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Strategic Academic Planning Committee selects research proposals

Author: Arts and Letters

The first phase of the Strategic Academic Planning Committee (SAPC) process, a major new initiative to advance the scope, excellence and visibility of the University of Notre Dame’s research enterprise, has been concluded and the second, and conclusive, phase of the effort soon will be underway.

In January, University Provost Thomas G. Burish announced the creation of the SAPC. The initiative is designed to add to efforts outlined in existing college-level strategic plans by investing significant new funding in transformative proposals that further enhance research excellence. The University’s Trustees approved a budget of roughly $40 million for this initial effort (including $25 million in one-time costs and $5 million per year over the next three years). This is the first time that Notre Dame has invested such a significant amount of internal resources at one time in its research endeavors.

The SAPC consists of Burish, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves; Robert Bernhard, vice president for research; Carolyn Woo, Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business; and professors Paul Bohn, Margaret Brinig, Thomas Corke, Jennifer Herdt, Vittorio Hsle, Mark McCready, John McGreevey, Shahriar Mobashery, Paul Shultz, Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., and Jennifer Tank, who were recommended from across the University.

In May, the committee invited all faculty to submit proposals, in the form of short “concept papers,” suggesting new initiatives in which Notre Dame could invest to enhance its research enterprise.

“We received 72 proposals, which far exceeded our expectations,” Burish said. “The proposals involved faculty from each of the colleges and schools of the University.”

All of the Phase 1 concept papers were read and reviewed by each of the 15 members of the SAPC, except for cases where potential conflicts of interest existed. Following the review, 11 concept papers were invited on Nov. 15 to submit more detailed proposals for Phase 2.

Continuing on to Phase 2 are:

“Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics — Molecules to Cells and Beyond” (Paul Bohn); “Center for Children and Families” (Julia Braungart-Rieker); “Expanded Research in Global Health” (Frank Collins and Jeff Schorey); “Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies” (Mark Roche and Robert Sullivan); “Notre Dame Biomedical Science Initiative (NDBSI)” (Richard Taylor, contact for Fall 2007, and Marvin Miller, contact beginning January 2008); “Notre Dame Consortium for Actinide Research for Energy and the Environment” (Peter Burns); “Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility (NDIIF)” (Bradley Smith); “The Notre Dame Nanoelectronics Research Initiative” (Wolfgang Porod); “Zero Emission Energy Research Opportunity” (Joan Brennecke and Thomas Corke).

Daniel Myers, “The Notre Dame Survey Research Center and Survey of American Religion,” and Margaret Brinig, “Religion, Families and Youth,” were invited to submit a combined proposal for Phase 2.

“We are exceptionally grateful for the efforts and interest of all who collaborated on these proposals,” Burish said. “Most proposals were responsive to all the criteria listed in the call, including having the potential to significantly advance research, scholarship and/or creative expression at Notre Dame, as well as advance our educational programs. Many of the proposals brought together new teams of faculty to work on significant issues in creative ways.”

Phase 2 proposals, which are due Jan. 31, will be approximately 15 pages in length, and will include a more detailed budget and proposed metrics for assessing the impact of the proposal, if funded. The SAPC will begin reviewing proposals in February, with the assistance of external reviewers. Those members of the SAPC who are involved with proposals invited to Phase 2 will not participate in further reviews. Burish will invite a few additional members to join the spring deliberations.

In April, the SAPC will make recommendations for funding to the University’s executive team of Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president, Burish and Affleck-Graves. The committee anticipates recommending a subset of proposals for funding in order to target investments for the highest impact.

Bernhard has collated the comments SAPC made on all 72 proposals and provided an initial summary of the feedback to their lead investigators.

“Even though not every proposal can be funded through the current SAPC process, we hope that the discussions that resulted in the generation of the 72 proposals will be useful in developing new collaborations and initiatives,” Burish said. “In fact we have been pleased to learn that this is already the case with some of the proposals. We will do all we can to help facilitate these new collaborations.”

Questions on the SAPC process can be directed to Erin Hoffmann Harding, assistant vice president for strategic planning and special projects ( .

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on November 20, 2007.