By Geeta Dutta, Director of the Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships

As WSU works toward the goal of becoming a top 25 public research university by 2030, leveraging cutting edge research is increasingly important to overall research productivity and growth. Promoting interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, which have become increasingly important to federal funders as they seek to provide solutions to wicked problems, will contribute to that growth.

The Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships (ORAP) provides the services needed to increase WSU’s research capacity, helping faculty improve their proposals by providing grant writing workshops, proposal editing and review services, proposal development assistance, and targeted funding searches. ORAP also leads research expansion activities that include fostering research partnerships across colleges and beyond. Whether faculty have been submitting grant proposals for years or are completely new to the process, ORAP provides the resources to help everyone succeed.

Supporting WSU’s Research Enterprise

ORAP is dedicated to supporting all three levels of the WSU research enterprise:

  • The Individual Investigator: Faculty and staff with expertise in a particular field working on a single investigator project within the field – the bedrock of our research enterprise.
  • Research Strengths: Groups of faculty and staff focused on a particular area of research where collaborations of significant size are necessary.
  • Broad, Multidisciplinary Research: Research conducted by large teams of individuals and research groups, typically involving multiple research strengths spanning multiple colleges and universities, especially those associated with the WSU Grand Challenges.

We provide training to individual investigators through our grant writing workshops, information sessions, and special events such as Research Week. Additionally, investigators work one-on-one with our proposal consultants for in-depth personal assistance, including identifying specific funding opportunities and potential collaborators and providing a multi-stage review of the proposal.

Dr. Henning Kunz has worked frequently with ORAP and been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER and Major Research Instrumentation grants, as well as an award from the European Research Agency-Coordinating Action in Plant Sciences program. Dr. Kunz said of his proposal efforts, “ORAP provides invaluable feedback and editing of my proposals. In addition, their team helps to structure and organize my application packages so that I can work more efficiently while not losing sight of my teaching and scholar responsibilities.”

With larger team efforts, ORAP offers much the same personal assistance including administrative support for faculty who want to develop a focus group around a specific topic in order to pursue expanded research opportunities. Proposal consultants can assist with meeting coordination, document collection, and application completion in addition to providing expert review and editing of the proposal.

Dr. Molly Kelton, recent recipient of a $1.29 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), appreciated ORAP assistance, saying “Thank you sincerely for the effort and heart you put into our NIH SEPA proposal. We could not have done it without you, and I learned so much from you along the way.”

Investigators working at the broad, multidisciplinary research level receive comprehensive assistance. Proposal consultants help with every level of the proposal development process including careful reading of the RFP, creating timelines, communicating with both internal and external partners, and ensuring accurate and on-time submission. We are also able to coordinate external reviewers for these proposals, providing valuable feedback from peer experts prior to submission. Finally, we can connect investigators with industry and governmental partners to help you build the connections needed to grow your program.

Each faculty has unique needs, many of which colleges and departments already support. Our services are not meant to replace existing ones, but rather to fill in gaps and provide the additional support needed to effectively and efficiently develop and advance your research.

Enhancing WSU’s Research Enterprise

As WSU continues to grow its research portfolio, we seek to identify and prioritize our research strengths and thoughtfully invest in them in order to develop projects that will attract external funding.

The New Faculty Seed Grant program is a long running internal program that invests in the earliest stages of faculty research. Funded by the Provost and administered by the Office of Research, this program provides junior-level faculty, within their first four years at WSU, funding to develop their research, scholarly, or creative activities in order to sustain their professional growth and attract extramural funding. Since 2000, this program has awarded more than $3.97 million in seed grants which have contributed to more than $38.8 million dollars in externally funded projects and helped launch the careers of our junior faculty. For those interested in pursuing this grant, the application cycle begins on November 1, and recipients are announced in May.

To showcase the university’s research efforts, WSU leadership worked with faculty and staff to develop the WSU Grand Challenges in 2015. The Grand Challenges align WSU’s research strengths with the priorities of federal and state agencies, national laboratories, business and civic leaders, and philanthropists in order to address critical national and global problems.

In 2016, WSU furthered this mission by strategically investing resources in academic and student success programs. Referred to as the Strategic Research Investment Initiative, this program invested resources into projects supporting the grand challenges by funding project in functional genomics, health equity, green stormwater, and nutrition over a five-year period.

The Strategic Research Investment Initiative also contained one-time seed funding for research projects focused on the Grand Challenges. The five resulting projects emphasize understanding the elements that affect watersheds in urban-agriculture settings, the health risks and benefits of marijuana use, the developmental origins of health and disease, police officer decision making, and the development of reusable low-cost biochemical sensors. These five projects collectively received $349,997 in seed funding and have resulted in over $8 million dollars of external grant funding to date.

The strategic investment project in many ways focused university efforts on the sciences and engineering. To acknowledge the substantial research and creativity underway in the arts and humanities, the Office of Research also set aside funds to support projects in those disciplines. These fellowships have funded or are currently supporting faculty as they pursue research travel, book development, art exhibitions, music recordings, and more.

Enhancing multidisciplinary research and supporting scholarly and creative activities associated with the Grand Challenges and other research investments are critical to achieving our research goals for the Drive to 25 and establishing WSU as a distinguished public research university. Reaching these goals will also improve the quality of life for the people and communities we serve.

Together, we can grow our university

We know that building a world class research program is a daunting task. But research does not have to be a solitary endeavor. ORAP can support you with services and guidance to help make your goals a reality. Together, we can grow your research.

To learn more about ORAP, check out our website here: https://orap.wsu.edu/.