'Dear Colleagues': Comment deadline Tuesday

Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw reminds the Mississippi State community that comments on the university's research priorities document draft are wanted. The deadline to submit your feedback is Tuesday.

Dear Colleagues:

It is hard to believe that we are into February already, and that the end of winter is in sight. Over the past few weeks, I have been traveling around the country pursuing research opportunities that we can become a part of. I am spending a significant amount of time in a business development role on behalf of the university -- spreading the word about your capabilities, achievements, and willingness to take on new research challenges. Each of you make my job much easier through your past achievements, current capabilities, and responsiveness. I sincerely appreciate your commitment to Mississippi State's status as a top-tier research institution, and will continue to promote your efforts and accomplishments. Of course, I can only do that if I know about them. Please continue to share details about your success stories with my office through email, your associate dean for research, center director, or University Relations.

Research priorities: Comments wanted by Tuesday, Feb. 21

We have posted details about the draft research priorities online at http://blogs.msstate.edu/ored/2012/01/research_focus_areas_feedback_1.html. I have received some comments already, and hope we get many more before the comment period ends Tuesday, Feb. 21. If you haven't taken time to look at them yet, please do and give us your feedback. Keep in mind that these are an initial draft -- not a final product. As indicated on the website, these priorities will be used in directing investments made in new faculty hires, infrastructure development, and resource allocation. They will not be to the exclusion of other important academic, research, and service areas on our campus. Rather, they will be used as a factor in decision-making for future investments.

Accounting for expenses on a sponsored project

It's always good news when you are awarded a grant or contract, but in most cases, no funds flow to the university until you actually begin work and Sponsored Programs Accounting invoices the sponsor for the work accomplished. When the project is awarded and you receive your fund number, it's vital to begin the effort in a timely fashion so the project can be completed within the proposed timeline. The effort of those working on the project, travel, and purchases need to be posted to the proper fund as soon as the costs are incurred. Sponsors consider it a red flag to see projects that receive little to no expenses in the first few months as well as excessive expenses in the final months. In addition, recipients of external funding are required to maintain separate accounts for each project. If there are cost transfers between projects, this is an indication that the principal investigator does not have adequate financial control over each project. It is also an indication that funding from a project might be inappropriately redirected to support the efforts of another project. Please be sure to review your ledgers to be sure charges are posting accurately as it pertains to each and every grant. As project director/principal investigator, you are typically the only person who is intimately familiar with the scope and work on the project, and only you will know if the charges are accurate.

Striving for improvement

In a previous letter, I mentioned that Vice President for Budget and Planning Don Zant and I commissioned a review of the offices of Sponsored Programs Accounting and Sponsored Programs Administration. This review was completed by a team from the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) that provided us with a peer review of our research administration, both pre- and post-award. We have posted the results of this review at http://www.research.msstate.edu/rresources and are working together to address the recommendations. Don and I greatly appreciate the input to the review given by many of you.

International research opportunities
One of the strongest opportunities developing is in the area of international research and engagement. Just this past week, Greg Bohach, Benjy Mikel and I spent two days meeting with US Agency for International Development, USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, and several non-governmental organizations, exploring some of these opportunities. US AID is substantially shifting its university partnership programs, with a strong desire to better tap into the creativity of university faculty and students. Dr. Mikel is developing a team to respond to US AID's new program. Please contact him with your ideas at wbm50@msstate.edu.

MSU's stature in the international program is also being recognized through a conference we will be hosting on food security this fall. Details are under development at this writing, but a stellar panel of speakers has already been identified, with several -- including the head of US AID -- already confirmed.

Partnership with the State of Mississippi
Your university continues to provide exceptional leadership in economic development. We have worked very closely with the Governor's Office in the past, with new industries brought to the state in part because of the strength of our research programs. We are looking forward to this continuing under Gov. Phil Bryant's administration. I hope you heard his "State of the State" speech, in which he recognized the exceptional research program here, and called for the establishment of a permanent funding line for our Sustainable Energy Research Center.

Let us hear from you
As I have mentioned, sharing your success stories with our peers, state and federal policy makers, funding agencies, and the public at large is a priority for ORED, and we have a number of different channels for distributing news and information about Mississippi State research and economic development. Our website at http://www.research.msstate.edu serves as the hub of our outreach initiative, and it is updated frequently with news releases, key contact information, training and grant opportunities, and more. We also have active Twitter and Facebook feeds at http://www.twitter.com/maroonresearch and http://www.facebook.com/maroonresearch. And we work closely with University Relations on media releases and special publications, including the annual Research Windows magazine and the quarterly Maroon Research newsletter, that highlight MSU's commitment to and leadership in research. If you have suggestions for how we can better meet your communication needs and expectations, please contact research editor Jim Laird at jim.laird@msstate.edu.

As always, I welcome your feedback on all of our efforts. Please feel free to contact me at any time with your suggestions, comments, or concerns at dshaw@research.msstate.edu.

Go Dawgs!

David Shaw
Vice President for Research and Economic Development

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