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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Biological Sciences FAQs

Who funds the Research Committee Fall Competition?

The Research Competition is funded by a gift from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Since its founding in 1925, WARF has served the UW–Madison scientific community by patenting research discoveries at the UW–Madison and licensing such technologies to leading companies in Wisconsin, the U.S., and worldwide. WARF distributes the income from these commercial licenses in an appropriate manner between the UW–Madison Office of the VCRGE, the inventors, and their departments. The Research Committee Competitions are two means by which the Office of the VCRGE distributes the gift to faculty and permanent PI’s on campus.

What are the components of an application?

The application process begins with an online application form, including short abstract, budget, project narrative, and other information. After the application deadline, your file will be assigned to a member of the Biological Sciences Research Committee, who will contact you or your department administrator to set up an appointment for an interview. At the interview, your interviewer will seek more detail about you and your proposal. At a Research Committee meeting, the interviewer presents your proposal and answers questions from other committee members. S/he will act as your representative rather than as your advocate, and you should be sure that s/he understands your project as well as possible. Decisions about funding are made by the Committee as a whole. You will be notified via email how to access the online competition results prior to winter break.

What are the Biological Sciences Research Committee priorities for Fall Competition Funding?

The committee considers request for funds to support various research situations, including pilot studies, collaborative projects and funding gaps, and provides various types of support, including funding for personnel (including tuition remission and fringe benefits), supplies, and essential equipment. The Committee often makes “insurance” awards; that is, they fund proposals seeking support for pending applications to outside funding agencies. These “insurance” funds are provided should the “insured” proposal(s) fail to be funded by the outside agency. The funds can then be used to provide some support during the resulting funding gap. Funds awarded to “insure” proposals that receive outside support are returned to the Research Committee for distribution to other campus research priorities. The Committee also encourages requests for pilot funding of new research directions in order to enable future applications for extramural support.

What is an average award in the Fall Competition?

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2017 Competition, the average award was $60,533. However, you should request a budget appropriate to your project, keeping in mind that awards last year ranged from approximately $28,000 to $87,000.

Does the committee consider previous Research Committee funding when making a decision on an application?

The pattern and frequency of Research Committee utilization is one factor typically considered when reviewing individual applications to the Fall Competition. The number of applications made is not particularly relevant, but the frequency with which Research Committee funds are expended can have an impact on funding decisions. As a general rule, frequent use of Research Committee funds (for example multiple years in succession, four of the past five years etc.) reduces the probability of funding in any given competition. Funds awarded, but not expended (i.e. insurance was not necessary) are not prejudicial. As noted above, you will be asked to provide information on the outcomes of any Research Committee support that was provided during the last three years.

Should assistant professors apply?

The competition is open to faculty of all ranks as well as permanent PIs. Junior faculty are particularly encouraged to apply. However, applications from newly appointed faculty who are recent recipients of sizable start-up packages are typically viewed as being a lower funding priority than proposals from other applicants, many of whom have no alternative sources of funding available.

How can I prepare for the interview itself?

Share any publications or other materials that might help explain your project. If you have submitted a proposal for external funds for which the Research Committee proposal is full or partial insurance, provide your reviewer with a copy of that application. And remember that your reviewer’s job is not to serve as your advocate on the committee but to accurately summarize your project for other committee members. Equip your interviewer with the information s/he will need to present your proposal as clearly as possible.

Do I need to be in residence for my award?

If your research takes you elsewhere, this is fully appropriate. Remember, however, that Research Committee salary support is an investment in University tenured or tenure-track faculty and Permanent PI development. It is available only for persons who will be UW–Madison staff members in residence on the Madison campus in the semester following that support.