October 2014 CPI News and Updates

Included in this issue:   

  • Update from Dr. Mary Bryk, CPI Chair
  • CPI EC meetings with administrators
  • Texas A&M Government Relations update
  • Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) update
  • Transportation Services Advisory Committee
  • Maestro Working Group
  • Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) announces 2014-15 Visiting Faculty Fellows
  • AIP Seeks Applicants for State Department Fellowship
  • Texas A&M Research Compliance Committee
  • Pending reports from CPI members serving on external committees
  • Upcoming Seminars and Workshops for Texas A&M Researchers

  

Update from Dr. Mary Bryk, CPI Chair

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On September 10, 2014, the CPI held its annual closed session planning meeting to review the results of the 2014 PI Interest Survey and single out those priority issues identified by our constituents to focus on for the coming year.

A summary of the closed session meeting and the results of the 2014 PI survey (including a summary of the CPI Executive Committee meeting with Dr. Hussey and Dr. Watson that followed the full closed session meeting on September 10th) have been distributed to the PI community through their respective CPI representatives and are available at http://cpi.tamu.edu/archives/9.10.14_summary.

One of the top priority areas identified in the PI survey was improving the services of the Texas A&M System Sponsored Research Services (SRS).  Representatives from SRS will be in attendance on the October 8th CPI meeting and have already met with the CPI Executive Committee on October 1st. It is our understanding that PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) performed an audit on SRS and they are in the process of engaging stakeholders across the Texas A&M research enterprise to identify issues and determine how to implement measures to resolve the issues.

We will keep the PI community up-to-date on this process as information becomes available with regards to the progress of PwC’s efforts to improve SRS.

The only way the CPI can help bring issues to the attention of the administration is if PIs are willing to inform the Council of broad issues affecting their ability to perform research. If you have any issues the Council should be aware of, you can send an email to cpi@tamu.edu or call or email me at bryk@tamu.edu or 979.862-2294.

The CPI meeting on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 will be webcast live at ttvn.tamu.edu/webcasts on Channel 20, and videos are stored on the “Archives” section of the CPI website

CPI EC meetings with administrators

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On September 23, 2014, the CPI EC met with Chancellor Sharp and discussed a number of agenda items. The EC discussed the “Faculty Appointment Conversion” initiative with the Chancellor and explained how implementing such an initiative without faculty input and without an explanation of how this move will help us move toward the goals of Vision 2020 was demoralizing.

The Chancellor confirmed that this was not an initiative of the System, nor was it mentioned in any of the PwC recommendations or reports. The EC also discussed updates relating to the Texas A&M President search, PwC audit recommendations and the “Area 41” initiative (read more here) of the A&M System. Mr. Billy Hamilton, Executive Vice Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System agreed to come to the November CPI meeting to discuss further details of “Area 41” and solicit input from the PI community regarding this initiative.

The CPI Executive Committee met for its monthly coordination meeting on October 1st with invited research representatives from Texas A&M, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, TTI, HSC and TEES. Dr. José Luis Bermúdez, Associate Provost for Strategic Planning provided an update on the research areas and progress toward the goals of Vision 2020 that he plans to discuss at the October 8th full meeting. Mr. Leo Paterra and Dr. Jim Joyce provided an update on SRS and will talk at the October 8th meeting about the process by which PwC is reviewing all SRS processes and getting stakeholder input on how to better improve SRS’ organizational structure and overall functions (as noted in the first part of the newsletter).

The EC also went through an exercise and discussion to develop a list of high-priority areas that we believe will increase excellence at TAMU.  The EC will prioritize the list and develop strategies to provide data-supported recommendations to the President. As this initiative develops, the EC will engage and solicit input from the entire Council and the PI community.

 

Texas A&M Government Relations Update

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The Texas A&M University Office of Government Relations sent out a “Texas A&M Government Relations Update” on September 30, 2014 (see online at u.tamu.edu/GR_9_14).

Contact:

Mr. Mike O’Quinn – irishmike@tamu.edu, 979.847.2217

Dr. Diane Hurtado – d-hurtado@tamu.edu, 979.847.2217

Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP)

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Terry Thomas and Wolfgang Bangerth attended the thrice-annual Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) meeting. The FDP is an organization in which grant administrators from universities, from the granting agencies, and a few faculty get together to talk about the technical details of how grants work between universities and agencies.

The big subject at these meetings continues to be the implementation of "Uniform Guidance", a legal framework set up by the Office of Management and Budget that specifies common standards by which federal agencies handle grants and contracts, including those that support research.

Federal agencies need to have implementation plans in place by 12/26/2014 and this appears to be progressing well. The FDP and several agencies have developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions that answer many of the questions administrators have run into. There are also updates and clarifications to the Uniform Guidance that appear to be developed in a collaborative spirit between the government and grantee organizations.

Other sessions were more informational and concerned new data reporting requirements imposed by the DATA Act, as well as outlooks to the federal research funding landscape in the years to come (which, predictably, are grim).

Contact:

Dr. Wolfgang Bangerth – Bangerth@tamu.edu, 979.845.6393

Dr. Terry Thomas – tlthomas@tamu.edu, 979.845.0184

Transportation Services Advisory Committee

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New information: The golf course parking lot will open to all valid permits after 7 pm in the near future.

Updates from earlier meetings:

Buses: Bus ridership is up 8.15% over this time last year.  In the first 4 weeks of the semester, there were over one million rides.  Off campus routes are crowded at the beginning and end of the day, and on campus routes are crowded in the middle of the day.  Transportation Services is looking at adjusting the number of buses on routes to reflect this level of ridership. Ten new buses are on order.  Since five current buses are at end of life, this will be a net gain of 5 buses. There is still a need for more bus drivers.  Please spread the word. For more information see http://www.thebatt.com/news/view.php/849850/Funds-shortage-at-heart-of-bus-crowding

Bicycle District Plan: Alta, the company developing the plan, will be on campus October 8, 9, and 10.  A public meeting is tentatively planned for October 9 at 7:30 pm, location TBD.  Watch https://transport.tamu.edu/ or the Battalion for details.

The new Game Day transportation plan appears to be working well, with some minor glitches and changes needed.  Please encourage people traveling south on Wellborn after the game NOT to turn right onto Holleman Dr. W. Rather continue south to 2018 and head north back to Holleman Dr. or to even consider continuing south to Cain Rd. or Rock Prairie. If you are interested in the statistics from the Rice and Lamar games, contact Dr. Tim Lomax.

Contact:

Dr. Margaret Hobson – m-hobson@tamu.edu or 979.458.9285

Maestro Working Group

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An area of discussion that is likely to be of particular interest to PIs involves development of Maestro Light, Phase 1. These options are being incorporated in response to PI feedback to make it easier to quickly access commonly used functions within Maestro. Some functions of interest include:

  • ·         Quick links: new link at the top right corner of all pages providing direct access to frequently used items.
  • ·         Printable pages:  a new function will allow many proposal forms (e.g., FCOI) to be displayed in a format suitable for printing.
  • ·         New common work list: showing all tasks requiring action on a single screen.
  • ·         Streamlined interface centered around three tabs: current items (things needing action), completed items, and notifications (copies of all emailed communications from system).

Email links: Maestro generated emails will include direct links to appropriate screens in the system where action is needed. Required actions will also be highlighted in the email text. It was also noted that PIs have ability to select which email notifications they would like to receive via the “My Settings” tab.

PIs have also asked for the ability to create a “favorite account” list to reduce the number of project accounts displayed. This is under development for implementation in a future phase.

The committee also discussed modifications to terminology and used to classify various award types in order to streamline integration with reporting and budgeting. A Limitation of Cost/Funds (LOC) component has been requested to address specific projects where contractors are required to notify a sponsor when expenditures are projected to reach a certain threshold within the next 60 days, and there was discussion about how monthly spending averages should be calculated (i.e., previous 3 months’ average, etc.). There was also discussion about how to report initial submission of pre-proposals followed by full proposal submissions (i.e., whether they should be counted as two separate proposals, or a single proposal plus a revision). 

A request from TEES was discussed to incorporate database of key research areas that can be used, for example, to streamline establishment of cost sharing (e.g., CPRIT, DoE). There is already ability to add keywords for each proposal, but it is not clear who should be entering this information. It was suggested to coordinate with SRS to determine how to proceed. A request from the TAMU libraries was discussed regarding including award information in the VIVO interface project aimed at generating faculty research profiles.

Contact:

Dr. Victor Ugaz – ugaz@tamu.edu or 979.458.1002

Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) announces 2014-15 Visiting Faculty Fellows

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Seven world-class scholars from throughout the nation and abroad have accepted invitations to serve as Faculty Fellows of the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study for the 2014-2015 academic year.  They include an awardee of the highest honor bestowed by the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and winners of analogous prestigious international honors.  

The seven new Faculty Fellows are renowned for significant contributions to man’s knowledge, and their contributions span many disciplines.  Dr. Junkins, Director of the Institute, says they will serve in-residence from three to up to 12 months, but in some cases the time on campus will spread over multiple years, explicitly inducing greater long term collaboration and affiliation with Texas A&M.  He adds that based on the experience to date, we anticipate that some will join our permanent faculty.

More information about the members of the 2014-2015 set of Faculty Fellows, and the academic areas in which they will serve, is available from the TAMUtimes September 25, 2014 story at u.tamu.edu/tias_9_25_14.

 “The positive impact on the university as a consequence of attracting these extraordinarily accomplished individuals cannot be over-emphasized.” Junkins says. “These exceptional scholars, together with our current top-flight faculty, will help foster an even more vibrant environment for research and teaching and will pay tremendous future dividends through enhanced collaborations and faculty recruitment.”

The 2014-2015 Faculty Fellows join the purely merit-based Institute to receive the honor along with the 15 Faculty Fellows from the two prior years, many of whom are continuing collaboration with numerous Texas A&M faculty and students. The Institute’s Faculty Fellows are annually selected through a process led by an electorate of acclaimed current faculty at Texas A&M, consisting of Nobel Laureates, Wolf Prize recipients, National Academies members and distinguished professors, among others. The expectation is that by 2018 the university will be attracting 20 new world-class scholars each year for even greater opportunities for interaction.

Contact:

Dr. John L. Junkins, Director, TIAS – junkins@tamu.edu, 979.845.3912

Dr. Clifford Fry, Associate Director, TIAS - cfry@tamu.edu or 979.458.5723 

AIP Seeks Applicants for State Department Fellowship

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The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is now seeking applicants for its 2015-16 State Department Science Fellowship. The application deadline is November 3, 2014.

Click here to find out more about the fellowship, including application information and qualifications.

Texas A&M University Research Compliance Committee

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This committee, convened by Katherine Rojo del Busto, met for the first time on September 19, 2014.  Progress reports from several research compliance programs (Biosafety, Human Subject Protection, Animal Welfare, Export Controls and FCOI / RCR) were provided.  Research compliance will begin to administer customer satisfaction surveys for users of Biosafety, Human Subject Protection, Animal Welfare services to highlight strengths and identify areas for improvement.  Information will be forthcoming on a compliance and training event planned for spring 2015.  Committee members were warned of potentially burdensome export control training initiatives at the System.  Mr. Kevin McGinnis, the Director of the Office of Risk Management and Benefits Administration at the System stated that this office and TAMU research compliance groups are working together to limit export control training to researchers who are traveling to high risk or embargoed countries.  Katherine Rojo del Busto is scheduled to present at the November CPI meeting to provide a progress report on university research compliance efforts.

Pending reports from CPI representatives serving on external committees (CPI representative)

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See the full list of CPI members serving on external committees and committee descriptions at goo.gl/rP41nF. Please note, pending reports may be due to committees not having met since the last newsletter update.

  • Council for the Built Environment (Emil Straube, Penny Riggs)
  • EPIK-Maestro Working Group (Victor Ugaz)
  • Intellectual Property Constituent Committee (Wolfgang Bangerth)
  • Laboratory Safety Advisory Committee (Susanne Talcott)
  • SRS PI/Faculty Advisory Committee (Niall Slowey)
  • Texas A&M University Multidisciplinary Accounting Committee (Steve DiMarco)


Upcoming Seminars and Workshops for Texas A&M Researchers

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The Division of Research (DOR) offers seminars and workshops throughout the year relating to professional development in research proposal planning and writing. All of these events are coordinated by Research Development Services (RDS), a DOR unit providing a wide range of support to Texas A&M researchers. The RDS calendar can be found at vpr.tamu.edu/researchdevelopment/PRDP/calendar.

If you would like to receive announcements and up-to-date information about new workshops and services through RDS, send an email to listserv@listserv.tamu.edu and in the BODY put:

SUBSCRIBE rds-info firstname lastname.

Contact:

Dr. Jorja Kimball – jkimball@tamu.edu, 979.458.5794