• Sarah Yecke

Webinar Recap: Best Practices for Managing Funding Opportunities in Medical Schools & Health Science

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

How do medical schools and medical research centers use InfoReady Review™ to manage their internal funding opportunities? In a recent webinar, we invited Laura Hessler (Program Manager) and Jill Jividen (Assistant Director) from the Office of Research at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) and Lisa Youngentob (Director, Research Development) from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) to share best practices around these processes.

The University of Michigan is unique in that they have nearly 20 standalone instances of InfoReady Review™ used across different colleges, schools, centers, and institutes. Laura and Jill work mostly within the UMMS site, which facilitates internal funding processes, limited submissions, and a variety of award programs. The opportunities they manage are also shared widely across campus with cross-promotion on the various instances of InfoReady Review™ to direct potential applicants to the right place. Any UMich user is able to log in with their institutional credentials to any site, making the application and review processes familiar for users.

Collaboration is especially necessary in the limited submissions process, where UMMS works closely with the central Office of Research (UMOR). Administrators use templates in InfoReady Review™ to quickly post scaled-down versions of the sponsor’s application. After the review process is complete in InfoReady Review™ and final selections have been determined, UMMS enters the final decisions in InfoReady Review™ and uses the system to email all pertinent stakeholders about next steps and resources to help refine the final submission to the sponsoring organization.

Jill and Laura also highlighted the variety of reporting features in InfoReady Review™, specifically for pilot grants. Administrators can set up progress reports for awardees at the time of awarding, with scheduled reminders for 6 months or even a year or more in the future. The progress reports allow administrators to simplify the collection of results and outcomes through a standardized post-award process that automates their workflow and communication, even when the next action items for applicants are not until much later.

Bridge funding is another important process at UMMS, where a quick turnaround for the application and review process is critical. Administrators first ensure eligibility and accuracy of materials, using InfoReady Review™’s Return function to send comments and ask for re-submission. To expedite the review process, the application form includes a place for applicants to suggest peer reviewers, which are supplemented with members of the UMMS Biomedical Research Council, an internal peer review body.

Besides relying on an established pool of peer reviewers, Jill and Laura shared other strategies for finding and maintaining these critical players in the internal funding process. They try to limit the number of requests, especially for more complicated application processes, and they always get permission before assigning reviews in their InfoReady Review™ site. At the end of the year, they send thank you cards to express appreciation for reviewers’ service. With so much of the process in online or digital format, a personal touch goes a long way.

Though Lisa Youngentob from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) uses InfoReady Review™ for many of the same processes as UMMS, she chose to focus on a specific seed grant program where she has used InfoReady Review™ in unique and creative ways. The Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Awards is a collaborative intramural seed grant program.

Researchers are matched through an online questionnaire that is converted to a spreadsheet where potential collaborators can find each other and begin a conversation. Once they finalize their proposal topic, the UTHSC member of the team submits the application in InfoReady Review™. Lisa uses a pre-made CORNET template that only needs minor adjustments each cycle. She recommends requesting as much information as possible in the Applicant Requirement fields, even if it won’t be needed until later in the review or post-award process. Lisa also includes eligibility confirmation questions in a “Yes or No” format with a tooltip pop-up informing applicants that a “No” make them ineligible. With this information, the PI knows immediately to stop filling out the proposal.

Once the applications have entered the review stage, each is assigned at least three reviewers. Similar to UMMS, UTHSC relies on a pool of reviewers that are invited by their Vice Chancellor for Research to participate in the process. They add to the reviewer pool by making reviewing future proposals a condition of accepting a CORNET Award. To mimic the familiar NIH rating process, Lisa uses a 1-9 rating scale for criteria (an added benefit is that applicants get accustomed to NIH-style reviews). She includes specific reviewer instructions to remind them of the scoring rubric directly at the top of the review form. In the final awarding process, Lisa updates each application as awarded or rejected in InfoReady Review™. To keep unfunded teams working together, the PIs are provided links to other funding opportunities that match their submitted CORNET proposals.

Lisa noted the transition to InfoReady Review™ has been smooth, especially now that there are so many repeat users in the system. In the future, UTHSC hopes to expand their use of the system to facilitate one-on-one sessions between faculty members and their grant consulting services partner, as well as routing faculty requests for various processes and services.

We want to thank Jill, Laura, and Lisa for sharing their insights on how InfoReady Review™ helps them facilitate internal funding processes at their respective institutions.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Want to learn more about InfoReady Review™ or share your story with us as a Peer Spotlight? Contact info@inforeadycorp.com.