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The Office or Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP), Pursuit, and the Office of Undergraduate Research recently awarded a total of 30 internal research grants to faculty who applied by the January 27th deadline. Approximately 80% of all internal grant applicants received either full or partial funding for FY 2015 research projects.

Internal grants are a great way to finance research and engage students in short term projects. There are times, however, when internal grants won’t fully fund longer term scholarly projects, so external funding may be a better option. For example, internal grants fund projects for a maximum of one year. Because of the parameters set by endowments that fund them, Math-Science and Cullen internal grants are not able to fund computer hardware, student researchers or travel. When faculty needs to fund research for multiple years or needs more money than might be available through an internal grant, external grants might be a better alternative.

Although it is very competitive, external funding should be considered by faculty seeking future research funding. Now is the time to enlist the help of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) to search for external funding since grant decisions and awards can take months for granting agencies to process. Contact Mark Billingsley at Ext. 2885 or to schedule a one-on-one grant search or to gain other assistance with the grant process.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced that a new website,, will soon be launched. will take the place of FastLane for preparing, submitting, and reviewing future grants.
To prepare for the transition, the NSF has created the Demo Site. To access the demo site, contact Mark Billingsley in the ORSP and he will forward the email with the link, or go to> Demo Site>Choose “PI Demo Site”.
Enhancements in the new site include:
• The ability to view reports in HTML rather than PDF
• Products, organization and participants sections will be prepopulated.
• Progress reports pages will hide sections that previously took up screen space and were not critical (like progress indicators).
• Additional details on individuals will now be listed on “Print Preview”.
• The reporting period for Interim Project Report (IPR) will be editable. (This is not a required report.)
The demo site will not have actual reports. It will not send confirmation emails. Sample items in the demo site are clearly marked “Sample”.
Plans are for to go live sometime in March. The transition only impacts FastLane.
Additional Resources
• Project Report Page
• Online Help (available sometime in February)
• Project Reporting Tutorial (coming soon)
• 800-381-1532



Solar panels from a can? It could be possible in the future

The days of big, bulky solar panels made of breakable ceramic may be over if Dr. Brian Cavitt has anything to do with it.
Dr. Cavitt and his two research assistants, Barret Davidson and Sam Gee, have been conducting research to discover a compound that will absorb ultraviolet (UV) light. Specifically, Dr. Cavitt’s team is seeking a compound that will absorb UV light when bonded with clay. Such a reaction will result in a nanocomposite material that is usable in electronics like solar panels and has other possible applications such as dental repairs. The technology can even be used with food packaging.
“After my related presentation at an international conference in May,” Dr. Cavitt said, “a representative from a major packaging company approached me and asked if our product could be used to coat paper and potentially replace the aluminum insert in cigarette packs. I confirmed that indeed our product can coat paper and protect the contents, even cigarettes, from atmospheric water and oxygen which can reduce the freshness of an agricultural product.”DSC00305
Though neither Barret nor Sam plan to work in chemistry labs upon graduation, the experience they are gaining this summer working on Dr. Cavitt’s research project does carry over to their future plans.
Sam plans to go to law school and specialize in patent law and intellectual property.
“Anytime a new product is synthesized, it will need legal protection so the scientist’s work is not stolen,” Sam said. “Patent attorneys specialize in this, and the experience I’ve gained through research in Dr. Cavitt’s lab has given me a significant amount of research experience. After I go through law school, I will have experience in both the research and legal areas, which will more fully prepare me for a career in patent and intellectual property law.”
Barret plans to go to dental school. Using UV light in dentistry is current practice, and Dr. Cavitt’s research has possible future applications in dentistry.
“My current goal is to get accepted into dental school, and doing this research will help me do that. After this year I will have over 200 lab hours working with photo initiators, which are used in dentistry, and this will help me stand apart from the other applicants without research experience. It will also help me in dental school with better lab techniques and practices,” Barret said.
Dr. Cavitt concurred with Barret that the use of UV lighting in the lab will give Barret an advantage when applying for dental school.
“Dental composites for fillings use a similar technology. Our clay nanocomposite could make a better – and cheaper – dental composite. After all, our material is dirt cheap!” Cavitt said.
Because of ACU internal grants, Dr. Cavitt has been able to carry out research that would not have been possible otherwise.
“Internal grant funding has largely empowered my research throughout my 12 years at ACU. It’s helped lead to multiple publications, presentations, two patent applications, and a plethora of mentoring opportunities. For the internal grant funding, I’m extremely thankful,” Cavitt said.

Facilities and Administration or F&A, also known as Indirect Cost, provides a valuable yet often misunderstood source of revenue to any university seeking external grant funding. F&A supports everything from the lights that switch on in a classroom to exclusively funding the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP). Funding the ORSP can provide a return on its investment by potentially generating additional future grant funding.

F&A is a percentage of certain grant costs negotiated through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Presently, ACU has negotiated an F&A percentage of 47.5% of salaries and wages for grants dispersed on campus and 28% of salaries and wages for grants dispersed off campus. So, hypothetically let’s say a department submits a grant in which they appropriately built F&A into the budget and wins the grant of $1 million. Of that, let’s propose that $100,000 is budgeted for salaries and wages for an on campus project. That means $47,500 of the total grant budget can be requested for F&A. Of the $47,500, 40% would go to support ORSP, 30% would go to the Provost’s Office, 20% would go to the department that submitted and won the grant, and 10% would go to the college where the department resides.

Some grants dictate a certain F&A percentage that is automatically calculated when the grant is submitted. If you apply for a grant with a predetermined F&A, then that percentage overrides the percentage that ACU negotiates with HHS.

Foundation grants may or may not allow F&A to be included in the grant request. If not specifically disallowed, grant seekers are asked to request at least 10% of the total budget in F&A or follow the HHS negotiated percentage and request 47.5% of salaries and wages be included as F&A.

While some may prefer to spend 100% of grant resources on the project itself, requesting the appropriate percentage of F&A benefits the entire university and adds to the potential that additional grants will be sought and funded in the future.

Beginning in the 1930s, researchers working in Tuskegee, Alabama with African-American men with syphilis failed to offer those men penicillin as treatment for their disease even though research had determined that penicillin cured syphilis as early as the 1940s. This unethical research continued until 1972. As a result of this lack of ethical behavior in research as well as other unethical research conducted by the Nazis and others, the federal government in 1974 passed the National Research Act which governs ethical behavior in research.  One of the outcomes of that Act is the establishment of Internal Review Boards or IRBs on college campuses as a result of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research.

IRBs act as governing bodies to ensure human and animal research is conducted in an ethical manner. The IRB is tasked with guiding faculty and student research design so that all research on human and animal subjects occurs in a manner that is free of possible abuses. Included in its duties, the IRB must review study protocols and determine if they meet ethical standards .

Of course, in addition to the federal requirements, we as Christians should go above and beyond the minimum to make certain all human and animal subjects are treated with the utmost respect and compassion, just as the Lord Jesus Christ does.

To speed up the approval process on IRB submissions, applicants should make certain to do the following:

  1. Students must get faculty approval prior to submitting an IRB request.
  2. Submit and fully complete the appropriate faculty consent forms.
  3. Review the sample consent forms (link) to be certain that all essential components are included in your consent.
  4. In your application for approval, be sure to clearly outline what will happen in your study.  Include what research question you will be answering and what the study participants will be asked to do, as well as how you will analyze the data.  Briefly give a rationale for the study — one of the areas the IRB considers when approving research is the value of the study in comparison to the time that individuals will be asked to give in order to participate in it.
  5. Researchers should be certain that the consent form is written in understandable language, avoiding discipline-specific jargon if at all possible.
  6. If you are using surveys, include any available reliability and validity information for the instrument.  If the study is a pilot study, note that in your application.
  7. Provide the survey/interview tool being used in the research.
  8. Think carefully about any potential risks to your subjects (the first instinct is to put “none known” but assess your study carefully before noting that).  Consider: psychological or emotional risks for delving into certain topics, risks to privacy, any physical or other risks.  If you note that there could be some risk, note clearly what steps will be taken to safeguard from those risks.  If you put “none” on your application when asked about risks, then you shouldn’t have to note any safeguards.
  9. Be certain that the start date on your application reflects awareness of the processing time required.  Start dates should NOT predate the application, or be for the date of application or the week of application.  It is best to plan for two weeks to a month for lead time for the application to be considered, before planning to actually collect data.

For further information on the IRB approval process, visit the IRB page on the ORSP website at

A member of the church of Christ had a major positive impact on the men affected by the Tuskegee syphilis study. Learn more about him at this link: Who is Fred Gray


On September 17th, the Council for Undergraduate Research conducted a webinar on Responsible Conduct in Research. Here are some of the highlights from that presentation:

Grants provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have stringent ethics training requirements all driven by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This act spawned the responsible conduct of research (RCR) requirement.

With NSF grants, appropriate ethical conduct of research training must be provided to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers whose research is supported by NSF funded grants. At ACU, the IRB is responsible for overseeing compliance with RCR training.

Additionally, RCR training for NIH funded research  must include face-to-face discussions, although on-line training may be a component of the training.

Some issues that would be appropriate for discussion in RCR training include:

  • Research Compliance (human and animal subjects, conflict of interest)
  • Authorship, publication, peer review
  • Diversity and cultural awareness
  • Questionable research practices (“QRP”)
  • Bioterrorism
  • Disciplinary culture, nature of science, honor codes
  • Research misconduct
    • Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism

If pursuing NSF or NIH grant funding, please contact the ORSP for more information.