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University Research Foundation Guidelines: March 15

University Research Foundation Conference Support

Statement of Purpose and Guidelines

The University Research Foundation (URF) is an intramural resource to support faculty research for a variety of purposes, including:

• Helping junior faculty undertake pilot projects that will enable them to successfully apply for extramural sources of funding, and aid in establishing their careers as independent investigators.

• Helping established faculty perform exploratory research, particularly on novel or pioneering ideas, to determine their feasibility and develop preliminary data to support extramural applications.

• Providing support in disciplines where extramural support is difficult to obtain and where significant research can be facilitated with internal funding.

• Providing limited institutional matching funds that are awarded contingent upon a successful external peer-reviewed application that requires an institutional match.

• Providing, under compelling circumstances, established investigators with funds to support a well-justified gap in extramural support or a documented unanticipated short-term need.


Disciplines. The URF supports research in all disciplines, including international research. For purposes of review, applications are assigned to four broad disciplinary areas: Biomedical Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences andEngineering, and Social Science and Management (www.upenn.edu/research/ReviewPanels.htm).

Term. Grants are given for a single year only. Applications for a renewal of a previously funded project may be submitted but usually receive low priority. Funds must be spent within 12 months of the beginning of the grant, and may not be “banked” for future use. Unexpended funds must be returned to the Foundation.  If justified in writing, carryover of unexpended funds may be approved by the Vice Provost for Research.  Request for carryover of unexpended funds should be made prior to the expiration of an award. 

Budget. Applications up to $50,000 will be entertained. 

Eligibility. Eligibility is limited to University faculty, in any track, at any professorial level. Instructors and Research Associates may apply but need to establish (by letter from the department chair) that the applicant will receive an appointment as an Assistant Professor by the time of the award.

Conference Support:  Scholarly conferences of a research nature will be considered for funding at the level of up to $3,000 per conference (see Conference Support Guidelines).

The Application

Applications that fail to meet the guidelines will not be reviewed.

Dates. Applications are accepted twice each year, for November 15 and March 15 deadlines.  If the date falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is the next working day.  Every effort will be made to process applications and notify applicants of the outcome within 10 weeks after the deadlines.

The application. Brevity and clarity will enhance the likelihood of success. Please number all pages at the bottom right hand corner. Use one-inch margins and a 12-point font. Applications should be limited to 10 pages and must include in this order:

1.   A completed (with all signatures) Research Foundation Proposal Cover Sheet which can be downloaded from the URF’s website at www.upenn.edu/research/FoundationGuidelines.htm. The application should be classified under one of the five Statement of Purpose categories listed above.

2.  An abstract of no more than 200 words, written for the educated non-specialist. 

3.  A description of no more than 5 single-spaced pages of the research proposed. Proposals must provide background, hypothesis or purpose of the research, significance of the research, methods used, work to be undertaken, and outlook for future extension of the research and its potential for external funding (see Review Process).

Note: An application formatted for another sponsoring agency or failing to conform to these guidelines will not be reviewed.

4.  A single page biographical sketch for the principle investigator and all co-investigators. The biographical sketches do not count against the page limit.

5.  A budget, with justification for each item requested. Items that can be requested include research costs associated with travel expenses, supplies, and salaries of non-faculty personnel essential to the project. Equipment costs up to 100% of the proposed budget may be eligible for funding but such requests must be justified in the application as essential to the research.  In addition, if all or most of the budget is to be used for equipment, the applicant must document that other resources are available to conduct the proposed research. Specific research objectives should be identified and described. The review will focus not on the equipment being requested but on the scientific program to which it will be applied.  Faculty salaries, including summer salaries or release time, are not funded. Because it may not be possible to fund meritorious proposals fully, the budget must prioritize items in the order of their importance to the project, (not simply list all items requiring support for which support is requested).

6.  Research support, including other current funding with a list of titles, amounts, sources, and grant periods, expired funding for the prior three years, and pending applications.  Applicants with “start up packages” must provide detailed dated budgets.  Prior grants from the University Research Foundation must be itemized, with dates, title, and amount of funding, plus a statement about whether external funding was received as a result of the URF grant.  Other research support for co-investigators should be identified.

7.  Assistant Professors in all tracks (including tenure, clinician-educator, and research track) are required to include a letter from their department chair indicating their career plans within the department, future commitment of independent space and of department or School resources including all department funding (start up packages, etc.).  In addition, the letter should establish that the applicant will be working as an independent investigator or scholar.  Such additional documentation can be provided as an appendix and will not be included within the page count.

8.  Regulatory issues. If research involves human subjects, animals, biohazards, or other regulatory issues, the application should identify those concerns and provide documentation that they will be addressed. Please note that IRB approval may be required for human subject research in all disciplines, including the sociobehavioral sciences and humanities. If IRB, IACUC or Environmental Safety review and approval is required, it may be obtained after the application has been approved, but before funds are provided or research has been initiated. For advice please consult the Office of Regulatory Affairs. See www.upenn.edu/regulatoryaffairs.

9.  Conflict of interest. The applicant should explicitly make a statement about whether or not the application involves any potential conflict of interest, and any such conflicts should be described.  For instance, if the research could forward the interests of a company in which the applicant has a financial interest, this should be disclosed.  Conflict of interest documentation (if required) can be provided as an appendix to the body of the application and will not be included in the page count. See www.upenn.edu/research/rcr/conflict.htm.

Submission. An original of the complete proposal with the signed cover sheet should be submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 118 College Hall/6303 on or before the deadline date. In addition, please send a PDF version:

1) File name must be the last name of the principal investigator

2) One PDF document must include the cover sheet and budget sheet and all attachments

3) Send to: vpr@pobox.upenn.edu

4) Must be received on or before the deadline date

Review Process

Applications are reviewed by one of four faculty committees, Biomedical Sciences, Humanities, Natural Science and Engineering, and Social Science and Management (www.upenn.edu/research/ReviewPanels.htm).  Every attempt is made to spread funding equitably across the major disciplines. Each application is reviewed for a variety of attributes, including

• scholarly merit, creativity and innovation

• feasibility

• significance of the research

• time-limited opportunities that require immediate funding

• prospects for future extramural funding

• matching support from other sources

• availability of alternate funding sources

• career development of young researchers

• evidence that junior applicants will be working as independent investigators

• advancement of school or institutional objectives, such as interdisciplinary research

Certain frequently found weaknesses should be avoided, such as

• “re-inventing the wheel” due to ignorance of prior published work, often in cognate fields

• a fishing expedition without a focused hypothesis

• repeated requests for research projects that are eligible for but have failed to garner external peer reviewed support

Critiques of applications are not provided for successful or failed applications, since this would place an excessive burden on the faculty who volunteer their time as peer reviewers. 

If awarded

• Regulatory approvals must be obtained before funds are transferred to the department.

• The home department must have a 26-digit budget code.

• A brief (1 to 2 pages) report should be submitted to the Vice Provost Office of Research within one year of the date of the award.

University Research Foundation Conference Support: March 15


The conference support program is designed for scholarly meetings that will be convened on the Penn campus, thereby providing enrichment opportunities to interested faculty, students, and staff, most frequently in the format of a 1-2 day colloquium. The intent is to support meetings that are designed to enhance existing research and scholarly programs, particularly in disciplines where external funding is difficult to obtain. High priority will be given to inter- or cross-disciplinary conferences that include faculty from more than one School.

The Application

Funding will be limited to no more than $3,000 per event, and should be dedicated to reimbursing the speakers for travel and accommodations, but not for meals and entertainment.  It is expected that funding from the University Research Foundation will supplement funding from other sources and will not be the sole source of funding for the meeting. Applications must be brief, usually no more than three (3) pages, and should include,

•   A completed Conference Proposal Cover Sheet, with all signatures, which includes name and contact information for the applicant, who must be an appointed faculty member (tenure, research, or clinician-educator track) and the appropriate review committee must be indicated  (www.upenn.edu/research/ReviewPanels.htm).

•   A description of the purpose of the meeting

•   A proposed program agenda (appendix)

•   A proposed list of presenters (appendix)

•   The number of Penn students and faculty expected to attend

•   An explanation of the benefit to Penn students and faculty

•   An explanation of the benefit to scholarly or research programs at Penn

•   Relationship of the meeting to department, institute or center programs

•   The names of faculty who are organizing the meeting

•   Identity and contact information for the business administrator responsible for administration of the funds

•   A budget, itemizing the types of proposed expenditures (appendix)

•   Evidence of matching funding from institutional or external sources

•   Evidence of institutional support in the form of no cost facilities and AV support


Submission. An original of the complete proposal with the signed cover sheet should be submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 118 College Hall/6303 on or before the deadline date. In addition, please send a PDF version:

1)   File name must be the last name of the principal investigator

2)   One PDF document must include the cover sheet and budget sheet and all attachments

3)   Send to: vpr@pobox.upenn.edu

4)   Must be received on or before the deadline date.

Review Process

Applications for the Conference Support Program are processed in the same cycles, and will be reviewed by the same committees that are used for URF research applications.  Please identify which Review Committee will review your conference proposal (Biomedical Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences andEngineering, and Social Science and Management). See  www.upenn.edu/research/ReviewPanels.htm.

Questions should be directed to:

Irene Soroka, (215) 898-7236, vpr@pobox.upenn.edu

Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 118 College Hall/6303.


  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 21, February 7, 2006


February 7, 2006
Volume 52 Number 21


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