Inclusive Internal Grant Programs


>> What is a Seed Grant Good For?

Through this module, participants will develop their own ideas on what a seed grant can be used for, and will identify opportunities, risks/concerns, and potential mitigation for areas of special concern, or goals that are particular to the proposed program. The intention is not for the presenters to provide a list to participants, but for participants to find their own motivations and expectations.

>> How do you Design a Seed Grant Program That is Inclusive and Equitable?

Through this module, participants will reflect on how disciplinary language can either incentivize or depress participation. Novel application processes will be explored that use specific disciplinary language to feed into a common review framework through a “choose-your-own adventure” application portal.

>> How do you Manage Outreach?

Recruitment plays a critical role in driving goals of diversity and inclusion. Through this module, participants will explore ways in which recruitment and outreach can be designed to attract and engage diverse participants. 

>> How do you Ensure Review and Selection Processes are Transparent, Equitable, and Inclusive?

Through this module, participants will be introduced to approaches they may use to disrupt entrenched systems that disadvantage scholars belonging to historically underrepresented groups and/or non-STEM disciplines and create internal funding selection processes that are inclusive and effective.

Context for these Resources

We propose a collaborative framework for designing and implementing seed grant programs in ways that center justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion principles.

Our project asserts that if participants feel that the seed grant process is biased against them or their discipline from the outset, you will still end up with the same outcomes no matter how well designed your solicitation, outreach, and review processes. The key is therefore intentionally engaging a more diverse set of participants at each stage of the process, and ensuring that those participants feel that their scholarly contributions will be valued throughout the process.

Intentional reflection on the framework and purpose for seed grants is critical to avoid maintaining the status-quo, where traditional normative approaches systemically benefit majority (both demographically and by discipline) participants, and may under-serve or wholly exclude under-represented minority participants.

This framework was initially developed by Seed Grant working group members, assembled through the Center for Research Excellence and Diversity in Team Science (CREDITS). The CREDITS working group believes research development professionals can play a key role in helping to ensure that JEDI principles become integral to seed funding programs. We proposed four areas primed for intentional design of seed funding programs that have the potential to yield meaningful JEDI impacts. These programmatic areas include: 1) goal setting, 2) competition design, 3) applicant outreach, and 4) selection.

We define seed grants as: competitive awards that are focused on the feasibility of a concept; assembly of compelling, qualified interdisciplinary investigator teams; identification of appropriate extramural funding targets; and concrete activities and milestones that have high likelihood to result in advancing research, scholarship, and creative activity.

However, more generally, seed grants are a distribution of funds for the purposes of future growth.

An institutional definition of seed grants may change over time, and indeed may change with every seed grant competition. This definition will depend on the motivation, and the expectations for the seed grant competition under consideration. Each institution must explicitly ask, “Why are we doing this, and what are we hoping to get out of it?”

This formal interrogation of seed grants is generally motivated by documented inequity, especially related to post-submission review, including inequities introduced by bias, ethical considerations, conflict of interest, portfolio balance, and review committee composition.

As a particle counter-measure to the biased design of Seed Grant programs, we have developed tools to explicitly interrogate, and engage in the intentional design of four distinct, but linked, components of seed grants. These frameworks are explicitly not prescriptive, rather are best used as tools for the intentional interrogation of seed grant design and implementation at the level of the institution, college, department, center, or other functional unit.

About the Authors

John Crockett is the Associate Vice President for Research Advancement in the Division of Research and Innovation at San Diego State University. Dr. Crockett’s team is responsible for curating and amplifying the research reputation of SDSU at the institutional level. Dr. Crockett maintains two research programs, one focused on ethnic, racial and gender diversity in STEM higher education, and the second on the formation and function of teams, related to Team Science enterprises.

Kim Patten is Assistant Vice President for Research Development, at the University of Arizona. She leads a team of research development professionals that excel in supporting faculty in their pursuit of extramural funding from federal, corporate, and foundation sponsors. Prior to joining UA, Patten managed projects and programs in conservation, renewable energy, and distributed data systems both nationally and internationally.

Nathan Meier is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research in the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Directing a group of eight research development professionals, Nathan increases funding competitiveness through the intentional design and hands-on leadership of proposal development, internal seed grant, limited submission competition, faculty development and recognition, and research impact programs.

Trevor Hirst is the founding Executive Director of the Health Sciences Research Institute at the University of California Merced. Trevor has worked at the University of California in Santa Barbara as a program manager at the university’s California NanoSystems Institute and as Program Manager for the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities before joining HSRI in July 2012.

Maria Teresa Napoli is the Director of Research Development for Science and Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. In this role, Maria serves as the lead strategist in the Office of Research for planning and program development in these areas. Maria develops and executes plans to meet campus scientists’ research and funding needs, providing proposal development assistance through all stages of proposal conceptual development and refinement.


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