A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

At the Helm of Discovery: Office of Research

December 12, 2012

From soil to stem cells, scholars at UC Merced are conducting a diverse array of research as part of the campus’s mission to generate new knowledge and find solutions to complex societal and environmental problems. While the campus’s research is varied, there is one thing each project has in common: All fall under the auspices of UC Merced’s Office of Research.

The Office of Research is charged with providing leadership, education, training and oversight to support world-class scholarly investigation. That includes assisting faculty in assembling strong and competitive grant proposals to finance their research, finding potential funding sources, ensuring that experiments and related studies follow and meet research compliance and integrity standards and providing support to postdoctoral scholars.

“The Office of Research provides administrative support for the campus’s research portfolio,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Samuel Traina.

The office works with each school and a host of divisions and departments to manage the business aspects of externally-funded research. For example, the office routinely works with Business and Financial Services on purchasing, contracts and grants accounting.

“There’s a lot of scientific equipment on campus that is purchased with grants,” Traina said. “We interact with faculty and the schools to make sure we’re following the university’s and the sponsor’s requirements.”

Some of the Office of Research’s responsibilities include:

  • participating in research policy discussions at local, state and national levels;
  • communicating UC Merced’s research to internal and external audiences;
  • representing the university to external research sponsors;
  • managing shared core-research facilities

Panorama recently spoke with members of the office about the role their departments play in advancing the campus’s research mission. The behind-the-scenes work the office is responsible for demonstrates that effective research collaborations go far beyond laboratories and classrooms.

Research Development Services (RDS)

Research Development Services provides advice and direction to researchers so they have the right tools to assemble successful proposals that blend their expertise with a funding agency’s requirements.

“Part of my job is to help determine if a particular opportunity is a good fit,” said Research Development Director Susan Carter. “Our office can help point people in the right direction.”

Among its services, the department collects and distributes information regarding funding opportunities, provides proposal and grant writing training and offers support for planning, coordinating and submitting large or complex proposals.

Sponsored Projects Office

As researchers work with Research Development Services to prepare their proposals, the department coordinates with the Sponsored Projects Office.

“We work in tandem,” said Sponsored Projects Office Director Thea Vicari. “All proposals seeking external support need to be routed through the Sponsored Projects Office. Research Development Services informs us that it’s working with a faculty member on a proposal. Our department then looks at what the program guidelines are. We need to make certain administratively that a proposal is complete and meets the required guidelines so it doesn't get knocked out of competition.”

When a sponsor or agency, such as the National Science Foundation, selects a proposal for funding, the Sponsored Projects Office is the only campus entity that can accept the award.

“Per University of California policy, a dean or faculty member can’t accept the award,” Vicari said. “Awards are officially made to The Regents of the University of California. The Sponsored Projects Office represents the regents, and only this office has this delegation of authority.”

The reason? Sponsored Projects must ensure proposals meet certain laws and university policies. For example, the office has a four-page list of certifications that each proposal must meet.

That means Sponsored Project Office staff has to be knowledgeable about research activities, know the sponsor agencies’ policies and stay abreast of what is and isn’t allowable. Add to that mix the fact that a sponsor’s program requirements may change from year to year. So how does the office stay informed of all the possible changes?

“We read,” Vicari said. “We read a lot.”

"Research: A Collaborative Effort” is an occasional series that illustrates the joint effort it takes to conduct research at our campus.