New Research Development Office Aims to Foster New Collaborative Research Teams Across UCSF

Gretchen Kiser, PhD, director of the Research Development Office - a new resource to help scientists navigate an increasingly complex funding environment - poses outside the office in Genentech Hall on the Mission Bay campus.

UCSF is launching a new effort to boost research development to help the University’s scientists better compete in an increasingly complex funding environment.

The main role of the new UCSF Research Development Office (RDO) is to combine administrative tools with research experience to help scientists navigate the funding process for their larger projects, said Gretchen Kiser, PhD, director of the RDO. The University joins other major research institutions that have established similar centralized research offices in recent years.

“There needs to be a response by large research entities such as UCSF to the changes in the funding environment,” Kiser said. “Entities like NIH [National Institutes of Health] — but not just NIH, in fact — have increasingly moved to supporting more complex types of funding initiatives — ones that are multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, really trying to creatively utilize dollars at hand but also trying to spur innovation.”

“This burgeoning area of research development has become an increasingly valuable part of the research administration landscape because now you have people needing to work together who don’t normally work together, who don’t necessarily speak the same language or understand how to move forward together,” she explained.

Part of UCSF’s Office of Research led by Associate Vice Chancellor of Research Susanne Hildebrand-Zanki, the RDO will operate alongside the Contracts & Grants Division and Research Management Services, providing new resources that will promote scientist collaboration and creative approaches to research.

“I am confident that the RDO will provide much-needed resources to our faculty that will make it easier for them to pursue complex grant opportunities and will help keep UCSF at the forefront of biomedical research,” said Hildebrand-Zanki, who reports to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jeff Bluestone, PhD.

The office, located in Genentech Hall on the Mission Bay campus, will incorporate the two existing programs: the Resource Allocation Program — which incorporates 30 different research grant opportunities into a single online application — and the Limited Submission Program — which manages UCSF applications for funding agencies that limit the number of submissions from any one research institution. But it also will add new services to help draft complex program project proposals and foster new collaborative research teams across the campus.

Among the resources to support collaboration that will be offered are:

  • Facilitated brainstorming sessions for scientists to discuss intractable problems, research gaps and novel approaches;
  • A program that will grant seed money to support new collaborations among two primary investigators approaching the same problem from different aspects; and
  • A program that will look for opportunities to combine financial resources within UCSF or with other institutions to fund research projects.

“We have to be more innovative, using more out-of-the-box thinking than ever before in modern biomedical sciences, and in order to do that, we need to free our scientific talent up,” Kiser said. “And if what we’re making them do is the increased burden of administration in preparing a large, complex grant, then we’re misusing that resource.”

To help spread the word, the RDO is holding a launch event on Thursday with campus leaders and faculty. Not only will it provide information on new resources, but it also will be a prime opportunity to bring together research minds from various disciplines.

“I would love it, if coming out of that, we would have two people say ‘Hey I talked to Dr. So-and-So at your launch, and I think we’re going to go after this initiative,’ or ‘I think we’re going to work on this project together,’” she said. “That’s exactly the type of catalyst that I hope the RDO could be for our scientific endeavor.”