Karen Burg was appointed as University of Georgia’s Vice President for Research in July 2021. Focusing on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, her work has been supported by more than $20 million in grants from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, as well as organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Burg is the author of nearly 120 peer-reviewed journal publications and the co-author of four books and nearly 40 book chapters, and she holds nine U.S. patents. She also serves as the Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2022, Burg received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Joe Biden.
Celebrating and growing sponsored research funding – it’s all about relationships
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:
- Feb 3: “Stay Current with D.C.: A Structured Approach to Securing Federal Funding” will help dissect the process of applying for federal funding into manageable chunks to position a proposal for the best chance of success.
- Feb. 17: “Fill the Gaps in Your Foundation: Tips for Seeking Foundation Funding” will offer guidelines that are helpful in seeking foundation funding, focusing on what resonates with foundations, which can provide a valuable complement to other funding streams.
- March 3: “Do You Accept This Mission?: Meeting the Needs of U.S. Mission Agencies” will help better understand the needs of mission agencies—think Department of Defense, Homeland Security and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—and offer pointers on how to initiate and sustain relationships with them.
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