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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

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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

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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

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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 kfowler@uga.edu.

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

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Announcements From the VPR

Fourteen months ago, I was appointed as the University of Georgia’s vice president for research. Since then it has been full-on engagement: I’ve talked to faculty, staff and student research scholars all over our Athens campus; traveled around the state and beyond, touring our research facilities; met with deans, administrators and faculty members from our 18 colleges and schools; and represented UGA at national events in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere around the country.

Over these 14 months, my excitement about leading this dynamic and growing research enterprise has only grown. As we dive into another academic year, now is a great time to look back and celebrate our accomplishments, as well as look ahead to goals for 2022-23 and beyond. Here are a few highlights:

My first (and ongoing) task in the Office of Research (OoR) involved getting a handle on a very complex budget and working tenaciously to plan the use of extremely limited financial resources to strategically support a burgeoning research enterprise and an extraordinarily high number of financial requests and needs. In order to better understand and prioritize, we established a research advisory group to help identify areas of need, opportunity, strength and weakness.

This group was deliberately constructed to include the many voices and faces of UGA research (faculty, staff and student researchers – plus business officers, sponsored programs, compliance, information technology, communications experts and more). The group membership is designed to reflect the many aspects of UGA research; the point being that we need a diversity of views and expertise to support the diversity and complexity of research and innovation.

One less visible but critically important effort has been toward ensuring research data quality—that is, to ensure that our data records are easily accessed and consistently maintained and reported (by “data,” think names of funding agencies, amounts of grants, copies of proposals, payroll certification records, etc.). This effort has involved lots of behind-the-scenes work to connect the Grants Portal with UGA PeopleSoft Financials, and to institute an audit process to ensure high-quality and accurate data.

Over the past year, we’ve also worked to transition all internal grants and awards processes to InfoReady, a system that has greatly streamlined the application process for all internal competitions, including those for external limited submission awards.

We have placed the Office for Proposal Enhancement under the larger umbrella of Integrative Teams Initiatives and are building out capabilities in order to provide a higher level of support to faculty teams developing large, collaborative proposals. We also created the UGA Research Institute, which now serves as our organizational foundation for expanding our research partnerships with U.S. mission agencies (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agencies) and industry.

We have instituted a new request process for OoR support for such needs as bridge funding, targeted infrastructure support, event support and other funding opportunities. Creating a standard system to gather and evaluate all of these requests helps us maximize the impact of OoR support and provides an accessible and equitable system for all researchers.

Regarding internal communication, we’ve rolled out or enhanced our offerings based on your feedback (remember last year’s survey?). I hope you agree that we do indeed listen and that you’ll take a few moments to complete our second annual survey of research communication needs. Your feedback will help us improve such initiatives as our Research Live webinar series, the redesigned Research Insights newsletter, major events like our Faculty Research Orientation and Office of Research Town Hall, and even this very blog!

We launched a Humanities Working Group to be more inclusive across disciplines; this resulted in many exciting changes, including the recommendation and recent formation of a Humanities Council that is supported by the Office of the Provost. Thank you for lending your voice as we continually improve how we disseminate research information to you and your colleagues.

The past year also saw several changes within the Office of Research Integrity & Safety. We established a new Office of Research Security & Export Control to help the university meet evolving mandates for research security and develop safeguarding requirements for both classified and unclassified information.

Last year, the Human Subjects Office was overwhelmed with significant, pandemic-influenced workforce and workload challenges, so we reimagined, restructured and rebuilt the office to improve service to investigators engaged in human research and help them better share the results of their work with the UGA and Athens communities. We put in place short-term measures to efficiently reduce the mountain of protocols awaiting review, and we also addressed long-term realities. Not only did we increase staffing, but we added education specialists who are focused on assisting investigators with the “how to’s” of protocol construction and helping them navigate a process often perceived as complex and tortuous.

We also established a Conflicts of Interest office and have been setting up review triggers at various stages of award lifecycles to incorporate any new or updated disclosures from investigators. Our intent is to be customer friendly, so please give us constructive feedback as we build out and enhance initiatives such as these. Let us know what is working and what is not working – we are here to support you!

Innovation Gateway continued its exceptional work in support of the goals embodied by the UGA Innovation District. For the eighth straight year, UGA ranked in the Top 5 for new products to market developed from our research. We officially opened the Delta Innovation Hub, and we launched a much-needed new website for Innovation Gateway that allows us to better serve our customers and clients, both on-campus and off. We’re excited to have offered several “niche” bootcamps for budding UGA and community-based entrepreneurs – including focus on women and underrepresented minorities, computer scientists, and musicians and other creatives.

Lastly, we began a new tradition of community engagement—i.e. giving back—and team building. In March our Athens OoR team worked at the Athens Clarke County Beech Haven Park, picking up trash and removing invasive plants, while our Savannah River Ecology Laboratory team worked at Ellenton Bay near Aiken, S.C., removing a mile-long drift fence.

These are just a few of the more notable accomplishments of the past year; there is much more in store for 2022-23, including:

  • Improvements to Sponsored Projects Administration service, with goal of faster average award processing times and expanded training programs for unit grant officers
  • Support for and outreach to UGA’s humanities faculty through the new Humanities Council, administered by the Provost’s office
  • Reimagined faculty and staff advisory groups to the Office of Research to provide critical feedback and evaluation of our efforts
  • Launch of annual updates/discussions with OoR Centers and Institutes
  • Establishment of the inaugural OoR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan
  • Updating of the OoR strategic plan and mission statement
  • Planning and roll out of smaller, focused in-person town hall meetings

If you have questions or would like to hear more about these activities, please make plans to join us for one of our major events this fall. The Faculty Research Orientation (Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2:30 p.m.) is an opportunity for investigators—whether you’re new to UGA or a veteran of many years—to learn about the current makeup of our team and how we serve the research community.

The following week, on Monday, Oct. 24, at 3:30 p.m., we will hold an Office of Research Town Hall, open to all, to engage directly with you, discuss this year’s planned goals and activities, and answer your questions and hear your feedback. Both events will be held via Zoom.

I can’t wait for these two opportunities to showcase the accomplishments and ability represented by our Office of Research senior leaders and their teams—and to hear from you. If you can, please make plans to join us, and you’ll understand why I’m more enthusiastic than ever to serve as your vice president for research. With your collaboration, the future of UGA research is boundless!

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

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About six miles from campus, in a plain, single-story brick building on Whitehall Road across from Peppino’s Pizzeria, is a hidden treasure for UGA researchers. This location is the home of the Instrument Design & Fabrication Shop, a full-service machine shop that provides investigators with the capability to build—sometimes from no more than a back-of-the-napkin sketch—the equipment and tools needed for their projects.

Led by manager Carlos Barrow, the instrument shop can help design, build and/or repair an incredible range of devices, containers and other research-related apparatuses. It boasts an array of mills, lathes, presses, saws, welders, 3D printers and other tools, as well as a dedicated team of professional machinists and welders.

One example of the Shop’s projects is the water tunnel built in 2018 to support the research of Ben Davis, now an associate professor in the College of Engineering. This room-sized contraption, 35 feet long with 2,800-gallon water capacity, uses a 125-horsepower electric motor to push water and help test and enhance the performance and viability of a variety of structures in high speed flow as well as assess the ability to use flow to produce electricity (think rockets, marine vehicles, drones).

This incredible research piece is also one of the fastest university-owned water tunnels in the country, capable of moving 275 gallons across its full length in one second. Most remarkably, it was built right here, in our own instrument shop.

Another shop project example is the 3D root phenotyping platform built for Alexander Bucksch, associate professor of plant biology in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences. This device can measure architectural traits of excavated maize root crowns. Dubbed DIRT/3D by Bucksch (for Digital Imaging of Root Traits), the system uses motorized cameras to take 2,000 images per root from seemingly every angle. Using micro-computers to synchronize the images captured from ten cameras, the device transfers the data to the CyVerse Data Store—the national cyberinfrastructure for academic researchers—for 3D reconstruction. Researchers use the 3D renderings to study the relationship of root systems to plant function and yield, e.g. to influence global food needs in changing ecological environments.

To read about more of the instrument shop’s fabrication projects, take a look at its brand-new website. Among the improvements is an online submission form that allows researchers to send device designs, from the simplest to those with detailed specifications, and determine whether it can be built, how long the building process would take, and how much the device would cost. I’m very grateful for our skilled Shop team.

The instrument shop is one of many UGA resources available to investigators to help build equipment or gather data. Another is the Scientific Glass Blowing Shop, managed by the Center for Applied Isotope Studies. The glass shop can fabricate, repair or modify all types of glassware to meet the needs of researchers, and the work can be truly beautiful.

Both of these shops are among UGA’s core facilities, which offer a wide range of equipment and services to the UGA community, as well as to outside universities and industry. Our core facilities, many of which are managed by the Office of Research, can help with everything from bioexpression and fermentation, to electron microscopy and isotope analysis, to recruitment of clinical research volunteers, to name just a few services.

I’m proud of the variety and quality of research services we provide, both to our own investigators and to the clients we serve from far beyond the university’s borders; we’re constantly striving to improve our services. As we begin another exciting academic year, I hope UGA’s core facilities, like the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop, both help you and inspire you.

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

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The cost of conducting research at a university is significant. Total costs of a sponsored project comprise indirect and direct costs. Sponsored projects are externally funded, scholarly activities whose purpose is to provide benefit to the sponsor or to the public. Many sponsored projects, particularly in STEM fields, require specialized equipment that can run into the millions of dollars, not to mention the salaries of the investigators and research staff involved, student support, technical supplies, travel to and from research sites, and other expenses directly related to the specific project.

These are all direct costs, i.e. costs that are directly tied to the work of a particular project; however, importantly, there are also indirect costs, also known as IDCs or facilities & administrative (F&A) costs. IDCs are those costs necessary to conduct the general operations and business of research but are not readily identified with a specific grant, contract, or activity. That is, IDCs are shared across a large number of projects and other university functions. The costs include infrastructure and operational expenses—the cost of keeping the lights on, so to speak. Examples include personnel who support accounting or purchasing for sponsored project activities, utilities, laboratory maintenance, computing, email, etc.

As many of you know, IDCs are built into the sponsored project awards/contracts we receive from a range of different external sponsors. Indirect cost rates vary among universities and are established by the federal government for each institution on a case by case basis through a rigorous assessment of fixed costs and with the mandate that the rates will be consistently applied to all sponsored programs, whether federal, industrial, or other.

IDC rates comprise two main components: facilities and administrative costs. The rates are specific to activity type, i.e. research, instruction, or other sponsored activities, e.g. public service, and are further specified as to on-campus or off-campus. There is no cap on facilities, but in 1991, the administrative component was capped by the federal government at 26%. Since that time, over the past 31 years, the number of regulations governing federally sponsored projects has grown steadily in everything from human and animal subjects research, to export control, conflict of interest, and other areas.

Universities, including UGA, incur significant costs to meet these federal regulations – we have several units with many personnel who ensure compliance with these important regulations, for example: Office of Animal Care and UseUniversity Research Animal ResourcesOffice of BiosafetyConflicts of InterestHuman Subjects OfficeResearch Integrity and Safety Support ServicesResponsible Conduct of ResearchOffice of Research Safety; and Office of Research Security and Export Control (new website coming soon). Note that there has been no change to the administrative cap to cover the tremendous additional burden these regulations impose.

Why does this matter to you? As you build your proposal budget, you see that the project has both direct and indirect costs. Anything less than full allowable IDC recovery translates to a subsidy from the university, which represents additional UGA cost and therefore a loss in our ability to support research. With the limitation on administrative cost recovery, research is already heavily subsidized by universities.

I explained in a previous Research Insights note why we cannot afford voluntary cost-share on sponsored projects. This practice is critical to ensuring UGA recovers the cost of doing business in support of our land and sea grant research missions. We recognize we cannot recover all indirect costs because of the administrative component cap, but we must collect the fully allowable IDC rate on all our sponsored projects, both for the financial health of our research endeavors and in the interest of fairness to all investigators and funding partners.

In collaboration with our Sponsored Projects Administration executive director, Jill Tincher, I’ll be talking much more about this topic in 2022-23. In the meantime, if you have questions about IDC rates in the proposals you’re writing, please reach out to Jill and her team.

Enjoy the rest of your summer—it’s going by quickly!

Karen J. L. Burg

Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

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Many of you no doubt saw the news last month about Georgia’s FY2023 state budget commitment of nearly $40 million toward the renovation of Science Hill. This massive project will involve major renovations of several Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)-related buildings in the heart of campus. These facilities, such the Chemistry and Biological Sciences buildings, were designed for the needs of scientists working in the 1950s and ’60s, and of course those needs have changed dramatically in the past 50 years.

We must renovate Science Hill to meet the needs of 21st century researchers, and the improvements will be ongoing. This month, however, I want to draw your attention to the many smaller projects that may not generate the headlines that Science Hill and the I-STEM complex produce, but just as important to our research mission.

The Office of Research (OoR) serves a vital coordinating role among UGA researchers, academic units, Finance and Administration (F&A), Facilities Management Division (FMD), University Architects and other units to help prioritize and financially support research-related capital improvements. Led by Associate Vice President Carl Bergmann, we work closely with F&A and FMD to monitor UGA’s research infrastructure and address areas of need.

Let me share a few projects in which we’re currently involved:

  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) work in several locations. A number of UGA research and instructional spaces have experienced problems in recent years with their heating, cooling and ventilation systems. We’ve partnered with FMD, which has begun or recently completed repair and remediation efforts in the College of Pharmacy, Riverbend South, Center for Applied Isotope Studies, Animal and Dairy Science, and Tucker Hall.
  • College of Veterinary Medicine renovations. The south wing of the CVM building housing research and vivaria (the space for veterinary student surgery training). As usage plans for this part of the building change—it is also serviced by an outdated HVAC system—OoR is participating in an engineering study to determine the best design and components and is spearheading the funding request for renovations.
  • Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) renovations. UGA has stepped up its efforts related to NAGPRA, and we recently worked with FMD to help the Laboratory of Archaeology upgrade its storage capacity for NAGPRA-related artifacts by completing a new, secure, climate-controlled space within the lab’s existing facility on Whitehall Road.
  • Plant Biology/Biological Sciences headhouse. The support building for the Plant Biology Greenhouses, serving research and educational needs for the Division of Biological Sciences, is home to 12 large, National Science Foundation-funded growth chambers with an estimated replacement cost exceeding $1 million. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate climate control has led to persistent research interruptions due to mechanical failure, as well as limited availability from May to October due to excessive heat. We recently worked with FMD, which added cooling and insulation to provide a stable, controlled environment that will eliminate interruptions while extending the life of the equipment by years (and at an estimated 5% of replacement cost).
  • UGA Marine Institute (UGAMI). The lab facilities at UGAMI on Sapelo Island have been almost completely renovated over the last five years. All major systems, including HVAC, lighting and flood mitigation features, have been updated. Next we’ll focus on bringing the same cost-effective, transformational approach to UGAMI’s housing needs.

This is a small sample out of a much larger population of projects of all shapes and sizes, reaching from Athens to the Georgia coast and multiple points in between. As I’m sure you are aware, on a campus as large as UGA’s, there are many, many needs. We’re committed to working with you and our campus partners to prioritize resource allocations so that our improvements have the widest possible positive impact.

We’re committed to ensuring that you and your teams have access to effective, up-to-date physical space and equipment. If you have questions, please reach out to Carl or to me.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

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

Categories
Announcements From the VPR

I thought it would be helpful to address an important topic for all of us who pursue external sponsored funding: cost sharing. Cost sharing refers to the portion of the project costs supported by the institution (rather than the sponsor). Cost sharing can include salary and fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, and other project costs. Earlier this spring, to eliminate (or at least minimize!) questions, we released a revised policy clarifying how investigators may implement cost sharing on their sponsored projects.

Why is this policy important? Investigators often feel obliged to show considerably more cost sharing than actually required by external sponsors – this excess is referred to as voluntary cost share and can actually disadvantage us. We want to ensure we meet the requirements of external sponsors, are successful in receiving awards, while also minimizing (if not eliminating) voluntary cost share.

To better understand, let’s begin by differentiating mandatory and voluntary cost share:

  • When our external sponsors explicitly require cost share on their website or in the funding opportunity, this is referred to as mandatory cost share. A mandatory cost share requirement must be stated in writing, i.e. on the sponsor’s website or in the funding opportunity proposal. When this occurs, one should carefully consider – Will the cost-share overburden unit resources? Will the project’s return on investment justify the additional cost? If answering “no” and “yes”, it’s ok to proceed with proposal development including the cost share mandated by the sponsor. If subrecipients or third parties are anticipated, they too should contribute toward the mandatory cost share. Note that this policy is aligned with that of our peer institutions.
  • Voluntary cost share is when the sponsor does not require cost share, yet cost share is voluntarily included within the proposal. A common misconception is that voluntary cost share will positively affect the proposal evaluation; in fact, only mandatory cost sharing may be considered as an evaluative criterion (this point levels the playing field between well-resourced and not well-resourced institutions). That is, reviewers MAY NOT consider voluntary cost share in their evaluation. For these reasons, we do not allow incorporation of voluntary cost share on federal or federal “flow-thru” proposals. Only in very unique circumstances (and with non-federal sponsors) will voluntary cost sharing be permitted.

It is extremely important that we operate in a consistent manner as we consider cost sharing. This will make our proposal submission process more efficient and result in a smoother experience for all. It will also provide a more fair and equitable process across the institution.

We’re ready to help, as always. All cost sharing requests should be incorporated into the Grants Portal proposal submission. Once routed to Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA), the SPA person assigned to the proposal will assess the request and provide guidance through strategies to ensure the proposal complies with sponsor and UGA requirements.

If you have questions about UGA’s policy on cost sharing, please contact your SPA representative or Jill Tincher, SPA executive director. And … teaser … stay tuned for an introduction to institutional support mechanisms (distinctly different than cost share) that may lend well to your proposal efforts.

I hope all of you have a wonderful summer and take the opportunity to refresh and recharge. Thank you for all you do to advance the UGA research and innovation enterprise!

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

Categories
Announcements From the VPR

April 2022

As both a land- and sea-grant university, UGA’s mission to serve its community is embedded in its DNA. That community not only includes Athens and the rest of Georgia, it also extends to our larger community across our country and around the world. To amplify and extend our service to and collaboration with these communities, the university actively fosters partnerships with individuals and organizations, including businesses large and small.

Indeed, strong partnerships with industry are critical for UGA to reach its goals, including our research goals. Industry partners support the research enterprise by providing pathways to market for faculty inventions, as well as funding cutting-edge research and scholarship to expand human understanding and drive innovation. UGA’s industry partners also provide valuable experiential learning opportunities for our students, such as internships and coops, not to mention hiring our students once they graduate.

For example, UGA’s longstanding relationship with Boehringer-Ingelheim has produced numerous, tangible outcomes that have advanced human and animal health around the world, provided rich experiential learning and professional development opportunities for UGA students, and helped to prepare the next generation of leaders in veterinary medicine.

To support and expand vital collaborations like the one we’ve enjoyed with Boehringer-Ingelheim, last year the university created the Office of Business Engagement (OBE) reporting jointly to the Office of Research (OoR) and Development & Alumni Relations (DAR). Led by Executive Director Kyle Tschepikow, OBE’s mission is to cultivate long-term, holistic partnerships with companies that help expand the positive impact of the business and our university. It focuses on three primary objectives:

 

    • Connecting companies to programs and people across campus
    • Facilitating university-industry research collaboration
    • Attracting philanthropic support to advance UGA’s mission

 

OBE is meant to serve as UGA’s front door for companies looking to partner with us, while also providing resources, support and guidance to faculty who wish to engage in industry-sponsored activities. The office works closely with Innovation Gateway, Sponsored Projects Administration, the UGA Career Center, schools, colleges and other units to support a coordinated and strategic approach to industry engagement.

Physically located within the Innovation District (the innovation spaces at the interface of UGA and downtown Athens) at One Press Place, OBE’s joint reporting line to Research and DAR recognizes its importance as a connector, an organizer and a facilitator across the university. Through its activity, OBE will also work alongside our Small Business Development Center, Student Entrepreneurship Program and Innovation Gateway to grow UGA’s culture of innovation.

Indeed, if we are to grow that culture of innovation, we must do it collaboratively with our industry partners. They provide the vital pathway that connects many of our research discoveries with their practical application in the world. I’m excited about the potential of this new OoR/DAR initiative; please do reach out to Kyle at kyletsch@uga.edu if you have questions about forming or expanding partnerships with industry.

Wishing you a smooth transition to a productive and refreshing summer.

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