May 7, 2009

Competition is on for federal stimulus funding, says Vice Provost Buhrman

To date Cornell has submitted 58 proposals for a piece of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the federal stimulus package; and 40 more are already in the pipeline, with many more to follow.

Now that the first major ARRA-funded project at Cornell -- a new Energy Frontier Research Center -- has been announced, other researchers and support staff are gearing up for a busy summer of grant proposal deadlines, according to Robert Buhrman, senior vice provost for research and the J.E. Sweet Professor in Applied and Engineering Physics.

But the new opportunities will come with significant challenges, he said. From the process for submitting proposals, which is subject to sudden changes and crashing Web servers, to meticulous reporting and tracking requirements for each grant recipient, administrative duties will build up quickly. Managing those tasks without taking away from the research -- particularly in a time when the university is shrinking its administrative staff -- will be difficult.

One solution could be to use pooled money from several grants to fund a single position dedicated to ARRA grants administration.

"To pay for that without having other cuts elsewhere, we're asking the faculty to write this into the budget," Buhrman said.

But, he said, the hurdles are surmountable. So despite "being known as a pessimist," he said, he is optimistic about the impact of stimulus funding for research.

"It's going to be a very interesting and very hectic time. I think Cornell will get its share [of the increased funding] ... and that will enable us to do research and train the next generation of scientists and engineers, which is a big part of what we're here to do," he said.