Second round of the Pandemic-Affected Research Continuation Initiative supports critical campus research needs
Research activities delayed due to pandemic-related constraints on face-to-face human subjects research, travel, access to facilities or other limitations specifically related to COVID-19 are eligible for funding support from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) through a second round of the Pandemic-Affected Research Continuation Initiative (PARCI).
PARCI awards are available up to $40,000 and applications are due by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. Equipment costs are not allowable under this program. Application instructions and a link to the online application form are available at: https://research.wisc.edu/funding/pandemic-affected-research-continuation-initiative/.
The high volume of applications submitted to the first round underscored the serious impact that the pandemic has had on research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The OVCRGE received 110 applications for the first round of PARCI and funded 70.
Annie Bauer, assistant professor of geoscience, received round 1 PARCI funding, which she says provided critical salary support for her research group.
Bauer’s research is primarily focused on the origins of the oldest continents as well as the protracted development of an oxygen-rich atmosphere on Earth. To tackle these questions, her research group characterizes ancient rocks using the decay of a variety of radioactive isotopes and the accrual of their daughter products. Her research staff targets specific domains of interest in a mineral (usually on the scale of 10s of microns, so less than the width of a human hair) with a laser and ablates the mineral into an aerosol that is simultaneously fed to two different mass spectrometers to determine age and chemical composition.
“A large part of our research agenda involves analytical experimentation, and much of this work is driven by a world-class researcher who manages my laboratory facilities and helps supervise the students in my group,” Bauer says. “The PARCI was crucial for helping me bridge the overlap between this researcher, who will retire soon, and his recently hired replacement. During their overlap, the new employee is learning how to manage our laboratory facilities, supervise internal and external users, and support the development of state-of-the-art analytical techniques in our lab.”
Bauer, who joined the UW–Madison faculty in Fall 2019, notes that the successful transfer of knowledge between these two employees is critical to giving her a foothold to get her research program off the ground.
“Our analytical plans for the spring 2020 semester included setting up several techniques that had not been previously attempted in our lab,” she says. “We planned to start this work in mid-March, and therefore the COVID shutdowns of facilities on campus greatly impeded our progress—including the early stages of return to research on campus, which did not permit having several workers in our lab space simultaneously.”
With the additional time afforded by salary support from the PARCI, Bauer’s group has made enormous progress in analytical experimentation and project development.
“My staff have led the charge to run experiments and develop techniques to support the five graduate students I supervise, as well as several other graduate students from UW and beyond,” Bauer says. “I am grateful for the support that I received from PARCI to bridge several additional months of overlap between these two employees; they are both exceptional researchers, mentors, and lab managers and they play a critical role in supporting geochemical research at UW-Madison and globally.
Marla A. Ramírez, assistant professor of history with a joint appointment in Chicana/o & Latina/o studies, also received round 1 PARCI funding. Like Bauer, she joined the UW–Madison faculty in 2019. The PARCI funds helped her cover the hire of a project assistant, expenses with transcriptions, student-hourly and small stipends for research participants.
“I began my appointment, with just enough time to adjust to my new position on campus and to begin developing networks, when we abruptly transitioned to working from home and online teaching,” Ramírez recalls. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for us all in multiple ways. The loss of human life and effects on health for millions of people globally has had shattering effects. Social life as we knew it was also put on pause and our regular approaches to research, as well as labor, drastically changed.”
Ramírez’s research involves working with the National Museum of American History (NMAH) as an expert historian for their Undocumented Organizing Collecting Initiative. This project aims to understand how immigrant youth organizing has changed over time by recording oral histories and collecting objects from events as they happen. Key organizers have been identified in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Southern California, Nebraska, Chicago, and Mexico City. As the pandemic spread around the world, the NMAH and UW–Madison implemented travel restrictions due to health safety concerns. As such, Ramírez’ research group was unable to travel to designated sites for the research and the project had to be reimagined.
“Little did we know that the museum collecting initiative and my research agenda on this collection would be halted by a global pandemic,” she says.
Additionally, once restrictions began to be lifted, Ramírez remained concerned about putting research participants at risk, especially as numbers of infections increased in some of the designated sites.
She says she had to change her approach and learned a lot from doing so.
“With remote working policies and virtual connections, we also created new opportunities,” she says. “For example, while I was unable to see my family members and loved ones in-person for almost two years, we regularly connected through FaceTime and Zoom, which partially reduced the emotional toll of being separated. The benefits extended to research as well.”
Zoom created an opportunity for her to continue her research virtually. While an unusual way to conduct oral histories, Zoom allowed her to explore and examine the advantages of digital interviewing.
“I will write an article on the topic of oral history, the digital age and research effects of COVID-19,” she says about the learning experience. “Additionally, I was able to hire one of my doctoral students, Bree Ann Romero, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at UW–Madison, to work as a project assistant with the NMAH on this project.”
The ability to work remotely facilitated Romero’s ability to join the collaboration without having to worry about relocation expenses.
“Most importantly, we were still able to collect the oral histories with organizers we had identified who generously agreed to interview via Zoom,” Ramírez says. “The PARCI was key to our project and allowed our research to continue. This project would have been dramatically different or halted if it were not for the support of this grant.”
PARCI award notifications will be sent in December 2021 with funding to begin on January 1, 2022. The standard duration of the grant will be from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.
By Natasha Kassulke, firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 219-8042