The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $871,000 grant to Cal State San Bernardino to help reorganize and streamline the university’s grant functions and support and increase the diversity of faculty and students engaged in biomedical and biobehavioral research, and research overall.

The three-year grant will fund CSUSB ASPIRE (Advancing Sponsored Program Infrastructure for Research Excellence), said Dorota Huizinga, the associate provost for academic research and dean of graduate studies. Huizinga will serve as the grant’s principal investigator with Diane Trujillo, the director of Sponsored Programs Administration, as the co-PI, and Cynthia Crawford, the director of the Office of Research Development and a professor of psychology, as the grant senior personnel.

“One goal is to reorganize and enhance our services in sponsored programs,” said Huizinga. “In 2018 we brought in an excellent consultant who reviewed our services and assessed them, and the conclusion was the services are fragmented and we should try to centralize and streamline them.”

Currently the university’s Office of Sponsored Programs Administration manages about $30 million of external grants, and those grants are brought in mostly by faculty from the federal government and from the state government, Huizinga said.    

“The challenge of managing sponsored projects is that every project is different, every sponsor has different requirements. So a lot of individual attention is needed for each of the projects and we need an adequate infrastructure to support,” Huizinga said. The grant “will streamline the process, the services will be better, and we will save some money in overhead.”

Huizinga said one of the exciting parts of the NIH grant is it will also be used to increase both diversity and engagement of faculty and students in biomedical and biobehavioral research and in research overall.

“The second goal of the grant will focus on the activities of the Office of Research Development (ORD), which was created about a year and a half ago and Dr. Cynthia Crawford is the faculty director of that office,” Huizinga said. “The funds are for the ORD to build additional programs, and in particular so called ‘team science’ programs with diverse teams of faculty, and faculty and students who will collaborate to prepare competitive grant proposals for NIH, and other federal sponsors.

“Over the years I noticed that our grant activities – in particular, NIH grant activity – has decreased and we do have a lot of faculty members, psychology, health sciences, nursing, biology and chemistry who could benefit from NIH funding. That’s why this was an important goal for us,” Huizinga said.

The grant will also offer incentive money to attract faculty to participate in those programs, but the programs are structured in such a way that in order to participate in them, faculty members have to apply and as a part of the application, they would have to describe how they are going to contribute to increasing the diversity of students and faculty engaged in their project, Huizinga said.

In addition, the grant will also allow for the creation of new research development programs that will help train the faculty on how to write competitive grant proposals in general, by working with the mentors, serving as grant reviewers, or participating in agency visits.

To help in the grant implementation, CSUSB will be aided by Gillian Wilson, senior associate vice chancellor for Research and Economic Development at UC Riverside and her team members from the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Office of Research Development, who will serve as mentors for the implementation of the project, Huizinga said.

“Our mentors and collaborators will be the Research Office from UCR, and Gillian Wilson is my equivalent over there, and we will have her and director of sponsored programs, which will help us with the first goal and the director of research development will help with the second goal, the programs offered by the ORD,” Huizinga said.

“It’s exciting because have we never had an institutionalized relationship with UC Riverside, and we should as we are the only two public institutions in the Inland Empire,” Huizinga said. “UCR is a Research 1 institution. This is so good on so many levels, so I’m very excited.”