Bronze sculptures of a person with their ear pressed up against a brick wall, as though listening.

OARS responds to feedback about professional development offerings

Road sign reads "Professional Development"

In February, OARS launched a survey to gather input from the Miami University research community about professional development opportunities. We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated. We also want to let you know what we heard and some of what we’re planning in response.

Proposal writing

Survey findings

Seventy-four percent of the 83 respondents indicated they are or might be interested in professional development related to proposal writing. The strongest interest, as shown in the chart below, was in feedback from peers and experts on specific sections of a proposal.

Bar chart showing responses to question about interest in professional development related to proposal writing: 42 percent yes; 32 percent maybe; 26 percent no. Yes and maybe responses are broken out into additional bar charts. Traditional workshop bar chart: 34 percent yes; 30 percent maybe; 36 percent no. Shut-up-and-write cohort bar chart: 27 percent yes; 35 percent maybe; 37 percent no. Section-focused feedback bar chart: 45 percent yes; 36 percent maybe; 19 percent no.
Interest in professional development related to proposal writing

Breaking things down further, 30% of “yes” and “maybe” respondents expressed interest in the NSF broader impacts section and 24% expressed interest in the NIH specific aims section and budget justifications, respectively.

Bar chart showing interest in section-specific feedback: 45 percent yes; 36 percent maybe; 19 percent no. "Yes" and "maybe" responses are further broken out in a bar chart: 30 percent NSF broader impacts; 24 percent NIH specific aims; 24 percent budget justifications; 18 percent data management plans; other: research design - 1 respondent; crafting hypotheses/research questions - 1 respondent
Proposal sections of interest to respondents who said they are or might be interested in section-specific feedback.

In addition, 64% of respondents indicated they are or might be interested in OARS’ traditional proposal writing workshop, which meets for 90 minutes each week for six weeks. For those respondents, the Summer 2018 term was preferred over Fall 2018 (58% vs. 32%).

OARS plans

NSF broader impacts – OARS will offer a session led by a member of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts, if not this semester, then in the fall.

NIH specific aims – We’ll be inviting an expert to conduct a session within the next year.

Proposal writing workshop – OARS will offer a summer session of the traditional proposal writing workshop, with an emphasis on peer and expert feedback.

Other topics

Survey findings

As for other topics, respondents seem most interested in:

  • Specific funding agencies (47% said “yes” and 32% said “maybe”)
  • How to talk to a program officer (43% said “yes” and 26% said “maybe”)
  • The review process (35% said “yes” and 35% said “maybe”)

NSF, foundations, and NIH were the agencies of greatest interest. In the “other” category, write-in candidates included the Department of Energy (5); and various defense agencies (13).

Bar chart: 22 percent NSF; 20 percent foundations; in decreasing order, with no percentages specified: NIH; DoEd; Other; IES; OH Arts; OH Hum; NEH; NEA
Agencies of interest

Less than half the respondents said they are or might be interested in professional development related to early career programs, applying for NSF supplements, and eSPA/Cayuse.

OARS plans

NSF  – To address both the interest in NSF as a funding agency and the desire for more information about how to talk with a program officer, we will host a session led by Miami faculty who have served as NSF program officers.

eSPA/Cayuse – We will continue to offer eSPA/Cayuse training to accommodate new faculty and staff, but will likely keep it to just once each semester.

Early career faculty – We assume that at least part of the lack of interest in early career programs owes to fewer early career faculty participating in the survey (if for no other reason than that there are just fewer of them on campus!). So we will continue hosting a series of breakfasts for new faculty. These get-to-know you events help us learn more about new faculty members’ work and about how we can best support them in securing external funding. Limited space is available for faculty who started at Miami in 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 to have breakfast with us on one of the following dates (contact me at for more information or to RSVP):

  • Wednesday, April 11, 8-9am in Oxford
  • Thursday, April 26, 8-9am in Middletown*
  • Friday, May 4, 8-9am in Oxford
  • Monday, May 7, 8-9am in Oxford

*We plan to host a breakfast in Hamilton during fall semester.

General opportunities

Survey findings

We asked about interest in three types of general professional development:

  • Brown bag/drop-in, “ask-me-anything” sessions with OARS staff
  • Interdisciplinary round tables
  • Networking for specific interdisciplinary programs

We were a little surprised to find an apparent lack of interest in interdisciplinary round tables, as we have had good showings at past events of this type. When given an opportunity to provide open-ended comments, one respondent said they miss frequent, informal gatherings to discuss research, like there used to be in the “old days,” as opposed to formal interdisciplinary round tables or “speed dating” events. While we don’t have a detailed understanding of this response (few of us were around in the “old days!”), the spirit of it struck a chord with us, and we suspect it captures the sentiment of some of the respondents who said “no” to interdisciplinary round tables.

For the other two types of events, there were a significant number of “maybe” responses, as show in the chart below.

3 bar charts. 1) Brown bag/drop-in "AMA" sessions with OARS staff: 15 percent yes; 54 percent maybe; 31 percent no. Interdisciplinary round tables: 26 percent yes; 28 percent maybe; 46 percent no. Networking for specific interdisciplinary programs: 26 percent yes; 37 percent maybe; 37 percent no.
Interest in general professional development opportunities

It’s possible that this uncertainty stems from unfamiliarity with the format types. It’s fair to say that you don’t know whether you’d want to participate if you don’t know what to expect.

OARS plans

Brown bag sessions – We will initiate a brown bag lunch series, where OARS staff will be on hand to answer ask-me-anything-type questions. We will also incorporate some themes into these sessions, to encourage like-minded faculty to come together and build collaborations. Occasionally, a session may focus on a specific upcoming funding opportunity.

Just the beginning

The plans we’ve listed here are not the end. Rather, they represent a portion of what we’ve planned in response input from you — the Miami research community. Be on the lookout for more information about the opportunities mentioned here, as well as others. And if you have any suggestions for brown bag series topics (or any other professional development!), send them to me at

Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Listening image by Couleur via Pixabay. Professional development image by R M Media via Creative Commons Images. Both used under Creative Commons license.

Research development tools increase visibility and extramural funding

A bicycle multi-tool

Because competition for decreasing Federal funding is increasingly stiff, institutions across the nation are investing in research development activities that help them diversify and remain relevant in the funding arena. Miami is no exception.

Research development

Research development is a set of strategic plans and activities designed to increase the capacity of individual researchers, teams, and institutions to be more competitive in attracting extramural funding.

Research development extends beyond identifying sources for external funding. It begins with long-term positioning of individuals, teams, and institutions to be competitive for funding. Examples of research development include:

  • Strategic planning by the faculty, departmental and college administration, and central research administration
  • Team-building to leverage individual strengths to tackle a common problem
  • Assessment of funding opportunities for fit with institutional strengths (such as being a leader in undergraduate research and education)
  • Seed funding to build teams and collect data to increase the likelihood of extramural funding
  • Developing partnerships with local business and industry
  • Mentoring for faculty new to grant writing
  • Peer review of proposals prior to submission
  • Facilitation of collaborations between departments, colleges, and entities outside the institution
  • Proposal editing and assistance with proposal writing/development

Research development at Miami

Effective proposal development cannot happen in isolation. In OARS, we are working to expand our current research development offerings to include:

  • A research office that promotes strong connections among faculty and between graduate and undergraduate research and that creates an exceptional “hands-on” learning environment
  • Incentives for departments, colleges, and centers to increase proposal submissions
  • Facilitation of internal and external partnerships that can enhance opportunities for external funding, technology transfer, entrepreneurial research, and economic development
  • Identification of teams and existing infrastructure that can support “the next big thing”
  • Enhanced research infrastructure and greater visibility of that infrastructure throughout the state and nation
  • A diverse funding portfolio that taps into new sources of external funding to offset diminishing Federal funds
  • A partnership with the Center for Teaching Excellence to assist faculty with finding a balance between teaching, service, and research
  • A peer mentoring program for proposal development and review
  • Enhanced visibility for the activities of Miami’s research centers and institutes to potential internal and external partners

Moving the research enterprise forward

To reach our goals, we will need to partner with faculty and departmental and college administrators. We will also need to expand support for research and grant activities throughout the institution. To these ends, OARS has developed an aggressive strategic plan, which if implemented should help us move toward and even beyond our 2020 Plan goal for external funding. We are actively working with the provost, the academic deans, and University Advancement to turn the strategic plan into an action plan. Elements of these plans are aligned with university academic priorities and they address many of the new initiatives proposed by President Crawford. More information will be provided later in the academic year.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Wrench photo by Tookapic via Pexels. Multi-tool photo by Armchair via Wikimedia Commons. Both used under Creative Commons license.


A student works with equipment in a chemistry lab.

Guest post: NIH review panelist offers funding mechanism overview

A student uses 3D printing equipment while her professor supervises.

The following guest post was written by Dr. Gary Lorigan. Dr. Lorigan is a professor in Miami University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Since 2010, he has served on 4 NSF and 18 NIH study panels. During that time he was a member of the Biochemistry and Biophysics of Membranes (BBM) NIH Study Section and served on several NIH and NSF instrumentation panels. Below, Lorigan shares an overview of NIH funding mechanisms and offers advice for Miami researchers based on his experience.

The NIH has a number of research-related mechanisms including the R01, R15, R21, and R03 grant mechanisms.


The R21 is the NIH’s Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award. It offers initial funding to support a new project for two years. The narratives for these projects are short (six pages) and no preliminary data is needed. Having said that, preliminary data is always nice to have. According to Dorothy Lewis, PhD, professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, “Reviewers are human beings, and they like to see some evidence that what you propose is going to work. The best evidence of that is usually preliminary data.” If you do show preliminary data in a R21 proposal, make certain that it is convincing.


Like the R21, the R03 or Small Grant Program is shorter in duration (up to 2 years at $50,000 per year) and is meant to support pilot feasibility studies in which new research methodology and technology are being developed. Like the R21, the R03 does not require preliminary data.

R01 and R15 (AREA)

The R01 and R15 NIH programs both support “regular” research projects, but the research expectations for R01 applications are higher than for R15 applications. More funds are typically awarded for R01 than R15 projects. Under the R15 program – also known as the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program – a project can receive up to $100,00 per year in direct costs with a total direct cost cap of $300,000 for three years. Under the R01 program a project can receive up to $500,000 per year in direct costs for up to five years. Proposed budgets over $500,000 must be approved in advance by a program officer.

In an R15 application, it is important that you demonstrate you currently work with or plan to work with undergraduate students. This is where Miami has a significant advantage when compared to other academic institutions, as we have demonstrated a very strong emphasis on undergraduate research and training. If you have published papers with undergraduate students, have been part of the FYRE (First Year Research Experience) program, or have supported undergraduate research in your lab, the reviewers will look favorably upon that, so you should clearly point it out in your R15 proposal.

Collaborative projects

Regardless of the NIH program you apply to, if you don’t have the expertise for a particular part of the proposed work, then it is imperative that you collaborate with researchers who do. For collaborative projects, make sure your collaborator provides a letter clearly stating his/her expertise and interest in the project. Likewise, if you need a special technique for a certain phase of the project, make sure you get a letter from an expert who will assist you with the work.

 Written by Gary Lorigan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Miami University.

Chemistry lab photo by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services. 3D printing photo by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.