Frequently Asked Questions – Physical Sciences

General questions: Russell Schwalbe (
Computer or web related questions: VCRGE IT (
Questions specifically on content of application: Steve Ackerman (2-1044) 

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.

  1. Please select your Application Academic Division on the Project Info page. Your selection will result in customized instructions for writing the application.
  1. If you have received support from the Fall Research Committee in 2012-13, 2013-14, or 2014-15, for each award we are asking that you specify the outcomes (i.e., conference presentations, publications, papers under reviews, grants submitted and received) from that award. A drop down list and “?” instructions will help guide you.
  1. A line item budget justification for new Fall Competition applications is now required. Please provide a very BROAD overview. 
  1. If you have more than 25% of your start-up package remaining, we are asking that you specify your plan for spending these funds.
  1. You may upload a single pdf (eg. a figure or chart) of no more than 50 megs as supplemental material to the proposal.
  1. WARF Summary page: This is a new page for the 2015 application and is designed to capture, in lay person language, a summary of your project that can be understood by someone outside of your academic discipline.

The application process begins with an online application form, including short abstract, budget, project description, and other information.  After the application deadline, your file will be assigned to a member of the Physical 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. In the case of junior faculty, the interviewer will also speak with the applicant’s department chair. 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.

The Committee considers request for funds to support various research situations, including pilot studies, multidisciplinary projects and funding gaps and provides various types of support, including funding for personnel and research needs. Most commonly, the Committee makes "insurance" awards; that is they fund proposals seeking support for pending applications to external 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.

Funding can be requested in any category, however, graduate student support is most commonly awarded.  Travel support is provided only in circumstances where the travel is integral to the conduct of the research.

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2013 Competition, the average award was $30,045, which included amounts for fringe benefits and tuition remission. Multidisciplinary team awards will usually follow this pattern, with consideration given to the number of team members in determining the final award level.

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.

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 have VCRGE start-up funds not already spent or encumbered are typically viewed as being a lower funding priority.

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.

You can call Steve Ackerman, Associate Vice Chancellor for Physical Sciences (2-1044).

Last updated on 11/09/2014.

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