University of Pittsburgh

University Research Council

2006-2007 Activities Report


On October 13, Provost Jim Maher delivered the Council charge.  He asked the Council to:

  • Continue to sponsor the Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program and the Central Research Development Fund.
  • Continue to sponsor seminars that deal with various aspects of proposal and grant writing.
  • Work with faculty members from the humanities disciplines to increase postdoctoral funding.
  • Continue to sponsor the annual Federal Agencies Trip, which enables the University’s faculty members to interact with project managers from federal agencies.
  • Examine how the University can maintain or enhance current levels of federal, industry, state, and foundation research funding.

The Provost also asked the Council to consider how the University can best harness its research resources, human and otherwise, so that it can define research questions for the nation.  He wishes to create a process through which the University can identify future, cutting-edge research questions and the individuals at the University who are best equipped to address them.


Members of the Council met on May 2 to create an agenda for the upcoming academic year.  Areas of interest included:

  • faculty research interest databases
  • humanities funding
  • animal-based research
  • cutting-edge research
  • purchasing procedures


Central Research Development Fund

Fifty-nine faculty members submitted proposals to the Central Research Development Fund.  Applications were evaluated by one of three Council subcommittees, whose members specialize in the health sciences, the sciences and engineering, and the humanities and the social sciences.  Ten of 16 proposals from health science disciplines were funded, nine of 20 proposals from engineering and science disciplines were funded, and eleven of 23 proposals from humanities and social science disciplines were funded.

Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program

The Council sponsored the third annual Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program.  The program is designed to enhance opportunities for the University’s faculty to engage in multidisciplinary research, scholarship, and creative endeavors.  The program encourages faculty members with different skills and training to address complex problems that span the humanities, social sciences, engineering, physical sciences, and/or the biological and health sciences.  The Council funded one of the nine proposals.  David Waldeck, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry, will be the principal investigator on the project, which is entitled Development of Pallet Arrays for High-Throughput Screening of Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity.

Federal Agency Briefing Trip

Sixteen members of the University of Pittsburgh’s and seven members of Duquesne University’s social science and education faculty, as well as nine grant administration and other staff, participated in this year’s annual federal agencies’ briefing trip.  Representatives of NSF, NIH and several other health-related agencies, USAID, the Department of Education, the American Psychological Association, and NASULGC spoke at the March 19 meeting.  The speakers provided information on discipline-specific research programs, agency contacts, and proposal review criteria.  They also discussed undergraduate research programs, joint research and educational programs, and teacher education programs.


Council members previously decided to simplify the Central Research Development Fund’s proposal submission and evaluation process.  They suggested that CRDF proposals be submitted, distributed, and reviewed electronically.  Tony Polley, a member of the CSSD staff, worked with Council members to design an online form and the associated electronic submission and review procedures.  Council members were generally pleased with the online process, but they suggested several changes, both to the application itself and to the procedures.  The form and the procedures will be altered accordingly.


Work Discretion, Job Crafting, and Turnover in the Child Care Industry

Carrie Leana, Professor in the Katz Graduate School of Business, is the lead investigator on a multidisciplinary small grant project that deals with work discretion in the childcare industry.  Professor Leana has compiled data on childcare providers in five types of preschool institutions in Allegheny County.  She used focus groups, surveys, and interviews to gather information from childcare center directors, teachers, and teachers’ aids.  Professor Leana is working with researchers at Rutgers University to expand the scope of the study within and possibly beyond the United States.

Multidisciplinary Research Program on Suffering

Richard Schulz, Director of the University Center for Social and Urban Research, is the lead investigator on a multidisciplinary grant project on suffering.  Individuals from six departments and several interdisciplinary centers participate in the project.  Dr. Schulz discussed problems related to defining, conceptualizing, and measuring suffering.  He and his team developed a comprehensive measure that they are using in preliminary studies.  He also discussed the implications of this research.


Allen DiPalma, Director of the Office of Research, frequently reported on the activities of the Office.  Milestones and achievements often were announced.  The following is a breakdown by area:

Electronic Research Administration

The Office of Research released the first module of the University’s internal grants management program, which uses InfoEd software, during the summer.  This module captures all relevant pre-award and immediate post-award information.  The second module will support electronic reporting and tracking capabilities.  The Office of Research currently is implementing this module.

The, the federal government’s new Internet-based, grant-application site, is designed to improve access to federal funding programs.  Twenty-six federal agencies eventually will require investigators to submit grants via  The Office of Research offers a training program that teaches faculty and staff how to utilize the site.  The Office sponsors computer-based training and a monthly open forum.  Departments and schools can request more targeted training.

The NIH is transitioning to the system more quickly than most agencies.  The NIH now requires that some (including R01) proposals be submitted via the site.  The University requires applicants to submit their proposals to the Office of Research 10 days prior to the NIH’s deadlines.  During the most recent round of submissions, faculty members submitted 84 grant applications via the website.  Fifty-two of these proposals were submitted to the NIH.  Researchers experienced few problems. 


Other topics of discussion included:

  • Export controls
  • Intellectual property
  • Publication restrictions
  • Effort reporting on NIH and NSF grants
  • Coordinating limited submission proposals


Undergraduate Research

Sheila Rathke, Assistant Provost for Strategic and Program Development, discussed undergraduate research at the University.  The University is coordinating and publicizing undergraduate research to a greater degree than it has in the past.  Ms. Rathke is developing an informational campaign to highlight the quality of the University’s undergraduate academic programs and to define these programs vis-ŕ-vis the University’s peers.  Target audiences include current and potential students, students’ parents, faculty, and alumni.  The University possesses several advantages compared to other schools: the University is relatively small in size for a comprehensive research university; it offers undergraduate students access to medical school researchers; and it possesses a low student-teacher ratio.

Technology Transfer and Academic Research

Carey Balaban, Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, discussed issues related to technology transfer and academic research.  He contrasted the traditional role of scientist as scholar with the developing role of scientist as entrepreneur.  Scientists are more involved in entrepreneurial activities because they now conduct more translational (as opposed to pure) research.  Marketable goods often are the outcome of this research.  Traditional academic norms, which are expressed via unrestricted information dissemination and scientific collaboration, now frequently conflict with business-oriented norms, which are expressed via “collegial” nondisclosure agreements, conflict-of-interest guidelines, and intellectual property policies.


Members of the Council discussed several recurring issues during the academic year.  These issues included:

Fringe Benefit Rates

The current fringe benefit rate for the University’s graduate student employees is 50 percent of a graduate student researcher’s salary.  Council members discussed the relationship between the fringe benefit rate, University finances, and faculty research within the context of potentially reduced federal funding for academic research

The Bayh-Dole Act

The Bayh-Dole Act, also known as the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act, awards control over intellectual property to organizations that discover novel devices and products via federally funded research.  The Act applies to U.S. universities, small businesses, and non-profit organizations.



George E. Klinzing, Vice Provost for Research



Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Kay Brummond


Jeffrey Cohn


Susan Gilbert

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

John Mendeloff

Graduate School of Public Health

Stephen Wisniewski

Office of the Provost

Nicole Constable, FAS


Ravi Madhavan, KGSB


Hidenori Yamatani, Social Work

School of Dental Medicine

Mary Marazita

School of Engineering

Peyman Givi


Mike Lovell

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Rory A. Cooper

School of Information Sciences

Michael Lewis

School of Law

Lawrence Frolik

School of Medicine

Brian Davis


Anuradha Ray


Chuanyue (Cary) Wu

School of Nursing

Janice S. Dorman

School of Pharmacy

Dexi Liu

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Gregory L. Page

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

John Mullennix

University Senate

Juan Manfredi, FAS


Carol Redmond, GSPH