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    Research Excellence Program (Storrs)

    Overview

    Purpose

    The primary goal of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) Research Excellence Program (REP) is to provide seed funding to fuel innovative research, scholarship, and creative endeavors with strong potential for:

    • Significant extramural funding from federal and state sponsors, corporations, industry partners, and foundations.
    • Achievements consistent with the highest standards of accomplishment in the discipline.

     

    What the REP Funds:

    • The REP is focused facilitating projects that have a strong potential to stand out as excellent, both within their disciplines and beyond, adding to UConn’s reputation for innovative research, scholarship, and creative activities.
    • Proposals for research or creative projects in all areas and for a wide variety of purposes are encouraged. We recognize that scholarly excellence comes in many forms.
    • Emphasis will be given to projects for which REP funding will make a crucial difference in making a significant accomplishment feasible or make a project substantially more competitive for external funding. REP funding should be a “game-changer,” not an add-on to an already competitive project.
    • Multi-PI, interdisciplinary projects are encouraged. Faculty are encouraged to use Lincus , a search engine that will assist in identifying specific faculty expertise at all UConn campuses, including UConn Health.
    • Proposals addressing opportunities for technology commercialization may be submitted to the REP competition.
    • No preference will be given to proposals based on academic rank of the PI or Co-PIs.
    • We encourage resubmissions of proposals that have been not funded in the past, provided that review panel summaries are provided and PIs explain how they are addressing feedback in the new submission. Previous comments must be addressed whether the PI agrees with them or not.

     

    REP Award Categories

    Two broad categories of REP support have been established to meet the differing funding needs of various disciplines. Each category in turn has funding caps in place for single PI and multi-PI, interdisciplinary awards.

    • Proposals should be submitted to the category that best represents project goals and methods rather than the PI’s home department.
    • Multi-PI, interdisciplinary proposals in either category must include PIs across multiple academic units/disciplines, and must target external funding opportunities as the central reason for a REP award.
    • Each faculty member serving as a PI must be making a significant contribution to the development and direction of the project.

    Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Social Sciences

    • Single PI awards capped at $25,000
    • Multi-PI, interdisciplinary awards capped at $50,000

    Proposals should emphasize how the research will advance knowledge in the Sciences (basic and applied life science, physical sciences, mathematical science, social and behavioral sciences), technology, engineering, or society (applied research, interdisciplinary research).

    Fine Arts, Humanities, Business, Law, and Engagement

    • Single PI awards capped at $10,000
    • Multi-PI, interdisciplinary awards capped at $25,000

    Proposals should emphasize how the research, project, or scholarship will advance the arts, humanities, business, law, education, creative endeavors, or engaged scholarship (community partnerships, evaluation research, or participatory research).

     

    Funding Period

    Awards will be will be made for approximately one year, unless a compelling justification is made by the PI(s) for an alternate funding period. Standard award period will be May 1 to June 30 of the next fiscal year (ex. May 2020-June 2021).

     

    Eligibility

    The Storrs/Regional Research Excellence Program is available to UConn faculty members, within the following parameters:

    • UConn Primary Appointment: PIs must be faculty whose primary appointment is at UConn/UConn Health. Faculty with primary appointments to CCMC or Jackson Labs are not eligible to apply. PIs with a primary appointment at a TIP company are also not eligible. Individuals who are not eligible to apply as a PI may be able to serve as a collaborator/consultant on an eligible PI’s project.
    • Effort and Salary: Although no minimum effort level is required for REP projects, a PI/Co-PI must have departmental research time available during the award period or address in the application how they will handle the time commitment required by the project. PIs/Co-PIs must each make significant and distinct intellectual contributions to the design and direction of the project. Generally speaking, REP awards are only available to tenure-track, clinical, and APiR (Storrs/Regional Campuses) faculty. Research Professors / those whose positions are contingent on grant-funding (soft money positions) are not eligible to apply as PI. Faculty with projects that could involve grant-dependent faculty should contact the OVPR before applying.
    • Eligible faculty may only submit one proposal per year as lead PI. Investigators may serve as collaborator on multiple projects.
    • Faculty who have received two REP awards in the last five years are not eligible.
    • Each distinct project should be submitted only once per program year. Cross-campus teams should decide which program (Storrs or UCH) they want to apply for. The same project will not be considered multiple times per program year.
    • Lead PIs for Storrs/Regional REP awards must have a primary affiliation with those campuses.

     

    Deadlines

    There will only be one REP competition per year. Full proposals must be submitted by 12/15 (if 12/15 falls on a weekend, a grace period in the system will allow applications to be accepted beyond the deadline until 9am of the next business day) via the UConn Quest Portal. Awards to be announced in late April. 

     

     

    Proposal Guidelines

    Proposal Guidelines

    Please be sure to read all the guidelines thoroughly. Each item/section should be prepared, labeled, and ordered as indicated below.  Some information will need to be entered into a form on the application site.  Other documents will need to be uploaded.  See below for details.

    Proposals must be submitted electronically through the UConn Quest Portal by 12/15 (if 12/15 falls on a weekend, a grace period in the system will allow applications to be accepted beyond the deadline until 9am of the next business day) and will require the following information:

    Faculty Applicant Information Form (some information may pre-populate into the form):

    • Submitting PI Name
    • Home Department
    • School/College
    • Email
    • Phone
    • Faculty/Academic Rank
    • Primary Employer
    • Question - is your position contingent on grant funding?\

    REP Application Form:

    • REP Category: (1) Science, Engineering, Math, Technology, Social Science; or (2) Arts, Humanities, Business, Law, Engagement.  Form will also contain choices for applicants from UCH.
    • Project Type: Single PI or Multi-PI
    • Discipline (for reviewer selection purposes--please select the one that best represents the work you are proposing):
      • Biological Sciences, Cell Biology
      • Biological Sciences, Ecology / Environmental Sciences
      • Biological Sciences, Microbes
      • Biological Sciences, Neurobiology/Physiology
      • Biological Sciences, Other
      • Business
      • Chemical Engineering / Material Sciences
      • Chemistry / Biochemistry
      • Earth/Marine Sciences/Environmental Engineering
      • Engaged Scholarship
      • Engineering, Mechanical or Civil Engineering focus
      • Engineering, Computer Science or Electrical Engineering focus
      • Engineering, Biomedical Engineering focus
      • Fine Arts
      • Humanities
      • Law
      • Math
      • Medical Research (includes research on the diagnosis and treatment of human disease)
      • Physics
      • Social Sciences
      • Social Sciences, Behavioral/Psychological focus
      • Social Sciences, Public Health focus
      • Statistics
      • UCH Stimulus
    • Special Reviewer Expertise (optional): If your project requires reviewers to possess specific expertise within the context of your discipline (i.e. familiarity with a specialized approach or methodology), please specify.
    • Size of Team: 0-8
    • Key Personnel: Co-PIs, department affiliation, role on project
    • Project Title:
    • Project Abstract / Lay Summary: Succinctly state (for a non-specialist audience) the objectives, methods to be employed, and the significance of the proposed activity to the advancement of knowledge, pursuit of scholarly activity, or contribution to creative work.
    • Future Funding and/or Activities: The applicant should specify where extramural grant proposals will be submitted and/or the high level disciplinary accomplishments that will result from this REP funding.
    • Keywords: List 4-5 keywords relevant to project

    Project Plan (PDF upload):

    The Project Plan should be 3-5 pages in length (12-pt font and 1” margins). The Project Plan should address each of the areas below in sufficient detail using the headings provided. Proposals should be written in straightforward language, keeping in mind that reviewers will possess general content knowledge but not necessarily specific expertise in the area of study. Proposals should avoid the use of technical or discipline-specific jargon. Acronyms that are not universally understood should be spelled out the first time they are used.

    • Significance/Importance: Provide a clear and compelling rationale for why the proposed project, scholarly activity, or creative work matters. Indicate how the proposed project will advance knowledge, address an important scientific or scholarly problem, demonstrate intellectual or creative significance, and/or benefit society in meaningful ways. If applicable, include hypotheses to be tested, specific goals/aims, and relevant background/information or preliminary data in support of the project.
    • Approach and Timeline: Describe the plan for carrying out the proposed activities, including research design, work plan, and methodological approach.  Describe the timeline projected for completing this work.  If funding is requested for more than one year, provide a rationale and justification for the request.
    • Innovation/Novelty: Outline the ways in which this project’s proposed work is new/innovative in its approach, methods, or techniques in comparison to previous work in the field.
    • Feasibility and Resources: Explain the feasibility of the work proposed, describing the availability of necessary resources and other factors that may impact the completion of the project.
    • Investigators/Collaborators: Describe how the PI and/or collaborators are well-suited to carry out the proposed project. For Multi-PI proposals, indicate how the project brings together individuals from different disciplines and how the collaboration will advance the proposed project. For single PI proposals, indicate how the proposed work enhances and/or advances the PI’s scholarship or creative products.
    • Impact and Outcomes: Indicate the value or impact of the proposed project, once complete? How does the project reflect institutional, state, national, and/or global priorities? In what ways will the results of this work be transformative within its discipline and beyond? What broader societal benefits does it promise? What is your plan / mechanism for assessing the project’s success and evaluating outcomes? For Multi-PI, interdisciplinary proposals, indicate the external funding opportunity that will be targeted as a result of the REP.
    • Resubmissions: If the proposal is a resubmission from a previous internal or external grant competition, Summarize the feedback received and provide responses to reviewers’ comments. Indicate how and where the reviewers’ comments were addressed. Full text of reviewer comments must be included as an appendix if the project has been previously submitted to external sponsors.

    Proposed Budget (excel upload):

    List and justify each budget item. You should use the budget template provided (see budget prep information below) to list the items and their respective costs. Please provide a justification for each budget item in the appropriate column in the spreadsheet. If additional space is needed, you may include a budget justification document as an appendix.

    Biosketches/CVs (PDF upload, single document):

    Please include biosketches/CVs (formatted as appropriate for your field) for all PIs/Co-PIs.  Include your most recent publications or those most relevant to the work proposed.  Also include current/pending support from external sponsors and UConn sources (including start-up funding). This may be appended to the end of the CV/biosketch or integrated within it, if your discipline’s format already provides space for current/pending.

    Appendices (PDF upload, single document):

    References, past reviewer comments, and extra budget justifications may be included as appendices. Additional information may be included when it is truly essential for adequate peer review of the proposal.

     

    Budget Preparation

    Instructions:

    1. Download and save budget template to your computer.
    2. In the first cell, fill in the budget number and year
      • Budget Year 1 – FY 20-21
    3. Note that all fields with green backgrounds are editable. Fields with white backgrounds are locked.
    4. Categories with a blue background are for personnel costs related to the Storrs/Regional campuses. Categories with a peach background are for personnel costs related to UConn Health. Appropriate fringe rates for each campus will apply.
    5. The spreadsheet is constructed to automatically compute some values based on your inputs. Dropdown boxes will allow you to select graduate students of different levels and will fill in the correct stipend. You will also be able to specify the percentage of each team member's time that will be charged to the project. Fringe rates will automatically calculate for most salary types.
    6. For each budget line that you enter, please enter a justification in column G. Be as specific as possible, listing each travel site, pieces of equipment, services, etc. Justification for each budget item should answer the question: “Why is this specific person/item necessary for the proposed project?” See categories of support for allowable and unallowable costs.
    7. Subtotals for categories and the total for the year will calculate automatically
    8. If you are requesting a multi-year budget (a rare exception that requires justification), fill out the template again for the additional year(s), making appropriate changes to the first cell and the filename so each year will be properly labeled.

    Detailed guidelines for each budget category:

    1. Personnel Salaries and Wages: List all personnel, including the names and roles that will be devoted to the project.
      • Senior Personnel. REP funds cannot be used for salary. Indicate in justification whether PIs have departmental research time available or address how time commitment required by the project will be handled. Specific effort commitments not required.
      • Graduate Research Assistants-Academic Year. If the project requires a greater level of expertise than hourly student labor, you may request funds for a graduate research assistantship. Please select the appropriate stipend class from the dropdown menu (Beginner, Masters, PhD) for the level of graduate student you plan to employ. In the next column, record the student’s effort percentage on this project. Refer to the Graduate School and Sponsored Program Services for detailed information on graduate education, levels of experiences, and graduate assistant stipends.
      • Graduate Research Assistants-Summer. You may request up to $2000 per student per annum.
      • Postdocs. Postdoc stipends should follow the NIH NRSA stipend levels, which can be found at NIH Notice NOT-OD-18-175. You may enter the base salary of each postdoc and record the postdoc’s effort percentage on this project.
      • Student Labor. Undergraduate student labor is paid on an hourly basis, plus fringe benefits. Please refer to the student employment website for levels of experience and compensation. Please enter the total amount you are budgeting for all undergraduate student labor costs
      • Summer Fellowships. Faculty members on nine-month appointments may receive salary during the summer months. A maximum of $3,000 per annum (plus fringe) may be requested for single PI proposals and $5,000 (plus fringe) for Multi-PI proposals. Faculty may receive only one award of this type (i.e., faculty listed as Co-PI on multiple proposals can only receive one summer award). In addition, for Multi-PI proposals, the maximum summer fellowship allowed for any individual faculty member is $3,000. The request for funds must be carefully justified. Applicants should adhere to the NIH guidelines for salary limitation when factoring in summer salary. Faculty should also account for time committed to other funded projects. In some cases, dual employment request may be required.
      • Course Buy Outs. Course buyout may be requested, but the PI must explain why release time is vital to the project. In addition, the buyout rate will be limited to the amount paid for an adjunct to teach the bought-out course, and not a percent of the faculty member's salary). Please refer to the payroll website for the most current negotiated adjunct rates. Faculty requesting funds for course buy-outs must include a statement of support from the department head.
    2. Fringe Benefits:The fringe benefit rate should reflect the current rate schedule for the employment category being proposed. Please refer to the Fringe Benefit Rates.  Please refer to the University rates. Fringe rates will automatically compute on the template for all salary lines except for other 1 and 2.
    3. Other Direct Costs
      • Equipment: Equipment is defined as tangible, non-expendable, personal property having an anticipated life of one year or more with a unit acquisition cost of $5,000 or greater. Equipment includes, but is not limited to, furnishings, scientific apparatus, machinery, library volumes, artwork, motor vehicles, boats and livestock. You will need to identify the individual pieces of equipment requested, the importance to the project, and why existing equipment does not suffice. Please include price quotation(s) from the vendor. Although matching funds are not required, such matches are strongly recommended when the cost of the equipment exceeds $5,000. Valid documentation of any match must be included. For more information see equipment definitions on the Accounting website.
      • Travel (Transportation and Per Diem): Include any travel that is necessary to conduct the research (in support of specific project aims), not travel to present the results of research or travel to explore future funding opportunities. Travel costs are classified as those expenses for transportation, lodging, subsistence, and related items incurred by employees who are traveling on official University business. All travel costs included in REP budgets must be well-justified in relation to project goals. For further information on travel procedures and process, see the travel website.
      • Materials & Supplies. Materials & Supplies are any consumable not falling into the category of equipment, as defined above. These costs should be project-specific, reasonable and based on actual or historical use. It is not necessary to break down each individual item, but a general description and amount by general classification should be provided (e.g. glassware, test tubes, or chemicals).
      • Participant Support Costs. Indicate incentives, travel, and other subsistence costs necessary for the project.
      • Animals/Animal Care. Animal costs should reflect the type of animal, the number of animals and the unit cost per animal. Per Diem costs should list the number of days of Per Diem. Please refer to OAC for per diem rates.
      • Contractual Services. Explain and justify all fees and charges for specialized services, such as library access fees, laboratory analysis fees, consultant fees, subject fees, etc.
    4. Unallowable Costs:The following items cannot be requested: clerical or administrative personnel salaries, including personnel whose primary purpose is to explore funding sources and/or prepare grant applications; service/maintenance contracts on equipment; laboratory renovations, or other infrastructure renovations; institutional memberships in professional organizations; travel to professional meetings to present the results of the research; travel to explore extramural funding opportunities; costs associated with the publication of results of the research, including page charges, purchase of reprints, or journal costs.

    Review Criteria

    All proposals will be evaluated by a peer-review team composed of University of Connecticut faculty and overseen by the OVPR. The OVPR will select reviewers based on disciplinary areas consistent with the proposal category, previous experience as a grant reviewer, successful extramural grant activity, scholarly reputation, and whenever possible expertise and specialization consistent with the proposal topic. In some cases, external reviewers (non-UConn faculty) may be sought if additional expertise is deemed necessary. Proposals will be reviewed based on the criteria below and recommendations made to the OVPR. The Vice President for Research will make the final determination of awards.

     

    Review Criteria

    Using a 5-point rating scale from 1 (Excellent) to 5 (Poor), reviewers will rate and evaluate 6 criteria (Significance, Approach/Timeline, Innovation/Novelty, Feasibility/Resources, Investigators/Collaborators, and Impacts/Outcomes. In addition, reviewers will evaluate the budget and provide funding recommendations.

     Significance/Importance

    • Does this study address an important scientific / scholarly / creative problem or gap?
    • How well articulated are the project's hypotheses, aims, and/or goals?  Are these goals well-reasoned and adequately supported?
    • If the aims of the project are achieved, will scientific knowledge, technical capability, clinical practice, and/or social conditions be advanced in meaningful ways?
    • Does the proposed project significantly contribute to the concepts, theories, methods, technologies, applications, treatments, outcomes, services, and/or preventive interventions that drive the field/discipline?

    Approach/Timeline

    • To what degree does the proposal outline a clearly articulated and well-reasoned plan of action?
    • Are the conceptual, theoretical, or clinical frameworks and research methods adequately developed and clearly articulated?  To what degree are they appropriate to the aims of the project and reflective of intellectual rigor?
    • Is the timeline adequate for achieving goals and meeting the project aims? For proposals requesting funding to exceed one year, is the request justified and supported?

     Innovation/Novelty

    • Is the project original and innovative? Does the project challenge existing paradigms, methods, approaches, applications, theories, practice and/or barriers to progress in the field(s)?
    • Does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, technologies, applications, treatments, tools, and/or interventions?

     Feasibility and Resources

    • To what degree is the project, as described in proposal, achievable?  Are there any concerns about feasibility?
    • Are the resource and time available for this project adequate to ensure success?
    • Does the environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
    • Does the proposed project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment or subject populations, or employ useful collaborative arrangements?

     Investigators/Collaborators

    • Are the PI, collaborators, and other personnel well-suited to carry out the project?
    • Do the collaborators have complementary and integrated expertise?
    • For Single-PI proposals, does the proposed work advance the PI’s scholarship or likelihood of obtaining an external award?
    • Does the PI (and collaborators for Multi-PI proposals) demonstrate an ongoing/emerging record of accomplishments that have advanced the respective field(s)?

    Impact and Outcomes

    • Is the proposed project compelling and if successful, would it make a meaningful disciplinary or interdisciplinary contribution and/or advancement?
    • Does the project address institutional, state, national, and/or global priorities?
    • Does the project have strong potential for producing valuable societal benefits?
    • Does the project have high potential for national or international recognition and achievement?
    • Is the proposal high quality and appropriate for the REP?
    • Does the project have high potential for extramural funding or disciplinary achievement?
    • Does the PI provide evidence from a previous external review that the current proposal would address a weakness and/or strengthen resubmission (e.g., previous feedback suggested additional pilot data was needed or work would be strengthened by more in depth archival analysis, etc).
    • Does the proposal contain an adequate plan or mechanism for assessing success and evaluating outcomes?
    • For Multi-PI proposals, was an external funding opportunity identified?

    Budget Evaluation:

    • Is the project budget appropriate and sufficient to carry out the proposed work?
    • Are the budget requests adequately justified, clearly articulated, and necessary for the scope of work and timeline?
    • If requested, are course buyout and/or summer support vital to the project?
    • Would you recommend any reduction in the budget?

    Funding Recommendations:

    Reviewers will be asked to make funding recommendations based on the merits of each proposal and funding cutoffs.  Funding cutoffs will be determined by the OVPR.

     

     

    Review Criteria for Arts, Humanities, Business, Law, and Engagement Proposals

    Using a 5-point rating scale from 1 (Excellent) to 5 (Poor), reviewers will rate and evaluate 6 criteria (Significance, Approach/Timeline, Innovation/Novelty, Feasibility/Resources, Investigators/Collaborators, and Impacts/Outcomes. In addition, reviewers will evaluate the budget and provide funding recommendations.

     Significance

    • Does the project demonstrate intellectual significance and/or creativity including value to scholars, general audiences, and society?
    • Does the proposed project address an important scholarly problem, social condition, and/or creative endeavor?
    • Is the project’s intellectual rationale clear and persuasive?
    • Does the project engage important and critical topics and/or advance the respective field(s) in meaningful and significant ways?
    • Does the project’s conception, definition, organization, and description reflect the highest quality and excellence?
    • If applicable, is artistic excellence demonstrated by the quality of artists, arts organizations, arts education, works of art and/or services reflected in the proposal?
    • If applicable, were the hypotheses, aims, and/or goals clearly articulated, well-reasoned, and adequately supported?

    Approach/Timeline

    • To what degree does the proposal outline a clearly articulated and well-reasoned plan of action?
    • Are the conceptual / theoretical frameworks and methods adequately developed and clearly articulated?  To what degree are they appropriate to the aims of the project and reflective of intellectual rigor/artistic excellence?
    • Is the timeline adequate for achieving goals and meeting the project aims? For proposals requesting funding to exceed one year, is the request justified and supported?

     Innovation/Novelty

    • Is the project original and innovative? Does the project challenge existing paradigms, methods, approaches, applications, theories, practice and/or barriers to progress in the field(s)?
    • Is the project distinctive by offering fresh insights and new value for the field(s) and/or public through unconventional or innovative approaches, theories, discourse, interpretations, controversies, and/or methods?

    Feasibility, Resources, and Timeline

    • To what degree is the project, as described in proposal, achievable?  Are there any concerns about feasibility?
    • Are the resource and time available for this project adequate to ensure success?
    • Does the environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
    • Does the proposed project benefit from unique features of the environment such as subject populations, archival resources, special collections, technical assistance/tools, geography, translational expertise, and/or facilities support?

     Investigators/Collaborators

    • Are the PI, collaborators, and other personnel well-suited to carry out the project?
    • Do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise?
    • For Single-PI proposals, does the proposed work advance the PI’s scholarship, creative products, and/or likelihood of obtaining an external award?
    • Does the PI (and collaborators for Multi-PI proposals) demonstrate an ongoing/emerging record of accomplishments that have advanced the respective field(s)?

    Impact and Outcomes

    • Is the proposed project compelling and if successful, would it make a meaningful disciplinary or interdisciplinary contribution and/or advancement?
    • Does the project address institutional, state, national, and/or global priorities?
    • Does the project have strong potential for producing valuable societal benefits?
    • Does the project have high potential for national or international recognition and achievement?
    • Is the proposal high quality and appropriate for the REP?
    • Does the project have high potential for extramural funding or disciplinary achievement?
    • Does the PI provide evidence from a previous external review that the current proposal would address a weakness and/or strengthen resubmission (e.g., previous feedback suggested additional pilot data was needed or work would be strengthened by more in depth archival analysis, etc).
    • Does the proposal provide a mechanism to assess success and provide an adequate plan for evaluation of outcomes?
    • Where appropriate, does the project provide a sound dissemination and/or access plan?
    • For Multi-PI proposals, was an external funding opportunity identified?

    Budget Evaluation

    • Is the project budget appropriate and sufficient to carry out the proposed work?
    • Are the budget requests adequately justified, clearly articulated, and necessary for the scope of work and timeline?
    • If requested, are course buyout and/or summer support vital to the project?
    • Would you recommend any reduction in the budget?

    Funding Recommendations:

    Reviewers will be asked to make funding recommendations based on the merits of each proposal.