The Resource Allocation Program at the University of California, San Francisco: Getting More from Intramural Funding Bucks

By Volpe, Emanuela; Kiser, Gretchen et al. | Journal of Research Administration, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

The Resource Allocation Program at the University of California, San Francisco: Getting More from Intramural Funding Bucks


Volpe, Emanuela, Kiser, Gretchen, Henry, Roland, Giacomini, Kathy, Volberding, Paul, Waldman, Frederic, Lowenstein, Daniel, Journal of Research Administration


Introduction

Intramural funding programs within both large and small research institutions are an essential mechanism to foster collaborative, novel, and preliminary research activity, as well as further institutional research strategic goals. Seed or pilot funding has been critical to individual research efforts, enabling researchers to establish experimental feasibility and generate preliminary data for more mature grant submission efforts. As Balaji and colleagues noted in their study, receipt of internal awards of even $20,000 can serve to jumpstart research projects and their subsequent higher-level funding (Balaji, Knisely, and Blazyk, 2007). Research institutions and their associated individual programs and departments can utilize such internal funding mechanisms to strategically support specific areas of research. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), like many large research institutions, has many internal funding programs sponsored by private foundations, large National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding-based centers, departments, and schools.

At most research institutions, intramural funding opportunities are run independently of each other. In 2007, UCSF developed an intramural funding opportunity management program that accommodates multiple funding agencies/programs and grant mechanisms, simultaneously offering much added value to the campus-wide intramural funding enterprise. Having determined that good models for efficient intramural funding opportunity management did not exist at similar institutions, the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) proposed, through funding from its NIH CTSA grant (PI-Dr. Joseph McCune), to establish the Strategic Opportunities Support (SOS) Center that would support a seed grant funding program. The SOS Center developed an initial infrastructure for this seed funding program that allowed for efficient publicity, application and review of seed funding proposals. We soon realized this infrastructure could be utilized more broadly across the campus.

In an effort to support the most promising novel research ideas and young investigators, as well as the work of established investigators and internationally recognized faculty, the SOS Center further improved its initial infrastructure for the distribution of seed funds. The new, improved infrastructure, based in part on the NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR), was named the Resource Allocation Program (RAP) and was launched in the fall of 2007- In 2011, RAP was placed under the centralized management of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provosts Office in order to realize the objective of supporting the entire campus and additional funding programs. The SOS Center continues its mission within CTSI and participates in the RAP consortium.

RAP is a campus-wide program responsible for coordinating intramural research funding opportunities. RAP serves as a consortium composed of numerous (currendy 16; see Figure 1) UCSF funding agencies that may share overlapping goals while maintaining full autonomy over their funding mechanisms and awardees. (At UCSF, major funding programs are often referred to as "funding agencies".) This cooperative venture between RAP and UCSF funding agencies awards nearly $5 million per year to UCSF faculty and distributed 145 awards during F Y 20122013RAP is designed to harmonize the award process by providing a standardized, centralized, and transparent process for the submission, review, and tracking of intramural research funding. This single-application process allows for a more efficient and cost-effective approach.

Prior to the 2007 establishment of RAP, each UCSF funding agency ran independent competitions. A researcher had to navigate several websites to find out what funding opportunities were available and then face multiple deadlines, scattered across the entire academic year, in order to submit applications via primarily a "paper" or manual submission process. …

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