NIU today | Method of Success: Professors Obtain Grants with Support from Research Methodology Services

NIU faculty members seeking to improve the chances of success of external research funding proposals may be advised to consult Research Methodology Services (RMS).

Over the past five years, RMS consultants have helped professors from six different NIU colleges win external funding awards totaling more than $1 million for their research projects.

Even better, the services are free for professors while they prepare proposals – these initial consultation fees are covered by the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships. However, faculty members who use these services must use RMS and include the cost of post-award services in their scholarship budgets for the duration of the funded project.

“This is a unique resource for professors that is not available at many other universities,” says psychology professor Alecia Santuzzi, director of RMS. “Our services are provided by NIU professors who are themselves researchers and methodologists.”

Often, when researchers submit funding proposals, reviewers’ comments and questions are related to statistical methodology.

“We have faculty members across the university who have very interesting research topics,” Santuzzi says. “This service gives them a competitive edge by adding additional support from well-trained methodologists and analysts.”

Santuzzi, an expert in quantitative methodology, has been assisting NIU faculty for a decade. She also has expertise in translating data analysis and methodology to a wide audience, an important skill in explaining proposals to funders.

In addition to its director, the RMS team includes:

The team’s services include attending meetings to discuss a project, its design, and analysis needs; consultation on the qualitative or quantitative analysis requirements of a project; and writing the analysis and evaluation sections of a grant proposal.

Consultants can assist with study design plans, sample size estimation, data management, data analysis, project evaluation, and other tasks methodological. Team members can also provide reference materials and other resources to support the use of the methods and analyzes involved in the project.

“We want to make sure teachers have the best resources at their fingertips to succeed,” Santuzzi says.

RMS currently has two active projects that have been awarded, one through the National Science Foundation and the other through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The latter is led by Liz Shelleby, assistant professor of psychology.

Shelleby’s $340,000 NIMH award is funding a study that examines the impact of ParentCorps, a universal family-centered preventive intervention proposed as an enhancement to pre-K programs for children attending high-poverty schools. She contacted RMS after receiving the first set of comments from reviewers, which suggested the use of more complicated statistical analysis.

“I needed someone with more expertise in performing these types of analyses,” says Shelleby. “I didn’t know I could get free support from RMS until a proposal was approved, and that was really important.”

After an initial conversation with Santuzzi, Tom Smith was appointed Shelleby’s consultant.

“Tom is extremely knowledgeable and explains things in a very digestible way,” says Shelleby. “I told him later that I didn’t know if I would have made it without his help to make sure the stats were solid. I think it was extremely important to get this award.

In addition to research proposals, RMS can help with evaluation plans for funding applications for new courses and programs. “There are a number of funded projects that are curriculum-based, to design undergraduate programs or certificates. We do that too,” says Santuzzi.

The first step is to contact RMS through the “Request RMS Services” link on its website. The link will take professors to a brief form to fill out, and RMS will set up a meeting to discuss the project’s scope, needs, schedule, and budget. Typically, an RMS expert is then identified and assigned to the project, although Santuzzi facilitates all researcher-consultant relationships.

Professors who may be interested in joining the RMS consulting team are also encouraged to contact Santuzzi at asantuzzi@niu.edu.

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