IUP Research Institute to Provide Services to System Universities

Posted on 2/28/22 1:21 PM

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Research Institute is partnering with four other Pennsylvania State System universities—Bloomsburg, California, Edinboro, and Lock Haven universities—to expand their work in sponsored research through a shared services initiative.

The IUP Research Institute works with faculty and staff to provide research administration assistance at all stages of externally funded projects by promoting research and creative activity, encouraging collaborations, responsible stewardship of funds, and award management and compliance. It is a separate, private, nonprofit corporation affiliated with IUP and is the only entity of its type in the State System of Higher Education.

This shared services project enables our sister schools to utilize IUP’s Research Institute’s extensive depth of expertise in research development, proposal and budget development award negotiation, post-award administration, and procurement, Mark Berezansky, executive director of the Research Institute, said.

Two additional State System universities are expected to join in the project later this year.

Since its launch in 2004, the Research Institute helps to coordinate about $10 million in funding each year. About 20 percent of IUP faculty participate in some kind of grant-funded activity.

“We’ve worked hard to develop systems that streamline and increase opportunities for researchers in all disciplines at our university,” Berezansky said. “We look forward to working with other system universities to help them to expand their research initiatives, cultivate scholarship and grantsmanship, and we know that this will help to strengthen our work and provide new opportunities for collaboration,” he said.

The three-year shared services agreement outlines a number of services that the Research Institute may do for the partnering universities, including providing educational research development workshops, assisting with proposal and budget development, compliance review, award negotiations, and post-award services. Workshops will be made available to faculty and administrators and will include topics on proposal writing and development, budget development, indirect rate calculations, compliance, grants management, and fiscal management.

The organization of the Research Institute as a nonprofit independent agency offers a number of advantages for researchers, especially in the area of funding opportunities. As a nonprofit, the Research Institute is eligible for grant opportunities from all types of granting agencies.

“Because of our status, we have the ability to help researchers seek and secure funding from an extremely diverse group of granting agencies,” Associate Director of the Research Institute Tracy Eisenhower, certified research administrator, said. “This significantly broadens the scope of available funding agencies for sponsored research, and our post-award services make project execution easier for our researchers.”

“In essence, the Research Institute is set up to assist researchers and promote externally funded projects in all possible ways,” she said. “We are a ‘one-stop shop’—we help with researcher development, identifying and matching grant opportunities with researchers, proposal and budget development, negotiations, the award process, and post-award project management.”

The RI also offers additional services to researchers through its credentialed, experienced staff who are trained to help with tasks required for funded research, including administrative services like travel and purchasing, so the researchers can focus on the specific aspects of their sponsored projects.

“IUP’s Research Institute provides the research infrastructure that is found in large, research-intensive universities, and we have relationships with colleagues in universities throughout the nation that can help us to solve problems and provide the service and consultation to our researchers that they need and deserve,” Berezansky said.

“Building and sustaining a strong externally funded research program is challenging for faculty regardless of academic institution,” Jeff Larkin, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Biology, said. “It requires finding the never-ending need to balance proposing projects, implementing projects, and drafting final reports, manuscripts, and the like. Not to mention, the teaching, advising, and service duties faculty must also complete.

“There is no doubt that the IUP Research Institute has played a tremendous role in my ability to build and sustain a nationally recognized conservation science program. Simply put, the dedicated and highly effective RI staff I work with during the pre- and post-award periods allows me to focus much of my attention and energy on mentoring students, conducting meaningful research, building collaborations with off-campus researchers, and securing future dollars to fund more student opportunities.” Larkin has generated more than $3 million in sponsored grants over the last decade.

Lynn Botelho, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, recently secured a “Big Ideas” grant from the Teagle Foundation.

“My experience with RI has been nothing but positive, prompt, and critical to my success as a first-time grantee of this kind,” she said. “My previous grants have all been personal, and I knew nothing about the institutional side of things. With their help, I was successful, and now I’m taking a big step with a bigger proposal.”

The Research Institute is also a major partner in helping to promote a culture of research success at IUP through workshops, award programs, and mentorship opportunities. This outreach includes presentations to classes; workshops, webinars, brown bag lunches for researchers or members of the IUP community interested in research; hosting representatives from funding agencies and program officers to present programs to interested faculty, staff, and students; and developing and presenting workshops on topics important to the funded research process.

For the past seven years, the Research Institute has offered a PI (Principal Investigator) Mentorship Academy, a semi-structured boot camp for researchers or individuals interested in research. More than 90 faculty and staff have completed the program, which is a year-long program designed to be an “a to z” guide to research.

“It’s been an extremely well-received and successful initiative,” Eisenhower said. “Not only do we work with participants to identify and then mitigate any gap in their own skills when it comes to securing grant funding, we also require participants to find a mentor which helps build collaborations, provides new networking opportunities, and further supports their success,” she said.

Academy participants are coached to develop their own biosketches and summaries about their personal research interests so they can more quickly respond to grant applications that fit their interests and expertise, she said.

To assist researchers, the Research Institute has worked with the university to adopt PIVOT, a grant-seeking database that also enables IUP researchers to build profiles that facilitate identification of potential collaborators.

The Research Institute is an active participant with the university’s annual Research Appreciation Week, sponsored by the IUP School of Graduate Studies and Research, offering workshops and an awards event to recognize outstanding research by faculty and students.

IUP is one of only two public universities in Pennsylvania and one of only 93 public universities ranked as an R2 Doctoral University–High Research Activity by the National Center for Postsecondary Research’s 2021 Carnegie Classification. More than 3,900 colleges and universities are included in the ranking system.

“The Research Institute supports any scholarly activity that is externally funded, from research in a scientific lab to art exhibitions,” Eisenhower said. “Our projects run the spectrum, from applied research to the creative arts to student services,” she said. “The Research Institute is proud to contribute to the university’s successful research mission and to its R2 status.”