Pitt Seed Project Questions and Answers

Eligibility

Who is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator on a project?
Any Pitt faculty or staff member is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator on a Pitt Seed Project. All Pitt students, postdoctoral associates, scholars and fellows are eligible to serve as Pitt Seed Project team members.

Can an individual serve as a Principal Investigator on more than one project?
No. However, an individual may serve as a team member on multiple applications.

Can students be included as team members?
Absolutely! Engaging students is highly encouraged.

Can an application include more than one Principal Investigator?
No. Only one Principal Investigator is allowed for each project. Projects may list additional collaborators, but the Principal Investigator is the primary point of contact for all communication regarding the application and project if funded.

Institutional Support

Will the program offer information sessions for applicants prior to the deadline?
Yes. We will have a series of virtual information sessions. Note: Applicants are not required to attend an information session. You can also email questions to pittseed@pitt.edu.

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020
Noon-1 p.m. EST 

Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021
10-11 a.m. EST

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021
4-5 p.m. EST

How will the information sessions be conducted?
All sessions will take place over Zoom. Details will be provided once you RSVP.

Will there be resources available from the University to support program management? 
Unfortunately, no. We encourage you to include the necessary resources within your project budget.

Will we be assigned a grant manager?
No. The Principal Investigator or designees will be responsible for managing the administration of the project.

Notification and Implementation Timeline

When will applicants be notified of decisions?
Applicants will be notified in June 2021. Funding for all projects will be available in July, pending completion of an orientation session.

What time period is covered during the cycle of funding?
You may budget funding for up to two years. Note: You will be asked to submit a mid-year and year-end report for each year that your project is running. 

When would all funds need to be spent?
The funding period would run from July 1 to June 30 each academic year. For this funding cycle, funds are to be utilized by June 30, 2023 (assuming funding was requested for two years).

Project Scope

What kinds of projects have been funded in the past?
See all projects that have been funded since 2018. 

Can individual research projects be funded?
This depends on numerous factors. Each project will be assessed relative to the review criteria.

Can funds be used to fund other projects already in process?
This would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Application

What is the required length for the proposal?
Word counts are indicated in the application portal and also listed in the "Format Requirements" in the Request for Proposals. The total application content is approximately five pages. 

How detailed should the plan for sustainability and ongoing support be?
Within the allocated word count, this section should include details of how the work will continue after the seed funding ends. It is important that all initiatives are self-sustaining. If a project has a definitive end that corresponds to when funding ends, please note this in the application’s plan for sustainability and ongoing support.

Where can I find the budget template?
The budget template can be found on the Application portal in InfoReady/Competition Space. You can also download it here.

Can I submit a budget using a different template?
Applicants must use the provided budget template. You may include additional information in the justification column. If you have additional resources needed or already committed for your project, please indicate these in the “Other Resources” section.

Are there assessment standards to determine the effectiveness of the program?
The Principal Investigator is expected to define in the application how effectiveness and/or impact of their proposed project will be evaluated.

Once my Letter of Intent (LOI) has been accepted, what do I do?

  1. Log in to InfoReady/Competition Space using your University of Pittsburgh user name and password. You can also find the link for InfoReady/Competition Space by searching on my.pitt.edu. 
  2. Click on the "Applications" tab at the top of your screen.
  3. Make sure that under the "Status" column, you are viewing "All" applications.
  4. Select the version of your application that appears under the Competition Title that says "Pitt Seed Project 2021-2022 (FINAL APPLICATION)."
  5. Your LOI is archived. You can access it under the Competition Title that says "Pitt Seed Project 2021-2022 (LETTER OF INTENT)."

From whom do I need to request a letter of support for my project?
Please review the "Format Requirements" in the Request for Proposals

How do I request a letter of support in the InfoReady/Competition Space portal?

  1. Add the email addresses for your letter writers. Please verify that each email address you entered is correct.
  2. If desired, personalize the message that will be sent to your letter writers.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click "Save as Draft."
  4. After you click "Save as Draft," the page will refresh, and a button will appear beside the email address for your letter writers that says "Send Letter Request."
  5. Click "Send Letter Request" and the pre-drafted email that you personalized will be sent directly to your letter writers. 
  6. The letter writers will receive an email with a link where they should upload their letters directly to InfoReady/Competition Space.
  7. Note that Letters of Support have the same deadline as your application. 

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Can a letter of support be submitted on behalf of my letter writer by someone else (e.g. can an assistant submit a letter on behalf of the letter writer)?
Yes. Please use the email address of the letter-writing proxy when requesting the letter of support and the proxy can submit the letter through InfoReady/Competition Space on behalf of the letter writer.  

Does my letter writer or proxy need to have a pitt.edu email address to access InfoReady/Competition Space to upload the letter of support?
No. They will receive an email with the subject line "Request to write a reference letter" and there will be a link in the email that says "Start Letter." When they click on that link, they will be brought to a webpage where they can upload and submit their letter of support directly to InfoReady/Competition Space. They do not need to have or create an account in order to do this. 

How do I verify that my letters of support have been successfully uploaded/submitted by my letter writers?
First, please note that you will not be able to read the letter itself; you can only check whether or not the letter has been submitted. There are two ways to verify that your letters of support have been successfully submitted:

  • When you request the letters of support in the application portal, you have the option to check a box that says "Would you like to have an email notification letting you know when Reference Letter(s) have been completed?" If you check that box, you will receive an email notification when the letters are submitted. 
  • You can go back into your application (whether it is in the draft phase or already submitted), and if the letter has been submitted, you will see a message next to the email address of the letter writer that reads: "This letter was submitted." 

Will you accept a late submission for an application, letter of support or any other materials?
Due to the scope and scale of the grant review process, we cannot accept any late submissions of any kind. Please do not request an extension. 

Funding

How can Pitt Seed funding be spent? 
Funds can be used to offset Pitt faculty and staff members’ time, temporary workers, travel, capital purchases, consulting, software and other expenses needed to successfully implement the project. Because of the limited duration, funds cannot be used to hire new Pitt faculty or staff. Award funds must be expended in accordance with University policies. Supplemental, overtime and temporary wages are subject to tax reporting and withholding but are not eligible for defined contribution deductions or matching.

Can Pitt Seed Project funds be used for administrative support (e.g., project coordinator salary support) for the proposed project?
Yes, the funds can be used to support an existing position, temporary worker or consultant. No new staff members should be hired with these funds. Supplemental, overtime and temporary wages are subject to tax reporting and withholding but are not eligible for defined contribution deductions or matching.

Can Pitt Seed Project funds be used to pay students for project work?
Yes, within University guidelines.

Can Pitt Seed Project funds be used to compensate people who are external to Pitt?
This is permissible under a contract for services that complies with University purchasing policies. Expenses incurred would be included in the contract and paid via invoice.

Do we need to follow University policy regarding all purchases?
Yes. All purchases must comply with the University’s purchasing policies. Please refer to the budget manager for your project and/or your departmental business administrator with any questions.

Could we establish a postdoctoral fellowship under this grant?
No. Given the short duration of the Pitt Seed Project funding, the creation of a postdoctoral fellowship is not feasible.

Is there any preference, from the selection committee’s viewpoint, as to how the money is used?
No. The focus is on the outcome of the project and how it supports the Plan for Pitt, not on the type of resources used.

Can funds be used to pay for professional services from another Pitt organization, such as the University Center for Teaching and Learning?
Yes.

Is there a limit on what fraction of the budget can be used for external-to-Pitt consultation or services?
No. There are no designated budget percentage requirements based on expense type.

“Total Amount Requested” does not accurately reflect my actual project costs. What if I need to provide additional clarification to inform the budget?
You may indicate your project’s total budget in the “Other Resources” section. However, in the “Total Amount Requested” field, you must identify the exact amount of funding that you are requesting from the Pitt Seed Project initiative.

If we were to form a partnership, would the University commit ongoing budgetary support, such as paying the salary for a key staff person?
No. All projects that extend beyond the funding time frame must be self-sustaining.

What cost center/unit will the funding be allocated to for the project?
The specifics of budget logistics will be discussed with awardees during the mandatory orientation sessions in June.

Who has access to the funds? Is access limited to the Principal Investigator?
Access is limited to the Principal Investigator and unit business manager. Level reports must be reviewed and reconciled each month in accordance with University policy.

May this money be used for tuition?
No.

Do we get a purchase card, or are expenses reimbursed?
A budget will be established in a defined account for each Pitt Seed Project, and spending of these funds must comply with existing University policies. More details on funds will be provided at the orientation session.

What, if any, expectations exist for in-kind contributions?
There is no set percentage or dollar amount for unit-level support/matching funds. However, it will be considered a positive attribute if units are willing to commit some type of support for a proposed project.

Does this program allow us to budget for instruments, such as a microscope?
Yes, adhering to University policies.

Can we use these funds for student housing?
No. You cannot use funds to support Pitt student housing. However, if your project requires temporary housing for participants in a program (e.g., a week-long summer program), then funding can be used for that purpose.

Can we use these funds for student travel (to/from campus and for participation in national-scale conferences to report their results)?
Yes. Funds may be requested for travel, but all travel must comply with University policies.

Can we use these funds for research materials and supplies?
Yes, adhering to University policies.

Can we use these funds for socialization activities?
Yes, but you need to demonstrate why this is integral to the work outlined in the application and adhere to all University policies regarding socialization activities. In addition, business entertainment expenses must comply with University policies.

Can we claim contributions from our partners (meeting space and catering funds, for example) as matching funds?
Yes.

Miscellaneous

How is the Pitt Seed Project initiative being impacted by COVID-19?
The University is committed to continuing to fund Pitt Seed Projects that support the Plan for Pitt. All projects must adhere to University policies, including those that have been developed in light of COVID-19. In addition, a new question has been added to the application that asks applicants to outline a project implementation adjustment plan that briefly describes how funded projects will be adapted in response to potential changes in the University’s operational posture.

If awarded, is there a specific reporting process that we need to follow?
Yes. All Pitt Seed Project awardees are required to:

  • Ensure that resources are utilized according to what is outlined in the concept document.
  • Submit a mid-year and year-end report indicating progress.
  • If applicable, submit outcome metrics on an annual basis for a minimum of three years post-implementation. 

What happens to intellectual property when the University agrees to support my project/idea? If my project is incorporated, what percentage of equity does the University share?
The award funds will be transferred to a University account designated by the awardee. Award funds must be expended in accordance with University policy. After completion of the seed funding activities, the awardee will submit Invention Disclosures to the Innovation Institute in order to document, assess and protect any new intellectual property developed by the investigator during the course of the award. If the University licenses or commercializes any intellectual property, the awardees that are considered as inventors, creators or developers will receive a share of proceeds consistent with the terms of the University of Pittsburgh Patent Rights and Technology Transfer RI 05 (formerly 11-02-01) or Copyrights RI 03 (formerly 11-02-02), as applicable.

If you have specific questions that are not answered above, please email pittseed@pitt.edu.