From ARVO News, Summer 2007

For the fourth time ever, at its 2007 Annual Meeting, ARVO held a Research Grant Administrators Workshop for grant administrators from universities, foundations, and institutions. The focus of this year’s workshop was (1) implementation of the year-old SFS 424 (R&R) grant application and (2) communications between and expectations of granting organizations and recipient institutions. The electronic SFS 424 (R&R) replaces the paper-based PHS 398 grant application.

Program organizers for the workshop were William Darby, the chief grants management officer in the Division of Extramural Research at the National Eye Institute (NEI) of NIH; Cheryl Formes, the chief operations officer of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Tracy Perkins, MPH, administrative director at the University of Wisconsin Eye Research Institute in Madison. They encouraged the 40 attendees to discuss, with each other and with the speakers, any ideas that might help improve the grant application process. Representatives from granting organizations and recipient organizations presented their perspectives on the SFS 424 and the granting process. Representatives from the Foundation Fighting Blindness gave a peek into how their organization funds eye and vision research.

The different perspectives helped attendees understand each other’s expectations and the challenges that sometimes arise. The face-to-face interactions—among colleagues and with officials from NEI, the American Health Assistance Foundation, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness—also helped advance communications.

Key features of the Workshop were the updates from the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health about their many requirements, changes, and upgrades; the direct interaction between research grant administrators and NEI grants management staff; presentations by and interactions with foundation staff; conversations among like-minded colleagues; and the ability to return to home institutions with key information and contacts to share with researchers and colleagues. Organizers Cheryl Formes and Tracy Perkins expressed their gratitude and satisfaction, saying that the workshop was an especially valuable forum for exchanging ideas and having pressing questions answered.