Monthly Archives: November 2012

Complex NIH Proposals

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released it’s first funding opportunity for a complex application that can be submitted electronically. The published timeline shows that all proposals will be submitted electronically starting early 2014. This is a gigantic leap forward for the NIH and welcome news, as anyone who has put together a P or U grant together can tell you.

One important aspect of this transition affects proposal graphic production. (Remember that proposals should always be prepared according to the sponsor guidelines.) Graphics function to explain technically challenging concepts, convey the synthesis or overarching goals of the proposed project, and generally, provide visual message that reinforces the proposal text. However, on standard electronic submissions, many investigators create graphics without much thought to reproduction beyond the initial reviewer print out. Investigators who have prepared graphics for complex proposals (like those NIH P’s and U’s) have tended to be more conservative in their approach. Often, these complex proposals were printed and then copied 4 – 7 times prior to submission. There was always a need to prepare graphics such that they can be easily copied from copies (repeatedly and in black and white) and remain legible. With electronic submission of complex proposals, and indeed, the increasing prevalence of electronic submissions across sponsors, graphic production will focus more on composition and less on reproducibility, increasing the quality of the graphics and decreasing the time spent on non-essential copy tests. This will be a benefit to proposers and reviewers both!

Do you have a good graphics tip or trick?


President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

PCAST to Release Report on Future of the Research Enterprise. On Friday, November 30, the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will hold a meeting to discuss IT R&D, STEM Education, and Online Courses. In addition, it will release a new report entitled Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise. The report will address “specific opportunities for the Federal Government, universities, and industry to strengthen the U.S. research enterprise.”

Date: November 30, 2012

Time: 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Location: Lecture Room of the National Academy of Sciences  Building, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW ,  Washington, D.C.

Register to attend this public event here.

View the live webcast here.

Collaboration tools

For the purposes of this discussion, collaboration tools are defined as software or hardware that enables the connection of people united in a common goal: to deliver a winning proposal.

For many investigators, collaboration on a proposal can be easily achieved through a simple phone call or stroll down the hall. However, as networks increase in complexity and size, we’re finding that more often than not, we need to connect using electronic tools to draft a proposal.

Available tools are dynamic. This ever changing environment usually works in your favor, as the best tools usually percolate to the top of everyone’s list. It is important to ask around, search online, and most importantly – TEST (repeatedly) – potential tools over time, at scale, and for different projects. Also, be open to a combination of tools.

As you proceed to identify and try collaboration tools, consider the following:

  • The desired outcome should drive which collaborative tool you employ (e.g., whitepaper, proposal, contract, pre-solicitation discussion). A traditional proposal that requires draft reviews, document collection requires more up front face to face discussion followed by content generation.
  • Consider existing infrastructure, technology policy, and culture. Must documents and discussions be confidential or otherwise secure? Will collaborators tend to provide more information in written or oral form? Will collaborating institution have firewalls that prevent certain platforms from being effective?

A sample (not exhaustive or inclusive) of collaboration tools I have used and a quick review of how they work:

Adobe Connect: Allows for connecting via video (depending on the bandwidth), recording a meeting for distribution, live sharing of documents (all formats), but doesn’t allow for documents to be associated with the meeting post-event. At ASU, you must request an account. You should also be prepared with a teleconference line as an audio back up. A webbased platform that allows for sharing documents and discussions on those documents. Document folders and documents can be managed for security, however, this is done through individuals signing up for an account to use the service. Navigating the email alerts is challenging, especially if you have more than one project going at a time. The platform relies on applications (many are third party) to expand it’s services. There isn’t a calendaring function with individual accounts.

SharePoint: Requires an enterprise level commitment. Some ASU departments have adopted the platform, but not all. External partners find it somewhat challenging to access. The look and feel is not optimal, but it provides calendars, task lists, document version control, and discussions.

DropBox: Downloaded locally, free, and provides adequate space for documents. Does require a version control system to be designed and imposed by users. Useful for documents only.

GoogleDocs: Allows for calendaring, concurrent editing of documents, it’s ubiquitous, user friendly, but collaborators must have an email account to be added (usually not a problem), security isn’t high, and participants must go to the site to participant (as opposed to receiving updates in their inbox).

LinkedIn: Creating a group in LinkedIn is one way to include professional networking as part of the collaboration experience. Groups can share documents and create active discussions. Information is delivered daily or weekly to a member’s email inbox. Document sharing is limited however.

What collaboration tools do you find work well and why?

Federal Support Declining for Academic Research, Universities Face Challenges with Budget Constraint

The Congressional Research Service recently published findings on the current conditions of federal support of academic research, highlighting the threat that constrained university, state and federal budgets places on critical basic research.

Read more…

LightWorks Inaugural Lecture Series – Mike Tamor, Ford Motor Company – Monday, November 19

OKED is pleased to announce the LightWorks Inaugural Lecture Series and invite you to join us for the first sessions on Monday, November 19. There are three opportunities in one day for ASU students, faculty and staff, as well as industry partners, community leaders and policy makers to engage with our guest speaker – Mike Tamor.

Michael A. Tamor is the Executive Technical Leader of Energy Systems and Sustainability with Ford Motor Company. He leads Ford’s research on hybrid-electric vehicle and electric vehicle propulsion technologies. During his visit to Arizona he will be conducting the following sessions at ASU on November 19:

To learn more about these opportunities and to RSVP, please visit the event webpage…..