University of Pittsburgh

University Research Council

2009-2010 Activities Report


THE PROVOST’S CHARGE

James V. Maher, the University’s Provost, delivered the Council’s charge on October 13.  He asked Council members to continue to sponsor the Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program and the Central Research Development Fund.  He also asked the Council to maintain its support for the annual Federal Agencies Trip and to determine whether additional programs can enhance faculty members’ research portfolios.

Provost Maher discussed the cumulative effect of federal regulation upon academic research.  Within the University, the Office of Research, the Research Conduct and Compliance Office, and the Office of Budget and Controller administer regulatory requirements.  Externally, universities often work through the Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges to address regulatory policy.

NEXT YEAR’S AGENDA

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

  • Funding-Related Programs – Council members should continue to support the Central Research Development Fund, the Multidisciplinary Small Grants Program, and the Federal Agencies Trip.
  • Administrative Unit Reports – The Office of Research should continue to provide updates at each meeting, and other units, such as the IRB and IACUC, should periodically address the Council.
  • Office of Research Activities – Council members may wish to form a subcommittee to offer advice on changes in the Office’s operating procedures.
  • Publicizing Research – Council members can provide suggestions about which of the University’s research successes should be publicized and through which venues this should occur.

FACULTY RESEARCH ASSISTANCE

Central Research Development Fund

Forty-one 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.  Eight of 15 proposals from health science disciplines were funded, nine of 14 proposals from engineering and science disciplines were funded, and nine of 12 proposals from the humanities and social sciences were funded.

Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program

The Council sponsored the sixth 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 three proposals.  Kevin Ashley, Rebecca Hwa, and Patricia Sweeney, faculty members in the School of Law, Department of Computer Science, and Graduate School of Public Health respectively, are the investigators on the project, which is entitled Automating Comparative Analysis of Public Health Statutory Frameworks.  The Council expressed concern over the limited number of proposals and is exploring ways to expand participation.

Federal Agency Briefing Trip

On Monday, March 22nd, the Office of the Provost sponsored a series of briefing sessions during which representatives of federal agencies and academic organizations discussed opportunities for research funding.  Twenty-five members of the University of Pittsburgh’s and six members of Duquesne University’s science and engineering faculty, as well as four grant administration and other staff, attended.  Representatives of NSF directorates and divisions, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the NIH, and other organizations spoke.  The speakers provided information on discipline-specific research programs, agency contacts, and proposal review criteria.  They also discussed undergraduate research programs and joint research and educational programs.

MULTIDISCIPLINARY SMALL GRANT PROGRAM REPORTS

The Business of Humanity

John Camillus, Professor in the Katz Graduate School of Business, reported on the status of his multidisciplinary grant, which is entitled The Business of Humanity.  Faculty members from Katz, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and the School of Engineering participate in the project.  They analyze case studies drawn from firms in Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, India, Russia and the U.S.  Their project explores:

  • The short- and long-term economic and strategic advantages of “humaneness” in managerial decision making, which focuses on criteria and programs related to safety, quality, diversity, environmental sustainability, gender equality, social sustainability, integrity, ergonomics, and good design.
  • The imperative of recognizing “humankind” in innovating strategy, which recognizes the global context of decision making and draws attention to the needs and potential of markets – at the “bottom of the pyramid” – with low per capita incomes.
  • The inadequacy and potential dysfunctionality of accounting profits as a guide for managerial decision making, especially when facing crises, innovating strategy, and confronting wicked problems.

Preparation, Modification and Testing of Nanoparticles for Toxicity

Alex Star, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, reported on the status of his multidisciplinary grant project, which deals with issues related to nanoparticle toxicity (specifically carbon nanotubes).  Carbon nanotubes are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, yet stronger than steel and excellent conductors of electricity and heat.  They reinforce plastics, ceramics, and concrete; conduct electricity in electronics and energy-conversion devices; and are sensitive chemical sensors.  Dr. Star and his team discovered that carbon nanotubes deteriorate when exposed to the natural enzyme horseradish peroxidase.  These results open the door to further development of safe and natural methods of cleaning up carbon nanotube spills in the environment and the industrial or laboratory setting.  Faculty members from the Graduate School of Public Health, the School of Engineering, and the School of Arts and Sciences participate in the project.

A Program on Geriatric Research in Ambulatory and Cognitive Excellence (GRACE)

Caterina Rosano, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, reported on the status of her multidisciplinary grant project, which deals with mobility issues and aging.  Her project is entitled Geriatric Research in Ambulatory and Cognitive Excellence (GRACE).  The GRACE team uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to provide insights into the relationship between neurological aging and mobility impairment.  They studied a group of 324 community-dwelling older adults and defined the nature of brain abnormalities for specific regions and connecting tracts.  Dr. Rosano is now working with mathematicians and computer scientists to analyze the large quantity of data that her team produced.  Through this analysis, they hope to establish guidelines for improving and sustaining the quality of life for senior citizens.  Faculty members from Departments of Epidemiology, Mathematics, and Computer Science and the Center for Simulation and Modeling participate in the project.

OFFICE OF RESEARCH

Allen DiPalma, Director of the Office of Research, frequently reported on the activities of the Office.  Long-term trends, such as an overall increase in grant submissions and staffing constraints within the University, and short-term developments, including limitations within the Grants.gov system and the consequences of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, have complicated the Office’s operations.  Office staff is addressing these issues through enhanced efficiency, increased accountability, and improved communications.  InfoEd, the University’s electronic grant-management software, is being configured in a manner that furthers these goals.  The account-creation process has been re-engineered so that account numbers are created more quickly; the notice-of-award process is now electronic, whereas it previously had been paper based; staff now maintain an award activity log, which enables them and departmental administrators to track proposals more easily; and proposal-related documents are being uploaded and made available to all relevant parties.

Mr. DiPalma discussed several additional items:

Educational Activities

The Office continues to offer training to research administrators and faculty members via Research Administrators’ forums and National Council of University Research Administrators satellite broadcasts.  Mr. DiPalma uses these meetings to inform departmental research staff about an array of research-related issues.  Forums have addressed InfoEd, material transfer agreements, and Grants.gov.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The University of Pittsburgh has received a total of 350 awards representing more than $170 million of new or continued funding via the Act.  The reporting requirements associated with these grants are more complex than those for other federal grants.  The Government Accountability Office uncovered numerous circumstances in which the stimulus-related, job-creation data were not accurately reported.  The federal government provided improved guidelines in this area.

Miscellaneous

Mr. DiPalma also mentioned:

  • Conflict of interest violations at other universities
  • The material transfer agreement portal

RESEARCH-RELATED ISSUES

Jerome L. Rosenberg, Chair of the Conflict of Interest Committee, discussed conflict-of-interest issues with the Council.  Conflicts of interest – especially those of a financial nature – can threaten the integrity of a university’s research, scholarship, instruction, evaluation, and administrative functions.  To ensure that its reputation and research programs are not compromised, the University of Pittsburgh established policies – consistent with federal guidelines – that require the reporting and management of the potential conflicts of interest of its faculty and investigators (as well as administrators and staff).  All researchers are required to make periodic disclosures of outside remunerative activities related to their University responsibilities.  They must disclose ownership of equity; positions of management; remunerative services, such as consulting and speaking; intellectual property (IP), such as patents or copyrights; and royalties, actual or potential, from licensed IP.

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

Humanities-Related Scholarship

Dr. Klinzing is working with humanities-based scholars to encourage them to incorporate computer-based analysis into their scholarship.  An increasing number of scholars use these methods in their work.  He has met with the relevant departmental chairs and other key individuals to discuss this topic.

NIST Award

The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a $15 million grant to the University.  These funds will help improve nanoscience and other research facilities in the Departments of Physics and Geology and Planetary Sciences.

Publication of Federally Funded Research

All peer-reviewed manuscripts arising from NIH funds must be made publicly available on PubMed Central, the NIH’s digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed manuscripts and articles.  The NSF may soon require individuals, who publish the results of NSF-funded research, to deposit their papers into a publically accessible, electronic repository.  Other federal agencies may follow suit.

Responsible Conduct of Research

The NSF now requires undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who perform NSF-funded research to undertake research integrity training.  The University is employing the University's Internet Studies in Education and Research's (lSER) Research Integrity Module to meet the NSF mandate.

MISCELLANEOUS

Conflict of Interest Policy

The draft Conflict of Interest policy was slightly revised to address several, previously unforeseen issues.  The Council approved the changes to the draft policy and forwarded it to other, University officials and governing bodies for review.

DAAD Trip Report

Dr. Klinzing discussed his recent trip to Germany, which was sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).  Trip participants learned about renewable-energy research and education at German academic institutions and met with potential research and student-exchange partners.

Science 2009

Science 2009 was held on Thursday and Friday, October 14 and 15.  Drs. Victor Ambros, Michael Grätzel, Cori Bargmann, and Bruce Beutler were the plenary speakers.  The event also included an undergraduate research poster reception, a Google sky-map demonstration, and a life-science supplier show.

Other Topics of Interest

Council members discussed several other issues during the academic year.  They included:

  • Time management records and federal grants
  • Implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act
  • Brainstorming for multidisciplinary projects
  • The University’s new guidelines on data management
  • Intellectual property policy
  • Increased federal regulatory burdens
  • The new University research profile

MEMBERS

Chair

George E. Klinzing, Vice Provost for Research

 

 

Representing the

 

School of Arts and Sciences

Jeffrey Brodsky

 

Jana Iverson

 

Jonathan Rubin

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

Louise Comfort

Graduate School of Public Health

Stephen Wisniewski

Office of the Provost

Nicole Constable, SAS

 

Carrie Leana, KGSB

 

Hidenori Yamatani, Social Work

School of Dental Medicine

Charles Sfeir

School of Engineering

Mark Redfern

 

Jeff Vipperman

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Katherine Verdolini

School of Information Sciences

Ellen Detlefsen

School of Law

David Harris

School of Medicine

Charles McTiernan

 

Christopher O’Donnell

 

Jennifer Woodward

School of Nursing

Janice S. Dorman

School of Pharmacy

Dexi Liu

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Gregory L. Page

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

Steven Stern

University Senate

Sanford Asher, SAS

 

Carol Redmond, GSPH