Announcements From the VPR

Welcome back! After what I sincerely hope was a restorative and productive summer for all of you, it’s time again to welcome new students and researchers to campus, to enjoy meeting a new cohort of arriving faculty and to settle into the academic year.

Mental health is a phrase that too often we avoid or steer quickly and nervously around. Indeed, the rigors of productive and competitive research programs have potential to establish the unhealthiest of habits, taking their toll on mental health. I want to start 2023-24 with a plea to support and encourage ourselves and one another in considering our own mental and physical habits, and to find new ways to approach the stress of our challenging jobs, with the end goal of fostering a healthy community and research environment for ourselves and our students.

In May, an alarming piece was published in Nature that highlighted multiple recent studies that all supported the same conclusion: There is a worldwide mental health crisis in research programs, one that affects, in particular, faculty and graduate students on university campuses around the globe. The author states that “researchers are much more likely than the general population to experience depression and anxiety.”

We often rationalize angst as a badge of honor. We push ourselves and those around us to the brink to produce research deliverables that signify we are the first to traverse uncharted territory. Further complicating matters, we are just emerging from the most serious public health crisis of our lifetimes—there’s every reason to expect anxiety levels to have spiked. However, we cannot simply point our fingers at COVID-19, as the untenable pressures and resulting anxieties pre-date the pandemic. We simply must dismantle the current unhealthy culture that has produced a mental health pandemic and build new, healthy research norms. We must act.

One of the best ways we can help in this mental health pandemic is by being hypervigilant about the culture we create around our own work; are we focusing on the right drivers and rewards to build a sustainable, productive research team? Then, within our teams, are we communicating the opportunities to contemplate and exercise good mental health practices?

There are many services offered at UGA to assist us in this battle. UGA Human Resources provides information to connect faculty and staff to mental well-being resources, and the University System of Georgia offers an outstanding Employee Assistance Program that includes tools for stress management, wellness challenges and coaching services. Finally, are we listening to our colleagues, research staff and students to know when they are struggling?

At a world-class research university like UGA, we expect the quality of our faculty, staff, postdocs and students to be elite. Stress is an expected (and sometimes even beneficial) byproduct of those expectations. But that doesn’t mean our lives need to be a daily, never-ending struggle to keep our psychological heads above water. If we, as faculty mentors, do not don our wellness oxygen masks first, it should be no surprise that the microenvironment in which we place our students and staff will be fraught with unhealthy practices and danger. We must make mental wellness a priority, beginning by normalizing it in our conversations.

We are a community. We have both the resources and the motivation to listen intently and support one another. My hope is that each of us makes a small commitment each day to doing exactly that.

I hope your fall is off to a great start. Best wishes for a wonderful academic year.

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Calling for all Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant ideas!

True to our UGA land grant mission, we are laser focused on societal impact. Simply stated, we Think Big. Our Office of Research pre-seed and seed grant programs are structured to encourage interdisciplinary ideation around solutions to the world’s most complex problems. 

Two years ago, for example, professors Mark Tompkins and Pej Rohani—whose appointments are based in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology, respectively—learned that their proposed Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research (CIDER) had been funded by the National Science Foundation with up to $92 million over seven years. You may remember this announcement, as it was one of the largest sponsored research awards in UGA history, but more importantly represented a relatable, compelling vision with global urgency and “Think Big” societal impact underpinnings.

CIDER did not magically materialize; it was the actualization of an idea that was devised and cultivated by an interdisciplinary team of dedicated researchers over several years. It began as one of the projects funded in the inaugural 2017 cycle of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants, offered jointly by the Office of Research and UGA Public Service and Outreach. 

Several more of UGA’s recent signature research efforts also received a kickstart through Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants, including: 

These examples list only some of those projects that have evolved to freestanding research initiatives. Many other projects funded by Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants have resulted in lasting research teams and partnerships that continue to pay off in terms of scholarly productivity and external funding.

Over three previous cohorts, the program has made awards to 30 teams comprising nearly 230 faculty members. The total UGA investment over those three cohorts amounted to less than $5 million, yet the return in terms of subsequent extramural funding is (to date) an incredible $204 million, for an overall return on investment of 40:1. There were also approximately 170 peer-reviewed publications (plus more than double that number of academic presentations) that have resulted from those projects. 

Most importantly, and nearly impossible to attach to a meaningful quantitative metric, is the enormous benefit to society that has been realized. Lessons gleaned from the inaugural Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant round led to the realization that funding was needed for an earlier stage of collaboration and thus the Teaming for Interdisciplinary Research Pre-Seed Program was added to the OoR portfolio in 2020. 

These two seed funding initiatives provide the foundation for UGA’s strategic, deliberate effort to address some of society’s greatest challenges through large, interdisciplinary team science approaches. It is our attempt to encourage you and support you to Think Big.

I’m excited to announce some changes for the 2023 Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant call. Proposals are invited for two tracks – the first is a “New Frontiers” proposal track—intended for teams hoping to embark into demonstrably new/leading edge territory for research—the second is a “Cluster Engagement” track intended to help establish the cluster ecosystem and promote collaboration and engagement of faculty (including recent cluster hires) thematically tied to the recent artificial intelligence and machine learning cluster topics. 

Perhaps most important are new expectations for real-world translation. All 2023 proposals must include components that demonstrate immediate or long-term plans for engagement with end-users and communities, with the ultimate goal of direct and/or commercial translation of the research. Deliverables will include outputs meaningful to community or end-user, rather than only the traditional academic modes of dissemination. Funding agencies preparing to make large, team-science awards expect their funded projects to make a sizable and measurable impact in the world, an expectation that will be fundamental to our team projects.

To help faculty identify colleagues for potential collaboration, Associate Vice President for Research Larry Hornak and his team in the Office of Integrative Team Initiatives have created a new resource: the Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Team Builder. This Microsoft Teams-based platform allows faculty to advertise their ideas and areas of interest—including needs for collaborators of particular skills and/or disciplines—to potentially match up with others. Simply log in with your UGA credentials to get started.

I highly encourage you to use the new Team Builder tool to connect with your colleagues in other departments, schools and colleges and get started. There’s no time to waste—letters of intent are due via InfoReady by Aug. 14. We are here to support research that changes lives – Think Big!

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Have you wondered what you would do if a dangerous spill or injury happened in your lab? The immediate response, after ensuring the safety of those working in your lab and addressing the unexpected event, is to consider why it occurred and how to prevent a future similar occurrence. Perhaps there was even a lapse in compliance with federal or state regulations, which can seem ever-changing and hard to understand.

UGA’s research and instructional enterprise is incredibly complex. Doing the groundbreaking work of inquiry and service comes with an inherent level of safety risk, particularly in university laboratories.

The Office of Research Safety (ORS) staff are your support and guides for navigating regulations. The ORS team comprises nine full-time safety specialists, five of whom focus on chemical and general laboratory safety, with four more concentrating on radioactive materials, lasers and x-ray safety.

All team members work very closely with personnel in the Office of Biosafety and the Environmental Safety Division (ESD). If they cannot answer a question, they know who can.

UGA has close to 2,000 laboratories and lab support areas around campus, many with hazardous chemicals, biohazards, radioactive materials, lasers, etc. Knowing how to manage these varying hazards can be not only time-consuming but also can lead to frustration. We know that time spent deciphering safety regulations means less time spent on actual research; so, we would prefer to relieve you of the former and do the work of translation.

To take full advantage of ORS services, first let the office personnel know where you’re located. If you’re opening a new laboratory, relocating an existing laboratory or needing to decommission your lab space, please complete a Lab Change Notification Form. This will help ensure you are able to take full advantage of ORS subject matter expertise and services.

ORS specific services include:

  • Assisting you to ensure your laboratories are compliant with all federal, state and university safety policies through frequent safety visits, consultations and assessments.
  • Reviewing and approving standard operating procedures for laboratories.
  • Providing general and (upon request) customized training for you, your staff and students. Routine and on-demand courses already include “Lab Safety Basics” (available through the Professional Education Portal or PEP), “What to Expect from Lab Safety Inspections,” and “Advanced Rad Worker.” ORS staff are developing additional courses about appropriate spill and injury response, as well as chemical storage and segregation. We want this portal to be user friendly and serve your needs, so please send us comments at as you see features you like, as well as opportunities for improvement.
  • Helping laboratory representatives navigate Chematix. Managed by ESD personnel, this system provides you and your laboratory managers with quick access to manage your chemical inventories, request hazardous waste pickups, manage laboratory rosters, and document actions taken to improve safety and compliance.
  • Providing assistance with spill cleanup and emergency response. ORS maintains a 24/7 response team that can provide guidance and support services in the event of a laboratory emergency (see for contact information).
  • Supplying laboratories with up-to-date safety signage at no direct cost to the lab. You can always request additional signage and stickers on the ORS website.

ORS also offers additional fee-for-service options such as laboratory equipment decontamination and laboratory decommissioning services. Additional information about these services can also be found on the ORS website.

In summary, ORS is a multidisciplinary team of safety and support professionals working together to help our research community shoulder the weight of regulatory burden while also ensuring that community can learn, investigate and discover in a safe environment.

I have managed a UGA tissue engineering laboratory for almost eight years and have found the ORS team to be professional and collaborative. I greatly appreciate their help in maintaining the high quality of our laboratory. Moreover, I am grateful for their important service to our research enterprise!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Following the recommendations made by multi-year working groups comprising college, school and other unit representatives, this summer the University of Georgia will move from Academic Credit to Collaborator Contribution as a new method for designating investigator contributions to sponsored projects. The change will become effective July 1.

Collaborator Contribution combines indirect cost (IDC) distribution with credit distribution to create a new, simplified way of tracking contributions. There are several benefits to this new method, including the ability to view proposal, award and expenditure trends at the college, department and investigator levels—and to know that the data is consistent and reliable. Accordingly, we are developing a new suite of reporting tools that will allow investigators and administrators to easily view the data in numerical and graphical form. The resulting reports all will rely on the same Collaborator Contribution methodology.

The investigator version of this report will be available this summer, followed by the college and department versions. Next, center and institute (C&I)  reporting tools will be developed.

From now until July 1, we will provide a period of review and comment regarding how allocations will change. One of the many discussion meetings that we’ve held was on April 12, with chief business officers from academic units as well as staff members with decentralized limited signatory authority (DLSAs). These staff in your units are already reviewing these changes and recommending edits where needed.

Some aspects of documenting sponsored project contributions will remain unchanged. For example, you will still be able to log into the Grants Portal and update collaborators, financial department IDs and contributor percentages as the circumstances around your sponsored project change. The IDC distribution process will also not be affected by this change.

No doubt, you have (or will have) questions about this change. We’ve created an informational page (UGA authentication required) about Collaborator Contribution, complete with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, to help explain the new methodology. There is also an email link in case you have additional questions; however, please be sure to review the FAQ as you will likely find that your questions have already been addressed.

We also recently held a Research Live webinar about the transition to Collaborator Contribution, and I encourage you to view the recorded video of this event, which features answers to many of the same questions you likely have.

The transition to Collaborator Contribution is based on recommendations from working groups of faculty, staff and administrators—a very big thank you to everyone who took the time to offer feedback, evaluate recommendations and provide final input to help us fine-tune this new process. Special thanks to Jill Tincher from the Sponsored Projects Administration, Shawn Hill from the Office of Research/Finance Division, Chad Cleveland from Finance and Allan Aycock from the Office of Institutional Research, as well as their teams, for the detailed work that went into implementing the Collaborator Contribution model and the corresponding reporting tools.

I am confident that you will find this process an upgrade from Academic Credit, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that this new method is applied consistently and fairly.

I hope your summers are off to a great start! Thank you for all you do in support of UGA research and innovation.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

University of Georgia faculty members are innovative! Of the 200 or so startup projects currently in Innovation Gateway’s pipeline, more than 90% are led by faculty researchers. If your research has potential for commercialization, please know you work at an excellent university to help you translate your ideas to market and social good.

Of course, many entrepreneurially minded students also benefit from Innovation Gateway programs and assistance, but their pathways to market also wind through our various college-based pitch competitions. For Innovation Gateway, faculty are the primary audience and client base.

Over the past five years, “innovation” has been a much-used word on campus. It’s a goal to which many of us aspire—and for good reason. When the Innovation District was established in 2019, it was intended in part to support faculty invention disclosures along with patent and licensing agreements. Our faculty were proving themselves to be one of the most active group of innovators in the U.S., and the Innovation District simply sprang out of the activity that was organically occurring.

The numbers support these observations. UGA has ranked among the Top 5 for new research-based products to market in each of the nine years that metric has been compiled, but that’s just part of the story. More than 1,000 products and over 250 companies have been created from UGA research.

Innovation Gateway personnel assist at every stage of the commercialization process. The Innovation Gateway team members can help secure intellectual property (IP) rights through patents, trademarks and copyrights. They can facilitate feedback from industry partners to help faculty close the gap between a technology’s current state and the point of commercialization. The Innovation Gateway licensing team is in place and ready to facilitate the process and can negotiate and execute material transfer, confidentiality and data agreements, as well as review and negotiate IP clauses in sponsored research agreements.

Why is it so important to protect your ideas? Simply stated, the odds of commercializing your ideas are profoundly increased if those concepts are protected. Protection means a limited time, financial market advantage that allows the development and launch of new products, without the crowd of competitors.

If you decide to take the very exciting plunge and form a startup company of your own (yes, ideas protection is even more vital in this instance), Innovation Gateway has spent this year gearing up to provide even better support. We now offer assistance throughout the startup process, from exploration to evaluation, to development and scale up.

That’s part of the reason Innovation Gateway’s startup pipeline has doubled since we launched the Innovation District, from just over 100 projects in 2018 to more than 200 today. During that time, UGA-based startups—companies you’ve heard about, such as ArunA Bio, Blue Lake Technology, InfraredRx and Can I Recycle This?—have successfully earned upwards of $90 million in grants and investments.

Supported by a generous gift from the Truist Foundation, Innovation Gateway supports both the university and Athens-Clarke County startup communities through experiential learning activities, such as NSF I-Corps, Innovation Bootcamp and Faculty Innovation Fellows. It’s also a highly visible and recognizable UGA entryway for industry engagement.

Last month’s blog topic was UGA Cooperative Extension and its vital role in supporting UGA’s land-grant mission as well as helping us better understand our “customers,” i.e. the people of the state. Commercializing research is complementary to that mission and makes the ideas about which we are so passionate more widely available and in the right format to benefit citizens in Georgia and beyond.

If you believe your research has commercial potential (or even if you think not but the topic interests you) and you haven’t yet connected with anyone at Innovation Gateway, stop by the Delta Innovation Hub. The Innovation Gateway staff are happy to talk, and you might just open a whole new world of potential for you and your work. More importantly, you might just open a whole new world of potential for others whom your work advantages.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Looking for ways to increase the impact of your research or to more directly connect it with community? Consider partnering with UGA’s Cooperative Extension! As both a land- and sea-grant institution, UGA is charged with serving the needs of Georgia and its citizens, and boasts one of the most robust Extension programs in the nation, with dedicated agents providing consultation and programming in every one of Georgia’s 159 counties. Extension’s stated purpose is “to translate the science of everyday living for farmers, families and communities to foster a healthy and prosperous Georgia.”

Enter research — “the science of everyday living” takes shape every day in research spaces all across the UGA enterprise. Our very identity compels us to make the benefits of our research available to Georgia citizens as best we can, working hand in hand with Extension and its 321 agents and 450-plus classified employees.

Extension agents are public service track faculty who develop and extend programming based on local needs and informed by research subject matter. Their education programs deliver unbiased, research-based education in three main areas: agriculture and natural resources (ANR), family and consumer sciences (FACS) and 4-H youth development.

In addition to agents, Extension specialists are tenure-track or public service-track faculty located in academic units: ANR and 4-H specialists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and FACS specialists in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources also includes some Extension specialists among its faculty.

In partnership with advisory councils, citizens and local governments, Extension agents and their colleagues develop a plan of work every other year to strategically define the issues they will address in their community, leveraging their expertise with that of their local partners and the rest of the UGA community. Because of this grassroots needs assessment, programming in every Georgia county is unique and personalized.

Of course, every county has a certain level of base programming that is similar across the state, such as soil testing, pesticide safety training, home horticulture advice and 4-H programming. Extension has identified eight programming areas to help identify, aggregate and track impact of programming. These include:

  • Animal production
  • Food safety and quality
  • Health and wellness
  • Community, home & life skills
  • Plant production
  • Sustainability, conservation and the environment
  • Urban agriculture
  • Youth and family development

County agents routinely collaborate with specialists, as well as researchers from other UGA units and even other universities, to address local needs that may be outside their areas of expertise. Through Extension, the opportunity is ripe for connecting broader research activities to the state—as long as those activities serve the community’s needs. Recent examples include research in rural healthfarmer mental health and suicide, and childhood obesity.

In summary, Extension programming is local and collaborative. It is science-based and results-driven, but it is also personal, even multi-generational. Indeed, to the residents of many parts of our state, Extension personnel are UGA. They are the face, voice and hands of the university. They build lasting relationships with the individuals and communities they serve. They work hard to establish trust—and just as hard to maintain that trust once it’s there.

This summer, the United States will celebrate the 161st anniversary of one of the most significant—yet underappreciated—pieces of legislation ever enacted regarding U.S. higher education. Passed on July 2, 1862, the Morrill Act paved the way for today’s “land-grant” universities, of which the University of Georgia is proudly one. The act made it possible for states to establish public colleges funded by the development or sale of associated federal land grants.

The new land-grant institutions, which emphasized agricultural and mechanical arts, opened opportunities to farmers, tradespeople and other working-class citizens to reap the benefits of a college education. Together with two subsequent acts, the Hatch Act of 1877 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, this new national approach to higher education carried with it a three-part charge to land-grant universities: teach, conduct research and provide service to the local (i.e., state) communities.

For more than 160 years, UGA researchers have stepped up to contribute to our university mission of teaching, research and service. It’s a responsibility—and a tradition—that will continue throughout the 21st century and beyond, for the benefit of the state we call home.

As Georgia’s land-grant university, UGA is ideally situated not just to conduct research with impact, but to apply that research through resources like Extension. If your research has potential application to a real challenge affecting everyday Georgians and you are not already working with Cooperative Extension, I urge you to connect and explore a potential collaboration with high societal impact. For more inspiration, please take a moment to view the Research Live webinar, “Turning Research into Impact: How UGA Cooperative Extension Works with Georgia Communities.” We all have a role to play in upholding and growing this rich tradition.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Postdoctoral researchers are vital members of laboratories and other research spaces, not just here at UGA but in research universities around the country. I began my full-time research career as a postdoctoral fellow at a medical center, and the position provided a vital bridge between the completion of a Ph.D. and the obtainment of a tenure-track faculty position.

My postdoc fellowship allowed me to immerse myself in a clinical setting, giving me time and opportunity to better understand my “customer” (e.g., clinical personnel and patients) while becoming a more independent researcher and developing my project management, networking and mentoring skills. A high-quality postdoctoral experience of this type can be career shaping—even career changing.

It is imperative that we offer UGA postdoctoral researchers the highest quality experience while they are engaged with us in the UGA research enterprise. Indeed, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), under the direction of Associate Vice President Shelley Hooks, is committed to supporting the needs of UGA’s postdocs, from their hiring to their professional development to the other needs and challenges they encounter. Increasing the number of postdocs and their impact on UGA research is not just our Office of Research (OoR) goal—it’s a strategic goal of the entire university.

In the four years since 2019, spanning the COVID slowdown, we have made significant strides toward that goal, realizing a 30% increase in the number of new postdoc appointments. We currently have slightly upward of 260 UGA postdoctoral fellows. In addition to appointment processing and policy development for postdocs, last year OPA staff members developed updated policies for postdocs, including simplifying separation procedures upon the end of funding.

Shelley’s team also develops and delivers professional development programming for postdocs, and these activities have increased substantially for FY23. Check out the UGA Postdoc Portal for more information about these opportunities.

Already this year, we have offered many new programs and events, including an academic job search panel discussion, an industry job search panel discussion, an international scholar webinar series, an intensive mentoring workshop series, a grant writing panel discussion focused on National Institutes of Health K awards, and an NIH/National Science Foundation grant writing workshop. We are always open to suggestions of topics, so please do let us know as you think of additional subject areas of postdoc importance.

By way of special activities and support, I’m excited to report that OPA is hosting a day-long Life Sciences Career Day, in partnership with the graduate school, to be held March 30. Over the 2022-23 academic year, 21 postdoc travel awards totaling $18,300 have been awarded through OPA.

Another OPA focus—a priority for all of OoR, just as it is for UGA—is to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion among our postdoc community. That community already is exceptionally diverse in terms of international culture, and OPA activities actively celebrate this point. The OPA office is home to a world map displaying countries of origin, and OPA was host to a multicultural potluck winter holiday celebration.

However, like many academic populations, the domestic postdoc population does not fully reflect the diversity of our nation or state. We are developing programs to ensure that postdoctoral training opportunities are available, apparent, welcoming and appealing to diverse scholars. For example, OPA partnered with the Graduate School to select and support postdocs and graduate students in the SEC Emerging Scholars program, which seeks to increase diversity among SEC university faculty.

Next year, I’m very excited about the launch of a pilot program, the UGA Postdoctoral Scholars for Innovation, Diversity and Excellence (UPSIDE), which has the goal of recruiting exceptional postdoc talent to drive UGA’s strategic research missions; to enhance innovation, diversity and excellence throughout our domestic postdoc community; and to create a pipeline of diverse, innovative scholars prepared to join and lead the next generation of faculty. Participants in this two-year fellowship program will engage in both faculty-mentored research/scholarship in strategic priority research areas and academic career professional development.

The postdoctoral community isn’t the only specialized research community we serve. OPA is embedded within the broader Office of Research Personnel (ORP), which also supports visiting scholars/researchers, research scientists and research affiliates through resource development, oversight, advocacy and the creation of appointment/registration policies and procedures.

In FY22, the ORP staff led or facilitated the appointment or registration of 25 new research scientists, 234 visiting scholar/researchers and 62 research affiliates, as well as 139 new postdocs. The ORP staff have extensively reviewed visiting research scholar and research affiliate polices to address research security concerns; updated the research scientist promotion guidelines to reflect new Board of Regents annual review requirements; and administered the university-level review for eight research scientist promotions.

Research of the caliber found at UGA necessitates a community of committed professionals, as well as adequate administrative structures behind those professionals. In the Office of Research, we will continue to do everything we can in support of all our research communities, both for the benefit of those community members but also for everyone whose lives are positively impacted by UGA research.

My sincere thanks for your support as we build a diverse research community.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

There are many measures of a healthy research enterprise, one of which is the number of dollars invested, i.e. research expenditures, in research and development, including research spaces, researcher time, and grant dollars spent. Indeed, we just announced an exciting landmark—for the first time in UGA history that number surpassed the half billion mark, $545.6 million to be exact.

This news is very exciting and suggests many well-crafted proposals are being submitted to funding agencies; we’ve tried hard to provide additional support for grantwriting by making strategic changes in the Office of Research, such as building out our Office for Proposal Enhancement and establishing an Integrative Teams Initiative to support larger, team-based proposals.

However, there’s more to securing grant funding than writing a strong proposal. As any experienced researcher will likely say, developing a positive, mutually beneficial, long-term relationship with a funding agency is key to experiencing success over multiple projects. Like any successful relationship, building a connection with funders is about both parties bringing something to the table, each understanding the other’s drivers, rewards, and challenges, and grounding all interactions on a foundation of transparency and trust.

The Research Live webinar series is an initiative that began during the pandemic as a way to inform researchers about just-in-time issues to help sustain research programs in the midst of COVID-19. Since that start three years ago, Research Live has become an invaluable tool in our internal communications toolbox for providing informative professional skills overviews and updates, well beyond pandemic messaging.

This semester, the Office of Research will help investigators explore the intricacies of funder relationships with a five-part Research Live webinar series. Called “How Not to Research Alone: Creating Meaningful Relationships with Funders,” this series will offer insights and experience into understanding what funders value and how to build on that knowledge to develop a strong relationship.

As the title to the introductory webinar in the series says, “It’s All About Relationships.” That first event was held Jan. 13 and is available for viewing, as will be last week’s (Jan. 27) webinar on “The Business of Relationships: Building Industry Relationships that Pay,” which provided researchers with tips for connecting with potential business partners and suggestions for framing their research interests as an avenue to address business needs. There’s still time to register for each of the three remaining webinars. Here’s a quick preview, including links to register:

The overall series is led by Larry Hornak, associate vice president for integrative team initiatives in the Office of Research, and each of the above webinars will be led by a UGA leader who specializes in these areas. The webinars also feature faculty members who have successfully established the kinds of relationships each event discusses. The idea is to help investigators—whether in genetics or history, sociology or infectious disease, music or electrical engineering, romance languages or plant science—understand that time invested in understanding funders translates to building a connection that can help sustain research programs over the long term.

The “How Not to Research Alone” series represents only about half of the Research Live events currently scheduled this semester. Other upcoming events are focused on topics such as supporting postdoctoral researchers and visiting scholars, on UGA Cooperative Extension and the opportunities it provides for bringing research to Georgia citizens, on research commercialization, and on research safety. And there will likely be more events added as the semester progresses.

I encourage you to make use of the growing library of past Research Live webinars, as well as our upcoming live events, and even suggest topics for future webinars. There is a suggestion button at the top of the series’ website—we would love to hear from you and are very pleased to help you grow your research portfolio and funder relationships.

Best wishes in your research and creative works endeavors!

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

December 2022

Last month at UGA, we celebrated the importance of artistic expression in all forms through our Spotlight on the Arts. That monthlong event, drawing participation from across campus and involving the efforts of students, faculty, staff and alumni, reminds us each fall that some ideas and passions can only be adequately communicated through art.

This past semester I participated in the UGA Community Music School (shout out to Director and musician Kristin Jutras for this wonderful program) and witnessed first-hand the hard-working students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, who spent endless hours in practice rooms, then presented dozens of concerts and recitals featuring music from classical traditions to jazz and contemporary styles. I met other music students, who spent time teaching community members like me, helping us find or reinforce our own personal connections to the arts. Our students are constantly sharing their creative work and igniting the world; their passion and talent is immeasurable and simply awe inspiring.

Try for a moment imagining holidays without music. You can’t do it. Throughout human history, there is no culture at any time or place that did not leave evidence of music making and dancing. These were always a critical component of the most important rites, celebrations and festivals. That alone reminds us that musical expression is fundamental to the human condition. A walk earlier this month through the UGA Special Collections exhibit “Georgia on My Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History” with University Librarian Toby Graham and Director of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Kat Stein served as a striking reminder to me of the seamless interconnectivity of music and being.

Regarding the human condition, this fall also marked a milestone for the university. Eleven years after UGA recognized that the arts deserved a dedicated, ongoing conversation on campus with the formation of the Arts Council, we have now reached the same point with the humanities. An idea conceived by our own Office of Research humanities communications working group and actualized by the Office of Academic Affairs, the new Humanities Council will bring together students, faculty and leaders to highlight, share and encourage innovation in humanities scholarship and community. One goal is to establish an annual event in the spring to celebrate the humanities, just as Spotlight enables us to do for the arts each November.

Nicholas Allen, director of the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts and Baldwin Professor in Humanities, chairs the Humanities Council, and the Willson Center will take a leading role in coordinating such an event. Each year, the Willson Center is Athens’ host to a global community of researchers, artists, teachers and creators, with a continuing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and serves as an Office of Research representative and window to UGA arts and humanities research and artistic creation.

I’m excited about the Humanities Council, which was first proposed through a humanities communications working group initiated in the Office of Research last year. And I look forward to supporting the Council members as they plan the inaugural spring event in 2023. We have so much to celebrate in this space—for example, the news that Natalie Navarette, a Morehead Honors College student and Foundation Fellow majoring in international affairs, Russian and Spanish, with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, was recently named UGA’s latest Rhodes Scholar. Or how about undergraduate commencement speaker and double major/double minor Michael Banks, who spoke so passionately to the inextricable importance of the arts and humanities in our lives, and the natural and wonderful convergence with other fields, and who challenged us to find joy in our respective journeys.

As we take a break next week from our overpopulated schedules to recharge and refresh, let us embrace the ways humanities and arts draw us together and help us celebrate the uniquely human.

Have a wonderful break; I’ll see you next year.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

UGA’s Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) earned full accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPPs) four years ago and was reaccredited earlier this year. This designation is given only to institutions that have demonstrably built extensive safeguards into every level of their human research operations and that adhere to high standards for such research, so it is a well-deserved recognition of significant time, thought and energy spent by our HRPP leaders and team, including our many volunteer committee members. Congratulations and a big thank you to UGA Human Subjects Office Director Kim Fowler and all our HRPP staff and faculty, who worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth and successful review process.

At UGA, we strive to engage in greater levels of research involving human participants, especially clinical and translational research that help our discoveries make real impact in the health of people in Georgia and beyond. This is evidenced by our growing participation in the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, for example, a National Institutes of Health-supported initiative, support for which recently was renewed for another five years, a $73.7 million award, including institutional commitments.

To meet this aspiration, we need an HRPP that not only has effective measures built in for the protection of human participants, but also one that operates at a level of efficiency and service that meets the needs of our investigators, whether they’re engaged in educational research, social-behavioral studies, consumer behavior research, clinical work or any of the myriad other types of human research.

Supporting and investing in our Human Subjects Office is an Office of Research priority. The AAHRPP accreditation process helps us continually improve and promote excellence with human research programs; for example, when our HRPP was reaccredited just a few months ago, AAHRPP suggested that we monitor and periodically assess two areas:

· Our quality improvement plan related to compliance (e.g. alignment of approved protocols/plans with the actual processes of implemented protocols) and the HRPP’s quality, efficiency and effectiveness

· Outreach activities designed to enhance the understanding of human research by participants, prospective participants or their communities, and which promote the involvement of community members (when appropriate) in the design and implementation of research and the dissemination of results. In other words, we want and need the participants to partner with us to help identify and solve real-world, relevant problems. We want our work to be impactful!

Led by Director Kim Fowler, UGA’s HRPP has fully recovered from pandemic-related staffing shortages. In fact, new positions allowed an exciting reorganization; the office now has an embedded team of professionals to provide one-on-one or group assistance to prepare submissions for Institutional Review Board review or to respond to Institutional Review Board (IRB – the committee that reviews methods proposed for biomedical or behavioral research to ensure they are ethical) requests for clarifications. This Protocol Assistance and Compliance Team, or PACT, offers personalized support through scheduled appointments, as well as educational presentations to classes or groups upon invitation.

If your work involves or could involve human subjects, we need your input. To assist in making our HRPP offerings as helpful as possible, please provide your feedback! Please take a few moments to visit our website and complete this survey (look for the survey link midway down the page), which is also being distributed through multiple campus listservs. Your opinions will help ensure that we can be as efficient and effective as possible and meet your needs.

Regarding outreach activities, the HRPP is working with both investigators and campus communications offices to determine how we can more effectively share our results and connect with communities around our human research. These include the participants themselves, the broader Athens-Clarke County community and the more dispersed populations that may benefit from the work we do.

If you have a passion for debugging and optimizing, we could use your help. The HRPP is seeking volunteers for a task force to evaluate existing resources (e.g., the IRB submission portal application, HRPP website and training presentations) and identify ways to engage our community in the prioritization, design and implementation of research projects and dissemination of results.

Task force members will meet via Zoom, review and provide input on existing policies and materials via document sharing, and help identify webinar topics for future outreach efforts. The anticipated time commitment for task force members is eight hours, spent between late October and mid-January. To volunteer, please contact Kim at

A culture of ethical human research is vital and means that we all pledge to protect the rights and welfare of human research participants and uphold responsibilities, such as conducting research as approved by the IRB and openly communicating about research so potential volunteers can make informed decisions about participating. I’m proud of the efforts of all the people who contribute to our HRPP, who worked so tirelessly and creatively during the pandemic to keep UGA human subjects research operating.

I’m also confident that, in partnership with the investigators and communities they serve, our HRPP will reach new heights and facilitate even greater levels of impact for UGA biomedical and behavioral research in Georgia, across the country and around the world.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research