Johns Hopkins Gazette | May 11, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 11, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 34
Gearing Up for Stimulus-Funded Work

Last month, JHU faculty submitted 645 AARA proposals

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Since March, Johns Hopkins faculty and research staff have aggressively pursued grant dollars created by the federal government's economic stimulus package. University administrators hope that the money — some of which is already in the pipeline — will energize science and spin the wheels of job creation across the divisions.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation earlier this year received $12.4 billion to award in research grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which stipulates that most of the money be spent within two years. The peer-reviewed competitions organized by these two federal agencies began in late March, when applications for scientific instrumentation were due.

Last month alone, Johns Hopkins faculty and research staff submitted 645 grant proposals to NIH and NSF for funding under the ARRA; the total amount requested surpassed $358 million. (Overall for April, Johns Hopkins applied for funds of $583 million as part of 948 proposals submitted, more than three times the average amount for this time of year.)

To date, five stimulus grant applications have been funded and more are expected to be soon, according to Scott Zeger, acting provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Zeger said that Johns Hopkins faculty and support staff have worked tirelessly the past two months to secure vital funding that would benefit the university and, in turn, the region.

"These funds could represent a generous stimulus to the local economy. They also allow us to retain staff for investigators who may not have had their federal grants refunded," Zeger said. "Practically speaking, the money will be used not just directly for research but for building projects, equipment and the expansion of research spaces that will allow us in turn to add additional staff over time."

The grants were submitted by researchers at the schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health. The funds would support such projects as an annex to Clark Hall for new wet lab space, intended in part for future collaborations with the East Baltimore schools; the retrofitting of labs at the schools of Medicine and Public Health; and research that runs the gamut from biomedicine to the physical sciences.

In preparation for positions created by the infusion of economic stimulus-related funding, the university held a job fair on May 2 in order to identify experienced professionals and technicians for specialized science and administrative jobs, including laboratory work, information technology, grants and contracts, and finance.

More than 1,200 people registered for the event, according to Cherita Hobbs, a senior human resources director at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the organizers of the Science and Research Job Fair. Hobbs said that the number of possible open positions is not yet known and will depend on the number of stimulus-funded research grants awarded.

"But the whole point of the stimulus is to create jobs as quickly as possible to get the economy moving, and we want to be ready to hire when grant money becomes available to the university," Hobbs said. "I was very pleased with the turnout and the diversity of the applicants. The fair built a pipeline of potential candidates so we'll be ready when the time comes."

The job opportunities would last at least 18 months and come with regular Johns Hopkins University benefits. Some positions could lead to permanent ones, Zeger said. Stimulus jobs supported by external grant funding from agencies such as NIH and NSF are not subject to the university's recently announced hiring freeze.

Zeger said that the impact of these funds could be significant, both in terms of job creation and scientific discovery.

"We are excited about the opportunities that ARRA provides for Johns Hopkins to make important contributions to knowledge and at the same time help turn the economic tide," said Zeger, who has coordinated the university's preparations to gear up for stimulus-related research work.

Since February, a group of key university administrators, scientists and staff has met every Thursday to assess the stimulus package and how Johns Hopkins can take advantage of the funds. Zeger calls the group "the stimulators."

"They have done an incredible job of getting us ready to be in the position that we are in. They've been on the lookout for direct actions to take," he said.

Johns Hopkins has been the leading U.S. academic institution in total research and development spending for 29 years in a row. Zeger said that Johns Hopkins wants to continue to lead the way.

"Johns Hopkins is the largest private employer in Baltimore and in Maryland, and, with its expenditures in research, teaching, patient care, construction and other areas, has helped to insulate the region against the worst of the recession," Zeger said. "We are working very hard to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the stimulus to advance health and to help promote economic recovery."

Submissions for stimulus-funded research support, Zeger said, will continue until July. Grants will be funded from now through September 2010.


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