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  April 12, 2004

Grant Competition To Fund
Proposals For Excellence

The Provost's office has announced the establishment of the 2004 Provost's Grant Competition, a new $1.5 million grant competition to fund a small number of interdisciplinary projects in the areas of emphasis defined in the Academic Plan.

Those areas are:

  • arts, culture, and society, from a local to a global perspective;

  • environmental sustainability;

  • health and human service systems;

  • innovations in science and technology;

  • life sciences; and

  • undergraduate enrichment.

"The Academic Plan proposed a competition to strategically allocate resources in areas where the University could achieve excellence," says Suman Singha, vice provost for academic programs and chair of the committee that will review the proposals. "We plan to award a small number of grants where the money can make a difference and move us forward as an institution."

A call for pre-proposals was distributed electronically to all faculty, department heads, and deans April 2.

Singha says the competition offers faculty the opportunity to identify areas of focus for the University. "This is a great opportunity for faculty to drive where the University is headed in the future," he says. "It's not an administrative mandate that is driving this."

The grants will not be available for individual research projects.

"We hope to encourage collaborative interdisciplinary ventures," says Singha. "The complexity of problems is becoming greater, and the search for solutions requires people from different areas to come together."

The competition is open to all members of the University community, but the principal investigator of each project must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member. The funding can be used for hiring, to purchase equipment, or to invest in infrastructure, and may run for up to four years.

Singha says the grants may enable existing collaborations to move to a higher level, or they may fund entirely new proposals.

The competition is expected to serve as a catalyst for achieving other goals in the Academic Plan, including enhancement of the undergraduate and graduate student experience, and faculty recruitment and retention.

Proposals will be reviewed by the Academic Plan Implementation Committee, a group established recently by Provost John D. Petersen. It is expected that three or four projects will be funded in Fiscal Year 2005.

A five-page project outline is due May 14. Invitations to submit full proposals will be made by June 14. Full proposals will be due by Sept. 1. The awards will be announced by Oct. 1.

In future funding cycles, the timelines will be earlier, Singha says, to enable projects to get underway by the beginning of the fall semester.

Singha emphasizes that the review process will be conducted without bias. Each member of the committee has agreed not to submit a proposal or to play an active role in the development of a proposal.

In addition to the internal committee, a group of external evaluators may review the proposals, taking into account university-wide considerations as well as the national context.

Singha says the reviewers will also offer feedback about proposals that are not funded, so that the projects can be revised and resubmitted in a future funding cycle.

Each of the successful project leaders will be required to submit an annual report indicating how the funds are being spent.

Evaluation criteria include: the project's significance, quality, and multidisciplinary nature; the reasonableness of the budget; and the capability of the project team.

Sustainability will also be considered: "There should be some thought of how these initiatives will be sustained after the grant runs out - either with external funding or an internal reallocation of funds within a department," Singha says.

He says the primary purpose of the grants is to foster the pursuit of excellence: "We intend this to be seed money that will allow faculty to strive for excellence and move the University of Connecticut towards our aspirational peers, which include the University of Michigan, California-Berkeley, and the University of Virginia."

Those institutions achieved excellence by making strategic decisions about resource allocation, Singha adds: "They got where they are by doing certain things and doing them very well. But we're not trying to duplicate what's elsewhere. We must define our own niche."

He cites research in fuel cell technology, regenerative biology, and HIV/AIDS intervention and prevention as examples of successful collaborations that already exist on campus. Says Singha: "We have the ability to be leaders in all those areas."

The committee members are:
Jack Clausen, Natural Resources Management & Engineering;
Frank Costigliola, History;
Lynne Goodstein, Honors Program;
Skip Lowe, Psychology;
Suman Singha, chair, Office of the Provost;
Carolyn Teschke, Molecular & Cell Biology;
Judith Thorpe, Art & Art History; and
Robert Weiss, Chemical Engineering

For more information about the Academic Plan, see