Investing in racial equity and KU’s enduring research excellence

Simon Atkinson, Vice Chancellor for Research; Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost & Excutive Vice Chancellor
Thursday, May 13, 2021, 1:47 p.m.
KU Lawrence staff, faculty and affiliates


As the semester draws to a close, we want to preview two internal funding opportunities that will help sustain and strengthen KU’s role as a leading public research university committed to advancing knowledge and making discoveries that change the world. We recognize that KU’s future research and scholarly excellence depend on the thoughtful, targeted investments we make today.

As we are in the midst of addressing fiscal challenges and navigating dramatic shifts in the higher education landscape, we appreciate the support and investment of KU Endowment in providing funding that allows us to make these opportunities available to nurture research that addresses the greatest challenges we face in Kansas, in our nation, and across the globe.

Aspiring to racial equity
The Office of Research, in partnership with the Hall Center for the Humanities, will invite proposals this fall for the KU Racial Equity Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity Fund. The fund will support members of our research and creative community as they apply their expertise to profound and persistent challenges related to attaining the goal of racial equity. Racial equity is generally defined as a state where race no longer determines one’s ability to thrive because systemic barriers to quality housing, education, employment, health care, public safety and other needs have been removed.

Research and scholarship related to racial equity have been undervalued historically. KU has a critical role in helping to change this mindset. With this investment, we can harness the power of research, scholarship and creative activity to bring about societal transformation. Proposals supported by the new fund will have the potential to make significant contributions to understanding the genesis and impact of race-based inequities, exploring impediments and/or charting a course toward racial equity. Community-engaged projects that address a local problem identified in collaboration with one or more community partners will be among the priorities considered during review.

The fund will support up to 10 awards of up to $20,000 each, with eligibility open to Lawrence and Edwards campus faculty and academic staff across all fields and disciplines, regardless of tenure-track status. A companion workshop series will connect researchers working on racial equity issues and engage other members of the university community — facilitating an overall objective of fostering progress toward racial equity through a combination of research, dialogue and action.

We’re looking forward to seeing how KU scholars approach this challenge — particularly our humanists and creatives, who are already making vital contributions to understanding and engaging with various elements of social justice and other major issues that confront us.

Investing in KU’s research future
Another funding competition launching this fall will help set the stage for KU’s research capacity and profile for at least a decade to come. Research Rising will fund a series of major research initiatives aligned with KU’s strategic research priorities.
Our goal is bold: to bolster KU’s leading researchers as they build high-profile, interdisciplinary, multi-investigator projects poised to take advantage of significant federal funding opportunities and achieve national preeminence in a major subject of inquiry. Proposals from three or four teams will be selected and supported with an investment of up to $3 million over five years.
These funds will make large investments in infrastructure, research support and recruitment — including faculty — for projects that address questions pertinent to humanity’s major challenges, such as those captured in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Including and building upon KU’s strengths in social and behavioral sciences, humanities and arts, and STEM fields will be advantageous for applicants.

Research Rising teams will be selected by a rigorous, peer-reviewed process, drawing on the expertise of KU faculty and national experts who will consider the long-term impact of each project on KU’s research reputation by weighing proposals against factors such as how the project:

  • Enhances KU’s overall research capacity.
  • Fortifies the intellectual environment for KU investigators beyond those directly involved on the team.
  • Builds infrastructure that supports basic research.
  • Helps recruit and train students and postdoctoral fellows.
  • Supports KU’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

These are the types of benefits we expect to flow from this strategic investment.

We continue to be inspired by the enthusiasm, creativity, resilience and drive of KU researchers, scholars and creators. We want to share this information with you now so that, over summer, you can consider ideas for projects you may want to propose. Now is the time to come together and look to the future of research and scholarship at KU, and identify their impact on the communities we serve. This funding provides an opportunity to do just that. We know you will bring exciting ideas to the table as you learn more about these opportunities, and we look forward to launching these initiatives at the beginning of the fall semester.


Simon and Barb

Simon Atkinson
Vice Chancellor for Research

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor