From Issue Summer 2021
Building research capacity and competitiveness is the hallmark of the MAFES Strategic Research Initiative (SRI). Established in 1998, SRI grants provide seed funds for new and innovative research areas. And the SRI has been successful, funding around 30 proposals each year. Over the past nine years, MAFES has invested over $11 million in 271 SRI projects, many of which have led to larger competitive external grants.
Dr. Wes Burger, MAFES associate director, explained the benefits of the program.
"The SRI provides up to $50,000 per year for up to two years to support graduate students and operating costs for innovative research projects that will result in preliminary data and publications, necessary components for proposal submission to nationally competitive funding programs," Burger said.
"Relative to peer-institutions, the MAFES SRI is unique in scale and outcomes, providing faculty, especially new faculty, with an opportunity to advance their research program through an internal competitive grant program."
All MAFES faculty are encouraged to apply for SRI grants. On average, the SRI receives about 60 proposal submissions each year. A committee of 12 senior faculty serve as reviewers and each proposal is graded numerically in scientific merit and relevance following eight established criteria. New faculty are provided a slight advantage in securing SRI grants.
Successful SRI projects have resulted in improved health of calves and cattle, new vaccines for catfish, increased yields and income for row crop producers, and enhanced human health and well-being. The SRI, coupled with the Grant Writers' Seminar and Workshop, a professional development opportunity offered to MAFES scientists, has allowed participating scientists to achieve over double the success rate in funding of nationally competitive extramural grants compared to the national average.
"The SRI has proven to be a sound investment by MAFES administration to help scientists succeed, while also producing research that improves the lives of Mississippians," Burger said. "With a return on investment of $1.80 for every dollar invested, it is a worthwhile endeavor and continues to attract new and innovative ideas that ultimately lead to success in national competitive funding."
Funding agencies are acknowledged at the end of each feature in MAFES Discovers. In this issue, features Strawberry Yields Forever, Farm Finished, and Preserving the Catch were funded, in part, through MAFES SRI grants.