FAQs

FAQ Update, November 7th, 2016

In the Preliminary Proposal due November 11th, may I include appendices?

A: No appendices other than the biosketches for team leaders will be accepted.

In the Preliminary Proposal due November 11th, may I include letters of support from internal or external partners?

A: No letters of support are expected or will be shared with reviewers during the preliminary proposal process.

In the Preliminary Proposal due November 11th, should we list all participating team members, or just the team leaders?

A: The Request for Proposals asks for a list of team leaders. We do not need a list of all participating team members at this time.


Why has IU launched a Grand Challenges program?

A: IU’s Grand Challenges program is intended to accomplish two broad sets of goals. The first is to build teams of researchers within IU and in partnership with industry, government, and community organizations to address some of the most pressing issues facing the people of Indiana. No one can do it alone, but by working together we hope to make significant strides towards addressing the “Grand Challenges” that confront us all. The second set of goals is focused on strengthening IU’s research infrastructure so that the university can continue to serve the people of Indiana, provide cutting edge education, and advance knowledge and creativity for decades to come.

What are the criteria for selecting a Grand Challenge?

A: The “Grand Challenges” on which IU will be focusing are being determined by a broad collaborative process in which faculty, in partnership with industry, government, and community organizations, are being invited to submit proposals for the critical issues that need solutions and that IU is well-positioned to help lead the fight to address. The selection criteria are designed with the two overarching goals in mind: investing significant resources to improve in tangible ways the quality of life of the people of Indiana and to transform Indiana University by facilitating strategic hires and other investments in research infrastructure.

A Grand Challenge Initiative:

  1. Addresses a compelling problem or challenge, the resolution of which would significantly affect the people of Indiana and beyond.
  2. Has defined, achievable goals that deliver tangible benefits to the people of Indiana and beyond.
  3. Strategically leverages IU strengths and existing resources.
  4. Requires a multidisciplinary team that reaches across departments, schools, and in most cases, campuses.
  5. Can attract the external competitive, philanthropic, corporate and/or government funding necessary to sustain the work to successful completion.
How will proposals be reviewed?

A: IU is using a two-step proposal process to identify the first round of Grand Challenge initiatives. Preliminary proposals, which were due by November 9, provide a broad outline of possible initiatives. Out of the 21 preliminary proposals submitted, five will be selected for further development into full proposals, which will be due April 18.

A Grand Challenges Review Committee, made up of faculty members from IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU School of Medicine, and IU South Bend, will review preliminary proposals in the fall and full proposals in the spring. They’ll be looking at all of the criteria, and assessing the degree to which each proposal meets those criteria. The Review Committee will secure additional expertise as necessary, and will make recommendations to President McRobbie. The President will also seek the input of the Community Advisory Board before making the final decisions about which preliminary proposals will be invited in January to submit full proposals. The first round of Grand Challenge initiatives will be announced by mid-June. There will be a second round of proposals sought in 2017.

How will decisions be made about new faculty hires, new buildings, and other major investments that are included in Grand Challenge Initiative plans?

A: Major investments in things like these are complicated, and we’re working on trying to simplify as much as possible. Once full proposals are invited, team leaders will work with campus leaders, deans and department chairs to prioritize hiring targets, since not all faculty associated with a particular Grand Challenge will be hired at once. During the proposal-writing period (between January and April), VPR will work with teams to clarify infrastructure requirements, and will work with campus leaders and the President to start to think about implementation plans that take multiple teams’ needs into consideration.

Why does the program require that teams be multi- and cross-disciplinary?

A: By definition, the problems that qualify as “Grand Challenges” are complex. For this reason, a single discipline cannot solve a Grand Challenge. A scientific problem, for instance, likely is shaped by people’s behavior, economics, or public policy — so those fields would need to be involved in order to address fully that scientific problem. Grand Challenge Initiatives will therefore be multidisciplinary, and the team working on a Grand Challenge Initiative will necessarily include faculty members and researchers from multiple disciplines.

How will private sector representatives like industry and non-governmental organizations be involved?

A: A Community Advisory Board, comprising leaders from industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations throughout Indiana, will provide guidance for the program and the selection, implementation and review of specific initiatives. Teams invited to submit full proposals will need to bring community, corporate, and non-governmental organizations into their planning process, and will partner with those groups to ensure that the research they’re engaged in addresses the broader goals of benefitting the people of Indiana.

How long will the selected Grand Challenge Initiatives last?

A: Because of the complexity and scale of Grand Challenges, we recognize that none of the problems we’re asking faculty to address will be fully solved in just a few years. This is one reason we require that each Grand Challenge Initiative include a plan for securing external funding to continue the research after internal funding has ended. The internal funding period, which will generally be five years, will have defined, achievable goals, and teams will regularly report on their progress towards those goals.

Grand challenges are inherently complex issues. How will progress be judged? Are there reporting requirements?

A: Each team will identify metrics for assessment to measure the impact of their work. Annual reporting on the progress of various components of each Initiative – from research projects to strategic faculty hires and development of infrastructure – will help us identify ways we can help teams identify and respond to challenges, and make every effort to meet the goals they’ve set.

How will Grand Challenges impact other initiatives at IU?

A: Although IU is directing considerable funding and effort toward the Grand Challenges Program, it is by no means the only initiative arising from the Bicentennial Strategic Plan, nor the only effort we’re making to foster excellence in research and teaching. Schools and campuses will continue with existing plans regarding faculty hires and investments in research infrastructure, as well as other initiatives. While we hope for synergies between those efforts and the Grand Challenge Program, it’s worth noting that the funding being directed toward the Grand Challenges is not being redirected from other planned research expenditures.

Are the plans being offered in preliminary or full proposals final?

A: In all likelihood, no. Any research project is likely to evolve over time as unexpected discoveries point the researcher in a new direction; this is all the more likely with multi-project research initiatives like the Grand Challenges Program. We’re asking teams to identify concrete plans for the first 12-18 months of their Initiative, with more notional and conceptual plans for each of the next 3 to 4 years. We expect that some people not currently on a team will join it, and new projects to arise as work progresses. As part of the annual reporting process, teams will lay out detailed plans for the next year that take into consideration the progress they’ve made thus far as well the opportunities and challenges they did not anticipate when they submitted their full proposal.

Where is the money for funding Grand Challenges coming from?

A: Funds are coming from the President, IU Bloomington, IUPUI, the IU School of Medicine, and other individual schools on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses. Some of the funds have been saved in recent years to help prepare for the Grand Challenges program. Some will come from money being allocated over the next five years and from fundraising efforts.

Can members of the public or the university community comment on proposals?

A: Absolutely. All of the proposals are available online. We welcome your comments about the program, specific proposals, or ideas for future Grand Challenges. Please email grandchallenges@iu.edu.