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U researchers get real-time info on stimulus funding opportunities

U creates Web site to navigate funding opportunities within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

By John Merritt

March 4, 2009

The moment Congress began discussing an economic stimulus bill, most observers believed it would include unprecedented opportunities for research and education. But hopes were raised, crushed, and raised again as frequent changes to the bill offered dramatically different funding scenarios.

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was finally passed and signed by President Obama on Feb. 17, it included $21.5 billion in research funding. Still, many questions needed to be addressed: How would federal agencies award the funding? What would the application process be? How soon would information be available?

"The lack of specific details in the stimulus bill created an urgent need for reliable, up-to-date information in order to guide swift, appropriate responses to opportunities relevant to University research priorities," says Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research. "That's why we decided to create a central source of information about stimulus funding opportunities for the University research community."

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) moved quickly to create such a resource for faculty and administrators even before the final bill was approved. A focused communication strategy was rolled out on Feb. 16 and received an immediate response. On that day a dedicated Web page was launched, along with three Listservs: one for general information directed to the University research community, another for key University leadership including the collegiate Research Associate Deans and research administrators, and a third for OVPR and Federal Relations management staff to share information about the bill and clarify details.

Real news, real-time

The Web page includes a "breaking news" section that provides timely information from OVPR and Federal Relations staff who are participating in various national higher education association meetings or conference calls where representatives from federal agencies offer information about their plans for stimulus research funding.

Associate vice president Pamela Webb attended a Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) meeting in D.C. on Feb. 19 where representatives from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation--two of the largest research funding agencies, with a collective $13.4 billion in stimulus research funds--provided information about their plans for awarding and disbursing the funds.

A summary of the presentations was posted on the OVPR Web page the following morning.

"Few details had been provided by the agencies up to that point," says Webb. "The COGR presentations provided the first opportunity to offer our researchers specific information from two of the key sources of stimulus research funding."

The Web page also includes useful links and a table with topline information about stimulus funding information from various agencies. The table is updated whenever new information about funding opportunities and application deadlines becomes available.

Stay tuned

Funding agencies are expected to provide details about grant application procedures and deadlines within the coming weeks. The OVPR Web page will be updated as information becomes available and Listserv subscribers will be notified whenever new information is posted on the Web page.

The response to OVPR's stimulus research funding information has been extremely positive. To date, there have been more than 4,000 pageviews on the dedicated Web page, and the general information Listserv has more than 500 subscribers.

Because of the success of the site, colleagues at peer institutions have complimented the U's efforts and have expressed interest in creating resources for their faculty and administrators.