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Cumming School of Medicine sees increase in overall grant funding

Despite countless changes and disruptions to the major health funding body, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) has been actively engaged in increasing its grant successes. In the past two years, the school’s total funds earned through these competitions has increased to approximately $30M per year as compared to approximately $12M per year in the prior system of Operating Grant competitions. With an overall increase of grant funding over the past three years, the school is now attracting five per cent of the total CIHR grants budget. The CSM has also seen an upward trend in the number of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grants that are being submitted and successful at the tri-council agency.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for the Cumming School of Medicine,” says Dr. Jon Meddings, Dean, Cumming School of Medicine. “This not only highlights the hard work and dedication of our researchers, but of the quality of research they are conducting.”

The trend can be attributed to a number of initiatives at the CSM including the efforts of Ray Turner, PhD,  Associate Dean (Research Grants) and the dedicated assistance of Office of the Associate Dean Research staff as well as members of the university’s Research Services Office. Appointed to the role in 2013, Turner built on systems already in place in one institute of the medical school, enhancing the collaborative efforts among researchers, faculty members, research institutes and departments.

“We’re steadily increasing our share of CIHR grant funds compared to the national average, which is a strong indicator of the success of the initiatives we have been working on,” says Turner.

The initiatives include an internal peer review program where faculty and Institute Review Leads assist researchers with reviews of their grant applications; bridge funding provided by the CSM to carry researchers through to the next round of grant applications (the program has resulted in a greater than ten-fold financial return through success in CIHR grant applications), enhanced communication to researchers regarding available opportunities, alongside support to researchers in the grant writing process. As part of enhanced communication and support efforts, the research office hired Jenna Slobozian, a full time Research Facilitator, to provide guidance for researchers through a dedicated grant development process.

“We can all do better if we help each other succeed,” Turner says.  “In the past we’d see maybe 60 grant applications go in but for the last competition we saw over 160 and in the last two cycles we’ve almost doubled the operating funds that we’ve received.”

In addition to these supports, a new Research Enhancement Program was implemented under the 2015-2020 strategic plan where researchers can apply for up to $5,000 for training for principal investigators or trainees. These learning opportunities allow them to gather new techniques and skills so they can become more competitive in future grant opportunities. The funding has already sent researchers around the world to places such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia to increase the skill set and techniques that can be applied to keep CSM researchers at the top of their fields and compete successfully in future grant competitions.

“We’re incredibly proud to see that our grant competition successes have been increasing,” says Gerald Zamponi, PhD, Senior Associate Dean, Research. “This exhibits how our researchers have come together and risen to the challenges faced through the changes in funding structure.”

 

 

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