Announcements From the VPR

Research Insights

Think Big: Research that changes lives.

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.

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