M-TRAIN launches first workshop to boost regional research administration and innovation

Vanderbilt University hosted the inaugural workshop of the Middle Tennessee Research Administration and Innovation Network (M-TRAIN) on Nov. 16, marking a new era in collaborative research administration efforts in the region under a project funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

M-TRAIN seeks to address disparities in the research landscape and foster an inclusive academic community in Middle Tennessee.

“This M-TRAIN initiative represents a pivotal moment for all of us to collaboratively strengthen our research administration and share expertise across Middle Tennessee to drive innovation and equitable access in the academic community,” said Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research and innovation at Vanderbilt. “I’d also like to thank all our participants as well as my colleagues from our peer institutions in Middle Tennessee for joining us in this effort.”

four participants discuss collaboration during M-TRAIN Symposium
Participants from several middle Tennessee universities discuss ways to enhance each school’s research administration during an M-TRAIN workshop at Vanderbilt. (Herschel Pollard/Vanderbilt University)

The workshop was held at Alumni Hall and convened research administrators from Vanderbilt, Tennessee State, Fisk, Austin Peay, Lipscomb, Trevecca Nazarene, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, The University of the South (Sewanee), the Tennessee Board of Regents and Meharry Medical College.

The initiative is a direct response to the NSF’s “Growing Research Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity” (GRANTED) program and was conceived by Research Development and Support within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation at Vanderbilt, along with core partners Fisk and TSU.

“Middle Tennessee is the perfect test case for the objectives of the GRANTED program, with its rich institutional diversity and imbalance in its research capacity across the institutions,” said Joanne Spitz, executive director of Vanderbilt’s Research Development and Support. “Our environment in Tennessee exemplifies a national problem, so we are well-poised to produce a national model on how to enhance the research environment to include all research institutions.”

Spitz outlined M-TRAIN’s broad goals, focusing on enhancing regional research administration and nurturing faculty and staff through activities such as workshops and peer mentoring.

Breakout sessions designed to foster collaborative strategies culminated in group discussions centering on institutional challenges, methods for information sharing, and potential areas for multi-institutional partnerships.

This inaugural event established a strong foundation for M-TRAIN’s goal to advance significant enhancements in research capabilities and institutional partnerships across Middle Tennessee research institutions. Three more workshops are planned through June 2024 to identify and implement solutions.