Spotlight on U research funding

The second largest single grant holder at the University of Minnesota shares her secrets to securing competitive funding.

by Rebecca Harrington

When the U.S. Department of Education announced a $45 million grant competition for the development of a special education assessment, the University of Minnesota’s National Center on Educational Outcomes was one of the first to apply.

The grant — which was the second largest single University grant in 2011 — was one of 4,606 grants at the University last year.

The National Science Foundation  rated the University eighth in the nation for research funding , which totaled $769 million in 2011.

More than half of the funding went to medical and engineering research, and an overwhelming majority came from federal sources.

Project director for the NCEO grant Rachel Quenemoen said like many of the University’s largest grants, hers was a collaboration.

Because of existing partnerships and the national reputation of NCEO, which is a part of the College of Education and Human Development, organizations wanted them to lead the effort, Quenemoen said.

“Within hours of the announcement, we had inquiries from several states asking us if we would be interested in facilitating a proposal for that competition,” she said.

Quenemoen partners with 19 states and five national organizations on her grant .

Since it was a USDE grant competition, Quenemoen said it was more specific than other competitions where the researchers often get to decide everything.

NCEO won the grant in October 2010 . The aim of their research is to develop an alternate test for public school students with significant cognitive disabilities to take at the end of the school year.

They will not actually use the money until they need to implement the test for about 100,000 students  to take in 19 states, Quenemoen said.

The secret to getting grants, she said, is to take the reputation of the University in a particular area and build on that.

“You always want to take something that you uniquely are suited to do and have the expertise for,” Quenemoen said. “That’s what makes for successful grants.”