SPARC - Seed Program to Advance Research Collaborations

The Seed Program to Advance Research Collaborations (SPARC) provides funding to catalyze the development of interdisciplinary teams and projects that involve research/creative scholarship in more than one department, research center, or college. Successful SPARC projects will result in the submission of at least one proposal to an external funding agency that satisfies all of the following criteria:

  • Develops an interdisciplinary team that will be able to competitively address the target external funding opportunity
  • Solicits at least $1 million in new funding at USU (total project budget, less any off-campus sub-awards)
    • Projects that enhance the likelihood for success of grants that pay full F&A costs are especially encouraged
  • Recruits and supports additional faculty, postdoctoral researchers, or PhD students to the USU campus
  • Engages undergraduate and/or graduate students in the pursuit of research/creative scholarship activities

SPARC grants provide one-year seed funding. Budgetary requests should be consistent with the scope of the proposed activity but cannot exceed $35,000. Lesser budgetary requests will be equally considered during the review process.

The SPARC program is not intended to be a parallel funding program. As such, projects which seek parallel funding (i.e., the project has been proposed to and is under review by an external funding agency at the time of seed grant application or is scheduled to be submitted externally before the seed grant project is substantially complete) will be disqualified from funding. Under rare circumstances (e.g., Extension seed grant program, etc.), parallel application submissions may be appropriate; however, projects can receive funding from only one internal program. Such projects should be discussed with the Office of Research prior to submission of an SPARC application.

Questions? Contact Jeri Hansen at jerilyn.hansen@usu.edu or (435) 797-3437.

Info
Prerequisite
Applicants must complete the Office of Research-sponsored faculty proposal writing seminar to be eligible for a seed grant award.

Eligibility

  • The PI must hold a faculty appointment as defined in USU Policy 401.
  • Professionals in limited term positions (e.g., adjunct faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate research assistants) are not eligible.
  • SPARC projects must have at least three faculty (PI plus two Co-Is) representing cross-disciplinary areas of expertise consistent with the criteria established in the target external funding opportunity.
  • PIs who do not submit the required external proposal resulting from a seed grant project will be ineligible for future Office of Research funding of any type until this requirement is met. The seed grant PI may serve as PI or Co-I on the external proposal, but USU must be the lead institution controlling the submission of the resulting external proposal (i.e., USU cannot serve as a subcontractor on the project).
  • A PI who has received Office of Research seed grant funding of any type is not eligible to receive additional Office of Research seed grant funding of any type for a three-year period (counted from the previous project end date to a new project start date).
  • Proposal ideas that have already been submitted to an external funding agency and for which a funding decision is pending, or those already reviewed by an external funding agency and found to be non-competitive (rated as less than “good”), are not eligible for seed grant funding consideration.
  • RESUBMISSIONS - If a proposal is not funded by the Office of Research, an applicant is allowed one resubmission of a revised application for the same project in a subsequent grant cycle. Resubmissions must include the seed grant review panel summary and a line-by-line description of how the comments were addressed as an attachment (Appendix G).

Proposal Format

General formatting requirements

  • Fourteen (14) pages
  • Single-spaced text
  • 12-point font, 1-inch margins, page numbers
  • Page limitation includes figures and tables
  • Page limitation excludes cover sheet, external funding target(s) information, references, budget form, budget justification, and appendices

1

Cover Sheet


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2

External Funding Target(s)


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One-page limit.
3

Research/Project Plan


Fourteen-page limit.

Refer to general formatting requirements above.

Subsections listed below
must be included and in the order shown.

Introduction and Seed Grant Project Description

Describe the proposed research/creative scholarship. Include a summary of relevant literature, specific objectives/primary questions to be addressed, procedures and methods utilized, novel/cutting-edge aspects of the project, and broader impacts.

Provide an explanation of possible pitfalls/risks of the project and how these will be mitigated.

If the proposed project will involve human subjects, documentation showing support for the research/creative scholarship by a partner (e.g., school district, care facility, tribe, etc.) must be provided and included in Supplementary Documentation (Appendix F).

Management Plan

Describe the scope of work and project responsibilities of key personnel of the seed grant project, and for items such as data management, information/communication management, etc., as appropriate. This will be of particular importance if the project includes multi- or interdisciplinary partnerships or external project personnel.

If the seed grant project involves external Co-Is, include a description of the strengths such individuals bring to the project team and what role they will have in the external proposal. Include a CV for any external Co-I in Appendix A.

If students will be involved in the project, describe how they will be mentored and their work supervised. If student involvement in the project is not feasible/appropriate, provide an explanation as to why.

Provide a timeline for major activities, including the preparation and submission of the external proposal.

Research/Creative Scholarship Products

Identify and describe the expected research/creative scholarship products (publications, data sets, etc.) that will be produced as a result of the seed grant project, aside from the external funding request.

Relationship of Seed Grant Project to External Funding Goal

Explain how the seed grant’s project outcomes/products are relevant and necessary to the development of a strong and successful external proposal to the targeted funding opportunity. Clearly describe how the seed grant work will enhance and be incorporated into the external proposal. In addition, describe how a less than satisfactory outcome of the project will be mitigated in the external proposal. Seed projects targeting NSF may want to consider involving Extension specialists to help improve the Broader Impacts requirement of the external proposal.

Relevance of the Proposed Research/Creative Scholarship to the PI’s Career

Include a statement about how the seed grant and the external proposal will advance the career of the PI.

4

References


No page limit.
5

Budget Form


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6

Budget Justification


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No page limit.

Provide a summary budget and justification for all proposed expenses, including faculty, student, postdoctoral researcher, and/or Extension specialist support; fringe benefits; supplies; data analysis costs; equipment needed to generate preliminary data for the external proposal; and travel required to complete the project. Research/Project Plans that include travel must comply with USU travel policies.

Up to one month of salary support plus benefits per USU investigator is allowed.

Explain any departmental or college contributions to the project (not required, but could include providing student help, travel or administrative support, or other expenses associated with external proposal development).

The following costs are not allowed: course buyouts, conference travel, tuition/fees, literature review costs, and funding paid to non-USU institutions, investigators, key personnel, or students.

7

Appendices


Even if an appendix doesn't apply to the project, a page must be included indicating such.

Appendix A. Curriculum/Curricula Vitae


Two-page limit per person.

CV information is required for the PI and any Co-Is (including those external to USU). Include as part of the CV a record of grant writing experience and role (PI or Co-I). If no funding has been received, indicate any grant writing training received.

Appendix B. Current and Pending Support


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No page limit.

Include a separate form for each USU investigator.

List the current and pending support for the PI and any USU Co-Is. For any current or pending projects that are related to the proposed seed grant project, include a separate description of the specific objectives and how they differ from the objectives of the seed grant.

Appendix C. Conflict of Interest


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Include a separate form for each USU investigator.

Disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest is required for the PI and any USU Co-Is.

Appendix D. Education and Training Plan


No page limit.

If the targeted external funding opportunity requires a major educational or training component, describe how these elements will be addressed. Outline any plans for recruiting, retaining, or educating students from underrepresented groups.

Appendix E. Special Requirements of Project


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No page limit.

Identify any special requirements of the project (human participants, animal use, hazardous materials, etc.) and whether protocols are pending or approved.

Appendix F. Supplementary Documentation


No page limit.

Include letters of support from external partner(s) whose collaboration is integral to the execution of the proposed seed grant project (e.g., school district, care facility, tribes, etc.).

If the project will require access to sites/land/data sets owned by others, include documentation that access is/will be granted. 

Appendix G. Review Panel Comments


No page limit.

If the seed grant proposal is a resubmission, the previous seed grant review panel comments must be included and addressed line-by-line. Do not include information that should otherwise be in the Research/Project Plan as a way of circumventing page limitations.

If the research/creative scholarship outlined in the seed grant application is intended to support the resubmission of an external grant proposal that was not funded in a recent cycle, but did receive favorable scores from the agency review panel, a full copy of the agency review panel comments must be attached.

Appendix H. Results of Previous Seed Funding


One-page limit.

Provide a description of the results of any previous Office of Research seed funding the PI has received.

Submission

Proposals must be submitted to the PI’s Dean's Office. Applicants are advised to check with their colleges regarding internal submission deadlines and appropriate contact person for seed grant submission.

Projects are funded semi-annually for one-year performance periods, with start dates of April 1 or September 1. Applicants should select the timeline that best ensures they can develop and submit an external grant proposal within three (3) months of project completion.

Evaluation

Proposals are reviewed independently by three different reviewers comprised of Research Associate Deans (or substitute), the Associate Vice President for Research, and the Director of Research Development. Note that Research Associate Deans (or substitute) do not review proposals from their own college.

Evaluation Criteria (scored 1=low to 5=high)

  • Scholarly merit and relevance to the targeted external program
  • Project team's expertise, resources, and research/creative scholarship record as they relate to the proposed project
  • Research/project plan
  • Management plan
  • Engagement of undergraduate, graduate, and/or postdoctoral researchers, as appropriate/feasible
  • The potential of the project to extend USU’s research/creative scholarship capability and increase external funding for activities based on agency program officer feedback

Additionally, it may be advantageous for SPARC proposals to consider:

  • The potential to establish long-term, multidisciplinary, or interdisciplinary research collaborations
  • The potential of the project to build Utah’s economy through new intellectual property or industry sponsored research

Timeline & Deliverables

Deliverable For April 1 Start Date For September 1 Start Date
Proposals are submitted to Dean’s Office for internal review College determines internal deadline

(allow ample time for review and signatures by the Department Head and Dean)
College determines internal deadline

(allow ample time for review and signatures by the Department Head and Dean)
Dean’s Office submits proposals to the Office of Research January 15

(if this falls on a weekend or USU holiday, proposals will be due the next business day)
June 15

(if this falls on a weekend or USU holiday, proposals will be due the next business day)
Notification of awards by the Office of Research March August
Grant period April 1 - March 31 September 1 - August 31
Final financial report Within 60 days of project end date Within 60 days of project end date
Final project report Within 60 days of project end date Within 60 days of project end date
External proposal submission Within 3 months of project end date Within 3 months of project end date