University Research Council

May 10, 2006

Meeting Summary


Members of the Council met to discuss the Council’s agenda for the upcoming academic year.  Attendees focused upon several areas:

Grant Programs

Fewer faculty members applied for grants from the Central Research Development Fund (CRDF) this year than in the past.  Thirty-eight individuals applied for funding from the CRDF this year as opposed to 50 last year.  Applications to the Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program increased slightly over last year.  Thirteen individuals applied for funding from the program this year compared to eight last year.  Both programs were underutilized by the University’s faculty this year.

Multidisciplinary Research

Junior faculty members frequently are not rewarded when they conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research because the tenure and promotion review process highlights individual, discipline-specific research.  However, junior faculty can overcome this obstacle if they choose projects carefully and can isolate their contribution to the project.  The balkanization of academic disciplines, discipline-specific grant evaluation procedures, and the Federal budget crunch hamper all faculty members’ attempts to conduct multidisciplinary research.

It is best if a multidisciplinary research team has collaborated prior to responding to an RFP.  However, multidisciplinary teams at the University have coalesced during the proposal preparation process and have eventually garnered external support, even if the team is not initially funded.  The University is currently examining how it can expand upon its current collaborative relationships with industry.  Pittsburgh’s Rand office provides another opportunity for multidisciplinary, collaborative work.

The University’s faculty members frequently are not familiar with the research that other faculty members are conducting.  The existing expertise databases – FRIP in the Health Sciences and the Community of Science more generally – are not used as frequently as they could be.  Multidisciplinary work would be facilitated if faculty members could easily access the biographical sketches of their peers.  Faculty members could prepare brief biographical sketches, which would be housed on the individuals’ respective departmental web pages.  These summaries would not require frequent updates and could be linked via keywords to the University’s search engine.


Other topics of discussion included:

  • Grant-writing programs
  • NSF and NIH funding
  • Mellon Foundation funding in the Humanities
  • Targeted multidisciplinary funding opportunities