February 1, 2016
Leap year is here! When you get an extra day, seize it, or as Latin lovers say: Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero! (That’s the full phrase, which rarely makes it onto t-shirts. It means: Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future! Although I am not particularly a lover of Latin, I thought this was interesting...)
So, what are you going to do with your extra day? I initially thought I would finally get around to seeing the new Star Wars film on a massive 3D Imax screen, but then realized – who am I kidding? February 29 is a Monday, so I’ll be working like virtually everyone else, likely spending a good part of my day clearing out my email – what luck!
Speaking of which — this month’s Expresso talks about all the internal mass email that lands in your inbox as well as:
- Diversifying Your Funding Portfolio: Don’t keep all your eggs in one NIH basket
- Express Yourself: Making the most of your UCSF Profile
- Email Overload: Smart Mail – help is on the way
Do you have a reaction, idea, tip, or comment? Please share it with me at [email protected].
P.S. My thanks to everyone who attended Mike McCune’s Pacific Crest Trail presentation. If you missed it, please click on the above link. Enjoy!
Diversifying Your Funding Portfolio: Don’t keep all your eggs in one NIH basket
To be fiscally fit, a diverse investment portfolio can prepare you for economic volatility. This same principle holds true when reviewing the fiscal fitness of our research funding portfolios. The traditional approach has been to rely heavily on the NIH, which is no longer such a sure thing. It used to be that an investigator could get several NIH grants—the bread and butter of scientific research—but those are increasingly limited, and may not even cover all of your salary (I realize I am stating the obvious).
Fortunately, UCSF’s Research Development Office (RDO) can help you find other sources. Gretchen Kiser, PhD, runs the office and gave me many great tips on how to diversify:
- UCSF Resources: In addition to the RDO, the Office of Sponsored Research, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and the Deans’ Offices can provide you with a lot of insight into grants, awards, and grant-writing.
- Other federal, state, and local agencies: Outside the NIH, you may find government bodies willing to fund riskier research, such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, NASA and others. The Department of Defense, for instance, has a new Biological Technologies Office, and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration funds infrastructure, especially for technology-driven research that can be used by the wider region. Don’t forget the on-going research funding program through University of California Office of the President (UCOP).
- Intramural funding: UCSF has its own funding, which can help. I sure hope you know that, twice a year, the Research Allocation Program, or RAP, gives grants up to $70,000 to support new endeavors. Keep in mind, your department, school, or center also may have funds for research. Reminder – Spring 2016 RAP deadline is February 22 at 2 p.m.!
- Prizes: Our outstanding faculty wins many prestigious awards, which often have a cash component. A list of such awards is kept on the EVCP website. Even if it may not cover the bulk of your research, it can help.
- Philanthropy: A patron can help sponsor your work.
- Industry: UCSF’s Innovation, Technology and Alliances office facilitates industry partnerships in an effort to move discoveries from our labs into patient care. They might be able to help you partner with pharma, or even find a venture capitalist to fund your work and create a startup.
- Team up: Being part of a multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator grant can often open up new sources of support that would otherwise be very difficult to find if you go it alone.
- Mentoring: Junior faculty may need support in learning to diversify their funding portfolio. If you’re a veteran, give advice; if you’re new, seek it!
- Read up: Subscribe to the opt-in email lists for Funding Opportunities, which distributes funding announcements of strategic or atypical mechanisms, and for the Limited Submission Program, in which UCSF selects which researchers can apply for certain grants. To get on those lists, email Gretchen’s office at [email protected]. UCSF also subscribes to Pivot, a program where you can set up a keyword search that will push funding opportunities to you once a week. The UCSF Library also offers Pivot training. This is free to you and could bring you money!
“It’s valuable to consider all the funding opportunities that may be worth going after,” Gretchen says. “They may be one-shot deals that are smaller or allow more risk, but they may set you off in a new direction or help you get the body of data you need to get your next five-year grant.” So, not only should you not keep all your eggs in one NIH basket, you should have multiple baskets. This strategy will help keep your research lab fiscally fit and poised for innovation.
Express Yourself: Making the most of your UCSF Profile
Your own entry on UCSF Profiles is one of those little things that you probably take for granted, but you shouldn’t. Did you know your page is sometimes looked at by the NIH when you apply for funding, and that it can help you connect with new and existing peers in your field? UCSF Profiles took a lot of work to develop and is a valuable tool for collaborating with colleagues. With minimal effort, you can make your profile a lot more useful and glean great information.
Run by the Research Technology program at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), UCSF Profiles operates a little like LinkedIn. You can upload a photo and information about yourself, including your interests. It also pulls data from other sources, such as your publications, grants you’ve been awarded, and UCSF news articles and videos that include you. It’s optimized for search engines so when someone looks for you online your UCSF Profiles page will likely be the first thing they see. Unfortunately, fewer than half of our faculty have uploaded a photo. I think it’s useful to place a face with a name, so I’d like to urge everyone to take a few moments to post a picture—I (and they) want to see your best side!
Tinkering with the tools in UCSF Profiles is quite interesting. I checked in with the UCSF Profiles team, including Leslie Yuan, CTSI CIO and director of the Research Technology program and Anirvan Chatterjee, director of data strategy. In conjunction with Profiles product director, Brian Turner, they maintain a blog with all sorts of interesting information, including tips on how to make your profile more useful. Also, there’s an internal (VPN required) “Profiles Explorer” site where you can see the social network graph that shows which departments are the most collaborative, who has published papers with whom, and even download a spreadsheet of recent publications from any UCSF Department. Once you are logged into Profiles, your personal dashboard can even show you where people are from who’ve been looking at your profile. Wouldn’t you like to know when the NIH is checking you out? You also can use it to connect to social media, tweeting your latest publication or any other noteworthy item. You can learn how often your paper gets cited by others as well as how often it gets re-tweeted – two very different measurements indeed!
Six years ago, there wasn’t a good way for people at UCSF to easily find experts on other topics. Dr. Mini Kahlon, who was CTSI’s executive director and CIO before becoming vice dean at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas, worked tirelessly to adopt Profiles for UCSF. I loved the idea then, and I love it now. Over time, it’s picked up traction, to the point that 1.2 million people looked at UCSF Profiles last year, and it’s a model for other universities. I find that I regularly use it when a student asks about potential research opportunities, or someone outside UCSF asks me about our local experts for a specific research area or clinical condition.
So, in addition to urging you to update your profile, the UCSF Profiles team would appreciate your feedback. How do you use it? How could it be better? Do you have a Profiles success story? And, if it has caused you problems, they want to know that, too. Their names above are links to their profile pages – so connecting is easy!
Update: The UCSF Library is hosting an event on February 26 featuring Brian Turner on UCSF Profiles, as well as other speakers discussing ways to increase the visibility of your research.
Email Overload: Smart Mail – help is on the way
I see the irony in writing about this in an email newsletter, but please allow me a meta-moment in which I highlight a painful, universally-recognized truth – we are all inundated with email. Lest I be accused of contributing to this problem, I’ll use this platform to tout a new initiative that I believe in strongly: Smart Mail.
I recently asked my team to send an email to the entire academic community about a single event that I was sponsoring. My request was gently denied. That’s when I heard about the concept of “Smart Mail.” To learn more, I spoke with Sarah Paris, director of communications at the School of Medicine.
Sarah says that she hears consistently from faculty members that they receive too much irrelevant email and worry about missing important information. In collaboration with Brenda Gee, EVCP communications coordinator, Sarah put together a campus-wide committee to explore how we can use today’s technologies and tools to better target the right audience with the right information. “We talk a lot about Precision Medicine,” Sarah says. “I’d like us to also think about Precision Communications.”
The problem, Sarah says, is complex. Some listservs on campus are huge, such as ALLACAD, which includes not only faculty across the schools, but also residents, volunteer faculty, postdocs, and non-faculty academics – a heterogeneous group of almost 10,000 people. Most institutions have strict rules on the use of broad listservs, and one of the first actions for the Smart Mail committee was to draft a policy prioritizing who should have access to these tools and for what purposes. While the policy is not in effect yet, listserv owners and moderators are trying to educate users. This is why my email trying to promote a single event was stopped at the gate.
“At the same time, we need to offer senders alternative channels to broadcast and promote their legitimate events,” says Sarah. Some of these include:
- The new UCSF Events Calendar that users can sort and customize.
- Digital signage, which is a great way to promote events locally.
- Social media like the UCSF Chatter group, Twitter, and Facebook
- Posters and flyers
- Profiles (see my other item!) is a robust tool that can generate a targeted email list for narrowly-focused messages to researchers.
- Existing news digests such as Pulse of UCSF (University Relations), UCSF Announcements (EVCP office), and School of Medicine News Links can be used for general news items.
Some best practices for using these and other tools can be found on the Smart Mail webpage.
Weaning ourselves from using mass email as a default tool represents a significant culture change. One first step might be to educate ourselves on using email more effectively. Some tips:
- Be sure the subject line accurately reflects the content of your email
- Be explicit in the subject line as to whether the email truly requires an action; e.g. “Signature Required” or “Important Schedule Request” or (best of all!) “NNTR” (No Need to Reply)
- Use the bcc: field when sending a message to a large group to avoid a “reply all” being sent to everyone on the list
- Make the most important point first, use numbers or bullets to separate distinct points, and try and keep paragraphs short with blank lines in between
The Smart Mail initiative is still in its nascent stages, and I will report on progress, but you can help by giving input! The committee is conducting a survey, available at SmartMail.ucsf.edu, among both faculty and staff. Good feedback is critical to identifying solutions and directing resources to implement them. Take a few moments, fill out the survey, and together we can be smarter about sending the right message to the right person via the right tool.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
My office, the Chancellor's Office, and the Office of Diversity and Outreach (ODO) are co-sponsoring a powerful event. Our UCSF students sparked #whitecoats4blacklives that became a national movement highlighting the impact of racism in health care. To continue the dialogue, the ODO is launching its Social Justice and Health Speaker Series with “Injustice and Health” the first UCSF Teach-in featuring award-winning journalist and CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday, February 24 from 12-3:00 p.m. in Cole Hall. For event and streaming details go to tiny.ucsf.edu/Teachin.