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UWM announces winners of RGI awards

Milwaukee, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has announced the funding of 45 top-ranked research proposals generated in an internal seed-funding competition.

The competition, designed to enhance the university's research portfolio and contribute to economic development, was conducted as part of UWM's Research Growth Initiative. RGI, launched in November of 2005, provides $14 million in seed money to the winning research projects to enhance their position in national and international competitions for extramural funding.

Another goal of the program, which has received unanimous support from the Faculty Senate, is to increase UWM's extramural funding for research to $100 million per year.

UWM Chancellor Carlos E. Santiago said the high quality of the proposals reinforced the university's belief in its researchers, particularly among younger faculty members. "It was especially rewarding to learn that independent external reviewers ranked a quarter of our 285 proposals in the top 10 percent of proposals in their respective fields across the United States," Santiago said.

Independent review panels consisting of experts and scholars from some of the top research institutions in the nation, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chose the 45 winners. Funds to be awarded to each project are still under negotiation.
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The winning proposals came from five categories: arts and humanities; life and health science; social and behavioral science; natural, mathematical, engineering, and physical sciences; and interdisciplinary work. Proposal assessment was based on the excellence and novelty of the proposal, impact on the scholarly community, the likelihood of success, and the likelihood of future extramural funding.

Overall, the projects included research in fields like drug design and discovery, bacterial genomics, weather modeling, and global climate change. "To my knowledge, this is the first time any campus has conducted an independent assessment of its entire research portfolio on a project-by-project basis," said Abbas Ourmazd, vice chancellor for research and dean of the UWM Graduate School.

He said UWM is in the vanguard of a new approach to supporting research through substantial seed-funding investments, as opposed to ad hoc subsidies. "I see this process as a way to identify our strengths without preconceived notions, Ourmazd explained. "There is clearly depth and strength in some areas that we were not previously aware of."

Along with the winners, 45 additional proposals were awarded small amounts of unrestricted funds because of their high potential. The sums are intended to help the researchers refine their proposals for the next round of competition, which starts in September.

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