The following are major highlights of committee activities to date, arranged in approximate reverse chronological order:
Campuswise MATLAB license
Summer 2016: The group is currently articulating the case to purchase an institutional-wide license for MATLAB rather than have labs purchase these on an individual basis. The benefits are cost savings at the university level, broader usage of MATLAB and more up-to-date software.
Summer 2016: Recognizing that safety is paramount in research laboratories, the group has been working with Risk Management to develop a new training module that will focus on general lab safety that is only minimally covered under current modules.
Spring 2016: Following a charge by the Vice President for Research, the group has been examining the question of Research Centers and specifically, their classifications, reporting structure, funding and review. As a result, a new review process for Centers is being developed for implementation in Fall 2016.
Summer->Fall 2015: The group examined the issue of research space and developed a set of recommendations that were passed to the Vice President for Research in November 2015. Major recommendations include (a) A mechanism for oversight of research space at the University level should be developed, (b) All Colleges should develop and publish research space policies, (c) Such policies should detail all metrics or formulas used to determine space allocations, (d) Reliance on strictly quantitative metrics such as $/sq. ft. should be discouraged in favor of a more holistic view of faculty performance, (e) When considering extramural funding to a lab, all sources of research funding should be considered, including philanthropy, (f) Current funding should never be a determinant of space allocations, but rather a minimum of a three-year rolling average, and (g) Each College should have a Faculty-led committee guiding space allocations.
Research and Philanthropy
Summer 2015: Much of the philanthropy at MUSC is focused on clinical care and the group felt there were also opportunities to leverage our research strengths to attract philanthropic support. Consequently, a set of ideas to attract philanthropy was developed and in June 2015 was passed to Dr. Joe Helpern in his capacity as Director of the Office External Research Relations.
Research Equipment Enhancement Fund (REEF)
Spring 2015: At the behest of the VPR, the group developed a new funding opportunity supported by the office of the VPR to enable purchase of new instrumentation for research labs and cores. Dubbed “REEF”, two cycles have been offered to date, resulting in 11 awards
Spring 2015: The group reviewed the Authorship Guidelines document that had been posted as a draft on the APR web site for a number of years. The document also includes procedures for resolution of authorship disputes. Small revisions were made and the document has now been approved by the VPR and is posted on the Research website.
Best practices for internal grant review
Fall 2014: The committee looked at various mechanisms at MUSC that aim to improve the competitiveness of applications for extramural funding. Some departments or college have well-developed systems for mock review, whereas others do not. The goal of this effort was to develop a best-practices document that would serve as a resource for the research community, especially for departments or divisions that at present do not conduct internal reviews of grant applications. This effort has since been delegated to a group charged by Dr. Brady (Vice President for Research) and is longer an area of focus for the operations sub-committee.
Analysis of NIH funding of MUSC
Spring-Summer 2014: The committee conducted a detailed analysis of NIH funding at MUSC covering the period 2009-2014. An overall decline in NIH funding was noted. In this analysis, we looked at the following: how MUSC’s NIH funding compares with that of other institutions over the past five years, the breakdown of awards (how many U01, R01s, R21s etc.), success rates for new and competing renewal R01 applications, how well our portfolio matches the institutes that award the most funding, and which tier of faculty is experiencing the biggest decline in extramural support. The analysis was presented to the URC, along with a list of recommendations to tackle the problem. This effort will now shift to implementing measures to reverse the recent decline in funding.
IDCs between Colleges
Spring 2014: At the behest of the URC, we debated the issue of splitting indirect costs (IDCs) between colleges when PI’s or co-I’s of awards are from different colleges. At present, there is no formal mechanism for splitting IDCs on such awards. After discussing the issue, the URC-OSC recommended that IDCs should be split between colleges, using the scheme that indirects follow directs. Sub-contracts between colleges should be included. But they also felt there cannot be a one-size-fits-all and there would be a need for bespoke negotiated agreements for certain mechanisms, e.g. COBREs.
IDCs to PIs
Spring 2014: In the course of debating the above, we also recommended that the University implement a rule that PIs of extramural awards get 5% of IDCs back. All colleges except COM give IDCs back to the PI and many other institutions do so as well.
Spring 2014: The committee looked closely at the SmartState program with the concern that many of these Endowed Chairs remain unfilled. Ultimately, we passed the following resolution and presented it to the then Associate Provost for Research:
Recognizing its significance for the growth and development of research programs at MUSC, the Operations sub-committee of the University Research Council expresses concern that approximately 40% of SmartState Chair positions are unfilled and that some have remained so for many years.
This committee therefore calls for greater oversight of the SmartState program by the Office of the Associate Provost and recommends the following steps:
- Investigate reasons why SmartState Chairs remain unfilled.
- Consider deploying the Strategic Investment Fund to assist with start-up packages for the appointment of Chairs.
- Encourage greater cooperation between SmartState Centers with unfilled chairs and programmatically related departments that could appoint such chairs.
- Enact a time limit of 5 years for appointment after draw-down of the money from the State, after which time the responsibility for the Chair reverts to the Office of the Associate Provost.
Since this time, Dr. Kathleen Brady (Vice President for Research) has appointed Dr. Lynn Veatch as Director of the SmartState Program and a number of vacant chairs have now been filled. Two of these were by existing faculty members at MUSC.