Research projects conducted in DLSU are annually allocated with funds in accordance with the University’s research objectives. Some research projects, however, require very high budget allocations due to a number of factors, one of which is the researchers’ aim to become highly competitive in terms of the processes and tools utilized.
In another look into the research focus of the University, The LaSallian interviews Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI) Dr. Raymond Tan regarding the University’s protocols in dealing with costly research projects.
“Only one percent of the University budget is allocated for our office’s normal operations,” Dr. Tan expresses. Furthermore, a portion of the salary from the faculty’s 40-hour work week is expected to be allocated for research.
Meanwhile, the University Research Coordination Office handles the management of research projects from all units throughout the University. In discussing the range of costs, Dr. Tan states that “it could be as small as 20,000 to 100,000 pesos, even.” DLSU, however, may be able to support grants for research studies that may need higher budget allocations; these are referred to as challenge grants. Having only a percentage of the total University budget, the grant can only offer a maximum amount of P1 million.
“These grants are usually for big projects and are meant to facilitate collaborative work among the different departments in the University,” Dr. Tan adds.
VCRI on proposals and grants
Grants in the University, governed by a set of guidelines, undergo peer review from the departments that the researches operate under. According to Dr. Tan, College Research Committees (CRC) are regularly formed to assess the proposals submitted to their respective units, taking into consideration the research focus of the departments. He adds, “The assigned committees recommend the projects for the approval of our office, and only then we allocate funds.”
CRCs consist of representatives from each department under a college and are headed by a research director who reports to the college dean. These CRCs administer the process of peer review that will determine whether or not the studies will be ready for approval of the VCRI. Aside from these committees, the University also has 11 research centers that disseminate projects funded by external agencies.
“If it is our own money, it’s much more limited. The good news is, there is plenty of intersection between the University and external agencies that provide grants,” Dr. Tan mentions.
In the process of assessing for approval, three aspects of the research, namely, its novelty, significance and cost-effectiveness, are taken into consideration. Tan emphasizes on the study being “worth solving, and if not entirely new, can at least be differentiated from past researches, also having a degree of innovation.”
DLSU’s need for external support
Given the limited internal funding of the University, faculty members hoping to pursue high-budget research projects must seek out the support of private institutions and government agencies. Among some of those who typically grant funding for projects that align with their interests and goals are the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Commission on Higher Education, and the United States Agency for International Development.
Ysadora Mendoza, senior program officer under the Office of the Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research Center, is one of the officers who handle these external linkages. “My role in research is to facilitate logistics and coordinate with local government units. Most research studies from my unit are funded externally, for example DOST, and are successfully supported,” she states.
Interested applicants must first submit the project’s abstract and budget summary as part of a capsule proposal. In some cases, the University assists the applicants in formulating their proposal by providing seed funds that can be used to begin the initial stages of their research. According to Dr. Tan, this gives the applicants an edge since they have results on hand to present as part of their proposals. They then undergo a series of screening procedures that vary from each agency until the proposal is approved and formalized through a contract.
Should the agencies be unable to completely fund the projects, the University will cover the remaining percentage of the expenses that still lack funding. This allows for the optimal use of internal funding in order to produce the maximum possible number of research projects. “It’s actually an efficient way of doing things because essentially, for every P100,000 spent, we get a multiplier effect by securing funds from other agencies,” Dr. Tan adds.
On research collaborations
Another aspect of DLSU’s continued development involves undertaking large projects that will allow different departments and colleges to collaborate. The University gives challenge grants as incentives to mobilize faculty members to take an interdisciplinary approach to research, as well as to involve students in the actual procedure.
“One example is nanotechnology. We can’t really categorize it as belonging to chemistry, to physics, or belonging partially to both. The point is we don’t have a nanotechnology department or a BS Nanotechnology degree yet,” Dr. Tan points out. “But, we have scientists from different parts of the University working on nanotechnology. Some of them belong to engineering, physics, and chemistry, simply because they have the skills and knowledge to work in that area.”
The motion to further involve students in the research process comes in conjunction with the University’s vision of its future and potential contributions in the field. With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations integration looming, DLSU is working towards giving its students a competitive advantage by involving them in the research process.
“For the next half-decade, that’s what the University is trying to do. All this research that might seem detached from [the] day-to-day curriculum is actually meant to develop extra skills that [the students] will need in the future,” Dr. Tan concludes.