CBE Intranet

September 10, 2020

Dean Cheng: HR Memo 1

In my first CBE Forward memo last week, I discussed how we would manage our financial investments. In these the next two CBE Forward memos, I’ll outline some changes to our organizational structure that support the modest investments we can handle during the current budget crisis and, most importantly, set the stage so that future investments will have as large a positive impact as possible.  These organizational changes largely work within our relatively lean staff resources, but we are bringing just enough new resources to make several key expansions that complement revisions to existing positions. These new resources come because through the analysis over the past year and half, we made a compelling case for support from the UW Provost and other partners that match against some start up funds I negotiated upon taking the dean role.

This memo will focus on developing the CBE Research, most recently described as the “CBE Research Engine” in the 2018 research strategic plan, iBE explorations and several task force groups in 2019/2020. Task groups particularly highlighted the desire to elevate CBE research expertise in community engagement, climate action, housing, humanities, technology and to increase capacity for meeting urgent needs for this research to be accessible and have impact. While there is much work to be done, I believe the steps outlined below create conditions for moving forward with confidence.

Advancing the CBE Office of Research


CBE research includes research activity by individuals and groups of faculty and researchers. One of the hallmarks of CBE research is its breadth and diversity of methodologies, for example research can be overlapped with engagement, teaching or both. It may be basic, applied or a combination of both. It may look similar to research considered “pure”  STEM, humanities, art, or look like some combination.  Some work is done through centers and labs in the college, other work is done in partnership with other colleges and universities or with professional or community partners. The quality and range of CBE research is excellent and we would love to grow quantity and impact while maintaining quality. Compared to peers, CBE research activity and external funding is more variable and the success rate of applications is lower than we would expect. Additionally, growth opportunities seem to be constrained and reports of feeling spread too thin or needing more time are common. From our known partners, we hear that research is hard to access and not celebrated as much as it should be, especially given its value and the need. There’s also a belief that there are important partners not yet fully engaged and other prospective partners not yet identified.


UW distinguishes between sponsored (externally funded) research and all other types. Other types of funding vary but one of the most common is faculty using time supported by their salaries, for context, a common rule of thumb is faculty salaries are 40%Teaching/40%Research/20%Service. Sponsored research projects are expected to cover what is commonly called “overhead”. Overhead includes administrative support (financial personnel, office space) for that specific research project but also contributes to the larger institutional costs for supporting research activities (support of PhD students, internal UW grants, central grant personnel, financial systems). More detailed explanation is found at the Office of Sponsored Programs.


Expand and advance capacity of CBE Office of Research under the direction of Associate Dean for Research Carrie Sturts Dossick

As some of you know, the CBE research associate dean position was started a few years ago by then Dean John Schaufelberger and Professor Marina Alberti pioneered the role and drafted a strategic plan for research. Last year, Professor Carrie Dossick started work to understand that foundation, and adapt it in context of the emerging college strategic plan goals. The CBE Office of Research outlined today is a result of these efforts and I would like to thank Carrie, Marina, John, and others for their leadership in getting us to this point.

We are thrilled to announce expansion of, and new direction for, our CBE Office of Research with Jennifer (Jen) Davison taking on the new role of Assistant Dean of Research. Many of you know Jen from her role as Director of Urban@ UW and with 10 years of experience leading cross-disciplinary and community engaged research efforts at University of Washington, Jen’s passion for collaboration, equity, and the built environments will bring strategic vision and direction to our Office of Research and the CBE community. Jen will divide her time between the CBE Office of Research and Urban@UW.

Also joining the Office of Research team is Teri Thomson Randall as the Program Director, Community Engagement. As Program Manager for CBE’s Livable City Year initiative, Teri connects students and faculty across the university to work on livability and sustainability projects in partnership with local communities. And in her new role with the CBE Applied Research Consortium (ARC), she supports our ARC fellows as they conduct applied research projects with our industry partners. Teri is passionate about community-engaged learning and collaborating across disciplines to solve problems. She will continue to focus her support on Livable City Year and the Applied Research Consortium programs.

New partnerships to amplify CBE faculty time in for sponsored research:

In addition to the office reorganization, Carrie Dossick is leading exploration to a novel, and what we believe will be a fruitful partnership with the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE) for our sponsored research. CSDE currently supports population science research and graduate student training with three cores: grants administration, science, and computing.  The idea behind this initiative is to allow CBE researchers to benefit from CSDE’s expertise, use the partnership to complement current CBE strengths, and amplify the impact of the time of CBE faculty put into sponsored research proposals.

Rachel Ward, Carrie Sturts Dossick, and Jen Davison are CBE members of the study team, CSDE members include:

Sara Curran, Director, CSDE.  Lead decision-making for CSDE, Sara has been working closely with Carrie to develop the financial model and guiding policies for this partnership.

Scott Kelly, Administrator, CSDE.  Point person for the pre and post award grant administration.  Scott is working in close coordination with Rachel Ward.  Scott was formerly at Vanderbilt University.

Belinda Sachs, Grants Manager, CSDE.  Belinda will focus on pre-award support for CBE.  Belinda recently joined CSDE specifically to meet the needs of CBE researchers.  Before joining CSDE, Belinda worked with the UW Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.  She will be working closely with Scott Kelly and Rachel Ward.

Angie Thai, Budget/Fiscal Analyst Lead, CSDE Prior to her position with CSDE, Angie worked at UW’s School of Nursing as a Fiscal/Budget Analyst. Her professional experience at UW includes: payroll, fiscal management and budgeting. At CSDE, she is the contact person for payroll, and post award grant management.

While we are working on finalizing this partnership, I wanted to share our projected timeline with you. In Spring 2020 CSDE began supporting pre-award grant administration. Please use the CSDE In-take form to start the process which we will add on our intranet resources page for easy access. This is for support of OSP projects.  This fall 2020 we will be rolling out our CBE-CSDE partnership model, as well as onboarding our centers, labs, and PIs over this academic year. Look for more information from Carrie and opportunities for input soon.

The benefits of this model are already visible: our award counts are up to 27 in 2020 (from 20 in 2019), and over $3 million in 2020 (up from $2 million in 2019). Our goals over the next 2-3 years are ambitious but attainable:

  • double the number of awards per number of proposals we write,

  • triple our funded research support overall

We set these goals because we know that funded research supports our college through funding from graduate students, research scientists and engineers, as well as faculty salaries. Funded research also builds our reputation and our capacity to broaden our impact by creating opportunities for internal investments in research and engagement.

Invest to elevate research that is not externally funded:

In discussions in the past months, we have heard the frustration and stress from those faculty and researchers who don’t currently have opportunities for externally funding their research. This includes those who use their faculty salary allotted to do research but can’t hire student research assistants, as well as groups of faculty working with communities that have funding for project work but nothing in the budget to translate that work into research that can be disseminated.

In response to this need and to live our equity goals, we think it’s important to support valuable research with internal College funds and administrative support. We are thrilled to launch a new CBE Inspire Fund that will be administered by the Office of Research with financial support generated from the Applied Research Consortium (ARC) and the CBE Indirect Cost Recovery (ICR), which grows as sponsored research activity increases.  As ARC and ICR budgets grow, so will the CBE Inspire Fund to create support for research activities that do not have sources of funding elsewhere.  We look forward to working with CBE faculty in the next few months to refine processes and criteria so the funds are used in ways that best match needs and maximize positive impact.

Elevating all CBE research:

I believe these changes will support the many goals mentioned in the strategic plan task groups that relate to deepening and expanding CBE research impact. Look for the launch of the long anticipated CBE Research Portal, currently in draft form, which has evolved and developed alongside the many changes described above. This work is supported by some new changes in CBE communications which will be outlined in the next CBE forward memo.

I hope you are staying safe and as well as you can be,