Clemson Division of Research

VPR Blog: The Far-Reaching Impact of R-Initiatives

Tanju Karanfil
Tanju Karanfil

Since we released the R-Initiative funding programs in 2017, we have invested $10 million in research projects involving nearly 600 faculty members. Funds have been distributed to every college.

On R-Initiatives awarded through 2020, faculty members have authored 10 books; published 83 articles and presentations; conducted 11 art exhibitions and residencies; hired 23 postdocs and research associates; and secured $15 million in external funding with another $21 million in proposals pending. Additionally, about 100 students have earned their PhDs with support from R-Initiative funding.

More proposals are being prepared and numerous R-Initiative projects remain active. In other words, the return on that investment continues to grow.  

R-Initiatives were established to help enhance a culture of scholarship and discovery by investing in people and celebrating great work. These have been worthwhile investments that have contributed to the rising tide of our research enterprise. Since 2017, research awards and expenditures at Clemson have increased 45 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

These programs have nurtured interdisciplinary collaborations. In one project funded by The Fellows R-Initiative program, engineers, political scientists and psychologists collaborated on a project about resiliency. Another included faculty from architecture, health sciences, civil engineering, and psychology. Education and engineering faculty joined together on another. Plant and environmental sciences faculty joined environmental engineers and biological sciences faculty on another. These are just a few examples of the interdisciplinary collaborations that have received R-Initiative investments. Each specific R-Initiative webpage includes a list of past recipients, so you can view awards for each program online and see examples of the interdisciplinary research happening. It is exciting. These R-Initiatives are sparking conversations, encouraging people to meet people outside of their disciplines and learn more about the diverse research happening at Clemson. There are undeniable, unquantifiable benefits to this collaboration.

I want to thank you for your interest in these programs and, if you haven’t taken advantage of these opportunities yet, I encourage you to see what is offered this year. Consult the R-Initiatives webpage for details on funding available, application deadlines and eligibility. I believe, there is something for everyone.

Financial Stats

As we evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, for example, we see that faculty from all colleges are participating, and those who apply, regardless of their discipline, are highly likely to be funded.  As Figure 1 shows, around 75 percent of the people named in an R-Initiative proposal were ultimately part of a funded project and faculty from every college are participating. So again, please visit our R-Initiatives website to see which program works for you and prepare an application.

In addition to funding opportunities, R-Initiatives celebrate our accomplishments through the Research of the Year and University Research, Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Awards, and offer numerous opportunities for professional growth:

  • The CAREER Academy, for example, provides a dedicated support structure for untenured junior faculty who are planning to submit National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) proposals. In 2020 and 2021, 10 junior faculty members at Clemson earned early career awards. These are important catalyst awards for young faculty starting their careers.
  • The NIH Accelerator Program provides intensive mentoring for early-career investigators seeking NIH funding.
  • The Office of Research Development has planned numerous workshops throughout the year covering many topics: crafting competitive proposals; selling your science; communicating the impact of your work; building successful research teams; and more.
  • Through its TigerSphere program, ORD also is facilitating the formation of teams of researchers from different disciplines who share thoughts, build relationships, and form convergent research collaborations around a central theme. We encourage you to submit an idea for a TigerSphere.
  • The Office of Research Compliance has scheduled several Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training sessions that qualify for RCR advanced training credit hours.

I hope you will find these programs worth your time, and if you have any ideas for ways the Division of Research can improve its service to you, please contact your representative on my Research Advisory Board.

Have a great semester!