Research and Creative Activity Grants: 2011-12

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The RCAG Committee sponsored three information sessions in advance of the 2011-12 Call for Proposals. These are the types of questions that were most widely asked at those meetings:

Carmine Scavo

Chair, Research and Creative Activity Committee


·         How sure are we that funding will actually be available for this grant program in the new fiscal year?


There is no guarantee that funding will be available given the bad financial situation the state of North Carolina is experiencing. The Committee is proceeding with this year’s competition with the assumption that funding will be available. The North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t come back into session until January 26. The making of the new fiscal year budget (the year that begins July 1) typically take up much of the time in the session and in years past the budget was not completed by the beginning of the new fiscal year.


Even if funding is available for this program we do not know how much that funding will be. The $100,000 that was available last year was a significant reduction from previous years.


·         If I am recommended for funding and the funds are zeroed, what happens?


The Committee has not made concrete plans for this eventuality since there are so many different ways it can play out—the entire $100,000 may be available; a portion may be; or none may be. Once the budget situation for the new fiscal year becomes clearer, the Committee will take up this scenario and make recommendations to the Vice Chancellor for Research. Possible actions include not having a 2012-13 competition and rolling over recommended projects for funding at that time if funding were available; including the recommended proposals in the 2012-13 competition with some preference given to them; including the recommended proposals in the 2012-13 competition with no preference given to them; allowing PI’s to rewrite their proposals for the 2012-13 competition, and others.


·         I am currently receiving startup funds. Am I eligible to apply for a RCAG?

No. People currently receiving startup funds, Research and Creative Activity Grants, Faculty Senate Teaching Grants, and Research Development Award (RDA) grants are ineligible to apply for RCAG funding in the time period that their award is active.

No, only full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty members are eligible to apply for RCAG funding.

If you are a full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty member in BSOM, you are eligible to apply beginning with the 2011-12 round of RCAG funding. Please note that 12-month employees are not eligible to apply for summer stipends.

·         I am 75% done with a book manuscript and need some summer time off to complete the manuscript. Do you think the Committee would fund such a request?

The Committee considers each proposal independently. There is no general policy on preferring new projects to existing projects. Generally speaking, one of the criteria the Committee uses to evaluate proposals is whether the funding is necessary for the project’s completion. A question that would most likely be raised concerning this specific case is, “Do you mean that if we don’t fund you, you wouldn’t finish the book?” Your proposal narrative should clearly state why RCAG funding is necessary for you to complete this manuscript.

·         What kinds of proposals do you prefer to fund?


The Committee seeks to award funding to proposals that are deemed meritorious. One working definition of that word is “proposals that bring credit on the individual, his or her department, and East Carolina University as a whole.” The likelihood of publication of the project’s results in a major journal certainly would strengthen an application as would the likelihood of a work of art’s being included in a national juried competition.


·         What is the process by which proposals are evaluated?


The Committee is subdivided into four subcommittees: Social Science; Natural Science/Mathematics; Humanities/Fine Arts; and Health/Medicine. A few days after the application deadline, the chairs of the four subcommittees will review the applications and sort them into one of these four areas. Each member of the four subcommittees will read each of the proposals and then the subcommittees will meet to review the scores assigned by the individual members. The scores from the subcommittees are then forwarded to the RCAG chair who convenes a meeting of the Committee to consider the individual scores and to develop a final list of recommended proposals that goes to the Vice Chancellor for Research. After the Vice Chancellor determines the amount of money that is available to fund proposals, awardees are notified. Typically, the Committee will make its recommendations to the Vice Chancellor in March and she will notify awardees in April. This process may be delayed this year if the budget situation is not certain by that time.


·         What is the difference between a project proposal, a summer stipend, and a dual proposal? Are they evaluated differently?

Summer stipends currently pay the equivalent of a faculty member teaching two courses in summer school or approximately 16.67% of base salary. Faculty who are on twelve-month contracts are ineligible to apply for summer stipends. Faculty who accept a summer stipend cannot teach courses during the summer session in which their stipend is active. Applications for summer stipends do not require a budget since the award is for the PI’s time.

Project proposals require a budget (the form is on Page 10 of the RCAG guidelines) which cannot exceed $10,000. Each of the items in the budget will require justification; for example, if you propose to hire a graduate assistant, you will need to explain at what rate you intend to pay him/her, how many hours per week he/she will work, what their duties will be, and also why this expenditure is necessary (why you can’t use one of the normally assigned departmental or program graduate assistants to do the work). Project proposals can be for less than $10,000.

Dual proposals are for both a summer stipend and project expenses.

In the 2010-11 round of RCAG funding, ten proposals were eventually funded by the Vice Chancellor—one was a project only proposal, two were summer stipend only proposals, and the remaining six were proposals for both summer stipend and project expenses (dual).

All proposals are evaluated in exactly the same manner. The only exception to this is that budget line items appearing not to be well justified or to be excessive will result in poor scores for the proposal. The Committee will not negotiate budget line items; poorly justified or excessive amounts hurt the proposal’s overall evaluation.

·         If I am awarded a summer stipend, when can I receive it?

Funding for this round begins with the new fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2011 and ends on June 30, 2012. Thus summer stipends can be for either 2nd Summer Session 2011 or 1st Summer Session 2012. It is up to the award recipient to decide whether to accept funding at the beginning of the fiscal year or at the end.

BTW, all project funds must be utilized in the fiscal year in which they are awarded. Unexpended funds cannot be rolled over into the next fiscal year.

·         I am applying for both a Faculty Senate Teaching Grant and a RCAG. What happens if I get recommended for both?

You can only accept one in any given funding cycle. You can resubmit the one you decide not to accept in the next round of the competition if you so desire. The same situation applies to funding from other university sources, such as RDAs or the new East-West initiative. If you receive a recommendation for funding from more than one source you will need to decide which one you will want to accept.

·         I am applying for an outside grant (from the National Science Foundation or the National Endowment for the Arts or somewhere else) and also for a RCAG. What happens if I get both?

Again, you will need to decide which one to accept. University policy sets the maximum amount of pay that an individual on a nine-month contract can receive at 133% of base salary. Receiving a stipend from RCAG and from an outside source would most likely put you over the 133%.

·         What is the Committee looking for in a proposal?


The Committee seeks to fund meritorious proposals for research and/or creative activity. Good proposals should:

show there is a likelihood of leading to significant contributions in the field, including publication, presentation, performance, exhibition, and to the individual’s professional enrichment and growth;

demonstrate that you are capable of doing the project—that the tasks proposed are within your competence;

clearly justify that financial support by this program is necessary for the completion of the tasks in the proposal;

justify budget expenditures (if this is a project grant proposal) with amounts that will seem reasonable to the Committee (for example: travel to an archive in another country should be based on the going rate for coach class flights to/from the archive plus state per diem for the time spent there).

be stated in a way that educated, intelligent evaluators who are not in your field of academic endeavor can understand and appreciate. Excessive use of jargon will damage your proposal. Equations can be included but should also be explained. Charts and/or diagrams should be clearly labeled.

·         I have received funding from the RCAG Committee in the past. Am I eligible to apply again? Will having received funding in the past count against me?

Past recipients of RCAG funding must have a final report of their previous award(s) on file in the Faculty Senate office. Not filing a final report is grounds for disqualification from this year’s competition.

The Committee does not have a bias against previous recipients as long as previous grant funding has resulted in significant contributions in the field in which you are active. There is a growing body of opinion on the Committee, however, that those who have received significant internal funding from ECU in the past should be looking outside the university for funding to support their research and/or creative activity.

·         I am a senior tenured faculty member who has a number of highly regarded publications but I am looking to move into a somewhat different area of research. Will RCAG look favorably on a proposal from me given that I’ve not done previous work in my new field?


This is an interesting question that comes up every now and then. While the Committee will not fund basic training in your new field (for example, basic statistical methodology for somebody who has no training in statistics), it has funded advanced training for individuals who are moving into a related but different field than that which they have worked in the past. One recent example: a Foreign Language and Literature professor was funded to attend advanced language training in Nahuatl in Mexico in order to be able to critically analyze a 15th Century Aztec play.


Your previous record of publication—even though it is not in your new area of research—will be viewed favorably by the Committee in evaluating your proposal.


Each grant proposal must include the application form (download from the RCAG website) along with an original and four (4) copies of the proposal. In addition, the applicant must send an electronic version of the proposal in PDF format to the Faculty Senate office by the deadline date/time (12 noon, February 8, 2011).

Also, please be attentive to the formatting requirements (12 point Arial or Helvetica font; 1 inch margins top/bottom, left/right; abstract and proposal may not exceed eight pages; appendices may not exceed four pages; budget may not exceed two pages; c.v. may not exceed two pages; etc.) In the past, the Committee has disqualified applications for not adhering to the formatting requirements.

Requests for equipment or software purchase will not be supported if:

a)      The needed equipment or software exists elsewhere on campus and is accessible to the applicant;

b)      The item is to be for general departmental use;

c)      The item appears to represent one-time use by one person. Applicants are encouraged to determine the availability of desired equipment in other locations on campus. This is particularly true for computer equipment such as laptops.

In general, requests for equipment will only be funded if the equipment is necessary for completion of the project and is specialized enough that it is not generally available elsewhere on campus or through non-RCAG funding (such as ECU’s faculty computer rollout program).

The travel must be essential to completion of the project. Travel to an archive that is the only source of information on a specific topic to be researched is one example of this. In the past few years, the Committee has recommended funding for international travel to France, England, Japan, Mexico, and Africa. In each case, the PI made the case that the information to be gathered at the archive was not available anywhere else and that such travel was essential. Travel for the purpose of presenting results at meetings will not be funded.

All travel funded out of project proposals must be specified on Line #2 on the budget form (Page 10 of the guidelines) and justified. Funds requested should be an estimate of coach air fare to/from the destination, surface transportation on site, state per diem for the days spent, and other associated expenses (consult ECU Business Manual for allowable expenses).