University Research Council

February 14, 2006

Meeting Summary

Conducting Cutting-Edge Research

Dennis McBride, Director of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, addressed the Council.  He discussed federal funding sources and cutting-edge and interdisciplinary research.  Dr. McBride stressed interpersonal and institutional approaches to acquiring and increasing federal research funding:

Dr. McBride outlined two models of federal funding: the peer-review approach and the “red-meat” approach.  The former model is traditionally used by the NIH and the NSF.  However, personal relationships, professional reputation, and inside information are subjective elements that can alter the objectivity associated with peer review.  The latter model is frequently used by DARPA.  Program officers will subject proposals and white papers to rigorous review, but they have greater leeway in committing funds to projects and need not necessarily follow the traditional proposal-submission process.

Dr. McBride also discussed trends in interdisciplinary scholarship.  Nanotechnology, energy, the social sciences and national security, and genetic approaches to the sciences are up-and-coming interdisciplinary topics.  Dr. McBride highlighted four obstacles to this type of research: