Crafting research success
You may not recognize their faces, but if you’re a researcher who has ever applied for or received a research grant, chances are good that you’ve spent considerable time in contact with them, either by phone or email.
These are the faces of some of the team members of Research Grant and Contract Services (RGCS). The team is responsible for helping researchers at Memorial find success with research grants. They are there every step of the way, from grooming applications for funding agencies to processing and dispersing research grants that make extraordinary research a reality.
The process is complicated and researchers are often bound by strict deadlines, lengthy paperwork and tricky criteria that can be tough to navigate. But the team at RGCS are trained in working with these often complex requirements.
“It’s a complicated process to go through and having people with experience who know what grant agencies are looking for and who understand the process is really helpful,” said Dr. Carissa Brown, a new faculty member with the department of geography in the faculty of arts. “I don’t have any formal training in writing grants so having the guidance of someone who has experience is very valuable.”
Combined efforts and expertise resulted in Dr. Brown successfully applying for and receiving two research grants. With the help of the expert staff from RGCS, she was successful in receiving a grant from the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC).
“I’ve worked very closely with Kelley Santos [an RGCS co-ordinator for Institutional Research Programs] for my RDC application and we went back and forth many times over application drafts. It is a really close relationship that develops over time and it’s funny because it’s mostly over email and phone.”
She also found success working with her faculty’s grants facilitations officer, Kelley Bromley-Brits, in securing a research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Both the researcher and Ms. Bromley-Brits collaborated with RGCS in creating another successful application, a process that has proved remarkably efficient.
In fact, the process has become increasingly more efficient for researchers at Memorial over the past year. RGCS have partnered more closely with the grant facilitation officers in Memorial’s faculties, schools and campuses to streamline processes and adjust timelines to better fit researchers’ needs. But more is in the works. The university is considering even more methods to ensure researchers can put their best foot forward with their research applications before it reaches the RGCS office.
The changes were brought about by the Strategic Research Intensity Plan 2014-2020. The Plan’s goal is to enhance the research profile of Memorial University and increase scholarly outcomes and grant success among the university’s researchers. The Plan was initiated by Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research) and approved by Memorial’s Board of Regents in May 2014.
The improved services provide researchers with more freedom and flexibility to prepare their applications and allow them to continue with their research projects without any unanticipated hiccups.
“The process for negotiating contracts has changed significantly in the past ten years so it is necessary to see improvements,” said Dr. Thomas Michalak, professor of molecular virology and medicine, Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Viral Hepatitis/Immunology.
“It’s been a positive experience working with trained and professional individuals at RGCS who have a good understanding of the specifics involved in the negotiations. The process for negotiation of details of confidentiality agreements and research contracts has become more efficient."
For Dave Miller, the director of RGCS, these improvements will not only enable researchers to more fully participate in the grant application process but increase their chances for success as well.
“We’ve got a strong team at RGCS who are committed to ensuring researchers have the best opportunities available in securing grants and awards that will further their important research,” said David Miller. “And researchers will continue to see improvements as we move toward more online-based processes.”