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Research Excellence Program (UCH)

Overview

Note: The REP program guidelines have been updated for the FY23 competition year.  Please review the guidelines before submitting an application to note any changes.

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.

The Research Excellence Program at UConn Health consists of two main categories, Stimulus Grants and Convergence Grants, with complementary funding priorities.

New institutional priority areas for the 2022-2023 (FY23) REP Cycle

In response to the findings of the President’s Taskforce on Mental Health and Wellness and the President’s Taskforce for Combating Sexual Violence and Supporting Our Students, the OVPR is encouraging submission of proposals that advance innovative research and scholarship in the areas of institutional priority addressed by each task force.

Accordingly, for the FY23 and FY24 REP cycles (deadlines 12/15/22 and 12/15/23), the OVPR invites and welcomes REP proposals addressing mental health and wellness in adolescents and young adults or addressing sexual violence on college or university campuses.  Specific guidelines for these priority areas follow below:

  • Applicants proposing work for in one of these priority areas should indicate their intentions as part of the application.
    • Include “REP Priority Area:” to begin the proposal title
    • Select the appropriate priority area(s) within the REP application form
  • Priority area applicants/proposals must comply with all guidelines of the REP program
  • Proposals in these topic areas will be reviewed alongside of other REP proposals in the appropriate disciplinary review group.

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 2023-June 2024).

Deadlines

  • There will only be one REP competition per year.
  • Full proposals must be submitted by 12/15 via the UConn Quest Portal.
  • If 12/15 falls on a weekend, a grace period in the system will allow applications to be accepted beyond the deadline until 12 noon of the next business day.
  • Notification of results will be made to all applicants by May.  Awardees will be announced publicly on the OVPR website and through UConn Today.

 

REP Stimulus Overview

REP Stimulus Grant Overview:

The primary objective of Stimulus Grants is to provide seed funding to individual or multiple investigators in order to develop or advance existing areas of research to be better positioned for external funding opportunities. These funds can be used to collect pilot data based on new technologies, purchase user time on instruments or university research cores, obtain sequencing or unique software for pre-clinical or clinical data analyses, obtain expert consultation on novel methodological approaches/techniques, pay for technical assistance or key personnel, or to develop key partnerships with industry or foundation partners.  The purpose of the funds must be clearly identified along with a research plan for future funding opportunities.

Stimulus Grants provide up to $25,000 in seed funding to facilitate the initiation, completion, or advancement of research projects. Four to eight awards are expected in this category.

REP Convergence Overview

Convergence Grant Overview

 The primary objective of Convergence Grants is to help facilitate strong interdisciplinary research teams to be better positioned and more competitive in seeking and/or creating new opportunities for extramural funding. Proposals for research projects in all disciplinary areas are encouraged.  Convergence Grants provide funding ranging from $50,000 – $100,000 to facilitate interdisciplinary research initiatives. Number of awards expected in the following ranges:

  • Two awards in the $76,000 to $100,000 range
  • Three to four awards in the $50,000 to $75,000 range

Proposals should be of the highest quality and describe how the project will initiate new areas of research, enhance existing areas of strength at UConn Health, and/or promote health care improvement and new technologies.  Proposals should emphasize and foster interdisciplinary research across multiple colleges/departments, campuses, and disciplinary areas.

What REP Convergence Grants Fund:

  • 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.
  • Proposals for research 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 teams are required for REP Convergence grants. 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.

Convergence Grant Parameters
Proposals can be submitted across a wide variety of areas and disciplines but must emphasize interdisciplinary research collaborations. The following criteria apply for all submissions.

  • Proposals seeking funding in the $50,000 to $75,000 range must include collaborations across two different disciplinary areas.
  • Proposals seeking funding in the $76,000 to $100,000 range must include collaborations across three different disciplinary areas.
  • Proposals are encouraged to consider collaborations with faculty at SODM, Storrs, regional campuses, CCMC and/or Jackson Labs, if applicable. Note that projects with cross-campus Co-PIs must choose to be part of either the Storrs or UCH competitions, unless the proposals are for distinctly different projects.
  • Proposals are encouraged to consider relevant clinical disciplines that would foster greater engagement of translational research as a goal of the convergence.
  • Proposals must target specific extramural funding opportunities (federal, state, industrial, corporate, foundation sponsors).
  • Proposals that do not meet program requirements will not be reviewed.

Eligibility

Eligibility
The UCH Research Excellence Program (Stimulus/Convergence Grants) is available to UConn faculty members, within the following parameters:

  • Primary Appointment:
    • PIs must be faculty whose primary appointment is at UConn/UConn Health.
    • PIs with primary appointments to CCMC, Jackson Labs, or TIP companies are not eligible to apply.
    • 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 institutionally-funded research time available during the award period.
    • UCH in-Residence faculty / those whose positions are contingent on grant-funding (soft money positions) must include details about their institutionally-funded research time as part of the budget justification to confirm eligibility.
    • PIs/Co-PIs must each make significant and distinct intellectual contributions to the design and direction of the project.
  • Eligible Faculty Ranks:
    • UCH REP awards are available to tenure-track, tenured, Clinical, Research, and in-Residence faculty with Assistant Professor rank or higher.
  • 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 and UCH REP awards must have a primary affiliation with those campuses.

Proposal Guidelines / Submission Instructions

REP grant proposals are submitted though the OVPR Internal Funding Program and not through Sponsored Program Services.

Proposals must be submitted electronically through the UConn Quest Portal by 12/15 (or the following business day at 12PM, if the deadline falls on a weekend) and will require the following information:

Proposal Package Components

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.

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):
    • Note: there will be a large list of disciplines that are more relevant to applicants from Storrs.  See below for guidance for UCH applicants
      • Convergence applicants - select "medical research", unless there is a Storrs-based discipline that is a better match for your work
      • Stimulus applicants - select "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.
  • Results from prior OVPR-funded projects: If you've received funding in the past from OVPR internal seed grants or commercialization grants, please give a brief account of the outcomes of those projects and any research products generated.
  • 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.xlsx 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):

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 XX
  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 required for the project, you may request funds for a graduate research assistantship. Please please use the dropdown menu to indicate to select the grad student's base salary. In the next column, record the student’s effort percentage on this project.
    • Graduate Research Assistants-Summer. You may request up to $2000 per student per annum.
    • Postdocs. Postdoc stipends should follow the NIH NRSA stipend levels. 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. Storrs/regional campus 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. The request for summer funds must be carefully justified. For more information, contact the OVPR.
    • Course Buy Outs. Course buyout may be requested for Storrs/regional campus faculty, but the PI must explain why release time is vital to the project. Faculty requesting funds for course buy-outs must include a statement of support from the department head. For more information, contact the OVPR.
  2. Fringe Benefits:The fringe benefit rate should reflect the current rate schedule for the employment category being proposed. Please refer to the SPS fringe rate tables. 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.
    • 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. All University travel procedures and processes must be followed.
    • 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.
    • 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

Each proposal will undergo a peer review process overseen by the OVPR with input from the SOM and SDM. The review process will include internal peer reviewers from the university community and external reviews by Hanover Research as appropriate. Reviewers will be selected based on areas of expertise and past success in grantwriting.
Using a 5-point rating scale from 1 (Excellent) to 5 (Poor), reviewers will rate and evaluate 6 criteria (Significance, Innovation/Novelty, Feasibility/Resources/Timeline, Investigators/Collaborators, Impacts/Outcomes, and Assessment). In addition, reviewers will evaluate the budget and provide funding recommendations.

Significance/Importance

  • Does this study address an important scientific problem?
  • 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?
  • Were the study’s hypotheses, aims, and/or goals clearly articulated, well-reasoned, and adequately 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/Resources, and Timeline

  • Are the conceptual, theoretical, or clinical frameworks, design, methods, and analyses adequately developed, well-reasoned, appropriate to the aims of the project and reflective of scientific rigor?
  • 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?
  • Is the timeline adequate for achieving goals & meeting the project aims? For proposals requesting funding to exceed one year, is the request justified and supported?

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?
  • 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.

Postaward Reporting

After REP awards are made, the OVPR would like to check in with awardees periodically to evaluate project progress and to learn about the impact of the work that has been done.

After the award period has ended, we would like to receive updates on outcomes as a result of the award.  We understand that the full realization of many projects may appear some time after the funded work is complete.  Therefore, the OVPR will reach out to awardees (via email) to request follow-up reports on REP projects annually for several years following the completion of the award period.  We’ll be interested in hearing about the results of your project, the significance of those results, and gathering statistics about graduate students supported, publications, external awards received, other projects launched, etc.