Strategic goal 1: Grow and strengthen USU’s research portfolio
Washington DC, funding agency trip
In October 2015, RGS took 18 faculty members on the third annual Washington, DC funding agency trip. Participants included representatives from 7 colleges, the largest contingent of faculty to participate in the trip. In addition to the one faculty member from each college that was supported by RGS, each college funded travel for one or two additional faculty. This support from college deans is evidence that they are convinced of the value of having their faculty meet with program officers from a broad range of funding agencies and foundations.
Training for Research Faculty
Each year, RGS holds a luncheon for faculty who are new to Utah State. The luncheon includes an introduction to RGS resources through a “speed-networking” format, focused on creating personal connections with the individual RGS division directors. Additionally, in December 2015, as part of the RGS Office’s continuing efforts to provide top-quality assistance and resources to new faculty, we held a brief, low-key refresher regarding RGS divisions and the services and support they provide.
Training for all faculty, especially new faculty members, continues throughout the year with Training for Research Faculty. TRF is a workshop series that features training on topics of special interest to USU researchers, helping to enhance individual capacity development of USU faculty. In July 2015, RGS sent out a survey to all faculty members requesting feedback of requested topics for the workshops in 2015-2016. Based on those requests, a year-long schedule was compiled and implemented and included the following topics: components of an outstanding sabbatical, tools for mentoring graduate students, maximizing proposal chances, making tenure and promotion and including broader impacts in proposals.
The Research Development division is comprised of a network of proposal development staff located in units (colleges/departments/research centers) across campus. Proposal developers report jointly to their unit directors (deans/department heads/research center directors) and to the centrally located Director of Research Development, who reports to the Associate Vice President for Research in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
The goal of network staff is to relieve researchers of the logistics of proposal development to allow them more time to focus on their technical writing. To achieve this, network staff can help researchers from beginning to end of the proposal development process, or at any point throughout the process depending on the researcher’s needs and/or wants.
Two proposal specialists were added in the Research Development division in 2015-2016. One specialist is assigned to work specifically with Extension faculty and the other will be working with faculty from the College of Science.
RGS continues to support three different seed grant programs that carry unique missions/goals and expected outcomes. In FY2016, a total of 29 applications (3 GEM, 21 RC and 5 SPARC) were submitted, 18 of which were awarded. Each seed grant supports RGS’ belief that interactions and collaborations between junior and more senior faculty and across disciplines enhances the success of gaining extramural support. A full explanation of the grants is included on page 74 in the Research Development division report and a table of awards is included on page 64.
Greater access to high performance computing
USU faculty and students are now able to make use of high performance computing resources at the University of Utah’s Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC). Access to the CHPC is the result of a partnership between USU and UU that was created by the Research Vice President at each institution, with support from the two university presidents. Through this agreement, USU faculty and students are provided with the same CHPC access as their counterparts at the University of Utah, including the option of purchasing hardware to ensure uninterrupted access for computing jobs that require long run times. What was the most heavily used cluster in the USU HPC was relocated to the CHPC in spring 2016, where the hardware remains accessible to the faculty who purchased nodes that made up the cluster.
Microscopy core facility
The microscopy core facility housed in SER 005 provides microscopy services, project consultation, and user training for scanning electron microscopy and laser dissection microscopy. Core operations are guided by leadership from a core director and 12-member faculty advisory board (FAB). Growing interest in the core brought several new members to the FAB in FY16, and a change in director. Dr. John Shervais concluded his two-year term, and was replaced on July 1, 2016 by Dr. Anhong Zhou from the Biological Engineering department.
For a very modest $300 annual membership fee, USU faculty, staff, and students are able to access the facility and receive assistance and training on core instruments from a full-time and highly experienced operator, Dr. Fen-Ann Shen. Scholarship support is also available to graduate students who are not on funded research projects yet wish to explore microscopy in their research program. Researchers outside USU can also obtain access to the core on a fee-for-service basis. Membership in the core grew nearly 20% FY16, and the facility provided training and demonstrations to 527 students. Total usage of the core instruments was 1293 hours. To learn how you can access this state-of-the-art facility to support your research, visit www.mcf.usu.edu.
Annual equipment matching fund
RGS offered another round of internal capital equipment grants with a 50% (1:1) matching funds requirement. The total budget for this program was increased from $200,000 in FY15 to $400,000 for FY16. Once again, applications were accepted from individual USU researchers, teams of researchers, or by departments or colleges. 19 applications with requests totaling over $1.2 million were received. RGS staff and college associate deans for research performed merit review of those applications and awarded the full $400,000 across 15 proposals. A table of all the equipment purchased with these grants is included on page 66.
Utah State University is committed to creating a safe environment and a culture of institutional safety, and develops and implements safety and health programs consistent with the best practices for activities and institutions of this type. Realization of a safe and healthy work environment requires attention and responsibility at every level, and all employees are required to fully follow all procedures relating to safety rules.
To this end, in 2015, USU ratified a new university policy on safety. The policy establishes a new representative form of safety communication and guidance at USU. It emphasizes that it’s a core responsibility of faculty and staff to develop and implement safety practices, protocols, and rules that best assure safety in their classrooms, laboratories, field sites and other workspaces within their purview. Full text of this policy can be found on page 47.
To further support this effort, the Environmental Health and Safety division of RGS has implemented an online system, EHS Assistant, to better track safety trainings of all USU faculty and staff. The system can be accessed from the EHS homepage: research.usu.edu/ehs. Additionally, RGS implemented a program to provide a 1/3 match on all fees associated with bringing a necessary external safety training to campus.
Kuali software implementation
Sponsored Programs implemented Kuali Researcher in October and has been using the module internally. Sponsored Programs staff have been training with Kuali Researcher, developing training materials, and conducting focus groups in preparation of a campus-wide roll out beginning in Fall 2016. Kuali Researcher offers campus-wide authentication and routing. Using Kuali, researchers will be able to complete proposal applications
and all required proposal materials electronically, replacing the need for paper copies of the Proposal Approval Form (SP-01) and budget template.
IRB grant for translation
Both abroad and at home, USU researchers are working with an increasingly diverse participant population. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a growing need for high-quality translations of informed consent documents. In April 2016, the IRB Director was awarded an internal grant to assist researchers in defraying the cost of obtaining certified translations. Full details of the awarded grant can be found on page 72 in the IRB division report.
Data management, storage and implementation
In FY15, representatives from RGS, the Library, Central IT, and the Information Security Office formed a Data Management Group to address the pending open access requirements for research publications and data by all federal funding agencies. That process is now in a near-final draft stage, and it leverages the strong keyword search capacity of the libraries catalog system, the unlimited storage available through Digital Commons and Box.com, and the new RGS sponsored awards database, Kuali.
The Library will serve as the main point-of-contact to assist researchers in making their publications and data publicly available, and walk them through the resources USU has established to satisfy the new federal requirements. The RGS Sponsored Programs Division will notify researchers when an award requires public access, and send periodic reminders over the course of the award to remind them of this requirement.
The Data Management Group anticipates this process will allow USU to meet the new federal open access rules, but it will continue to stay abreast of this rapidly changing issue.
In 2014, Utah State University Central IT made the decision to discontinue support for its proprietary content management system, EZ Plug. Throughout that year, RGS personnel evaluated other website options, including OU Campus, a new vendor solution provided by Utah State, and decided to migrate RGS website to WordPress Multisite. Since WordPress is an open-source platform, it has a robust support community and suite of pre-programmed themes and plugins to assist the RGS team of student employees who manage the website.
Throughout 2015, those student employees worked to migrate 4,500 website pages to WordPress and launched the new site in December, with content and aesthetic changes continuing to be made through 2016 and beyond.
RGS organized its fourth TEDxUSU, an independently organized TED-like event dedicated to sharing “ideas worth spreading.” Given the high demand of the event, held in the Caine Performance Hall, tickets were awarded based on a lottery system as opposed to a first-come first-served basis. Ten participants—including Luciana Borio, the acting chief scientist of the FDA and Brady Parks, of the National Parks, along with USU faculty and students—gave talks or performances on the theme “Duality” during this three-part event, including an interactive second session.
As in past years, the preparation process was treated as a training experience to hone their communication and presentation skills to a wider audience than their peers. After a competitive nomination and audition process, speakers were coached and supported by RGS staff for more than five months as they prepared their talks and performances.
Over four years, TEDxUSU talks have been viewed over 450,000 times. Links to the talks can be found at tedx.usu.edu.
Now in its tenth year, Sunrise Sessions bring USU research presentations to our Salt Lake constituents on a quarterly basis. This year RGS took on full responsibility of Sunrise Sessions after a long-term partnership with the USU Advancement Office. The program continues to be supported by Regence.
For FY16, three faculty and four students presented their research. In April 2016, four students from USU’s Ignite lineup presented at a Sunrise Session for the first time. About 100-150 people attend each Sunrise Session, and all talks were recorded and posted as podcasts at sunrise.usu.edu/sunrise for additional listening.
On April 11-15, RGS hosted USU’s 11th annual Research Week, showcasing the best of the best in undergraduate, graduate and faculty research.
Research Week gave student researchers center stage through events such as Ignite USU and the Student Research Symposium, and celebrated faculty research at the annual Awards Gala and the D. Wynne Thorne Lecture. Throughout Research Week, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies formally recognized more than 50 college awardees: Faculty Researchers of the Year, Graduate Researchers of the Year, Graduate Instructors of the Year, Undergraduate Researchers of the Year, and Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentors. Two university awards, the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award and the Graduate Mentor of the Year, were also given. Hundreds of other students and faculty were recognized on a more informal basis throughout the week.