How U.S. universities can improve limited submission processes

Research administrators provide real-world recommendations on optimizing limited submission opportunities in the U.S.

The number of new U.S. government limited submissions has nearly doubled over the last three years and now make up between 16% and 20% of all U.S. government funding opportunities, according to data from Pivot-RP®.

These limited submission opportunities, which restrict the number of submissions a single institution can submit, are also becoming more complex and are often confined to specific topics or subtopics, while turnaround times are getting shorter.

It all adds up to extra handling by research administrators. As the number of limited submission opportunities grows, research administrators are challenged to use time and resources more efficiently and increase faculty engagement to generate higher quality proposals.

Rebecca Milczarek, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Office of Research Development at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)* and Joshua Roney, Ph.D., Director, Research Development, at University of Central Florida (UCF) joined their colleague Seema Freer, Ph.D., Director of Research Development at Temple University, to share best practices for optimizing limited submission processes in a recent webinar and discussion hosted by Clarivate and InfoReady. These experienced research administrators use both Pivot-RP, a comprehensive global source of funding opportunities, and InfoReady™,  a software tool used by more than 200 organizations worldwide for managing and automating internal grants, competitions and approval processes.

The resources are part of a wave of data-rich technology resources that enable research administrators to make better decisions, simplify processes and increase efficiency. Pivot-RP and InfoReady go an extra step: they include integrations across the two resources that further streamline processes, particularly the limited submissions process. Pairing these resources enables research administrators to integrate funding discovery with automated competition management.

Finding the best reviewers

With limited submission opportunities, it is essential that universities identify and submit only the best applications to win major grants. Often this means holding internal competitions, which comes with its own set of challenges, including finding reviewers for submissions that are objective and qualified.

Freer uses a curated list of reviewers that has been assembled over time. These individuals have already been briefed on confidentiality, know that they may be approached and understand they will need to prioritize the review. Her team uses the list to match reviewers to the criteria in the call for submissions. Occasionally, the opportunity is a new type for which they have no listed reviewer. In those cases, they reach out to faculty in the relevant field and ask for recommendations for reviewers who have no conflicts of interest.

At UIC, Milczarek’s team “takes a cue from funders” and asks the applicants for suggested reviewers. “Usually, they suggest great folks,” she said. She includes the request for suggested reviewers in the submission template she develops in InfoReady. Another option in recurring and longstanding awards is to tap someone who received the award in the past since they have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to win.

Establishing a source of truth

Research administrators have access to more data through tools such as Pivot-RP and InfoReady.  These platforms are “becoming the source of institutional memory,” said Milczarek. “If we want to know who applied in previous years for recurring calls, it’s the source of truth. I took this role over from someone else and it’s been helpful to see how the competition was run. It’s a great source for institutional knowledge transfer and resource development.”

Indeed, Freer, who recently started her role in Research Development at Temple, relies on data from Pivot-RP and InfoReady to provide insightful reports to university administrators.

The data from Pivot-RP and InfoReady empower research administrators to strategically support faculty. The Office of Research at UCF uses the data to allocate resources. Roney identifies limited submissions with predictable application cycles and high popularity among faculty. To understand faculty success rates and where to redirect support, Roney tracks applicant activity. The tracking enables Roney’s team to provide broad, customized support for faculty. For example, a researcher who applied for a limited submission opportunity, but wasn’t selected, can be directed to other sources of funding that align with their work.

Encouraging faculty funding discovery

Access to funding databases enables faculty to work independently to find opportunities. As part of routine discussions with faculty, Freer covers three major topics: “We talk about grants, we talk about funding received, not received and anticipated, and inevitably, I’ll ask ‘Have you looked at Pivot(-RP)?’”

Roney’s team also provides one on one introductions to the funding database as part of new faculty onboarding. While this approach is very effective, it might not always be possible for others. Resource pages with links to training, newsletters – easily sent through InfoReady or Pivot-RP – and reminders to check for funding opportunities are good ways to encourage faculty to be part of the discovery process.

Learn more strategies and tips for optimizing the limited submission process, watch the recording of Optimizing Your Limited Submission Process with Pivot-RP and InfoReady Integration webinar.

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*The University of Illinois Chicago is not affiliated with Clarivate or InfoReady Corporation and does not endorse or recommend Clarivate, InfoReady Corporation or the products of these companies.