Western fund to support pandemic research 

Editor’s note: Visit the official Western COVID-19 website for the latest campus updates.

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A new $1-million catalyst fund will support university research efforts focused on resilience and recovery from disease outbreaks – both related to the current COVID-19 pandemic and those beyond, university officials announced today.

Supported by Research Western, Research Western Catalyst Grant: Surviving Pandemics will back as many as 20 interdisciplinary projects from any discipline that contribute to a broad range of evidence, tools, theories and guidelines to help understand how society is coping with COVID-19 and how we can face the pandemics of the future.

“We have a lot of really smart, talented people at Western. They can apply their skills and knowledge to this pandemic and to pandemics of the future,” said Sarah Prichard, Acting Associate Vice-President (Research).

“What we’re saying here is, ‘Smart community, smart faculty, pivot your usual thinking and redeploy it to the current problem. Take the methodologies you usually use in your research and apply it with this focus.’”

Both the application and granting process are intended for a quick turnaround, with an application deadline of April 22, and announcement of successful applicants and award amounts by May 6 for the first phase. The second phase of applications and grants will also take place this year, but deadlines have yet to be set.

Priority will be given to multi-disciplinary teams taking novel approaches to the problem, with the potential for long-term meaningful impact. Among Prichard’s goals in her role has been to expand the base of research and researchers and encourage greater creativity through interdisciplinary collaboration.

Proposals can include medical research, but they are not limited to health care.

“COVID-19 research is about isolating the virus and finding a vaccine, yes. But there are a whole lot of other elements that we need to understand as well,” she explained, citing that the next pandemic could mean finding better ways to manage feelings of isolation or building more online resources for visual arts, for example.

Each project application will require a lead principal investigator and at least one co-investigator (both of whom must hold academic appointments and be grant-eligible at Western), as well as the inclusion of funding support for at least one graduate student.

While projects are expected to last one year, they may develop preliminary results that could jumpstart longer-term research; increase research productivity and external funding opportunities; help researchers apply existing strengths towards pandemic-related issues; or support early-career researchers and trainees.

Funds from this program may be combined with other support from London-based institutional sources to form a multi-partner project.

The competition is administered by and questions can be directed to elizabeth.minda@uwo.ca, with completed applications submitted to intgrant@uwo.ca by April 22.