Carey Gallagher and Jennifer Tomasik / January 2016
Leading Leaders
Georgetown University’s Vice President of Research wanted to increase faculty research capabilities by building an applied research institute that would integrate research faculty with other faculty in a multi-disciplinary undertaking that would link large-scale modeling and use of big data to provide unique insights into topics like public health and food security. The institute brings together several disciplines including computer science, biomedicine, anthropology, sociology, and public health. This initiative required building an infrastructure from the ground up to more effectively support the front and back ends of proposal generation and management. This infrastructure was composed of staff facilitators and grant writers for proposals whose focus was external opportunity identification, post-award financial reporting, and higher education. The Research VP and Provost invited CFAR to help them give this ambitious plan momentum and stimulate faculty engagement.

CFAR has been working with Georgetown on this initiative for two years. What started as a stand-alone project has gradually expanded, and the plan now includes the participation of additional faculty to apply the technical capabilities of the computer modeling to research topics such as complex human emergencies and financial regulation.

During the initial planning phase, CFAR used the firm’s proprietary tool called Backcasting—a thinking process through which we help identify in very concrete terms all the obstacles faculty believe they face—to assess all potential issues that needed to be addressed to achieve the overall goal. Working with the client, CFAR created a consortium of industry partners, which is now working on the implementation of the first use case in an interdisciplinary dialogue focused on complex human emergencies. Together, we are changing the research and development infrastructure by creating a setting where research track faculty outside the medical school can gain legitimate standing in collaboration with other faculty members.

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