As is common with many research institutes, funding is a restricted resource and needs to be spent as wisely as possible. Anne Maglia, Ph.D. Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration and Institutional Compliance at U Mass Lowell, has identified several different ways that Dimensions has been supporting U Mass Lowell in their endeavors to make smarter, more accurate decisions about their funding strategies and more. The following information has been extracted from a webinar which you can view in full here.

About U Mass Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a nationally ranked public research university committed to excellence in teaching, research and community engagement. The University is committed to benchmarking progress towards targeted goals and has created the UMass Lowell Report Card to track and evaluate indicators vital to success. This report identifies 25 strategic indicators organized around five pillars of excellence to measure progress. Systematic analysis of the Report Card will be used to guide multi-year financial and academic program development by the Strategic Planning Commission working closely with senior administrators, faculty, staff and students of the University.

Case #1: Improved Proposal Competitiveness

The problem: Research funding is fiercely competitive. The quality of proposals submitted is paramount to award success. At U Mass Lowell, they discovered that a Faculty Member was submitting a relatively high number of proposal applications but with a low success rate. They wanted to explore why this was happening and how the success rate could be improved upon. 

The solution: Using Dimensions, U Mass Lowell were able to match the Faculty Member publication abstracts and keywords with similar work and successful grant awards in the field. The result is that they noticed there were better opportunities when targeting alternative funders and programs that offered a better fit with the Faculty Member research. It might sound very simple but in fact this process was crucial to ensuring the Faculty Member had increased success in grant funding applications and that the programs being targeted were a closer fit for purpose.  

Case #2: Identify Collaborators and Competition

The problem: A joint research Faculty team at U Mass Lowell were receiving feedback from the funder that their research, while interesting, was not presenting itself as particularly novel. Funders are under enormous pressure to ensure their funding is appropriated to projects that are (a) novel and (b) build upon previously funded research outcomes. 

The solution: Using Dimensions, the team looked at previous grants that had been awarded in the same area research. They noticed there was a grant awarded for almost exactly the same research and by understanding this landscape more deeply, they were able to completely reevaluate their strategy for submitting proposals. Furthermore, they were able to build upon their networks and explore opportunities to collaborate with the researchers of the successful grant. 

Case #3: Discover Published Outcomes

The problem: When a trend in research occurs, Funders will notice there is a subsequent boost for requests for funding. Once funding is awarded there will be various outcomes to a research project. One of those outcomes is publications. However, what often occurs is a lack of awareness of these outcomes, even within the field. Funders notice that a few years down the line, new requests for similar funding are being submitted, however, the applications are not citing or even aware of the previous trends nor the resulting outcomes. 

The solution: At U Mass Lowell, Dimensions helped a Junior Faculty Member understand the entire landscape of their research area. They were able to discover what research had previously been awarded grants, what the outcomes of that research were (e.g. publications, patents etc.) and where the funding was mostly being awarded to. Dimensions also identified the relevant publications and by citing these within the application, the Junior Faculty Member was able to demonstrate they had completed the relevant research and were aware of what the current state of the topic was. Using Dimensions really helped this person consider previous funding program outcomes and results as an application strategy.  

Case #4: Direct Strategic Investments & Activities

The problem: U Mass Lowell, like any research institute, is under continuous pressure to appropriate funds as strategically and resourcefully as possible to support Faculty and their desired outcomes. As funding becomes tighter, there is always a need to find ways to do more with less. As part of their strategic program planning, U Mass Lowell wanted to improve their use of data in the strategic planning phase, prior to funding strategies and decisions being made.

The solution: The Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences at U Mass Lowell wanted to find out in which area of research should they invest their (limited) resources to support Faculty best. The college was asked to identify which research areas they felt they had the most strength in with regards to the amount of funding awarded, number of publications etc. The identified research topics were then correlated with Dimensions data focusing specifically on: 

  • Top Funders ($$ and # projects)
  • Funder Trends ($$ and # of active projects)
  • Top Funded State and Region
  • Top Funded US wide

Figure 1: number of active projects 

Prior to using Dimensions data, the college felt they needed to put more effort and funds into Health Promotion. However, the data told a different story and, (as can be seen in figure 1), in fact Microbiome is where the funding trend is strongest. This didn’t mean that Health Promotion should stop entirely, it just meant that a more intersected strategy might be better. Access to this data allowed for a conversation with the college about how to be more competitive for funding. 

Case #5: Support Faculty Hiring

The problem: Kennedy College of Sciences, U Mass Lowell had a number of different Faculty but were looking for new members to teach specifically in: Biochemistry, Computer Science, Cybersecurity and Polymer Science. They needed to find specific experts in these fields and subfields that could boost their teaching and research program alike. 

The solution: Using Dimensions, the college looked at:

  • Top Funders ($$ and # projects)
  • Funder Trends ($$ and # of active projects)
  • Top Funded State and Region
  • Top Funded US
  • 100 Recently Funded Projects for Top 5 Funders
  • Recent Awards for Top Funded in State Within Focus Area
  • Top Cited Papers in Focus Area

Figure 2: More target job notices using data-driven strategies

Using the information provided, they were able to create job notices that were much more targeted in the specific areas that were important within funding trends. They discovered that by hiring an expert in Computer Vision, Cybersecurity and Data Science for example (figure 2) would make them more competitive in their funding strategy.  

Case #6: Identify Opportunities for Industry Engagement

The problem: Research institutes increasingly need to look at alternative methods of increasing their access to funding. One such way is to form strategic partnerships within the industry. This can support an overall portfolio strategy for tech transfer as well as commercialization opportunities. 

The solution: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at U Mass Lowell were planning to host a high-profile event on campus. They wanted to use this as an opportunity to engage with local and regional businesses. They used Dimensions to identify businesses that had either been awarded a SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation, or another form of industry partner grant (see figure 3). Once these businesses had been identified, the Office was able to invite them on campus to the event. Without Dimensions, they would not have been able to so easily and quickly discover who were the right businesses to form a potential partnership or alliance with. This approach lead to a couple of successful partnerships being formed and a new track of funding being brought to the university through these partnerships.

Figure 3: Using Dimensions to identify potential collaborators within the industry

Review full case study here.