University of Pittsburgh

University Research Council

2011-2012 Activities Report


On October 13, Provost Patricia Beeson delivered the Council’s charge.  She asked Council members to:


Brainstorming Sessions

The Provost’s Office and the URC sponsored two brainstorming sessions, during which humanities and social sciences faculty members discussed how to apply for funding in these fields.  The session on humanities funding took place on January 31, and the session on social sciences funding took place on February 8.

Central Research Development Fund

Sixty-four 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.  Nine of 19 proposals from health science disciplines were funded, nine of 21 proposals from engineering and science disciplines were funded, and 10 of 24 proposals from the humanities and social sciences were funded.

Federal Agency Briefing Trip

On Monday, March 26th, the Office of the Provost sponsored a series of briefing sessions during which representatives of federal agencies discussed opportunities for research funding.  Twenty-six members of the University of Pittsburgh’s and three members of Duquesne University’s science and engineering faculty, as well as three 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.

Multidisciplinary Projects

The Provost’s Office and the URC convened teams to explore three multidisciplinary research projects: quantum information science, synthetic biology, and engineered materials.  Each team was subsequently funded.  Two newly assembled teams are now discussing several additional topics: wisdom and aging and sustainability and energy.


Allen DiPalma, Director of the Office of Research, discussed a number of items that are related to the Office’s operations:

·         An Office of Research portal is now located on  It provides links to information that researchers and research administrators regularly use.

·         The Office continues to solicit evaluations of its operations from research administrators and faculty members.

·         The Office is developing a research administration certificate program that will be geared to administrators.

·         Many proposals still arrive late so Office of Research Staff do not have time to trouble-shoot them.

He also discussed several miscellaneous issues:

·         OMB’s A-21 task force is discussing how to reduce the administrative burden associated with completing the form.

·         Those ARRA grants that had been scheduled to go beyond September 30, 2013, must be completed prior to that date.

·         The salaries of secretaries and clerks are usually treated as indirect costs, not charged as direct costs, except under special circumstances.


Department of Environmental Health and Safety

Jay Frerotte, Director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), discussed his department’s activities.  He described EHS Programs as a set of tools to prevent contamination of cultures and/or reagents, loss of experimental integrity, personal injury, and environmental release.  EHS programs establish safety controls (i.e. engineering control, personal protective equipment, and SOPs) for biohazardous material, chemical hygiene, physical hazards, lasers, and ergonomics.  Mr. Frerotte also discussed recent accidents at Texas Tech and UCLA.

Export Controls

Allen DiPalma, Director of the Office of Research and the University’s Export Control Officer, discussed export controls.  Exports are defined as the transfer of controlled technology, information, equipment, software or services to a foreign person in the U.S. or abroad.  Export control laws are devised to: restrict exports of goods and technology that could contribute to the military potential of adversaries; prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, or chemical); prevent terrorism; and ensure compliance with U.S. trade agreements and trade sanctions against other nations. 

Internal Audit Department

John Elliot, Director of Internal Audit, discussed his office’s operations.  The Internal Audit Department’s mission is to provide assurance and consulting services that improve the University’s operations.  It helps the University to accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.  The Internal Audit Department provides valuable support in maintaining the confidence of the University’s constituencies by performing independent and objective reviews and by reporting to administrative and academic officers on their findings so that corrective actions can be initiated.

Open Access

Rush Miller, Director of the University Library System (ULS), discussed open access.  Open access is a family of copyright licensing policies under which copyright owners make their works available publicly.  A growing number of publishers have adopted these policies and now allow placement of authors’ publications in an institutional repository.  In the University of Pittsburgh’s case, articles will be made available via D Scholarship@Pitt.  The ULS established the Office of Scholarly Communications and Publishing, which will deposit the scholarly works on behalf of University authors.  The Office will gather bibliographic information about each work, record this information in D Scholarship, and seek permission from the publisher to deposit the author’s paper in the repository. 


Matthias Grabmair, a graduate student researcher in the Intelligent Systems Program, reported on the status of a multidisciplinary grant, which is entitled Automating Comparative Analysis of Public Health Statutory Frameworks.  He is working with Kevin Ashley, Professor in the School of Law; Patricia Sweeney, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School Public Health; and Rebecca Hwa, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science.  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 principal investigators have focused initially upon Pennsylvania.  They will later attempt to replicate their results with a study of statutory law in California.


Council members discussed several other issues.  They included:

Conflict of Interest Policy

The U.S. Public Health Service published a new policy that will require the University to revise its conflict of interest policy.  Revisions will primarily affect NIH-funded investigators.  The policy will be altered in the following areas: the definition of a financial conflict of interest; remuneration from outside non-profit organizations; changes in the threshold for reporting remuneration; the timing of updated disclosures; and training requirements.

Research Internship Program

Many universities, the University of Pittsburgh included, cannot recruit enough talented individuals to support the staffing requirements of upper level research administration.  The Office of the Provost is developing a program to rectify this situation.  The goal of the program is to train individuals in research administration so that they can subsequently assume research-related administrative jobs at the University.  Interns will rotate through the Health Sciences, the Office of Research, Finance/Accounting, and school departments.

Star Metrics

The University will participate in Star Metrics, a multi-agency venture led by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  There are two phases to the program. The first phase will use university administrative records to calculate the employment impact of federal science spending through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and agencies' existing budgets. The second phase will measure the impact of science investment in four key areas: economic growth, workforce outcomes, scientific knowledge, and social outcomes.

Council members also covered:

·         Academic analytics, a provider of academic business intelligence data

·         The University’s module on research integrity

·         NIH reporting

·         The new NIH salary cap

·         The intellectual property policy

·         Conflict of Interest forms

·         The Middle States evaluation

·         State-level funding cuts

·         The President’s 21st century grand challenges

·         A NIST-sponsored manufacturing initiative



George E. Klinzing, Vice Provost for Research



Representing the


School of Arts and Sciences

Stephen Carr


Walter Carson


Jana Iverson


Jonathan Rubin


Louise Comfort

Graduate School of Public Health

Stephen Wisniewski

Office of the Provost

Carrie Leana, KGSB


Hidenori Yamatani, Social Work

School of Dental Medicine

Charles Sfeir

School of Engineering

Richard Debski

Kent Harries


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

Annette Dabbs

School of Pharmacy

Dexi Liu

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

William Schumann

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

Steven Stern

University Senate

Sanford Asher, SAS

Carol Redmond, GSPH