The strength and reputation of a research university is inseparably tied to the continuous achievement of high quality research by its faculty. A great deal of university research and scholarship requires funding from external sources. Faculty research at UH has been supported from a multitude of sources, ranging from long-established federal agencies (such NEA, NEH, NIH, NSF, DOE, DOD and NASA), state and local government agencies (such as CPRIT), private foundations (for example American Cancer Society, the Petroleum Research Fund), and private industrial grants, contracts, and partnerships (for example from Shell, Pfizer). The availability of these funds has fluctuated over time, depending on governmental and agency budget decisions as well as the overall economic climate. In recent years, competition for all of the funds that support research, both public and private, has increased considerably and the percentage of all applications that are successfully funded has dramatically decreased to historically low levels, requiring multiple applications to obtain funding for research and scholarship projects.
Scholars with long track records of productivity have often spent many years working with highly trained personnel and specialized equipment essential to running the laboratory and maintaining continuity. In many cases, these staff have unique skill sets that cannot be readily replaced, even if funding is restored some time later. Organizationally, a funding gap for a scientist with loss of these highly trained staff necessitates retraining once funding is restored; meaning significantly diminished productivity and loss of faculty competitive edge.
The conclusion is that it is in the best interest of universities to protect and foster the research careers of productive scholars from factors that may lead to early termination of productivity. In recognition of this, most top tier research universities have set aside funds to provide a bridge to support productive faculty who face a gap in their funds. The purpose of the present document is to describe a similar program that will be administered by the Division of Research at the University of Houston.
The purpose of the Bridge Funds program is to ensure the continuation of research projects that have the highest likelihood of restoring external funding. The UH Bridge Fund Grant (BFG) is intended to support full-time tenured faculty, or in rare cases tenure-track faculty, who have no other source of funds, and who can demonstrate that their programs have a reasonable likelihood of renewed funding. This program is not intended as a seed funding for high risk projects (the GEAR program may be a venue for such projects) or for new faculty who have not yet developed a sustained track record of external funding, or for senior faculty who have not had external funding for more than one or two of the funding cycles from their historical sources. For the year 2018-2019, total funds allocated to the BFG program is $300,000.
1. Full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty in residence. Investigators with previous track record of consistent funding as principal investigators that has terminated within the last nine months or prospectively over the next three months, and who have submitted renewal or new applications that can sustain the program. Priority will be given to faculty whose external funding is from federal sources that pay the full negotiated overhead, and who have high but non-fundable priority scores on previous submissions, or those who have attracted private funds with a high likelihood of being re-established within the next nine months.
2. At the time of application
- funding must have terminated within the last nine months or will terminate over the next three months;
- applicants must have submitted renewal or new applications that can sustain their program;
- proposals must have been reviewed and received high but non-fundable priority scores suggesting that the proposal just needs some additional work to become fundable; and
- permission to submit a proposal for BFG has been granted by Dr. Claudia Neuhauser email@example.com, Associate VP for Research and Technology Transfer.
Scope of Award and Use of Funds
Requests for up to $50,000 should be limited to the minimum funding necessary to maintain a defined project over a short period (generally less than nine months). These funds are not expected to cover maintenance of an entire lab or all current personnel, and a reduction of scope will generally be necessary. The PI is expected to re-budget all available resources and to reduce activities to the minimum necessary to maintain the program. Bridge funds cannot be used to support faculty salary but can be used to provide funds for NTT faculty and research scientists, students, research staff, consumable supplies or animal costs, instrumentation use, or travel if it is necessary to carry out the project (for example to field sites). BFG awards are not renewable and faculty are only eligible to receive this award once every seven years.
Bridge Fund grantees who later secure external funding will be required to return the bridge amount to DOR by the following IDC return mechanism. When a PI is funded by external grants that allow for IDC, the DOR will take 50% of the first $100,000 of IDC (or double the bridge fund requested) received by DOR prior to dispersal to units (Colleges, Departments, Centers and DOR). This money will be recouped into the BFG pool for subsequent years.
The amount of funding provided will be commensurate with the impact of the research program, the applicant’s past record of sponsored funding, and the prospects for securing new sponsored funding, including peer review.
Applicants should include the following as a single PDF file using US Letter size paper (8.5”x11”) with 1-inch margins on all sides, 11 pt Arial font, 1.5 line spacing, and as concise as possible. Submit the cover page and include headers for each section below:
- A narrative of the proposed project describing the need for bridge funding, and a statement of how the funds will allow the applicant to maintain an active research career. This section must include a plan for how the PI will reduce research activities to the minimum needed, as well as any re-budgeting that may take place. This could include descriptions of repurposing of reduced staff, or reducing the number of projects to those most likely to address critiques of previous applications.
- Summary of most recent non-funded and current pending grant applications that have been reviewed. An appendix should including the proposal summary page, the specific aims or equivalent, and all summary statements showing results of the review.
- List of all pending and planned applications for external funding and their policies regarding overhead.
- List of all previous external funding in the previous six years. This should include the title of the proposal, the agency, the dates of the award, the applicant’s role on the grant or contract (PI, co-PI, or collaborator), and the amount of funds that were available to the applicant on the project (as opposed to the total award).
- A budget and justification that explains the basis for the cost estimates. Include information on any staff or students who will be supported by bridge funds (position, role, and salary and benefits). Since some personnel retraction will generally occur even with faculty who receive a BFG, the applicant should state why the people who will be retained are essential to the future research program.
- Documentation of matching funds from college or department. Priority will be given to those applications supported by a match at the department and/or college level.
- Date you need the funds to be effective. Please note that these funds cannot be used on expenses that were incurred prior to the date you establish here. (Included in Cover Page)
- A biosketch for the PI in either NIH or NSF format.
- A signed memo from the applicant's department chair and dean acknowledging agreement with the policy to return the Bridge funds received to DOR.
Applications for Bridge Funding can be submitted at any time depending on when reviews of external research applications have taken place. Applications will be reviewed by the Research and Scholarship Committee of the Faculty Senate approximately one month after submission depending on the date of the RSC meeting, with sufficient time for DOR approval.
Applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congruency review by the Research Integrity and Oversight office is required for all research submitted to this program. The review must be conducted within three months of the award announcement or the funds will be forfeited. Congruency review includes human subjects, animal usage, biological materials (rDNA, human samples, microorganisms, etc.), and radiation (radioactive materials, lasers, and x-rays). The review will make sure that all needed protocols/approvals are current.
If interested in the opportunity and want additional information please contact: Dr. Claudia Neuhauser email@example.com, Associate VP for Research and Technology Transfer.