The Office of Grant Support: Assisting Faculty and Staff Beyond the Lab
In fiscal year 2017, Einstein received $174 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recording the highest total in the College of Medicine’s history. Einstein investigators also were supported by grants from a variety of other federal and non-federal funding sources, including charitable and professional organizations, state-funded agencies, and philanthropists. But how do investigators know where to look and how to identify viable funding sources to support their work?
Members of the grant support team include (from left): Anindita Mukherjee, Ph.D., Gerard McMorrow, and Dhanonjoy Saha, Ph.D.
A good place to start is Einstein’s office of grant support.
The goal of grant support staff is to help faculty members and department administrators submit funding proposals and manage all the nonfinancial activities that follow a submission. This broad mandate means that the small team, comprised of Dr. Dhanonjoy Saha (director), Dr. Anindita Mukherjee (assistant director), Gerard McMorrow (pre-award analyst) and Regina Janicki (eRA manager), keeps quite busy helping faculty members identify funding opportunities, develop and submit their proposals, negotiate budgets and other terms and conditions of awards, and communicate with grant-making agencies.
A Most Welcome, Helping Hand
Sylvia Suadicani, Ph.D., and colleagues, got helpful information for making a timely submission that netted them additional funding for their studies“Due to the nature of our work, we have to be very creative in finding new funding opportunities, especially beyond the standard NIH R01s,” said Dr. Ruben Coen Cagli, assistant professor of systems & computational biology and of neuroscience. “I sought help from grant support and, after providing information about what I was working on, Anindita provided me with a list of relevant funding opportunities, including some I hadn’t seen in my own investigations. And she continues to do so as new ones are posted. In my graduate work, there was nothing like this; it’s really great that Einstein has this service.”
“The grant support team truly is supportive,” said Dr. Sylvia Suadicani, associate professor of urology and assistant professor of neuroscience. “Accessing some funding sources can be difficult and, with their help, we’ve been able to make sure we can submit a timely request for funds and get them.”
Dr. Joe Verghese, professor of neurology and of medicine, chief of the integrated divisions of cognitive and motor aging, director of the Resnick Gerontology Center, founding director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for the Aging Brain, and the Murray D. Gross Memorial Faculty Scholar in Gerontology, agreed. “With help from grant support, we submitted a stronger, more persuasive application and were funded on our first submission. Using their writing services definitely made a difference for us.”
Dr. Mukherjee noted, “Having been a researcher myself, I understand the challenges that come with pursuing research and how many barriers there can be. The services we offer allow us to decrease those barriers for our investigators and help them achieve greater success in the scientific community.”
A Broader Scope for Assisting Investigators
The modest phrase “grant support” doesn’t reflect the full breadth of the services the team offers. “The work we do is not limited to just grants,” said Dr. Saha. “We also assist with a range of other funding mechanisms, including contracts and cooperative agreements.”
Ruben Coen-Cagli, Ph.D., was able to identify additional funding sources When he arrived at Einstein two years ago, Dr. Saha had big plans for his team and the office. It’s not just the senior faculty that benefits; the office’s services are available to anyone in the Einstein and Montefiore community. New-employee orientation sessions help spread the word about the kinds of assistance available, targeting people from graduate students to established professors.
“Those sessions provide an idea of what services we provide and the resources that are available,” said Dr. Mukherjee. “On a monthly basis, we also share a list of funding opportunities with all Einstein and Montefiore staff, and we continually reach out individually to faculty for whom we’re gathering more-specific information.”
Aiming to Serve Above and Beyond
The services the office could provide is just as long as the list of what it does provide.
“We would like to get to a place where we can provide services continuously and help to better prepare faculty and staff for competitive applications,” said Dr. Saha. “Researchers across the nation spend a large proportion of their time focusing on administrative work that takes them away from their research. Our goal is to help decrease that burden for the Einstein and Montefiore community while assisting them in finding greater financial support for their important work.”
With that goal in mind, the grant support team is working on a series of new initiatives to better assist faculty and staff. These include liaising with federal and private grant-making organizations and providing training in areas such as grant writing. In March, the office will host a special day-and-a-half workshop, featuring noted writing authority Dr. George Gopen, open to all members of the Einstein community. The workshop will be followed by an opportunity for up to 18 principal investigators at Einstein and Montefiore to receive two-hour, small-group tutoring sessions on grant writing, which will include individualized attention to each participant’s grant proposal draft. Further details are noted on the grant support website.
This dedication to finding new ways to assist the faculty and staff not only makes the job fulfilling, but renders the office’s resources invaluable. As Dr. Coen Cagli noted, “I truly appreciate the support that was provided, including the assistance with identifying new funding opportunities. It was such a good experience that I plan to continue working with the office and explore the additional services such as grant writing and review.”
While all these plans may keep the office busy, Dr. Saha sees no problem with that. “Our goal is to be there for the faculty whenever they need us, no matter how long the workdays are. We want to provide the services that the faculty and staff need and help their crucial research succeed in whatever way we can.”
Posted on: Tuesday, January 30, 2018