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One of the highlights of my Harbor Lights lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine is the bustle of interdisciplinary, vertically integrated research activities: a postdoctoral fellow working with a graduate student and an enthusiastic team of undergraduates, moving together toward a common goal. The laboratory is filled with creative energy as novice researchers learn from their more experienced colleagues, who in turn often learn new things simply from the fresh perspective their junior lab mates bring to the work. Five vastly different disciplines are represented under the unifying umbrella of the sixth discipline – veterinary medicine.

Environments like this are great examples of the university fulfilling its land-grant mission. Undergraduate students participating in experiential learning fuses together the two pillars of education and research unlike any other activity.

I view teaching and research as inseparable and simply two points on a continuum. At a research-intensive university like UGA, it’s often impossible to tease them apart. We routinely move concepts introduced in class into research discussions, just as on occasion we might bring research materials into the classroom to demonstrate key points. When postdoctoral fellows and graduate students help undergraduates perform a task or design a protocol, they are not just conducting research—they are teaching.

Indeed, the benefits to undergraduates who are included in research stretch far beyond simply teaching them the specific tasks they perform in the lab (or the field, or the studio, or wherever the creative inquiry happens). They learn to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues. They learn critical thinking skills. They learn not to be stymied by failure—which, as all of you know, happens a lot in research and innovation.

In short, they learn things that will transfer directly into the rest of their day and even into their post-college careers, whether in research or any other pursuit. The experience is life shaping.

This is a quick snapshot of why I’m such a huge supporter of UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO). Based in the Morehead Honors College but open to any UGA undergraduate, CURO works with hundreds of students each year, pairing them with faculty mentors across the university. (CURO was also the subject of our most recent Research Live, which I highly encourage you to check out if you’re not familiar with the program.)

To be sure, CURO’s tangible benefits are many. Participating students register for courses with the “R” suffix (4960R, 4970R, 4980R) and receive experiential learning credit. CURO awards $1,000 scholarships to 500 students each year, as well as summer research fellowships. The program also awards conference participation grants that support students’ ability to travel and present their work in a professional setting. Incoming first-year students can apply for the CURO Honors Scholarship, which provides $3,000 per year and is renewable up to four years.

The highlight of the year is the annual CURO Symposium, which features 10-minute student research presentations and a truly impressive poster session. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the 2024 CURO Symposium will be held April 8-9 in the Classic Center and will feature more than 600 students from a wide variety of schools of departments.

Many of the presenting students are first-year or transfer students, and that’s another way undergraduate research can make the difference in an individual’s college career. Just think back to what brand-new students face at a large university. They may know few people. They may never have been inside a college classroom or laboratory or studio or field station. They may be away from home for the first time. It can be overwhelming.

So imagine you are a student new to UGA, and you are recruited to a research project. You’re given a simple, manageable role, one that perhaps occupies only a few hours per week. You meet people, including fellow undergrads, to whom you can turn with questions. You start to build your networking skills, develop your research identity, preview future areas of technical interest, and learn about your discipline of choice. You feel comfortable engaging in discussions with faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff members.

Most importantly, you begin to learn that success is defined not by achieving the end point you envision for every experiment, but by doing the work thoughtfully, being persistent and tenacious, being a problem solver, and embracing unexpected results. By not giving up when something goes wrong. By leaning on your colleagues and together persevering through the challenges. And by believing that some of life’s biggest lessons are learned through failure and that it is normal and OK to fail.

These are a few of the lessons I want the students in my lab to learn: If they combine sound engineering and science principles with a determined grit, the satisfaction of being a contributing member of a global research community will come.

Last year when I attended the CURO Symposium, I couldn’t help but grin. I looked at the rows upon rows of research posters, each filled to its margins with the stories of the students’ work. I saw them eagerly explaining their research to their fellow students, to faculty, to anyone who stopped to listen. I saw a giant room of bright, promising junior researchers who soon will go forth and change the world.

I left confident that our future is in great hands … and I thought, “This is what research and innovation at a land-grant university is all about.”

Best wishes for a smooth end to the semester.

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

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Announcements From the VPR

If you know me, you know my tagline “Innovation lies at the intersection of disciplines” and that I spend a great deal of time exploring this concept. This exploration aligns with serving as vice president for research, but for me it’s much deeper rooted. 

Innovation has always been at the core of my professional career. Yes, I’m proud of the startup that evolved to a stable company, providing a commercial conduit for my technologies, and allowed me to move an idea from the laboratory into the hands of clinicians and pharma in order to serve patients. But innovation has more fundamentally served me well in addressing daily questions, like “how can I solve this problem with limited funding and supplies?” Or “how can I transform learning into a more engaging experience for my students?” Or “how can this be accomplished in the face of opposing factors?” 

Indeed, innovation goes far beyond commercialization; as we look across the university, I see UGA students, staff, and faculty thinking about the past, present, and future, creating new ideas, solutions, works, services, etc., with social imperative. 

In the Office of Research (OoR), we are committed to providing the UGA community with tools and support to develop innovation skills that will springboard endeavors “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things” and realize the greatest impact.

Over the past few weeks, we have been excited to celebrate honors to some of our innovators. Provost Jack Hu and Professor Holly Sellers were elected as Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). This week we relayed that five new faculty—Elizabeth Brisbois (Engineering), David Crich (Pharmacy), Qingguo “Jack” Huang and Paul Raymer, and Ralph Tripp (VetMed)— are new NAI Senior Members. And earlier today we also announced the appointment of Professor Valentine Nzengung as UGA’s newest Regents’ Entrepreneur

UGA innovators and their innovations clearly are having impact.

However, we are most excited to see that innovation continues to live and grow across UGA.  In two weeks, we will celebrate and be inspired by arts and humanities innovators through the 2024 Humanities Festival. We will see innovation through the blend of poetry and music or the use of artificial intelligence to probe the stories that shape society and our cultural perspectives, or the profound influence of humanities research on documentary filmmaking.

Innovation has always been fundamental to UGA’s land grant mission, and the Office of Research is here to help scholars who want to explore and embrace unique angles to grow their ideas. 

As the university’s technology transfer office, Innovation Gateway works to ensure that UGA research discoveries reach their full potential for public benefit. UGA ranks No. 1 among U.S. universities—we have never fallen out of the Top 5—for number of commercial products translated from research.

How do we do this? Innovation Gateway helps translate research discoveries into products, companies, and transformations through partnering with industry and economic development partners. UGA’s industry partners have brought to market more than 1,150 total products based on our research. 

Innovation Gateway offers programs of support for all stages of the entrepreneurial journey. Innovation Bootcamp was established by OoR to offer tailored training for success in an entrepreneurial environment. Innovation Gateway’s National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program teaches scholars how to create a value proposition and conduct customer discovery research; pitch training programs help inventors learn how to communicate with and—more importantly—listen to the non-technical world.

We also provide assistance to secure funding and mentors. Innovation Gateway staff can assist with proposals to the Georgia Research Alliance as well as federal funding agencies that offer innovation programs. With an extensive list of internal and external mentors across a wide variety of subjects, Innovation Gateway matches innovators with experts who can help refine goals/plans and identify resources. 

Commercialization is important work in our office; however, I will emphasize again that innovation goes far beyond this important activity. As innovation opportunities evolve, we are excited to show UGA innovators how the tools Innovation Gateway offers apply well beyond commercialization.

A good example stems from the NSF I Corps-L program and its underlying tenet, which suggested that a teaching innovation, which one would want widely distributed and adopted (at minimal to no cost), would benefit from the same analysis as a widget produced in a manufacturing environment. Kind of astounding!  

Innovation is not static— we are constantly seeking new avenues to support the UGA community; for example, we are excited to have envisioned and helped establish the Humanities Council to support innovators. 

In summary, there is a gateway to innovation at UGA that you will find within the Office of Research. If you’re excited about evolving your ideas in unexpected directions, or simply want to increase the impact of your work, please consider this your invitation to visit the Delta Innovation Hub or contact Innovation Gateway at gateway@uga.edu. Help us innovate the innovation process at UGA!

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

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Whether we’re teaching in a classroom, conducting research or creative inquiry in a laboratory, studio or field site, or engaging in a service opportunity, we want our efforts to make a difference in the world. As researchers, we all hope the intellectual, creative, and scientific merits of our work translate into positive change or impact on some level.

Increasingly, federal agencies are looking beyond simply the scientific merits of the research they fund and asking submitters to describe the “broader impacts” of a proposed project. How will it advance a societal goal ancillary to the research itself? Does it contribute to national security or the United States’ economic competitiveness? Does it help build an inclusive, STEM-capable workforce? Does it improve health and well-being? Does it help us learn from our past in order to better plan our future?

On its website, the National Science Foundation (NSF) explains the importance of broader impact statements in funding proposals and, as a public-serving organization, details the agency’s priorities for those impacts. Other agencies may refer to the concept as “societal impact” or “knowledge transfer,” but the idea is the same.

As a land- and sea-grant institution with a public service mandate, UGA’s mission to move research out of the lab and into our communities is closely aligned with the goals of broader impact statements. Just like the agencies that fund our work, we are a public institution with an obligation to share the benefits of our research with the public.

Broader impacts come in many forms. A significant broader impact might occur by fashioning a project with purposeful inclusion of diverse opinions and perspectives, with particular attention on engagement of those who are often underrepresented or absent from important conversations. Another project with broader impact might be an effort to improve education and teacher-development at one or multiple levels from K-12 and beyond.

Public engagement and communication are also forms of broader impact. Working with UGA communications staff to publicize research projects and outcomes is just one example; others include visiting local schools or other organizations to talk about research, holding public events, or submitting op-eds or other narratives to mainstream media.

UGA has a range of resources to help researchers explore avenues to broaden the impact of their work. To name a few:

Earlier this month, Jake Maas, director of our Office for Proposal Enhancement, led a Research Live webinar about broader impacts that featured the experiences of four faculty members who have had success crafting broader impacts statements in their proposals. The event provided firsthand knowledge about what funding agencies value in such statements, how to make related activities workable within the scope of the larger project, and how to capture and communicate the broader impacts themselves.

As we begin 2024, let’s think creatively about ways in which we might translate research into societal impact. Let’s look at our project plans and ask the tough question of ourselves: “So what?” Impactful work magnifies the ultimate value of the research and almost always results in new opportunities for application and collaboration. Impactful work is fundamental to the mission of UGA and, most importantly, imperative to the world we serve.

I wish you all the best for a successful and productive spring semester!

 

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

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Over the last 30 years, cross-disciplinary research teams have grown in number not just at UGA but at universities around the country and the world. That’s because few, if any, real-world problems contain themselves neatly within the boundaries of our academic disciplines; they are complex. To combat and emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we needed ideas assembled from a host of different perspectives.

The complexity of the world’s challenges and the need for highly functional teams is why we have devoted significant resources to programs that encourage team members to think BIG by visioning beyond the technical bounds of a single investigator. UGA’s Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants and the Office of Research Teaming for Interdisciplinary Research Pre-Seed program, along with other programs overseen by our Integrative Team Initiatives group, are intended to provide funding and support for those faculty who want to collaborate in pursuit of a larger research goal.

Most importantly, guidance and assistance are provided to researchers to allow them to spend “pre-teaming” time, first learning about each other’s expertise, perspective, angst and approach to problem solving. It is this all-important ingredient for collaboration that is most often overlooked but is paramount to healthy outcomes and high impact.

Federal agencies recognize the power of interdisciplinarity and have ramped up incentivization of team science—in the form of very large research awards which can reach into the eight and even nine figures in order to support many team members and an array of organizations. Indeed, in recent years UGA has been the lead recipient or prominent partner for large team awards in flu research (two awards, in fact), plant genetics and marine science, to name a few.

Last year the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched an entire directorate premised on the idea of collaborative research and translation. The agency’s Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate was created in early 2022 to advance research and education across all fields of science and engineering; the inclusion of the word “partnership” in the directorate name underscores the priority of collaboration to TIP.

Soon after the directorate was launched, TIP announced its first major funding initiative, the NSF Regional Innovation Engines program. Innovation Engines are intended to be coalition-based projects that leverage use-inspired technology innovation, workforce development and community member collaboration to catalyze new innovation ecosystems, particularly in regions where such ecosystems are underdeveloped or non-existent. “Type I” engine development awards are funded at relatively modest levels, solely for the purpose of planning, but each project team is encouraged to apply for a Type II award, which could mean as much as a $160 million investment by the NSF toward the execution of the team’s plan.

UGA is involved in four Type I awards, devoted to agriculture, biomedicine, cybersecurity and electric mobility. The UGA-led Next Generation Agriculture project, or NextGA, pulls together an alliance of more than 30 public and private organizations, all committed to fostering the adoption of “Agriculture 4.0” technologies and practices in a 20-county region of southwest Georgia. Working closely with local community members through UGA Cooperative Extension, the project’s goal is to build a framework that will serve as a national recipe for inclusive, community-driven collaboration to facilitate “innovation in place” in the rural communities that feed the United States and the world.

My point in detailing this new NSF directorate and the exciting Innovation Engines initiative is that funding for team research projects is rapidly growing at a very high rate. The need for interdisciplinarity through team science is clear, and the opportunity is now.

Leading an interdisciplinary team is not easy; most teams start with great enthusiasm but fade away before winning significant research awards or embarking on collaborative projects, which is why UGA has invested so heavily in resources to fund the initial steps of team formation. This investment helps investigators learn the all-important skills of leading research teams whose members have a wide distribution of perspectives, experiences and goals.

Associate Vice President Larry Hornak leads the Office of Research Integrative Team Initiatives, and I encourage you to reach out to him to learn more. We recently published a Q&A interview with Dr. Hornak in which he discussed many options available for aspiring team researchers. Also, earlier this month he led a Research Live webinar that included multiple faculty members who have led or been part of successful research teams.

The world has many complex challenges. So, as you pause and reflect during the winter break, consider those challenges as well as the potential impact that your research or creative works might have by connecting with other scholars who share a common passion for problem solving. When a team of committed researchers pulls together, appreciating each other’s talent and importance to a common goal, the impact can be monumental.

I wish you all a refreshing, reflective break. See you in 2024!

 

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

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I want to give all of you an update on where we stand in terms of research security and UGA’s efforts to comply with recent, far-reaching federal policy changes that affect the majority of researchers on campus. I also would like to convey why research security is so important to all of us.

National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 (NSPM-33) is a directive from the president of the United States that requires all federal funding agencies to strengthen their requirements concerning the disclosure of potential conflicts of either interest (one’s personal interests that conflict with those of their employer) and/or commitment (one’s external activities that conflict with their responsibilities to an employer) that could represent a threat to U.S. security. 

Since the issuance of NSPM-33 in January 2020, other federal agencies have released related guidance. For example, the Department of Defense (DoD) soon will require all DoD-funded research projects to undergo risk-based security reviews.

Why is this happening? As the memo itself explains, “The American research culture is intentional in its strong commitment to openness. Yet maintaining that open research culture also requires being clear-eyed that certain governments seek to exploit our openness and disrupt the integrity of our research.”

A year ago, I described UGA’s plans to comply with NSPM-33 and how they dovetail with the university’s long-running efforts to improve research security. The memo directs all institutions receiving at least $50 million in federal funding to certify that they have implemented a research security program that covers four aspects:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Foreign travel security
  • Research security training
  • Export control training

The good news is that UGA has been building compliance programs in each of these areas for years, even if the programs have not yet been coordinated under the banner of a single research security program. Regarding foreign travel requirements, for example, UGA’s Accounts Payable Travel Policy requires prior approval of an international travel authority, and that travel authority includes registration of international travel with the Office of Global Engagement to provide a centralized record of travel.

Likewise, UGA launched its export control program in 2014 to abide with legislation that regulates the export of goods, software and technology that might be used for purposes harmful to the United States. Reviews for export control compliance are built into multiple Office of Research processes, such as sponsored project submission, requests for material transfer and non-disclosure agreements, international travel registrations, and visiting researcher and scholar questionnaires, and visa sponsorship.

The university has a strategic goal to increase the number of successful funding proposals to U.S. mission agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, and Homeland Security. In 2022, we created the UGA Research Institute (UGARI) to support that goal. The aims of UGARI are to provide resources to the institution and its researchers to allow us to be better partners for mission agency research. UGARI, for example, is a conduit for the university’s relationship with the Battelle Savannah River Alliance (the five-university alliance of which UGA is a member that, led by Battelle, co-manages the Savannah River National Laboratory).

UGARI deliverables will include the provision of secure research practices that are critical for garnering mission agency funding. Through UGARI, we are contracting with Fischer & Associates, a private firm that specializes in helping universities improve their research security practices, to conduct an assessment of UGA’s capabilities for doing the various types of classified, restricted and controlled unclassified research often involved in mission agency contracts. There can be significant costs in establishing the infrastructure required for such work, and the Fischer assessment will help us chart the best path forward.

We are committed to finalizing and establishing a user-friendly research security program, and to providing the required certification to the federal government in order to continue efforts toward our research goals. 

Some of the content covered by NSPM-33 is familiar to UGA, while some is brand new to all research universities. Indeed, this summer the National Science Foundation announced a “Research on Research Security Program” to help U.S. policy makers and investigators understand the nature and scope of this field, including the four critical areas listed above.

The requirements of NSPM-33 will mean additional effort, both by research administrators and by investigators. Please know we will make every effort to streamline the process and allow you to maintain focus on your research and creative works. These regulations would not be in place if the work we do were not so critically important to our nation and world.

I look forward to working with you to develop a research security program that accommodates your needs, while safeguarding the interests of the U.S. research enterprise. 

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

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It’s fall, and that means it’s time once again to nominate our students and fellow faculty members for their exemplary research, teaching and service through UGA’s internal awards programs. It’s also a great time to consider nominating individuals for external awards. These opportunities are an excellent way to recognize and promote colleagues and mentees who are doing truly outstanding work.

In recent years, UGA’s Research Awards have grown to recognize a broader range of research and the many investigators engaged in them. We have created new awards for team science and for research communications, as well as for non-tenure-track researchers. Each of these recognizes the kinds of activity we want to promote. We want you to think BIG, leveraging UGA’s immense breadth of disciplines to realize the highest impact. We want you to work with UGA’s communications professionals to tell the world about your successes. And we want to recognize a wide range of researchers and innovators for their efforts.

UGA’s Research Awards, along with our teaching and service awards, are also important stepping stones for major national and international external awards, which not only help advance individual faculty careers but are well-deserved honors that are very important to enhance UGA’s scholarly reputation and recognition.

There are many paths to receiving external awards. One way to get started is to join professional organizations in your field and start a dialogue with your colleagues, department chairs and deans. Through these conversations, be sure to communicate to them award opportunities that become available to you and solicit their suggestions.

Award nomination dossiers are often vetted by broad review panels, including non-experts, and it’s critical the content be prepared in a rigorous—but also accessible—way. One essential and sometimes overlooked element of a successful nomination is a well-written, comprehensive and convincing nomination letter—typically provided by a dean or department head—that can be fully appreciated not just by peers but by well-informed laypeople.

Earlier this month we held a Research Live webinar to explore best practices for compiling effective nomination packages. Hosted by Associate Vice President Shelley Hooks and Assistant Director Jessica Farmer from the Office of Research Personnel and Internal Grants & Awards, the discussion also featured faculty administrators with strong histories of supporting successful faculty nominations: Nate Nibbelink (associate dean for research, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources); Denise Spangler (dean, Mary Frances Early College of Education); and Mike Tiemeyer (joint director, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and Center for Molecular Medicine). The session was recorded, so if you weren’t able to attend, you can still watch it online.

The Nov. 1 deadline for UGA Research Award nominations to the Office of Research is fast approaching. Thank you for your efforts in providing the best possible slate of nominees. I look forward to recognizing our research honorees next spring during Honors Week. Taking time to recognize the diversity and excellence of our researchers and innovators along the entire career spectrum is imperative and exciting.

Whether a nominee or nominator, please know you are greatly appreciated—my thanks for all you do for the UGA research enterprise.

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

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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

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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

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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 pep@uga.edu 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 https://research.uga.edu/safety/ 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

Categories
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