VCRGE announces second round of funding support for critical campus research
Research activities delayed or negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for funding support from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education through a second round of the Pandemic-Affected Research Continuation Initiative, or PARCI.
Beginning in March 2020, the pandemic forced changes to and constraints on face-to-face human-subjects research, research-related travel and field work, access to facilities, and other limitations specifically related to COVID-19. The first round of funding, launched last September, drew 110 applications; of these, 70 were selected for funding.
This year, PARCI awards are available up to $40,000 and applications are due by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. Equipment costs are not allowable under this program. Application instructions and a link to the online application form are available at: https://research.wisc.edu/funding/pandemic-affected-research-continuation-initiative/.
The high volume of applications submitted when the initiative was first offered underscores the serious impact the pandemic has had on research at UW–Madison.
Annie Bauer, a geoscience professor who joined the UW–Madison faculty in fall 2019 and secured PARCI funding in 2020, says it provided critical salary support for her research group,. Her research focuses on conditions on early Earth.
To tackle these questions, her lab characterizes ancient rocks using complex techniques and specific expertise. The funding helped her lab train a new employee to manage laboratory facilities, supervise internal and external users, and support the development of state-of-the-art analytical techniques. It also permitted overlap between the new employee and the retiring researcher who previously led the role.
“Our analytical plans for the spring 2020 semester included setting up several techniques that had not been previously attempted in our lab,” Bauer says. “We planned to start this work in mid-March, and therefore the COVID shutdowns of facilities on campus greatly impeded our progress—including the early stages of return to research on campus, which did not permit having several workers in our lab space simultaneously.”
Bauer’s group has since made enormous progress in analytical experimentation and project development, and she notes the successful transfer of knowledge between the two employees has aided her in getting her research program off the ground.
“My staff have led the charge to run experiments and develop techniques to support the five graduate students I supervise, as well as several other graduate students from UW and beyond,” Bauer says. “I am grateful for the support that I received from PARCI to bridge several additional months of overlap between these two employees; they are both exceptional researchers, mentors, and lab managers and they play a critical role in supporting geochemical research at UW–Madison and globally.”
Marla A. Ramírez, professor of history with a joint appointment in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, also received PARCI funding in 2020. Like Bauer, she joined the UW–Madison faculty in 2019 and the funds helped her hire a project assistant and a student hourly employee, cover transcription expenses and offer small stipends for research participants.
“I began my appointment — with just enough time to adjust to my new position on campus and to begin developing networks — when we abruptly transitioned to working from home and online teaching,” Ramírez recalls. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for us all in multiple ways. The loss of human life and effects on health for millions of people globally has had shattering effects. Social life as we knew it was also put on pause and our regular approaches to research, as well as labor, drastically changed.”
Ramírez’s research involves working with the National Museum of American History as an expert historian for their Undocumented Organizing Collecting Initiative, aimed at understanding how immigrant youth organizing has changed over time. Her studies involve gathering oral histories from key organizers in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, southern California, Nebraska, Chicago and Mexico City. As the pandemic spread, the research team was unable to travel to their study sites and the project had to be reimagined.
And, once restrictions began to lift, Ramírez remained concerned about putting research participants at risk, especially as cases increased at some of the designated sites. She says she had to change her approach and learned a lot from doing so.
“PARCI was key to our project and allowed our research to continue,” Ramírez says. “This project would have been dramatically different or halted if it were not for the support of this grant.”
For example, the same tools that allowed her and many others to remain connected to friends and family members through the pandemic also allowed the team to explore and examine the advantages of digital interviewing. It also permitted new doctoral student Bree Ann Romero to join the collaboration without the risk and expense of relocating.
“I will write an article on the topic of oral history, the digital age and research effects of COVID-19,” she says about the learning experience. “Most importantly, we were still able to collect the oral histories with organizers we had identified who generously agreed to interview via Zoom.”
Award notifications for the second round of PARCI support will be sent in December 2021, with funding to begin on January 1, 2022. The standard duration of the grant will be from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.