Seed Funding Program Primes the Pump for Interdisciplinary Research

 Seed Funding Program Primes the Pump for Interdisciplinary Research

The University of Virginia is deploying a new strategy to grow its research enterprise, a program called “Explore-to-Build” that provides seed funding to draw faculty members together from around Grounds to address some of society’s most vexing problems.

Launched in fall 2017 by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research as part of the pan-University institute initiative, Explore-to-Build seeks innovative, collaborative interdisciplinary projects from groups of faculty with a vision to grow their work into a future institute.

“This effort is part of a larger vision to grow UVA’s research,” Vice President for Research M.K. (Ram) Ramasubramanian said. “The Explore-to-Build initiative serves to bridge the gap from ‘emergence’ to ‘prominence,’ while the pan-University institutes serves to move the research from ‘prominence’ to ‘preeminence.’

“As part of the Explore-to-Build initiative, the teams will have access to mentors to help them enhance their focus and build a collaborative team that is effective.”

Three projects have been selected for seed funding under the Explore-to-Build initiative:

  • the Institute for Dynamics of Healthy Development, led by Steven Boker, professor of psychology;
  • the Cyber Innovation and Society Institute, led by Jack Davidson, professor of computer science;
  • and the Initiative for the Study of Equity Through Community-Engaged Scholarship, led by Dayna Matthew, professor of law.

Each will receive $100,000 to advance their exploratory research by stimulating creative collaborations at a large scale, and to build teams better-prepared to compete in the next pan-University institute funding cycle.

“It is exciting to see Ram expand the overall research strategy in innovative ways,”  Thomas C. Katsouleas, executive vice president and provost, said. “We are eager to work with these dynamic teams and help them grow to be global leaders in their topic.”

While these researchers are encouraged to apply to become the next pan-University institutes, that process will be open for anyone interested in applying. The round is anticipated to be open in September with submission due in mid-November.

Brief descriptions of the topical areas to be undertaken by the newly funded Explore-to-Build teams are provided below:

Institute for Dynamics of Healthy Development
This institute will organize and promote research that pertains to understanding processes of human development (biological, psychological, educational, social and environmental), and in particular will focus on the trajectories of development in healthy individuals. While preventing and curing disease is important, insufficient resources have been devoted to the variety and complexity of healthy development over the lifespan.

Cyber Innovation and Society Institute
The institute’s mission is to carry out research and education initiatives that focus on the complex technical, social and policy challenges posed by emerging cyber innovations to ensure that cyber technology benefits all of society equally, fairly and dependably.

Initiative for the Study of Equity Through Community Engaged Scholarship
This initiative seeks to produce high-impact scholarship that addresses systemic inequities through community-engaged research. This team will develop ways to translate its research into interventions that contribute to repairing historic inequities, broken trust and trauma experienced in places where leading research universities can apply their intellectual and other resources to educate students, disseminate knowledge and collaborate with communities to build just, sustainable and democratic institutions that support an equitable society.

Three years ago, the University established its first pan-University institutes drawing on the University’s broad and specific intellectual capital to tackle major 21st-century issues. The first, the UVA Data Science Institute, was established in 2014, with the UVA Brain Institute following in 2016 and the Environmental Resilience and Global Infectious Diseases institutes in 2017.

Click here for updates on the pan-University institutes initiatives.

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