L-POD program takes faculty research to new heights

Learn from Provost Susan R. Wente about L-POD and its role in the Academic Strategic Plan and the Provost’s Initiative for Enhancing Research and Scholarship (PIERS).

By Jane Hirtle

The Leveraged Proposal Organization and Development (L-POD) program, launched within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research in 2017, fosters research development across campus and strengthens relationships with extramural sponsors. Now in its new home in the Office of Research Development and Support, L-POD is gearing up for further expansion and progress.

In addition to a series of workshops this fall, L-POD is ramping up its strategic research proposal planning and coordination support for faculty pursuing complex, prestigious and competitive external funding opportunities. L-POD tailors services to each project, offering project management, grant writing, content development, evaluation by a team of research peers, or a combination of these services as needed.

Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan

“In the increasingly competitive world of external sponsorship, when one of our faculty wins a highly sought-after award, they bring not only resources but distinction to themselves and Vanderbilt as a whole,” said Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan, who established the original L-POD program as well as the Office of Research Development and Support. “The L-POD team members have the doctoral training, expertise in grants and contracts, and sponsor-specific knowledge to work hand in hand with our Vanderbilt faculty and make those prestigious wins possible.”

Contact the Office of Research Development and Support about L-POD research proposal support services. >>

For proposals with a short turnaround time, L-POD services are not just helpful but critical for success. With support from L-POD, primary investigator Mavis Schorn of the School of Nursing was able to prepare and submit a Health Resources and Services Administration ANE-SANE proposal in a single month. “L-POD services were very helpful for a grant that had to be written very fast,” Schorn said. “It’s a great service, and the staff are clearly experienced in this space.”

L-POD also enables faculty to take on intricate, large-scale proposals that involve preparing extensive institutional data and coordination among multiple teams across campus, such as the two National Science Foundation Research Traineeship proposals recently submitted by Frank Tong and Keivan Stassun. “The support from L-POD was fantastic and just what was needed,” Stassun said. “The L-POD staff did an incredible job of assisting us logistically as well as providing valuable quality control on the proposal itself.”

L-POD also helped Jamey Young and Scott Guelcher prepare an elaborate NIH Integrated Training in Engineering and Diabetes (ITED) T32 grant renewal for submission in spring 2018. “Simply put, the proposal would not have been submitted if not for the efforts of the L-POD staff,” Young said. “Other than writing the proposal for us, I can’t imagine how they could have been more helpful.”

LPOD’s customized support has been instrumental for P.I.s like Edward F. Fischer and Avery Dickins de Giron of the Center for Latin American Studies, who worked closely with L-POD to complete their Department of Education NRC/FLAS proposal. The proposal was recently awarded a $1.64 million grant that reestablished CLAS as a national resource center.

“We were not sure how useful the service would be, but we wanted to give it a try,” said Fischer and Dickins de Giron. “It turned out to be incredibly helpful, especially in regard to feedback on the proposal, the review session, and help with the timeline. We will definitely recommend L-POD to others.”

In the past, L-POD services often have been combined with other research support services, such as the limited submission opportunities process, as in the case of the recent proposal Jessica Oster submitted with collaborators at Tennessee State University to the National Science Foundation GEOPATHS program. The proposal was awarded for nearly $350,000, enabling Oster and colleagues to found Earth Horizons, a program to strengthen the pathway for minority students entering into geoscience careers and graduate programs.

The combination of L-POD services, limited submission management, and guidance for research with human, animal or export control issues within the new Office of Research Development and Support will further simplify and strengthen this kind of tag-team approach to supporting faculty funding efforts, making support for faculty research even more efficient and powerful, Raghavan said.