IFI program over the last two years in response to Research Council recommendations.  These recommendations included:

  1. Ensuring that the program was truly a seed grant program with the stated deliverable of a grant application.
  2. Grant was to complete a pilot project and should be completed within the allotted time frame.
  3. No extensions to be granted.
  4. Conflict of interest for reviewers was changed.  No longer a conflict just to be part of the same department as the applicant.  Allowed for more expertise among the reviewers.

The Arts & Humanities Initiative program is a different program.  The Arts & Humanities Initiative program was started in response to significant budget cuts to NEH and NEA.  A grant was written and funded by the legislature to start the program.  After that funding stopped, the Office of the Vice President for Research began funding the program using patent and tech transfer money.  The Arts & Humanities Initiative funds a specific project or performance.  There is no expectation of obtaining outside funding.

  • The average grant from this program is $7,500, but one or two larger grants of $30,000-$40,000 are given
  • These larger grants are used for larger projects such as making a film

Director Kirby summarized the Iowa Research Experience for Undergraduates program – a program for funding undergraduate research.

  • Approximately $100,000 per year is allocated to this program
  • There are two competitions every year
  • 15 faculty are funded at a rate of $3,000 per year of which $2,000-$2,500 is for student stipend
  • The faculty represented 14 different departments
  • Fewer applicants from the arts and humanities
  • Received 54 applications in the fall and 52 in the spring.  The reviewer burden is becoming an issue as the number of applications continues to increase.
  • Try to fund students that plan to continue in research.

While many students are not funded, most are already working with a faculty member and often continue to be supported by the faculty member.

Associate Vice President Hichwa, Associate Vice President Semel, and Director Kirby all indicated that they had no plans to make any changes in the current IFI programs unless the Research Council indicated that they wanted changes made.

The minutes from the last meeting of the Research Council were approved.

Visit of CLAS Associate Dean Joe Kearney

Dean Kearney was asked to discuss with the Research Council research support and grant-writing incentives within CLAS.  In particular: how can faculty be given credit for writing grants and what resources would be of the most help in terms of grant writing for faculty.

Dean Kearney discussed the success of CLAS faculty in getting grants and why that might or might not be is difficult to gauge for the CLAS, given the wide variety of specialties that are encompassed in the College.

There was a general discussion about the types of support that was available or might be made available to faculty members to assist them in the grant process.  These included:

  • More consistent administrative support across departments
  • More faculty involvement in the review process
  • Centralized resource for boilerplate items such as resources, description of the University, biosketches, etc.
  • Bringing program heads of funding agencies to campus

NSF was one area where it was felt that more attention was needed to increase the number of grants that went in as well as the quality of those grants.

It was also noted that CLAS does not have a central grants office, to help faculty write grants, as do other colleges on campus.

Ways to provide grant support for faculty will continue to be discussed and this is an area of interest for Vice President Cohen.

Professor Hesli indicated that she would accept agenda items for future meetings at any time.

Meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.