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New Software, Staff to Help Faculty with Grants Following Federal Cuts

March 13, 2013

As everyone who has been following the federal budget crisis knows, sequestration – $85 billion in automatic spending cuts for 2013 – took effect March 1.

It’s unclear how the situation will play out across the country, but it’s already clear that the competition for research funding is going to stiffen in the coming months, and probably will not relax anytime soon.

UC Merced’s Office of Research is preparing for at least one year of fallout.

“I recognize that these sudden changes to the federal budgets have increased the stress on all of us as we look for dollars to support our research programs,” Vice Chancellor for Research Sam Traina said. “I can assure you the campus is committed to doing all it can to improving the research environment and provide you improved and enhanced support as we continue to grow UC Merced.”

Some effects of sequestration are already beginning to show, but UC Merced is taking steps to counteract the pain of cutbacks in funding for grants, contracts and other work from agencies like The National Institutes of Health, The Department of Energy, The National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and NASA.

Though some plans will have to wait for the next fiscal year to begin, Traina announced several plans being implemented now.

By initiating a contract with a higher education software company to launch a grants proposal preparation and submittal package, the university will streamline and simplify the process of submitting grant proposals to federal agencies through the Grants.Gov system, which is now required for almost all proposals to federal agencies.

The system UC Merced plans to use is also used by UCLA, UC San Francisco and UC Santa Barbara, and the first stage of it should be up and running before the academic year ends.

The Research and Development Office staff will grow by two by the end of the academic year, so the office can offer more direct support to faculty on all grant proposals.

The staff of the Sponsored Projects Office will grow by one, which will increase the campus’s ability to review and submit grants proposals to extramural sponsors.

Campus leadership is also looking into ways to increase the inflow of nonfederal funds to support research, including enhanced philanthropy and increases in industrial contacts and grants.

In addition, several administrative units plan to submit collaborative budget requests that should significantly improve administrative support throughout the entire contracts-and-grants process, from project inception to closeout.

“I want to assure you that the campus remains committed to growing our graduate programs and our research base,” Traina said. “While it is unlikely that we can fully replace reductions in research funding imposed by the federal government, we will help faculty cope with budget shortfalls that might occur in existing federal research grants and contracts as a result of sequestration.”