Research Support Program (RSP)

Note: The RSP for the spring semester 2021 is to be viewed as a pilot program that will provide the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPRED) an opportunity to experience a small-scale version of a larger intramural award program before a long-term commitment to the award program is made. The pilot provides a platform to test what works and what does not. It allows for an adjustment to the strategy for full-scale implementation hopefully in the fall of 2021. The pilot is flexible enough to adapt as uptake or information increases.

The Research Support Program (RSP)  is intended to be an annual cycle funding program to foster the development and growth of innovative and transformational research activities. The RSP builds on faculty expertise, stimulates interdisciplinary collaborations and strengthens seed research activities.

The RSP is a strategically focused Auburn University investment strategy that promotes promising and impactful new lines of research as well as the growth of collaborative and/or interdisciplinary teams to build the foundations of science, to overcome scientific and societal challenges and to promote and enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities. Research activities supported by the RSP will have a strong potential to attract extramural funding for sustained research efforts. The program will also enhance the visibility and recognition of our faculty and institution. Investing in the RSP supports the University’s strategic plan by elevating research and scholarly impact to address society’s critical issues and promote economic development in Alabama and beyond, investing in the outstanding people who advance the university’s mission, and providing an elevated Auburn experience for our students.

The RSP includes the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines as well as the medical, life, health and social sciences. However, collaborative roles with creative work and social impact scholarship disciplines are also strongly encouraged.

The RSP is primarily designed to support the initiation and development of research efforts leading to extramural funding and the further establishment of Auburn University as an innovative and transformative research institution.

The primary ROI for projects under the RSP is the submission and award of extramurally funded research proposals. It is anticipated that the extramural funding ROI will be reasonably proportional to the RSP funding provided for projects. It is understood that the extramural funding ROI may not be fully realized within the performance period of funded projects.

It is also recognized that establishing Auburn University as a prominent research institution with researchers that are recognized leaders in various research fields is also a significant ROI.

Other ROI elements might include, but are not limited to:

  • publications and significant presentations
  • technology transfer/patents
  • publicity/visibility of Auburn University in the field of research
  • awards and fellowships related to program of scholarship
  • industry sponsorship

The impact of the RSP will primarily be measured against key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to extramural funding activity, prominent outcomes, e.g., peer-review publications, and increased visibility and recognition of Auburn as a research institution.

University's Statement of Principal Investigator Eligibility

Exceptions or modifications to PI eligibility for a specific project will be determined by reviewing ADRs.

All key personnel of a proposal must be in compliance with reporting requirements of prior internal funding.

An individual may only be the corresponding person on one proposal submitted to the RSP or the CWSIS.

NOTE for the spring 2021 semester: The OVPRED will fund external reviews for up to five (5) proposals from each constituent school or college that participates in the intramural award programs (i.e., across RSP and CWSIS combined). In addition, the OVPRED will fund between eight (8) and 12 proposals from both the RSP Program and the CWSIS Program in toto, not per program. This first year being a pilot program, the five-proposal limit and the proposal funding cap will allow the OVPRED to evaluate the services availed during the proposal review process and focus resources for a larger program in the fall.

This program element is intended to support pilot and/or initiation research activities of new, small-scale, innovative lines of research for the advancement of proposals to extramural funding opportunities.

This element is also intended to support efforts to strengthen unfunded extramural proposals receiving high review rankings.

While the primary intent of this element is to support new, innovative research, that currently has no extramural support, proposals for bridge or gap funding of established research projects will be considered with relevant justification.

Proposals may request up to $25k from the OVPRED with a 1:1 anticipated matching contribution between the OVPRED and the College(s)/School(s)/Department(s).

Funding may be requested for up to two years. (Limited no-cost extensions are possible under certain circumstances)

Application Process
To apply, go to the Auburn University Competition Space (InfoReady), scroll down and click on the RSP Application. In the top right column of the page click on “Apply”. You will be taken to the AU login screen. First-time users will need to click on “Register” in the lower right corner of the login screen using their Auburn University Login. Once you have set up your account, the application will open. Follow the instructions for completing your application. Using the Save as Draft feature at the bottom of the application allows you to save your application and return to complete it as needed. You will need to check the Applicant Acknowledgment box at the end of the application every time you save for future input and when you submit. When you are ready to submit, click on “Submit Application” and the routing process will begin. Please note that once you click submit, no further edits can be made.

Online Instructions
You will see that the following instructions are incorporated into the InfoReady System for each corresponding section. Applicants may complete their applications as time permits and save the information and data entered in draft form prior to completing their submission.

Format Requirements

  • All Margins – 1 inch
  • Font Size – 12 point, Times New Roman
  • Single-spaced, 8.5 x 11-inch pages
  • Pages should be numbered

Proposal Title
A descriptive project title, suitable for publication on our public web site - See  Auburn University Competition Space

Applicant Details
Name, position, and department of all key personnel – See Auburn University Competition Space

Compliance
Does your proposal require Compliance Approvals? You will select none or all that apply. (All research must be conducted in compliance with Federal and University Regulations.) Compliance letters and protocols are not needed at the time of proposal submission. However, funds will not be released for awarded projects until a notice of compliance approval is received from the Office of Research Compliance.

Previous Funding
Have you previously submitted this proposal (or any portion of this proposal) for Intramural Funding? In the case of an affirmative response to this question, please provide the PI name, year awarded, and competition name.

Project Abstract
A 250-word maximum description of the project for a sophisticated lay audience, suitable for publication on our web site. The abstract should describe the project’s broad significance, the proposed activities and the project’s intended outcomes.

File Upload Requirements
The following must be uploaded to the online system as a single pdf document with clearly labeled sections:

  • Proposal Narrative: (6 pages maximum) A descriptive narrative that enables cognizant reviewers to judge the merits of the project using the review criteria listed under the Review Criteria tab. The project narrative page limitation does not include biosketches, budget worksheet, budget justification, current and pending proposals, and references/citations. While these additional items are included in the single pdf along with the project narrative, they may not be used to expand the project narrative page limitations. Proposals should avoid using weblinks or any other external references that may expand the project narrative page limits.
  • References/Citations: (no page limit) include any relevant citations to published work. It is especially helpful to reference published works of key personnel as related to the proposed project.
  • Budget Worksheet and Budget Justification: (budget justification - two-page limit) A completed budget worksheet and budget justification should be included. The budget justification should include, as appropriate, elements such as personnel (inclusive of fringe costs), travel (clearly identifying domestic and/or international), supplies, equipment and/or other allowable costs.
  • Biosketches/CVs: (page limit – two pages per key personnel) Each key personnel member of a proposal should submit a two-page biosketch/CVs. You may use the format prescribed by any federal agency or a listing, not to exceed two pages, of educational preparation, positions held, research activity and relevant publications, presentations, etc.
  • Current and Pending Grants/Contracts: (no page limit) List of all current and pending internal and external grants/contracts and other sources of major support of all key personnel involved in the project, including title, award amount, funding agency, period of performance, and effort allocation. Indicate any grants/contracts related to the proposed project and briefly describe the relationship.
  • Extramural Proposal Reviews (as appropriate): (no page limit) Proposals requesting support of efforts to strengthen recently submitted, but unfunded, extramural proposals that have received high ranking should provide the official reviews and/or ranking from the extramural program to which it was submitted. The proposal narrative should clearly identify how the identified weaknesses of the unfunded extramural proposal will be addressed.
  • Conflict of Interest: Provide an alphabetical list for the PI (and Co-I) of Conflicts of Interest (internal and external).  This information is needed for proper review of your proposal. 

 

The intent of the program’s budget guidelines is to be as least restrictive on the budget options as possible within regulatory requirements so that options open to applicants to accomplish their work are not limited. Applicants are free to request funding, within the overall budget limits of the proposed research project/program, to support, for example, salary, personnel, travel, supplies/activities, equipment, publications, and participant costs. Proposals should clearly justify how requested funds will be used to best align the project for success and lead to identified ROIs.

Funds cannot be used to pay the salary of a collaborator at another institution unless it is as a consultant; sub awards are not allowable.  Items normally covered under indirect costs will be viewed as allowable for funding. 

Note for the spring semester 2021: The OVPRED will fund external reviews for up to five (5) proposals from each constituent school or college that participates in the intramural award programs (i.e., across RSP and CWSIS combined). In addition, the OVPRED will fund between eight (8) and 12 proposals from both the RSP Program and the CWSIS Program in toto, not per program. This first year being a pilot program, the five-proposal limit and the proposal funding cap will allow the OVPRED to evaluate the services availed during the proposal review process and focus resources for a larger program in the fall.

A two-tiered review and selection mechanism will be used to advance proposals for competition in the RSP. It is envisioned that each college/school ADR will form a review and selection advisory group that would only put forward those proposals that are most likely to be competitive and impactful. This would allow the ADRs to appropriately budget for matching contributions while also minimizing the reviewer burden at the upper (OVPRED) competition level.

A mix of internal and external cognizant reviewers will be utilized in the RSP proposal selection process. All reviews will be submitted via AU Competition Space (also known as InfoReady). External reviews will only be solicited for proposals down selected to advance to the upper competition level. Both internal and external reviewers will assess proposals using the Review Criteria (below).

If a collaborative/interdisciplinary proposal spans multiple colleges/schools, the primary college/school will be determined by the identified corresponding principal investigator of the proposal. The ADRs from each represented college/school of a collaborative/interdisciplinary proposal should be involved in the initial review, down selection process and budgeting of matching contributions. Proposal reviews may be made available to proposers as ADRs and OVPRED see fit. It is suggested that reviews be made available to proposers to aid in extramural proposal development or subsequent proposals to the RSP if not selected during a given program cycle.

Once a proposal is selected for funding, a single funding account will be established based on the project correspondent’s college/school. All matching funds and OVPRED funds will be loaded into this account for project activity. All compliance requirements must be met before any project activities may proceed.

Evaluation Worksheet

The below worksheet is to be used by the ADR and his/her Faculty Review Committee to evaluate proposals. ADR review teams can add additional feedback areas if they believe that will be helpful for faculty, but we ask that all review teams use this core set of review areas. Please note that the specific review criteria examples within the text below may not be applicable to all projects you are reviewing. (ADR note to external reviewer: For this proposal, the external reviewer should have expertise in the following area(s): ______________________________________. This information should be included with the review summary that is sent to the external review firm.)

Specific Topics

This section is asking you to score and comment on specific proposal topics. Comments and questions posted here will be aggregated back to the proposal authors. The guiding questions for each section should be used as they are appropriate to a given proposal (not all questions will apply to all proposals).

Reviewers are asked to keep the following program goals in mind when reviewing proposals for RSP:

  • The Research Support Program (RSP) is intended to be an annual cycle funding program to foster the development and growth of innovative and transformational research activities.
  • The RSP is a strategically focused Auburn University investment strategy that promotes promising and impactful new lines of research as well as the growth of collaborative and/or interdisciplinary teams that are built upon the foundations of science.
  • Research activities supported by the RSP will have a strong potential to attract extramural funding for sustained research efforts.
  • Investing in the RSP supports the University’s strategic plan by elevating research and scholarly impact to address society’s critical issues and promote economic development in Alabama and beyond.

Scoring system: 1 is ‘poor’ or ‘very weak’ and 5 is ‘excellent’ or ‘very strong’, 0 denotes more information is needed – see questions for proposal author –, and n/a for sections the reviewer does not want to rate. In general, those with higher aggregate scores (based on the number of items rated) will make it farther in the process.

Project Focus/Support and Rationale

Considerations on project focus: Are the project’s goals, hypothesis(es), intellectual question(s) or problem the proposer is trying to solve clearly articulated? I.e., does the proposal clearly describe what is intended by the PI, how the PI intends to reach objectives, and anticipated implications of the project’s findings/contributions? Does the proposed project logically lead to future expanded projects supported by external funding opportunities? Is it clear and specific who could benefit and what the impact will be if the project is successful? Is the audience for the proposal clearly identified? Does the audience include professional practitioners in relevant disciplines?

Methodology/Approach

Considerations on Methodology/Approach: Does the project incorporate methods/an approach appropriate to the goals, objectives, or proposed contribution? Does the proposal suggest modified procedures in response to changing circumstances? Does the project effectively apply its stated methods/approach? Is the proposed solution relevant to/applicable in real-world situations? What need is the contribution going to address? Will the project fill a potential need or function that is currently unfilled, be reinventing the wheel or creating a solution in search of a problem? Does the proposal suggest modified procedures in response to changing circumstances?

Expected Benefits and Implementation/Deliverables

Considerations: Whether for basic or applied research, social impact scholarship or creative work, does the proposal demonstrate evident value? Does the project have potential for producing a quality scholarly product or publication? Does the project have potential to impact the targeted community? Has the researcher(s) provided a brief realistic statement of projected scholarly outcomes of the proposed project – including (when applicable) potential publications, professional presentations, future submissions of external grant proposals, submissions to external venues for exhibition, submissions to industry partners/funders, or other relevant scholarly outcomes? Does the project enhance the PI’s ability to obtain external funding? Has the researcher(s) presented a specific plan for continuation beyond the internal grant award; does this promote a minimal reliance on future internal grant support? Does the project enhance the PI’s ability to elevate institutional image? Does or should the project support a collaborative open-source community?

Feasibility

Considerations on Feasibility: Is the budget realistic and commensurate with both the project needs and time frame? Are project team member(s) clearly identified, along with work experience, in the proposal? Does the project’s team possess the skills uniquely qualifying them to complete the proposed scope of work?

Recommendation: Yes or No

Do you recommend forwarding this proposal to the next level of review?

Overall Impressions

The below is asking you for overall impressions you have after reviewing a proposal. It is an opportunity to include comments and questions for areas for which a rating is not asked.

Positive Aspects

Provide here any specific aspects that you see as positive about this proposal.

Concerns

Provide here any specific aspects that you feel warrant concern regarding this proposal.

Items that Must be Addressed

Provide here anything you found that warrants addressing by the PI.


Additional Reviewer comments:

(https://guide.opentech.fund/appendix-iii-evaluation-worksheet)

Interdisciplinary Research Proposals that connect the Creative Work/Social Impact disciplines with STEM disciplines may fit with either the CWSIS or RSP program areas.  Teams developing these types of submissions should determine whether the ROI fits more with CWSIS or with the RSP and submit to the best fitting program area.  Interdisciplinary research proposals submitted to the RSP may have funding/resource needs outside of typical RSP proposals.  Collaborative teams should consult with the ADRs associated with their colleges/schools for input and guidance. 

Selected proposals may have a performance period of no more than two years. It is the responsibility of the corresponding person of an awarded project to provide six-month check in reports (form based), annual reports and a final project report.

It is understood that evidence of ROI (see Return on Investment tab for examples) may not occur within the performance period of the RSP project, however it is anticipated that efforts to pursue ROI would likely be within the RSP project performance period and these efforts should be included in all project reporting when appropriate. Awardees are asked to submit an annual report for a period of two years post project completion. ROI associated with this selected proposal during a two-year post project period should clearly be identified by awardees on post award follow up reports. This information will help measure ROI and substantiate continued program support.