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A grant from Mote Marine allows students to participate in reef study.

ORSP lending helping hand to faculty in grant and sponsored research requests

Established earlier this semester as a centralized department, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) is quickly demonstrating its value by helping faculty navigate the complex world of grant seeking and sponsored research.

With more than $1 million in funding requests out pending final decision, not to mention several workshops and outreach activities for faculty and students offered this fall, this small office has indeed been busy.

Headed by Renee Rossi, the ORSP is the administrative unit dedicated to advancing Jacksonville University’s engagement in scholarship, creativity and innovation by pursuing, and winning, external funding, a practice often referred to as sponsored research.

A sponsor, or funding source, agrees to award funding based on the content of a proposal. If the proposal is selected, an award is typically made in the form of a grant or a contract. The process is time consuming, detailed and at times confusing, but Rossi and her staff (Becky Schroder, Katherine Purcell and student intern Kiley Donaghy) are committed to increasing University sponsored funding by assisting faculty with locating suitable sources and developing high-quality, competitive proposals to generate necessary funds.

The task can be daunting, especially for those who may not be confident writers, and are juggling a full course load, plus a life outside of work. While the ORSP does not provide grant writing services, it does assist with planning, formatting, and editing drafts and a recent move to centralizing the processes has made a big impact.

“By having JU’s grant functions centralized, we eliminate redundancy and increase efficiency,’’ Rossi said. “One administrative unit helps faculty submit the proposal, receive the award, and then manage the non-financial compliance during the project period.  The ORSP provides management for the research enterprise, rather than of the research process.’’

The centralization paid dividends last month when the University submitted three in-depth proposals, focused on enhancing undergraduate STEM education, to the National Science Foundation on behalf of its Chemistry and Engineering departments.

All three were due the same day and preparing, uploading and successfully submitting a federal application is no small feat, therefore, extensive advance planning and strict proposal development deadlines were needed.

Rossi says the planning and extra attention to detail are a given with grants, and doesn’t seem to mind the extra hours too much.

“Most faculty devote weeks, even months, to conducting literature reviews, framing hypotheses and developing methodologies and, come proposal time, are faced with the challenge of cramming it all into a 15-page, double-spaced document,’’ she said.

Once submitted, the length of time between submission and notification of either acceptance or rejection varies greatly, a waiting game which requires patience.

“It all depends on the funding source,” Rossi said. “If the proposal went to a federal source there is a tremendous amount of documentation reviewers need to sift through, in addition to the project description itself — certifications, forms, letters of collaboration and budget components are all scrutinized. For federal proposals, we wait about six months for a decision. Foundations and corporations are often much quicker, typically turning around decisions within several weeks.”

Before submission, each proposal must be vetted by various University officials which is one reason OSRP likes to know about proposals with as much advance notice as possible, ideally at least one month prior to the deadline.

“If an award is made, it’s issued to JU, on behalf of the proposer, and the institution is responsible for the execution of the project and the management of the funds,’’ Rossi said. “Knowing what a project entails before it gets submitted can avoid potential issues later.”

The success rate in the recent past has been solid and growing as faculty have initiated nearly 80 proposals in the past two years.

“We requested slightly more than $6 million and were awarded $3.2 million,’’ she said. The majority of funding came through private foundations, industry sources and federal funding.

The ORSP also is helping out with JU’s internal grant competitions.

The deadline for submission to the annual Faculty Research Grants program, offered each year to promote scientific, scholarly and creative activities among faculty, was Nov. 15, and the ORSP processed 10 proposals and now is preparing them for the blind review process by the Faculty Affairs Committee and the Provost with results to be announced in January.

“The goal of this ‘mini-grant’ program is to give faculty a boost with seed money for preliminary research that will ultimately serve as the basis for a larger external proposal,’’ Rossi said. “Research is driven by curiosity.  And guts. It takes courage to propose a new theory or process and then ask a sponsor to commit dollars to your idea. We can’t control the outcome of a submission, but we can make sure every proposal is the best possible, highest quality representation of both the researcher and of the University”.

Recent Grants Awarded Through ORSP:

  • Funding Source: Mote Marine Lab – Protect Our Reefs Grant Program. Awarded $14,962. Principal Investigator: Dr. Dan McCarthy, College of Arts and Sciences. Project Title: The Influence of Fish Communities on Coral Reefs and Restoration Efforts
  • Funding Source: Lutheran Services Florida. Awarded $37,000, via federal funding from HRSA.  Principal Investigator: Dr. Sharon Wilburn, BRCHS. Project Title: Certified Peer Recovery Specialist training program
  • Funding Source: Community Health Outreach (CHO). Awarded $49,624. Principal Investigator: Dr. Leigh Hart, BRCHS.  Project Title: CHO Nurse Managed Clinic