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Grant Writing in Cyberspace

by Kim Cumbie

Backed by a nearly $1 million grant, the University of Kentucky is providing Internet grant writing training for faculty of minority institutions who have not successfully competed for basic research grants. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, awarded UK the five-year grant to establish interactive learning modules on the Internet.

"This project is a natural extension of our mentoring efforts with minority institutions," says Ada Sue Selwitz, director of UK Sponsored Program Development (SPD). "We thought applying for the grant was an ideal opportunity to continue minority outreach initiatives. Also, it provided us with the chance to develop a Web-based training course. SPD was ideally suited because we're a service unit of UK Research and Graduate Studies actively involved in training people to write competitive grant proposals."

Selwitz asked Don Frazier, professor of physiology at the UK College of Medicine, to head up this project because of his outreach experience. Frazier had previously worked with SPD in presenting grant writing workshops for various organizations in Kentucky. Together, Frazier and SPD developed a unique training model in 1992 that provided the basis for the project.

"I knew it was something we should pursue," says Frazier, who also serves as director of the medical center's Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities. "All we needed to do was incorporate the necessary media design personnel to help us translate our workshops into electronic format. I knew we'd be competitive because we have a unique training method that has proven to be successful."

Staff at the UK Faculty Academic Computer and Technology Support Center were enlisted to convert learning modules to a Web-based, CD-ROM format. The modules will be tested and evaluated at two pilot sites, the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan and Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.

The first group of faculty members from 80 institutions will attend an introductory conference at UK, where they will take classes on grant writing and the peer review process, learn computer hardware and software, and receive an overview of the 10-week Internet course modules. As they work through the grant review process, they will have support from UK personnel and research mentors across the country.

The collaborative effort opens the door to communication with faculty at various universities and colleges that train predominantly under-represented students. The modules eventually will become available to UK faculty, Selwitz says.