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Office of the Provost

Research Engagement Collaboratives

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs added on Aug. 29, 2014

FAQs added on Sept. 12, 2014

How does the REC initiative differ from other internal funding opportunities, such as ASPIRE-II or the Provost's Internal Grant Programs?

The REC initiative will support interdisciplinary teams of scholars focused on "grand challenge" problems facing the state, the nation or the world. The primary focus of a REC on a key societal problem or challenge differentiates it from ASPIRE-II projects, which support cutting-edge research without necessarily being problem driven. In addition to research, successful RECs will emphasize teaching, workforce development, and external partner engagement, differentiating them from ASPIRE-II and other Provost Internal Grant Programs.

Who can apply?
Only a USC-Columbia tenured faculty member may serve as Principal Investigator. However, any faculty member (tenure track, non-tenure track, clinical) in the USC system may serve as a co-investigator or participant.

How important is gaining external, competitive funding?
The REC initiative aims to create new focal points for long-term engagement of USC faculty and students in relevant "grand challenge" problem-solving. Funding from the Office of the Provost for full implementation, lasting up to five years, should enable the REC to mature sufficiently to enable it to compete for significant external funding and other forms of support to ensure long term viability.

How important are academic collaborators? Collaborators from other organizations?
The core group of REC collaborators should be USC faculty members differentiated by their areas of expertise, but united by their focus on a specific "grand challenge." Academic collaborators from other universities should strengthen the REC by providing complementary expertise and perspectives not available from others in the USC system. External collaborators from industry, non-profits, and government agencies can also make critical contributions as well as serve as important validators for your proposed project. Documentation should be included to indicate willingness and ability to participate in a collaborative initiative.

Is a detailed budget required for a seed project proposal?
A budget is a blueprint for proposed activities and provides insight into how a project will be structured. The seed project budget and explanation should provide sufficient detail and rationale for the requested funding to help reviewers determine the feasibility of the project.


FAQs Added Aug. 29, 2014

What types of expenses may be included in the budget? Should the budget include indirect costs?
We have not ruled out any specific kinds of budget expenses at this point. The REC seed grants, while not large sums of money, are hopefully significant enough to facilitate team building in a variety of ways, perhaps via hosting local workshops for team-building, travel to meet with collaborators or other kinds of external partners, or supporting a graduate assistant to help with data gathering or analysis, for example. The main goal is to use modest seed funding and a year of preliminary team-building and teamwork to develop a compelling proposal for a full-scale project that has potential to become "marquee" research for the university within five years. The budget should only include direct costs.

Can you explain what you mean by the criterion "Engage and prepare students to serve the workforce needs..."?
Workforce development means that we want the RECs to involve students, hopefully at a variety of levels, engage them in the attacking "grand challenge" problems, and then launch them into careers where they continue to have impact as problem-solvers. The importance of involving the "state's employers" really depends on the scale/scope of the problem addressed by a REC. If you are tackling a problem that is really national or global in scale, then the presence of relevant employers in the state may not be as critical. But presumably the students involved in a REC (via research, courses, or other kinds of beyond-the-classroom learning) will be attractive to at least some employers in the state.

May we apply directly for Stage 2 funding?
No, we are only funding Stage 1 Seed Projects this academic year. Only these projects will be invited to proposal Stage 2 projects next year.

If we finish Stage 1 seed project activities in less than a year, may we then immediately apply for Stage 2 funding?
All Stage 1 projects will compete for Stage 2 funding at the same time. Stage 1 teams may submit proposals early, but all Stage 2 Implementation Project proposals will be considered at the same time. Not all Stage 1 projects will receive Stage 2 awards.

May I participate in more than one proposal?
Yes, of course!

Are the references counted in the three-page project description? Any font size limits?
No, references are in addition to the three-page project description. Please use 10 point fonts or larger in the project description.

Are letters of support allowed as part of the application?
Yes, letters of support may be included in the application, in addition to the project description – but do not assume they will be studied as thoroughly as the project description.

Should the project description describe what we want to accomplish in the full project (if funded beyond the first year), or describe only what will happen in the seed project?
Both, really. The main emphasis should be on explaining what you envision for the full project; section III.f provides a place to briefly discuss the need for seed funding and what you will try to accomplish over the next year to put your team in a position to win a full-scale award.


FAQ Added Sept. 12, 2014

Do all administrators need to review and approve a REC proposal submission before the deadline on Monday, September 15?
No. Just click "Submit for Approval" by the close of business on Monday, September 15. Administrators in the approval chain can review and sign in due course.