ASCEND

An internal investment initiative to advance the Texas A&M research enterprise through the creation of new knowledge and technology

The Office of the President announces a new collaborative research seed grant initiative, ASCEND, introducing Research Leadership Fellowships (RLF) and Targeted Proposal Teams (TPT). The RLF will develop junior faculty into the next research leaders. The TPT internal research investment program will accelerate research preeminence by growing new interdisciplinary research team collaborations and expanding existing ones; increasing the competitiveness and success of externally funded research programs; developing next-generation research leaders; and creating new knowledge and technology to solve global challenges.

Research Leadership Fellowships (RLF)

The intent of the RLF is two-fold: (a) the development of a diverse community of next-generation research leaders and, (b) the submission of interdisciplinary grant proposals. Fellows will participate in informational and experiential components, namely leadership-training workshops, fellowship-community events, and the submission of interdisciplinary proposals. Results from Round 1 were announced in May 2023.

Eligibility

Tenured or tenure-track Texas A&M University faculty at the advanced (four years in position at time of submission) assistant or early (within two years of promotion at time of submission) associate levels nominated by the unit dean or delegate, and eligibility of the nominee to apply as a principal investigator (PI) for external funding. Exceptions to these criteria are considered on a case-by-case basis by the nominating unit.

Size of Award

A total of $1,000,000 is annually available in this fund. Fellows will be awarded $75,000 for one year.

Requirements

The awardee must commit to:

  • Participating in leadership training and other RLF community/mentoring events provided by the Division of Research. The curriculum consists of a series of seminars and workshops on structural and pedagogical topics such as: institutional structure and mission; national/institutional challenges facing researchers; leadership theories/concepts; research leadership roles and responsibilities; finance/budgeting models; communicating the value of research, disciplinary and institutional cultures; and compliance.
  • Submitting an extramural interdisciplinary research proposal or a body of work appropriate to the discipline (e.g., national/international performance or exhibition) as PI within 16 months of award. The proposals should include a minimum of three (3) Texas A&M Faculty/researchers (including tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track researchers) from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge and with no record of significant research collaboration (i.e., previous proposals submissions, awards, or publications). The extramural proposal type is flexible but must be consistent with the goals of the awardee and achieve an impact on Texas A&M. Such impact could be the attainment of a strategic priority, growth in new knowledge or technology, contribution to society, or positioning of the team for future opportunities.
  • Submitting a final report within 60 days of proposal submission. The final report should include evidence and information about the proposal submission. Awardees are required to submit brief annual progress reports for two years following completion of the funded award to state progress on the following metrics: publications, external grant funding, or further leadership projects/opportunities stemming from the award. Any abstracts or publications arising from the work funded by this seed program must cite the appropriate funding source.

Budgeting

Funds may be used for supporting RLF activities including up to two months of salary (across 11 months to reflect time and effort), course buyout, graduate student or post-doctoral salaries, materials, and supplies; limited justifiable travel, coordination meetings, and workshops. Equipment cannot be purchased with these funds. Program funds are not eligible for indirect costs.

Supporting Resources

The Division of Research will support each RLF awardee with the following resources: management of early proposal development processes (preparing for anticipated sponsor requirements and review criteria); professional development, including leadership and team science; enhanced understandings of inter- and transdisciplinary research, team leadership and collaborative conditions; co-creation of research projects; and the evaluation and dissemination of interdisciplinary research findings.

Submission

Proposals should be submitted via InfoReady where they will be routed to the appropriate dean’s office for review and nomination. College or school nominations should be prioritized by the dean’s office if more than one nomination is submitted from a given college.

Review and Selection

All college/school submissions will be reviewed by the Division of Research review team with priority given to those proposals ranked by a college or school as their priority. Evaluations will be based on a standardized rubric developed around the following proposal and nomination elements:

Research Leadership: Demonstrated leadership potential of nominee and documented unit-level strategy for effectively using the knowledge, skills, and abilities gained by the RDF awardee to support the achievement of Texas A&M research goals.

Merit and Significance: Is the question being addressed a major issue? Will the proposal concept advance research in the field?  Does it challenge the current state-of-the-art? Will it overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research?

Innovation and Differentiators: Does the concept leverage new theories, tools, or applications to advance the field? Will the project shift the current paradigm in the field? Are technical or intellectual innovations included in the concept?

Anticipated Timeline

The typical timeline is (a) fall announcement of annual program, (b) proposal submission deadline of 1 April, and (c) award commencement 1 September.

Application Process

Step 1: Letter of Interest

Eligible researchers submit via InfoReady a Letter of Interest to their dean’s office for review and nomination consideration.

VISION: A clear personal vision that aligns with the strategic goals of the Texas A&M research enterprise. Candidates should provide specific examples of how their personal goals and abilities connect to the Texas A&M research enterprise and what they are committed to accomplishing.

COMMITMENT: Confirmation of their commitment to informational and experiential components of the fellowship (i.e., leadership-training workshops, fellowship-community events, and the submission of an interdisciplinary proposal and interest or value and/or experience with interdisciplinary research.

INTERDISCIPLINARY PROPOSAL: A brief summary of the target area and how it will positively impact Texas A&M.

Step 2: Nomination

Following a review of letters of interest, the dean’s office will submit via InfoReady a letter of nomination and priority rankings (if more than one nomination from the college or school). Nomination letters should speak to the review criteria outlined above and address the following questions.

DEVELOPMENTAL PREPARATION: Is the candidate prepared to make maximum use of this training opportunity including the background and experience? Is there a clear link between this fellowship and the needs of the individual and the college/school? How is this the “right” program for this individual at this time?

FUTURE LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Does the college/school have a clear strategy for this individual that effectively uses the knowledge, skills, and abilities gained to support the achievement of Texas A&M research goals? Is the college/school prepared to enhance return on investment including a reentry plan stating specific actions that college/school administration will support to enable the participant to contribute beyond their regular duties upon completion of the fellowship.

Step 3: Review and selection

The Division of Research will review the nominations and award the RLF per the criteria provided above.

Step 4: Post award

The successful candidate will be notified of award and an introductory RLF-community meeting will be established with RLF leaders, proposals team to discuss roles, responsibilities, and timelines.

Questions

If you have any questions, please check our website first for the most up-to-date and complete information. If questions remain, please contact Research Development Services.

Targeted Proposal Team (TPT)

The Office of the President articulated the challenge for elevating the influence of research by making an “indelible mark on the body of knowledge” and “addressing a societal challenge.” This requires new research partnerships across all disciplines. The purpose of the TPT is to build and facilitate diverse teams that will submit interdisciplinary proposals to a specific federal funding agency, a private foundation, the commercial sector, or a state agency, among others. Such proposals require significant team engagement often over multiple years to develop a successful proposal. Examples of proposal targets include but are not limited to: The National Science Foundation (NSF) National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes (AIRI), the US Department of Defense (DOD) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Annual Competition, the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy, Efficiency & Renewable Energy, DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, NSF Engineering Research Center, NSF Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers), NSF Science and Technology Centers, DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers, National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants (i.e. P01, P30 and P50), NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation, and NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grants. Specific targets may vary depending on the targeted global challenge or societal problem.

Deadlines

  • Full proposal for Round 1 closed on June 5, 2023  
  • The program contacted funded teams in late 2023.

Eligibility

Tenured associate and full professors from Texas A&M University or external entities who are eligible to apply as principal investigators for external funding.

Size of Award

A total of $5,000,000 is annually available in this fund. The specific funding level will be proposal dependent. Awards will be for a maximum 24-month period and will typically not exceed $250,000 annually. 

Requirements

The awardee must commit to submit a targeted research proposal as a principal investigator (PI) within 24 months of award. The proposals should include a minimum of three (3) Texas A&M Faculty/researchers.

Successful teams should involve researchers with diverse backgrounds, skills, and knowledge; Demonstration of how the synthesis of the combined approaches will result in improved understanding, characterization, evaluation and applications essentials. Team members should include individuals with different approaches or understandings of the target problem to maximize the proposal competitiveness. Team members can represent Texas A&M entities as well as external entities.

The proposal must achieve an impact to Texas A&M. Such impact could be the attainment of a strategic priority, growth in new knowledge and or technology, contribution to society and positioning of the team for future opportunities (see the “Proposal Assessment Rubric” for characteristics of competitive TPT proposals)

Awardees must submit an annual report that addresses accomplishments for the year.

Awardees must submit a final report within 60 days of proposal submission The final report should include specifics about the targeted submission, results of the research, new funding targets identified during the process, efforts underway to obtain external funding, and efforts to generate publications. Awardees are required to submit brief annual progress reports for two years following completion of the funded award to state progress on the following metrics: publications, external grant funding, or further projects stemming from the award. Any abstracts or publications arising from the work funded by this seed program must cite the appropriate funding source.

Budgeting

Funds may be used for supporting awardees activities including up to two months of salary (across 11 months to reflect time and effort) for Texas A&M contributors, graduate students or post-doctoral fellows, materials, and supplies; limited justifiable travel; course buyout; coordination meetings, workshops, and visits to funding agencies. Equipment cannot be purchased with these funds. Program funds are not eligible for indirect costs.

Supporting Resources

The Division of Research will support each TPT awardee with the following resources: team facilitation, management of proposal development processes including the organization of documents, creation of templates, proposal review including review team assessment, graphics and figures, the collection of documents such as letters of support and CVs/biosketches, and coordination with Sponsored Research Services to accomplish budget development, compliance review and submission.

Submission

TPT Interest Documents and TPT Concept Proposals must be submitted to the InfoReady portal and route for approval through the department head and dean prior to acceptance into the competition.

Review and Selection

Proposal Assessment Rubric

The primary Concept Proposal review criteria include:

Composition of the proposed TPT team: Does the team leader’s research record establish that they possess the necessary expertise to successful and effectively lead the interdisciplinary team? Do team members possess the necessary expertise including interdisciplinary research disciplines with potential to redefine how the problem is traditionally understood and therefore how it can be more effectively addressed?

Merit and significance: Will the proposal concept advance research in the field? Does it challenge the current state-of-the-art? Will it overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research? Is this a major question or problem?

Feasibility and approach: Are the proposed research plans, methods, and analyses appropriate? Will the methods and analyses achieve the objectives of the project? Are adequate resources (expertise, tools, equipment) included in the proposal?

Innovation and differentiators: Does the concept leverage new theories, tools, or applications to advance the field? Will the project shift the current paradigm in the field? Are technical or intellectual innovations included in the concept? Does the team leverage individual or institutional differential?

External funding strategy: Does the project align with the funder identified? Is it reasonable to expect that, in addition to alignment, funds will be available in the future (i.e., targeted program is not sunsetting and is of continued interest to the funder)? Is there potential alignment with other funders not mentioned in the proposal? (This criterion will be 50 percent of the review).

Anticipated Timeline

The typical timeline is (a) fall announcement of annual program, (b) proposal submission deadline of 1 April, and (c) award commencement 1 September.

Proposal

Proposal submissions will be available on March 1, 2023.

Proposal Summary

Summary

  • What is the major question or problem and how will the proposal concept advance research in the field? Does it challenge the current state-of-the-art? Will it overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research? Does the team leverage individual or institutional differential? How will the proposed research impact society, Texas, and Texas A&M?
  • Specific funding sources and programs targeted with submission dates. Is the program open-ended submission or does it have specific target dates?
  • Describe how the proposed project aligns with the funder identified? Is it reasonable to expect that, in addition to alignment, funds will be available in the future (i.e., targeted program is not sunsetting and is of continued interest to the funder)? Is the proposed project of interest to other possible funding sources? If so, which?
  • Describe the currently assembled organization, the lead PI, team members, and their roles. Describe how the team member’s different approaches and understandings of the target problem will maximize proposal competitiveness and likelihood of success.
  • Are there specific gaps in knowledge or technology that need to be filled to enhance the competitiveness of the proposal?
  • Provide the proposed budget with justifications.

Project Proposed Budget (Year 1 and Year 2)

Click here to download the Project Proposed Budget template for Year 1 and Year 2

Application Process

Step 1: Individual researchers submit interest document* 

Eligible researchers submit an Interest Document (1-2-pages) that will achieve two goals: 

  1. Allow the Review Committee to understand researcher topical interests across the Texas A&M research community and any needs for additional reviewer expertise.
  2. Serve as the basis for a packet to be assembled and distributed to everyone who submits an Interest Document. The document will contain researchers’ profiles and contact information to facilitate collaboration and team formation.

Step 2: Team formation and concept proposal submission 

The purpose of this step is to enable the formation of teams and submission of a TPT Proposal. Teams may be formed by individuals in the Researcher Profile Packet (STEP 1) and can be formed by either: 

  1. Self-identified TPT leaders reviewing the Researcher Profile Packet and communicating with researchers to discuss collaboration within similar project ideas to increase competitiveness of the proposal. 
  2. Individual researchers reviewing the Researcher Profile Packet and communicating with self-identified TPT leads to discuss collaboration within project ideas. 

The outcome of STEP 2 is the creation of TPT Teams and submission of a TPT Proposal. 

Step 3: Internal Review Process and Selection 

The internal review process will include: 

  1. Evaluation of the Concept Proposals by the Review Committee. 
  2. Presentations of the finalists to the Review Committee. 
  3. Notification of all teams of the proposals selected to move forward to STEP 4

Step 4: AWARD and Proposal Development 

A kick-off meeting with the Proposal Team is essential to establish roles, responsibilities, and timeline for the development of the preliminary (if applicable) and full proposal development process. For each TPT, the Proposal Team will consist of a Proposal Developer who will coordinate the proposal development activities with an assigned SRS Administrator. The Proposal Team may also include a graphic developer who can provide graphic development supporting including the creation of custom figures, tables, timelines, and other graphic elements to highlight the proposal impact.

Questions

If you have any questions, please check our website first for the most up-to-date and complete information. If questions remain, please contact Research Development Services.