Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

MCubed update: Getting closer to cubing

For most faculty members eagerly waiting to sign up for the innovative MCubed research funding initiative, organizers say keep brainstorming and networking, but no other action is required until fall semester.

Unless they're in the Medical School or LSA, that is. In those units, interested researchers must register for virtual tokens in advance at websites designated by each unit. They can do that now. In the Medical School, the deadline of 4 p.m. Friday is fast approaching.

MCubed is a first-of-its-kind program that aims to jumpstart new, innovative and interdisciplinary pilot studies. To qualify, three eligible researchers from at least two different units (school, college, or LSA division) just need to come up with an idea and agree to work together. It's a modern alternative to the traditional government grant review process, as no long, formal application process is required.

Under MCubed, 250 three-person projects will receive $60,000 to hire a graduate student, postdoctoral researcher or undergraduate student. The cooperative, $15 million initiative will be supported by the 'Office of the Provost, Rackham Graduate School, schools, colleges and units, and, in most cases, individual investigators who must provide some matching funds.

The program will allow participants to post project ideas online and browse for collaborators at a central MCubed hub. That site is not yet available but is expected to launch this fall. Currently, staff members are creating profiles for all eligible faculty members, as well as working to iron out other implementation issues.

While MCubed has an executive committee, it is not a top-down endeavor. Individual units are implementing the cooperative program in slightly different ways and officials still are finalizing agreements with several schools and colleges. To date, approximately 12 units have signed memoranda of understanding (MOU). Agreements are in process with seven others, and two units still are considering participation.

"It's amazing the enthusiasm and the excitement we've received about this program so far. It looks like we may have every single unit in the university participating and to me that's wonderful," said Mark Burns, professor and chair of chemical engineering and one of MCubed's organizers. "It's going to take a bit more time to make sure the procedure is in place for cubing and to make sure that everyone who has a virtual token is entered into the website — that's why we're waiting until fall to open that up."

Burns urges researchers in the Medical School and LSA to go ahead and request a token, though. "If you don't have a token, you won't be able to participate," he said.

Eligible individuals in most units include tenured and tenure-track faculty, and in many cases some classifications of research and clinical faculty. Check with your unit for exact criteria.

For Medical School faculty, it's likely that extensions will be granted beyond the Friday deadline, said Jessica Durkin, associate director of administration for research at the Medical School. The school is funding 200 participants. As of Monday, 150 researchers had signed up. Officials may allow more than that to request a virtual token, though. Signing up to participate does not guarantee MCubed funding.

Gary Smith, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical School and co-director of the Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies, is crossing his fingers.

"These are exciting times of opportunity and I cannot wait to participate," Smith said.

"The MCubed concept and support for universitywide, cross-discipline research is forward thinking and will foster collaborations and breakthrough discoveries in ways previously unimagined. I believe this program will transform research and innovation in the arts, literature, and engineering and medical sciences at the University of Michigan."

In LSA, there's no deadline to sign up. The college, which will fund 300 participants, released 150 spots in July and will unlock the other half in September. So far, about 50 have been claimed, said Myron Campbell, associate dean for natural sciences in LSA. Once 300 researchers have requested a token, no more will be given out.

LSA is unique in this regard. Other units are handing out more virtual tokens than they will fund. In some cases, such as in the College of Engineering, more than 80 percent will be funded. In others, since as the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, just less than 25 percent will be funded. This could raise some cubing challenges, and more details about how that process will unfold will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information, and to find unit 'contacts, go to the newly updated mcubed.umich.edu/. If a unit's contact information is not posted, an MOU has not yet been signed. Eligible Medical School faculty can request to participate at https://umichumhs.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0kdxIcAMIBzkinG. Eligible LSA faculty can claim a token at https://www-a1.lsa.umich.edu/eGif/ and select the MCubed opportunity.