In a massive move towards becoming more competitive in university research, the University of Oregon has put its faith in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, or OVPRI.
The OVPRI extended its resources to help faculty conduct even more research at the University of Oregon. These changes are aimed to improve the University of Oregon’s national ranking and attract external funding for the university.
“Research helps foster education. That’s one piece of our mission as a university,” said David Conover, vice president of research and innovation. “The next piece of it is to advance knowledge and advancing knowledge in many disciplines requires external funds.”
The OVPRI provides several services to researchers at the university, including applying for the legal rights to research ideas, drafting proposals for grants and fellowships and reducing administrative overhead costs. The office is also improving facilities and resources on campus.
Conover presented developments the OVPRI is implementing at the university Senate meeting last Wednesday. You can read more about them online.
The changes to come include new facilities and resources, such as a high-performance computer called Talapas and high-speed internet to make high-speed data processing at the university much faster. Data processing typically takes a long time, according to Conover. The internet should be up and running by late May.
According to Conover, the OVPRI expanded its “seed grant” program this year. A seed grant is a smaller money award, usually around $50,000, to kickstart a research project to make it more eligible for larger grants from companies or institutions outside the university.
The OVPRI promoted this program and received “around 20” applications for seed grants this year, Conover said.
The UO Center for Environmental Futures was awarded $600,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation earlier this month. The center received a seed grant from the OVPRI to start their research that later led to their award.
The university also created incentive awards for the graduate students to apply for fellowships and grants as well. Postdoctoral student of psychology, Caitlin Bowman, was awarded $2,000 for submitting an application for a fellowship.
“The Vice President’s Research and Innovations office had an incentive award for submitting the fellowship that I actually received,” Bowman said.
The OVPRI also began a partnership with the Oregon Health Science University to create collaborative grant opportunities between UO and OHSU. The grant will work like the seed grants, but candidates are eligible to apply from both UO and OHSU and the universities will share their resources. Around 40 applications came in for the program’s first year a few weeks ago and will be reviewed by both OHSU and UO. The winner will be announced in late May.
Professor of computer science Dejing Dou, who has conducted five research projects at UO, said that receiving funding at the university for projects is “very competitive” and time consuming.
Dou went on to say that he thinks the structural changes to research at the university from the OVPRI are going to help attract top graduate students and postdoctoral students to UO.
Funding for the OVPRI is primarily from federal returns of external grants, according to Conover. When the university conducts research, they receive a federal return for the resources they use. They don’t receive any money from student tuition.
According to Conover, another exciting development is the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerated Scientific Impact.The Knight Campus is not a project of the the OVPRI, but the office will provide aid and resources for its research endeavors, just as it aids various other colleges on campus.
Conover said the university has not experienced a change in research this great in several years.
“In recent history, this is the biggest thing by far,” Conover said.