University Research Council Grants for Faculty Research and Travel Boosted by OE2C Savings

Last November, thanks to funds saved through the OE2C project, the Operational Excellence executive committee provided $100,000 to the University Research Council (URC) for faculty research and travel grants. The allocation, which will be annual, has helped meet a major goal of OE2C: to help secure the University’s long-term economic vitality by identifying savings in administrative costs, and redistributing them to SMU’s academic mission.

The funds have more than doubled the URC’s faculty grants budget, from $80,000 to $180,000 per year.

“We get between 30 and 40 grant requests each semester, and they are typically for twice as much funding as we have available,” said URC Dean James Quick. “Thanks to this allocation from OE2C, we now have $90,000 to pass out each semester instead of $40,000. As a result, last fall we were able to provide at least partial funding for two-thirds of the requests, a significant increase over previous semesters. We were also able to provide a higher percentage of the request in proposals that were funded.”

Quick said that, while the URC can’t always fund an entire request, its goal is to provide enough to help cover the essentials and enable the project to happen. “We try to be aware of what other resources are available to the faculty,” he said. “Some have monies available through other research grants, or their school. We also try to utilize matching opportunities to extend the impact of our funds.”

The URC puts out a call for proposals each semester, and all applications are rigorously reviewed over a period of weeks by a committee of nine faculty representing every school on campus. Each application is scored separately by each committee member and then ranked and discussed in a group meeting. “When we come together, each committee member brings an amazing level of familiarity with the proposals’ details,” said Quick. “And, importantly, they all think across disciplinary lines – no one is trying to ‘bring home the bacon’ for their own school.”

What kinds of requests are likely to be funded?  “What we’re really after are proposals that will contribute significantly to current literature or research in the applicant’s field,” said Quick. “They must also help build on the faculty member’s expertise and prominence in their area of specialization, and contribute to the stature of their school and the University. In general, a university’s reputation relies heavily on the careers of its faculty. So as we enable the faculty to become better known, to increase their reputation, their standing in their particular communities, it lifts the University.”

The deadline for the next round of faculty grant applications is April 5. For more information, visit https://www.smu.edu/Research/FacultyGrants.