University of Pittsburgh

University Research Council

2010-2011 Activities Report


On October 14, Patricia E. Beeson, the University’s Provost, delivered the Council’s charge.  She asked Council members to continue to sponsor the Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program, the Central Research Development Fund, and the annual Washington, D.C., Federal Agencies Trip.  Council members also should work with the Office of Research as it explores trends in research administration and, more generally, explore how to enhance the University’s research infrastructure. 


Central Research Development Fund

Fifty-eight 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.  Seven of 18 proposals from health science disciplines were funded, nine of 23 proposals from engineering and science disciplines were funded, and eleven of 17 proposals from the humanities and social sciences were funded.

Multidisciplinary Small Grant Program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently expressed interest in several projects of interest to University researchers.  The agency is exploring how to apply immunology models to cybersecurity, how to minimize the complexity of manufacturing models, and how to use social networks to enhance problem solving.  The Provost’s Office sponsored teams, which included members of the Council, to discuss how best to approach these topics.

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 in the social sciences and education.  Twenty-one individuals from the University of Pittsburgh and 10 individuals from Duquesne University attended.  Representatives of NSF directorates and divisions, the NIH, the Department of Education, 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.


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.  The project explores the following proposition: Strategic decision making that employs criteria falling under the rubric of "humanity" leads to superior economic performance.

There are three bases and motivations for the project:

  • 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.

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.

Automating Comparative Analysis of Public Health Statutory Frameworks

Kevin Ashley, Professor in the School of Law, reported on the status of his multidisciplinary grant, which is entitled Automating Comparative Analysis of Public Health Statutory Frameworks.  He is working with Patricia Sweeney, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Public Health; Rebecca Hwa, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science; and Matthias Grabmair, a graduate student researcher in the Intelligent Systems Program.  They are comparing how states’ laws governing agents in the public health system either facilitate or frustrate each system’s ability to plan for and respond to public health emergencies.  The project has two goals, to determine:

  • Whether a computer program, trained on manually-coded examples, can automatically encode statutes for purposes of comparisons in this public health domain;
  • What can one learn from a comparison of the laws of different states with respect to health system emergency preparedness and response.

The principal investigators will focus initially upon Pennsylvania.  They will later attempt to replicate their results with a study of statutory law in California.


Allen DiPalma, Director of the Office of Research, discussed changes to the Office of Research’s operations.  InfoEd, the University’s electronic grant-management software, is being configured to support these changes:

InfoEd Proposal-Tracking Module

The proposal development module will enable researchers to create, review and submit grant applications and contracts via a web interface. This module will help investigators to route a proposal electronically through the University’s internal signature process and will permit them to submit the proposal electronically to the sponsoring agency.  The Office currently is working with several departments to test the proposal development module.  The Office of Research previously deployed the proposal tracking module. 

InfoEd MTA Module

InfoEd worked with several universities, including the University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins University, to create a web interface through which faculty members can submit electronic material transfer agreement requests.  The module is now complete and is being rolled out to the University community.  Office of Research staff hope to reduce the data entry burden, improve administrative transparency, and shorten processing time.

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 and faculty members about an array of research-related issues.  The Office of Research has begun to sponsor open forums entitled “Ask the Office of Research” and will soon install an in-house training room, which will enable its staff to train research administrators in various procedures 

Office Reorganization

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 system and the consequences of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, have complicated the Office’s operations.  An external consultant is helping Office staff address these issues through personnel reorganization, enhanced efficiency, increased accountability, and improved communications. 


Campus Construction

Several infrastructure-related projects are currently underway on and off campus.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology provided $15 million to help the University develop new nanoscience and experimental physics laboratories.  Work continues on the Department of Chemistry annex, which will add 12,000 square feet of research space.  The Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology moved into new facilities in the Bakery Square development.

Other Items

Members of the Council also discussed:

  • Cuts in the NSF and NIH budgets
  • The NSF’s IGERT program
  • Congressional perceptions of university research
  • NIH changes in conflict of interest rules




George E. Klinzing, VP for Research



Representing the


School of Arts and Sciences

Walter Carson


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

Richard Debski


Mark Redfern

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Nancy Baker

School of Information Sciences

Michael Lewis

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