Federally funded competitive grants

February, 2014

The Subcommittee on Federally Funded Competitive Grants is part of the Student Experience Enhancement Council -- a council that aims to maintain Iowa State's trademark high-quality student experience as enrollment surges. Academic enrichment experiences for undergraduates include such things as internships and co-ops, study abroad, academic or career-related student organizations, learning communities, Honors Program and conducting research with a faculty member.


To increase federally funded competitive research at Iowa State University.


Through listening sessions and meeting discussion, the committee came up with several recommendations to:

  1. support internal competitive grants programs that provide funding to generate preliminary data for new grant opportunities, jump-start strategic initiatives, and build interdisciplinary teams that enhance networking and expertise for larger competitive grants;
  2. support programs to stimulate research cluster hires, provide start-up packages for recruitment of faculty, and enhance graduate students and postdoctoral fellow numbers;
  3. establish a central proposal writing support team to assist faculty in preparing and submitting grant proposals;
  4. strengthen connections with federal funding agencies;
  5. increase state-of-the-art equipment and laboratory facilities; and
  6. adequately staff research support units, i.e., Office of Sponsored Programs Administration and the Office for responsible research, to ensure growth and support of grant submission, management, and implementation.

Initiatives under way

Multiple initiatives are ongoing at the university level to address these recommendations.

The Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research has been launched to support research that may lead to major advances, discoveries and technologies.

The first competition awarded four pursuit grants, each of which could receive up to $4.5 million over three years for large-scale, multidisciplinary research efforts of national and international importance. Additionally, the initiative awarded three proof-of-concept grants, each of which received up to $100,000 for one year.


  • Continue the interdisciplinary research competition, conducting it every two years. Announce the call for proposals well in advance to give faculty enough time to form teams. Be more flexible on grant size and use of the funds to allow investigators to develop the most competitive teams and grants.
  • In addition to large-team support, provide resources to promote the success of individual researchers, for example, through establishment of a university-wide seed grant program.

The Presidential High-Impact Hires initiative seeks to bring faculty in areas of strategic importance to the university and Iowa. In this initiative, $2 million in central funds were matched dollar-for-dollar by the academic units. The joint investment has created 29 new faculty positions. These new hires will significantly strengthen strategically important areas, such as big data and translational health.


  • Continue this initiative on a yearly basis, starting early enough in each cycle to give departments time to recruit and hire new faculty members by the beginning of fall semester.
  • This committee will work with the Vice President for Research office to implement other action items including establishment of a central proposal writing support team; development of a program that facilitates faculty interaction with program officers in federal and other funding agencies; expansion and upgrade of research infrastructure including equipment and space; and establishment of a university-wide mentoring team to effectively mentor junior, mid-career and senior faculty.

Committee members

Current committee members include co-chair Brent Shanks, co-chair Qijing Zhang, Wendy Wintersteen, John Glover, Lois Wright Morton, Mei Hong, and Balaji Narasimhan.