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Collaboration is Key 

Download this article from Academic Pharmacy Now: Summer 2012: Collaboration is Key

Working together is the best option for physical plant enhancements

Read the article in this edition of Academic Pharmacy Now about pharmacy schools’ new buildings and you will see that collaboration, whether interdepartmental, interinstitutional or interorganizational, was key to achieving those infrastructure enhancement goals. Consider some examples:

"An opportunity existed to grow the research programs in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and additional space would facilitate research collaboration with Medical Center colleagues."

"Each classroom participating in distance learning now also has a work-study student—trained by the IT staff and the Department of Instructional Technology—to facilitate questions and handle other logistical issues that arise."

"By 2008, $5 million had been allocated to the VCU School of Pharmacy by the commonwealth of Virginia. Two alumni in the Virginia legislature, Dels. Harvey B. Morgan and S. Chris Jones, helped secure the funds."

Sharing not only resources but the positive outcomes of those resources has never been more important. Meeting the teaching, research and service mission of higher education now requires the development and maintenance of strong internal and external partnerships. AACP continues to seek increased funding for the federal programs that support any of these three components of the higher education mission. Yet, the opportunities to increase funding are becoming less likely as Congress focuses its attention on other matters and state legislators reduce funding for health and education programs.

Collaboration Becomes an Expectation

During the past several years, the federal government has increased its collaboration expectations of grantees and other beneficiaries of federal support. Not only have the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed greater expectations of team-based care on health facilities and clinicians, federal agency grants frequently require applicants to show evidence of interprofessional and multidisciplinary activities.

A 2008 report from the National Advisory Mental Health Council Workgroup on Research Training to the National Institutes of Health affirms that science is increasingly multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. NIH offers the following definition of interdisciplinary research:

"…a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice."

The report also states: "…team science, i.e., science based on collaborations, is increasingly common (see, e.g., Miller, 2008) and may reflect the increasing complexity of the research questions posed and the need for diverse kinds of expertise to address the research question at hand. In fact, the increase in interdisciplinary research and team science may be closely linked."

More Required of Grantees

The peer review criteria for many of the NIH grant programs frequently ask potential grantees: "Are inter- and multi-disciplinary and inter-professional research training opportunities or novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, or technologies appropriately utilized?" The National Science Foundation dedicates a section of its Web site to interdisciplinary research. The NSF is an excellent place to seek funding for both interdisciplinary research support as well as grant support for education improvement—including technology—especially focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

The Department of Education offers grants through the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. FIPSE "...supports innovative projects that may respond to issues of national and global significance. These projects propose significant reforms and improvements in U.S. postsecondary education and have the potential to serve as national models for reform." Remember the work-study student mentioned at the beginning of this column? The department is also responsible for the Federal Work-Study Program, which provides grant funds to pay eligible students to work part-time in academic and other sites.

Continue to Seek Earmarks

Let’s not forget the importance of the interorganizational collaborations. While Congress continues to discuss the merits of earmarks, those ubiquitous funds based on the sole action of a legislator to funnel funds back home to the state or district remain a relevant approach to seeking physical plant funding. Developing and maintaining these relationships, through your university government affairs office or your personal relationships, can garner significant resources—at least until the unlikely day those options are eliminated entirely.

William G. Lang is Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AACP; wlang@aacp.org.

Resources

2008 National Advisory Mental Health Council Workgroup on Research Training–Report
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/advisory-boards-and-groups/namhc/reports/investing-in-the-future.pdf

Office of Research Infrastructure Programs
http://dpcpsi.nih.gov/orip/index.aspx

Division of Instruments and Construction
http://dpcpsi.nih.gov/orip/diic/index.aspx

Shared Instrument Grants
http://dpcpsi.nih.gov/orip/diic/shared_instrumentation.aspx

Extramural Construction
http://dpcpsi.nih.gov/orip/diic/extramural_construction.aspx

CREATIV (Creative Research Awards for Transformative Interdisciplinary Ventures
http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/additional_resources/interdisciplinary_research/creativ/index.jsp

Interdisciplinary Research Web site:
http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/additional_resources/interdisciplinary_research/index.jsp

Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/fipse/index.html

Federal Work-Study Program
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fws/index.html

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