Office of Research Services sets sights on improving access to grants
April 30, 2012
Faculty will have access to an expanded set of resources to guide their pre- and post-award grant efforts through a new DePaul office created to cultivate a research culture at the university.
The Office of Research Services (ORS) combines the former Office of Sponsored Programs and Research and the Office of Research Protections into one unit devoted to facilitating faculty scholarship, says Joanne Romagni, associate vice president for ORS.
“Traditionally, the focus was on compliance,” says Romagni, who joined DePaul in September. “Now we’re moving forward to take proactive approaches to reach faculty.”
Make connections at the ORS Café
Faculty are already seeing the benefits through the new ORS Café, an informal, hour-long meeting during which faculty are invited to share their grant-related questions and tips with one another, says Cate Ekstrom, director of research development and pre-award for ORS. Cafés were held on the Lincoln Park and Loop campuses this year, and Ekstrom says she hopes to hold them once per quarter on the two campuses next year.
The cafés have no structured theme, which encourages faculty to bring questions on any number of research topics. During the discussions at one of this year’s cafés, for example, a faculty member sought advice for making a research proposal more conducive to funding, while another took advantage of having the four pre- and post-award ORS staff on hand to learn more about search engines. Attendees represented a diverse array of faculty and staff from departments such as art, media and design, English, women’s and gender studies, psychology, biology, education and the social science research centers.
“People told us it was one of the best workshops they’ve ever attended,” Ekstrom says. “It emphasized collaborative interactions among faculty and staff with the goal of targeting more competitive applications to external funding agencies.”
ORS strives to improve accessibility
The office strives to increase the number of grants awarded to DePaul faculty by making the process as free of obstacles for faculty as possible, Romagni says. ORS also is taking steps to broaden its focus so that funding fits into the larger goal of creating an infrastructure that supports any kind of scholarship, whether it’s related to curriculum development, pedagogy or even service activities. “All those areas fit under the wider research umbrella,” Romagni says.
To become more accessible, ORS expanded its presence from its location in the Loop Campus’s Daley Building, with Ekstrom setting up office on the Lincoln Park Campus twice a week. Romagni hopes to add a pre-award staff member who will have a permanent office in Lincoln Park, allowing faculty there to drop in with questions anytime. “We feel it’s important for us to be available,” Romagni says.
New faculty will see more assistance from ORS on how to plan the next five to 10 years of their careers. Mentors play an important role in new faculty development, Romagni says, and ORS would like to supplement those relationships; for example, it can provide information about grants that typically are available to faculty only before they achieve tenure.
Opportunities for faculty to learn from each other
ORS is spreading the word about its outreach by conducting orientations with mentoring groups within individual schools and colleges to talk about what the office has to offer. These workshops also serve as another avenue for faculty to share their approaches to securing grants.
ORS would like to increase overall opportunities for faculty to share grant-seeking strategies and tips with one another. Ekstrom says other institutions have found success in creating libraries or logs of successful faculty grant proposals. ORS also is considering the development of a mentorship list specific to types of funding that would allow faculty to target their strategies based on the type of grant they’re seeking. ORS is forming a pre-award advisory board to collect faculty input and other ideas.
Celebrating success will take a new form, as well. The office will recognize faculty by sponsoring a biannual grants recognition reception to commend those who have been awarded new grants. The president, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., and faculty with ongoing grants also will be invited to the receptions.
“This lets faculty know that the President’s Office and the Provost’s Office appreciate what they’re doing,” Romagni says.