Start Your Research Program

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Resources to Help Start Your Research Program at UGA


Office of Research: Your Research Resource

The website for the Office of Research has links to all forms, policies, personnel, tools and resources to support your research program. From the Home page you can find:

  • Links to all Office of Research units
  • Office of Research directory
  • UGA research forms and policies
  • Prominent links to the most common research tasks
  • The latest research announcements
  • The latest news about UGA research
TIP: Researchers can use the Sponsored Projects Guide to quickly define and locate research administration information throughout UGA websites. Navigation is assisted by an A-Z glossary of over 250 terms and an outline of the sponsored projects process, from finding collaborators to closing out an award.

What’s Expected of Me

Research effort and progress toward tenure

The three pillars of the UGA mission are instruction, service, and research. Faculty effort (measured as EFT; 12 months is 1.0 EFT) is distributed among these three areas based on your discipline and particular emphasis.

When your research is funded by a sponsor, the research effort you expend on the sponsored project is either charged to the sponsor or supported by UGA salary (the latter is considered cost sharing). In some cases, the sponsor may also provide summer salary, which constitutes additional research EFT. If you work on multiple research projects, you must be careful not to over-commit your total research EFT (i.e., total cannot exceed 1.0 EFT). You can propose well in excess of 1.0 EFT across multiple proposals; you just can’t accept awards that require your EFT to go above 1.0.

General expectations for research performance are outlined in the UGA Guidelines for Appointment, Promotion and Tenure. Each promotion tenure unit (PTU) maintains a discipline-specific set of guidelines that you should obtain from your unit head (normally Department Head or School/College Dean). Your unit head is available for a detailed discussion of these expectations, which should have also been mentioned in your letter of offer. Unit heads provide annual evaluations based on your input of your activities in the online Faculty Activity Repository (FAR). A pre-tenure review after your third year at UGA (described in the Guidelines) will provide a detailed assessment of your progress toward tenure.

Intellectual property

Inventions and other intellectual property created in the course of your employment are managed according to the UGA Intellectual Property Policy.  The University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. (UGARF), manages the protection and commercialization of all UGA intellectual property generated in the course of your research unless specific sponsor agreements dictate otherwise. It is your duty to remind your research group members of the policy and their obligations under the policy. As you conduct research, you should coordinate with Innovation Gateway to carefully evaluate whether a particular research outcome or technology development has value as a commercialization opportunity. Find out more about how to protect your creations or inventions (intellectual properties) that result from scientific and creative activities.

TIP: If you believe you have creations or inventions (i.e., intellectual property) that should be protected and that may have commercial potential, please contact Innovation Gateway to file a disclosure of intellectual property (described in Intellectual Property Policy, section III.C.) and follow the confidentiality obligations (section III.E).

Research compliance

Research safety, biosafety, animal use, human subjects, export control
UGA enters into binding agreements with the federal or state governments or with private foundations or corporations that fund research that require compliance with many different guidelines about how research is performed. As a UGA employee, you are bound by these agreements and are required to be in compliance. In particular, if your research involves human subjects, animals, or biosafety concerns, you should contact the following offices early in your research planning:

If you are unsure whether these compliance areas apply to you, err on the safe side and contact  lmkelly@uga.edu, Compliance Training Coordinator. In almost all cases, written approval from these offices is required before any research can commence. They can help you determine the relevance to your research project.

TIP: The Office of Research offers training to ensure researchers meet all university, state and federal regulations and laws. Training is offered in person, online, and through Research Compliance Training.

Responsible Conduct of Research

All UGA faculty should be aware of UGA policies regarding Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). General RCR information, including policies on Research Misconduct and Conflicts of Interest, and information specific to NIH, NIFA (USDA) and NSF RCR training requirements is available through the OVPR website.

TIP: As a matter of policy, all personnel employed on an NSF grant must complete NSF online RCR training. It is imperative that no one be placed on an NSF grant payroll without first verifying that training has been completed. This includes faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and even those who are not UGA employees or students.

Research Funding

Find internal funding opportunities

Depending on your area of research, you may have been provided startup funding to help you start your research program. Regardless of whether your received funding, or how much you received, it won’t be enough to continue your research for long. UGA provides other internal funding opportunities (mostly supported through the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., UGARF) that are designed to “seed” research projects that can be developed into long-term (typically sponsored) research programs.

These seed grants are available in areas across the spectrum of research and scholarship at UGA; you can find out more about them at the Internal Grants page of the Office of Research website. Sometimes individual departments or colleges also provide some minor funding; consult with your unit head. If you are invited to present research findings at an international conference, you can compete for funding for airfare to attend through the Foreign Travel Assistance program.

TIP: Competitions for UGARF seed funding are conducted at various times throughout the year. Look for announcements in applications / deadlines on the Internal Grants page of the Office of Research website.

Find external funding opportunities

Federal agencies, private foundations, societies and corporate sponsors offer multiple programs for funding research, often specifically targeted at a particular goal. It can be overwhelming to try to keep up with all the opportunities, and then choose the one that has the best chance of funding your research. Office of Research provides a starting point on the Funding Resources web page.

Sometimes the best way to identify potential funding sources is to ask your colleagues doing research in related areas how they are funded. For this purpose, Office of Research has provided databases for finding research expertise both on and off campus on our Find Expertise web page, with links to many funding opportunities databases and websites.

TIP: The most efficient way to find funding opportunities is to set up funding alerts that automatically notify you of funding opportunities in your area of interest. Pivot is a database available to UGA faculty with more than 25,000 funding opportunities; you can customize funding alerts to be sent to you weekly. Various federal agencies also send funding alerts.

Find new venture funding opportunities

The Innovation Gateway  startup incubator enables UGA technology-based startup companies to accelerate their growth through access to business resources, programs for enhancing entrepreneurship, and first-rate facilities and equipment. The startup incubator also facilitates access to funding opportunities through Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Ventures, a program that provides seed funding, grants and other support to early-stage ventures with market potential. Faculty wishing to explore the available resources to form startup companies based upon their research should contact Stefan Schulze, director of GRA Ventures and the associate director of Innovation Gateway.

Find a collaborator / consultant

On a campus the size of UGA, there are often faculty researchers in different departments, schools, or colleges who have research interests and expertise that are either similar to yours or complement yours. However, they can be hard to find. FRED (Faculty Research Expertise Database) is one way to connect with them. The information about faculty in FRED comes from data about professional activities captured in other databases. Narrative information was entered into the Faculty Activity Repository and was retained after that system was replaced by UGA Elements. Titles of grants/contracts are gleaned from the eResearch Portal.

TIP: Collaborators at other institutions throughout the world can be located by querying Community of Science – Pivot, a funding opportunity database that is used by most research universities.

Write proposals

It takes time and experience to construct a proposal that will be funded. Grantsmanship is not an exact science, but there are “dos and don’ts” that can help:

  • Start early and think through your idea logically before writing; use public databases to see what else has been done in this area (e.g., the RePORTER database for NIH grants).
  • Office of Proposal Enhancement provides technical and skilled administrative support to faculty from across campus who are developing proposals for external funding. Get get expert advice, help with finding funding, and  preparing proposals. This service is ideal for individual faculty who are new to submitting proposals, or those who are submitting to a particular agency for the first time.
  • Federal agencies offer lots of help: the NIH Office of Extramural Research has a good set of resources.
  • The NIH Center for Scientific Review offers practical advice to applicants in the Insider’s Guide to Peer Review.
  • Occasionally, NIH offers training workshops and you should watch for these and talk with your unit head about support for attending.
  • Other units on campus offer training and assistance in their respective areas. For example, the Institute for Behavioral Research has an active program for guiding faculty members through the grantsmanship process. The Program Evaluation Group (PEG) in the College of Education offers assistance in designing and writing evaluation plans for grant proposals and offers presentations and workshops on topics such as how to use evaluation feedback to improve research studies and how evaluation data can enhance replication and testing of interventions. PEG also serves as external evaluator on federal, state, and private grants, including NSF.
TIP: Peer Review Revealed and NIH Tips For Applicants are new videos from NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) that show new applicants and others how NIH assesses grant applications each year to select those to be funded.
TIP: Sharpen your proposal writing skills. The Office of Research has gathered together a useful set of proposal writing resources, many of them specific to the funding agency. NIH resources include examples of successful NIH R01 and R21 applications and summaries.

Construct budgets

Allowable costs/F&A
The money used to pay for the tangible expenses associated with a given research project is referred to as direct costs. This includes personnel (wages and salaries), supplies, operating expenses, small equipment – anything that can be justified as necessary for this project. It is important to request support that is reasonable for conducting the research (neither too little nor too much).

University research could not be performed, however, without support for buildings, laboratories, utilities, libraries, and numerous administrative activities that support the investigator’s working environment. These very real costs also apply to your project and are referred to as indirect costs, or F&A (facilities & administrative).

Universities ask their research sponsors to reimburse these indirect costs as a percentage of direct costs. You must include in your budget a calculation of F&A. Some sponsors set limits on the percentage of F&A reimbursement allowed. The federal government closely controls definitions of the allowable direct costs of research and what can be supported by the university’s F&A rate. There is detailed information regarding the OMB Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) policies on the Office of Research website. Understanding what costs are allowable, which costs are included in the F&A rate, and when you can appropriately charge such items as computers, cell phones, office supplies and books to grants is a major component of fiscal compliance in post-award financial administration.

TIP: The F&A Primer includes an explanation of how F&A is distributed at UGA. Current F&A Rates list Federal and Non-Federal rates for Research, Public Service and Instruction, both on and off the main UGA campus.

Core facility fees
In some areas of research, it is not possible or reasonable for each project to request a particular piece of instrumentation or service, so universities often develop and support shared-use research core facilities. Universities generally do not have the resources to support everything that researchers need. Thus, most core facilities operate with some amount of cost recovery, charging fees for services or products from users. You should anticipate their use and consult with them ahead of time to include core facility fees and justification for them in your proposal.

TIP: If you cannot locate a particular research capability at UGA, consult with senior colleagues in your research area; up-to-date lists of these rapidly changing facilities are difficult to maintain.

Submit proposals

The type of project you are proposing to conduct will drive all subsequent decisions made by your Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) team.  Project type will send your proposal down one of four different tracks. There are four basic proposal types: Research Projects, Instruction Projects, Public Service and Outreach Projects, and Cooperative Extension Projects. Each project type is associated with a particular legal organization, and two legal organizations will be in play. One is the University of Georgia, and the other is the University of Georgia Research Foundation (UGARF).

All research projects are submitted through UGARF, and the other three project types are submitted through the University of Georgia. Your SPA team understands these project types and will guide you accordingly. UGARF research proposals include what we term “general research proposals,” as well as those submitted by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Agricultural Experiment Station.

Electronic submission of applications is now standard. Federal sponsors use a single submission portal called grants.gov. At most universities, a campus office assists investigators with proposal preparation and submission; at UGA, this is SPA.

UGA uses an online proposal development system, called eResearch Portal, to prepare, route and submit proposals. Most questions about the eResearch Portal can be answered by your SPA team.

TIP: Your completed proposal must be in the hands of SPA for review and approval at least five days in advance. Remember… you aren’t the only person submitting proposals, and there could be many others ahead of you in the queue.

Roles and responsibilities

The PI, department administrator, department head, dean, members of your Sponsored Projects Administration team, and compliance units all have different roles and responsibilities in managing externally sponsored grants and contracts at UGA. It is helpful to familiarize yourself with these roles so that things don’t fall through the cracks.

Research Laboratory

Renovation of laboratory space

If you are pursuing laboratory-based research, part of your offer negotiations may have involved assignment and renovation of research space. If you find that renovation of your assigned space is required to perform your research, consult with your unit head regarding a request for renovation funding.

If you are involved in laboratory renovations, it is important to keep in mind what is provided by UGA Facilities Management and what is the responsibility of the unit. Essentially, Facilities Management is responsible for fixed items, while the unit must supply movable things like office or laboratory furniture. Computer network installation is particularly important to consider; you should reach agreement with your unit head about how that will be paid.

Opening and closing a research laboratory

The Office of Research Safety (ORS) oversees laboratory safety for all UGA research laboratories. Its mission is to aid faculty in promoting a safety conscious culture at UGA. Before you conduct research in a laboratory, you should contact ORS director Esequiel Barrera (ebarr@uga.edu) to discuss required and customized training needs, dependent on the type of research materials, equipment, and instrumentation to be used. The guidelines for opening a laboratory must be completed before you can begin working in the laboratory. Similarly, the guidelines for closing a laboratory must be followed when vacating or relocating a laboratory space to ensure the proper handling, transfer, or disposal of regulated materials in the laboratory. Safety policy references can be found in the UGA Laboratory Safety Manual along with procedures for laboratory inspectionhazardous waste handlingchemical procurement and trackingradiation safety, and shipment/receipt of research materials.

Procurement of research equipment, supplies

You will need to acquire small equipment, supplies, chemicals, etc., for your research laboratory. The Office of Research operates Central Research Stores (CRS), which provides a relatively seamless way to procure most things. Campus Scientific Stores (CSS) in the Chemistry Building operates as a satellite facility. Also a number of biological sciences departments have established “freezer programs” (operated as satellites of CSS) with specific suppliers for rapid access to some standard reagents. You will use a UGA account number for startup funds or sponsored funds to pay for most transactions.

TIP: Every department/school/college has established custom processes for submitting orders. Your best bet is to meet with your unit’s business manager and with colleagues in similar research areas to learn the ropes.

Shared-use core research facilities

It is likely that you will not be able to provide in your own research laboratory/office all the capabilities required to carry out your research program. For example, in the sciences, central facilities to provide DNA sequencing services or a particular type of spectroscopic analysis (e.g., NMR, Mass Spectrometry) are much more efficiently operated as shared-use facilities. Although the Office of Research attempts to maintain a list of available core research facilities, this area changes rapidly and you should consult experienced colleagues in your research area about whether there are either shared-use facilities or other research laboratories that provide access to instrumentation or services you require. It is not uncommon for core research facilities to charge a fee for services that is used to recover the costs of maintaining the facility, so you should be prepared to pay for access. These costs should be built into the budgets of proposals you submit.

Research Personnel

How do I hire and pay the people I need to conduct the research?

Graduate faculty status

If you plan to (1) serve as major professor to doctoral students, (2) serve as a major professor to Master of Arts or Master of Science students, and/or (3) teach 8000-9000 level courses, you will need to be a member of the Graduate Faculty. Appointment to the Graduate Faculty usually begins during the hiring process, and Graduate Faculty status may be received during the first semester of employment. If the appointment process was not part of the initial hiring, you should contact your department head to determine the appropriate steps. For complete information, see Graduate Faculty Information.

International researchers

A variety of federal regulatory issues and laws can coincide in the event of hiring or otherwise supporting internationals working or conducting research in labs. Research lab directors who utilize international researchers—be they students, faculty, or visiting scholars or researchers—should coordinate closely with the International Students, Scholars, & Immigration Services (ISSIS) unit within the Office of International Education (OIE). Most often, international students will be on F-1 or J-1 visas, research scholars will be on J-1 scholar visas, and employees will be on H1B visas, but other categories and circumstances also exist for bringing international researchers to UGA. For instance, a recent graduate may come to UGA as part of his or her Optional or Curricular Practical Training (OPT or CPT) that is tied to the F-1 or J-1 visa.

Lab directors must ensure that anyone conducting research in his or her lab is authorized to do so under UGA policies as well as government regulations. All international faculty, staff, and students receiving paid compensation must have a valid immigration status that allows work and compensation, and the appropriate employment authorization documents. Additionally, they must maintain their visa status for the duration of their stay at UGA. Please visit the ISSIS website for more information on types of possible visa sponsorship categories. Lab directors should also note that employment and research visas are tied to particular work and particular labs, meaning that foreign nationals cannot switch labs without notifying the ISSIS office, and possibly USCIS, and receiving approval for this work/location change.

A few notable circumstances restrict the ability of an international to conduct research. These include:

  • Failure to maintain visa status
  • Lack of valid employment authorization documents
  • Delay in approval of visa (occurs most often in relation to H1B employees)

In the event of a delay in approval of a work or research visa or EAD card, internationals are not allowed to continue to work on a “volunteer” or any other basis. Such practices violate labor laws, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act, and can result in severe penalties to the institution, the lab director, and the foreign national.

Additionally, visitors on tourist or business visas or visitors legally in the U.S. as part of the Visa Waiver Program are not allowed to conduct research. In certain cases, business visitors may be allowed to observe lab practice, but under no circumstances should anyone in the U.S. on a tourist or business visa or as part of the visa waiver program participate in or conduct research in labs at UGA.

Recruiting researchers

Recruitment of technicians, postdocs, or research scientists to help with your research projects is handled through the Equal Opportunity Office (EOO) and Human Resources (HR). Your unit’s business manager (or personnel manager) will be able to help you with posting advertisements and other paperwork. There are a number of staff positions in the research classifications (maintained by HR), while Office of Research maintains policies and procedures for hiring postdoctoral trainees, and research scientists are non tenure-track faculty positions.

Budgeting for researchers

As you create budgets for proposals to fund your research, it is important to keep in mind the true costs of research personnel. UGA has established fringe benefit rates for all levels of employees, and this is budgeted and charged as a direct cost. These funds pay for the institutional contribution to health insurance (including for graduate students), retirement benefits, and other charges. Don’t forget that salary + fringe are considered direct costs against which F&A must be calculated (at the standard rate, if allowed by the sponsor).

Research assistants

Graduate students are hired into sponsored research projects as Research Assistants. The Graduate School defines the annual assistantship rate for each degree level; note that by law graduate students cannot make more than 0.5 EFT of the annual rate, since they must remain students for at least half their effort (for which they pay tuition or receive a waiver). Even then, each degree program can set Research Assistant salaries to different amounts and normally exercise some control so students are treated consistently. Consult with your unit’s business manager or Graduate Coordinator for the current (minimum) rate in your unit. Remember to add fringe benefits to pay for graduate health insurance.

Postdoctoral trainees

The Office of Research administers postdoctoral research trainees at UGA. A policy clarifies the purpose of postdoctoral research appointments and sets compensation minima and time limits on these temporary appointments. Some federal agencies (notably, NIH: FY2012 rates) set their own salary guidelines for postdoctoral research trainees. Most trainees are called Postdoctoral Research Associates and are paid as UGA employees from a sponsored project account. If you plan to hire a postdoc, this is the classification to choose. Again, don’t forget to add fringe benefits. Researchers who are paid through training grants or are awarded their own fellowship are classified as Postdoctoral Research Fellows (details are in the policy).

Summer salary

Most faculty who will be doing sponsored research receive an academic year (9-month; 0.75 EFT) contract, and not a 12-month contract; (you can check your situation in the Workload Information section of FAR). This allows faculty the option of requesting summer salary from other sources. If you are 9-month employee, you are allowed to add up to an additional 3 months (0.25 EFT) to your salary. Sometimes portions of summer salary for the first one to two years are negotiated at hiring. Faculty frequently incorporate some summer salary into the budget of a research proposal to compensate themselves for their summer research effort on a project, in addition to effort they will be contributing during the academic calendar year (which is either covered by the award or cost shared by UGA). This paid summer salary is counted as faculty effort, so if you are requesting one month of summer salary on a project, by definition you are contributing 1/12th or 0.0833 EFT, in addition to any cost sharing you have defined.

Cost sharing (your research effort)

Effort reporting is increasingly important in this era of accountability. It is important that you match the level of effort you tell the sponsor you are spending on a project with your actual salary components. For example, suppose you tell the sponsor that you are spending three months per year (on average) on the project they are supporting, but you only ask for one month summer salary from the sponsor. Then when the award is made and a budget is established, you must report that two months of your academic year research EFT (paid for by your UGA salary) is cost-share. The University recommends that, if possible, you not cost share your academic year effort on sponsored projects and instead, ask the sponsor to reimburse UGA for this effort. UGA colleges have plans in place to share with PIs a significant portion of salary savings that result when a sponsor pays a portion of an investigator’s state salary.