Basic Sciences Strategic Plan Action Items and Progress

This page focuses on the status of action items and progress for strategic planning in the basic sciences in our school.

Learn about the 2021 Basic Sciences Strategic Plan

Accomplishments to date

Strategic priorities

  1. Build a more vibrant and successful community of graduate and postdoctoral trainees.
  2. Develop new mechanisms and greater consistency in our support of faculty and staff, and incentivize success.
  3. Strengthen our administrative and scientific infrastructure to support collaborative research programs.
  4. Prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to enhance recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty, staff, and learners.
  5. Identify and invest in research programs that will lead to transformative discoveries and impact.

Action Items – Basic Sciences Strategic Plan Objectives:

 

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Objective 1: Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of the SMPH Basic Sciences through the Building Community framework.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The Office of Diversity and Equity Transformation is implementing objective 1 with the leadership of Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, MA, CDM, SMPH Associate Dean for Diversity and Equity Transformation and UW Health Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Action item 1: Improve communication of Building Community efforts to graduate and postdoctoral trainee communities.

  • Goal 1: Develop targeted messages that describe the Building Community framework to graduate and postdoctoral trainee communities and work with graduate programs, department chairs, and the Office of Postdoctoral Studies to distribute.

Action item 2: In partnership with UW Health, create SMPH affinity groups for underrepresented* trainees.

  • Goal 1: Establish a steering committee or coordinating group OR affiliate with Building Community initiative.
  • Goal 2: Identify campus programs overseeing the development and logistical support for affinity groups.
  • Goal 3: Formally engage campus programs through collaboration and work to extend their reach to include SMPH faculty and staff.

Action item 3: Increase the recruitment of faculty from underrepresented* groups.

*Underrepresented is defined as meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  • High level of financial need
  • First generation college student (neither parent received a baccalaureate degree)
  • Students who contribute to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of the program because of their life experiences, including overcoming personal adversity or family hardship, records of extensive community service, or successful careers in other fields
  • Significant barriers to achieving higher education, such as experience in the foster care system, living in a single-parent household, having an incarcerated parent, or responsibilities for providing financial support or primary care for other household members.

Objective 2: Plan, create and implement centralized graduate admissions, recruitment, and initial experience for SMPH graduate training programs.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 1.

Implementation team co-leads:

  • James (Jim) Keck, PhD, Professor, Department of Biomolecular Chemistry
  • Laura Knoll, PhD, Associate Dean for Basic Research Training, SMPH, and Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Principal Investigator, Parasitology and Vector Biology Training Program

Action item 1: Plan, create and implement centralized graduate admissions, recruitment, and initial experience for SMPH graduate training programs.

  • Goal 1: Determine essential representation of various groups on a task force that will consider the current state of graduate programs, integrated models for graduate education, and implementation plans.
  • Goal 2: Create communications plan with programs and departments to raise awareness and invite collaboration.
  • Goal 3: Assemble current-state benchmarking materials for graduate programs.
  • Goal 4: Task force review of current state.
  • Goal 5: Task force consideration several models for combined graduate education.
  • Goal 6: Task force will make recommendations for implementation, including a timeline and financial model.

Objective 3: Enhance graduate student and postdoctoral training through inclusive recruitment and retention strategies and prioritize postdocs’ individual development to independence.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 1.

Implementation team co-leads:

  • Imogen Hurley, PhD, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Studies
  • Laura Knoll, PhD, Associate Dean for Basic Research Training, SMPH, and Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Principal Investigator, Parasitology and Vector Biology Training Program

Action item 1: In alignment with campus and school goals to diversify the professoriate, develop program to train and retain underrepresented* postdocs as faculty.

  • Goal 1. Investigate postdoc-to-faculty programs for underrepresented* postdocs that are in place at other institutions.
  • Goal 2. Examine postdoc-to-faculty programs already at UW for underrepresented* postdocs.
  • Goal 3. Assemble allies to engage during development of any program.

Action item 2: Develop survey for postdocs to determine reasons for short average tenure within SMPH/UW-Madison.

  • Goal 1. Create first year/exit/alumni survey for postdocs and implementation strategy.
  • Goal 2. Develop metrics to review results and use these to improve postdoc experience.

Action item 3: Enhance mental health and wellness support for graduate students and postdocs. 

  • Goal 1. Review national recommendations and existing local resources to determine range of interventions that can be adopted.
  • Goal 2: Include postdocs and representative from Employee Assistance Office to current working group on learner mental health.

Action item 4: Develop approaches to increase the number of postdoctoral and graduate trainees from underrepresented* groups.

  • Goal 1: Review current metrics to determine the number of underrepresented* trainees in SMPH labs.
  • Goal 2: Survey current trainees from underrepresented* groups to develop a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges of recruiting within this population.
  • Goal 3: Conduct a study to understand the efficacy of various interventions (ie., recruitment events) aimed at increasing trainee diversity that have been attempted at peer institutions.
  • Goal 4: Determine the feasibility of launching programs to enhance trainee diversity, including a SMPH-wide postbaccalaureate program, R25-funded Summer Research Opportunity Programs (SROPs), and/or other training opportunities for underrepresented* trainees.

Action item 5: Develop relationships with local community groups and national organizations featuring recruitment programs for underrepresented* groups.

  • Goal 1: Identify and develop working relationships with groups and organizations that specialize in supporting underrepresented* groups (ie., American Association of Colleges and Universities, NIH diversity offices, National Diversity Council, American Medical Association, etc), and leverage appropriate UW-Madison offices to help identify additional local organizations.

Action item 6: Create new awards for SMPH learners. (moved from objective 8, June 2023)

  • Goal 1. Create a group to define timing, review criteria, and recruit reviewers for nominations. Determine how to communicate awards in research, teaching, outreach and service, and dissemination and Implementation in ways that build community.

*Underrepresented is defined as meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  • High level of financial need
  • First generation college student (neither parent received a baccalaureate degree)
  • Students who contribute to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of the program because of their life experiences, including overcoming personal adversity or family hardship, records of extensive community service, or successful careers in other fields
  • Significant barriers to achieving higher education, such as experience in the foster care system, living in a single-parent household, having an incarcerated parent, or responsibilities for providing financial support or primary care for other household members.

Objective 4: Acquire state-of-the-art technologies to strengthen our research infrastructure and enable collaborative partnerships.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 3.

Implementation team lead:

  • Richard (Rich) Halberg, PhD, Senior Director of SMPH Cores and Associate Professor, Departments of Medicine and Oncology

Action item 1: Identify faculty directors of research core clusters recently established by the Dean’s office and task them to understand staffing/equipment needs within each core cluster.

  • Goal 1: Identify directors of individual or groups of core clusters and organize quarterly meetings between them and the newly recruited Senior Director of SMPH Cores.
  • Goal 2: Develop an investigator survey to obtain data on the frequency of use, timeliness, expense, and overall quality of cores (including questions to understand why investigators may have chosen to avoid the use of one or more core facilities).
  • Goal 3: Task core cluster directors to define resources and staff/equipment needs that exist within individual research cores.
  • Goal 4: Review requests for core augmentation (staff/equipment), based on core cluster directors’ recommendations and determine cost sharing models to be responsive.
  • Goal 5: Develop a standardized approach to address requests for funding to support instrument acquisition, including requests for matching support requested to enhance the competitiveness of extramural and intramural grant applications.
  • Goal 6: Develop approaches to facilitate interactions among investigators, staff, and trainees (ie., core facility open houses, collaborative training opportunities, etc.).

Action item 2: Develop a training module for core facility staff and associated administrative units on culture/customer service, as well as a mechanism for cores/units to receive feedback.

  • Goal 1: Facilitate more centralization of SMPH core facility administration and operations through the recruitment of a new Senior Director of SMPH Cores.
  • Goal 2: Identify or create one or more training module(s) for core facility and administrative staff centered on inclusive customer service.
  • Goal 3: Develop plans to disseminate training modules and determine frequency of their completion.
  • Goal 4: Develop questionnaires to enable faculty, staffand learners to provide feedback to core facility staff and administrative units.

Action item 3: Promote research core facility open-houses and training events to engage new users and facilitate interaction among investigators. 

  • Goal 1: Determine core facilities that would be well positioned to host open house events.
  • Goal 2: Develop ways to expose core users to new technologies.

Action item 4: Identify targeted opportunities that leverage our emerging strengths.

  • Goal 1: Define standardized processes by which research cores can be responsive to RFAs to support instrument acquisition.

Objective 5: Foster new connections among SMPH investigators.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 2, 3, and 5.

Implementation team lead:

  • Deneen Wellik, PhD, Chair and Professor, Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology

Action item 1: Develop metrics to measure, compare and update external funding activities in SMPH, including multi-PI funding.

  • Goal 1: Define current funding, highlighting multi-PI awards held by SMPH faculty.
  • Goal 2: Invite PIs identified in goal 1 to share their methods for establishing teams.
  • Goal 3: Develop a better understanding of the NIH institutes that are tapped by SMPH faculty (R01-level funding).
  • Goal 4 (moved from objective 13, March 2023): Analyze current research portfolios across SMPH departments to determine the balance of funding for research projects (i.e., level of support from various NIH institutes), and based on these data, promote areas for increased collaboration and diversification of funding sources.

Action item 2: Maintain updated list of NIH Faculty Councils and encourage leaders at UW-Madison SMPH to participate in these important activities.

  • Goal 1: Determine current SMPH faculty that serve on NIH institute advisory councils and engage with them; identify faculty with strong relationships with program officials who can advise on new RFAs that are pending.

Action item 3: Create professional events that foster social connections (ie., lightning talks followed by a social component, ‘learn-a-skill’ workshops that simultaneously encourage social interaction and skills-building, ‘chalk talk’ workshops where investigators with a common interest come together to discuss bold ideas).

  • Goal 1: Determine funding mechanisms to support monthly events, as well as a marketing campaign to highlight benefits for attendance.

Action item 4: Develop matchmaking tools and processes to bring basic and/or clinical researchers together around common interests in a non-exclusive setting. 

Action item 5: Develop approaches to offer a limited number of pilot grants for high priority multi-PI and program level research in both basic sciences and clinical departments.

Objective 6: Suggest revisions to faculty promotion criteria with increased emphasis on collaborative research, new and non-traditional areas of research, and service and outreach related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 2.

Implementation team lead:

  • Nancy Raymond, MD, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development and Professor, Department of Psychiatry

Action item 1: Clarify the use of the integrated packet as a way to apply for promotion for the Biological Sciences Divisional Committee.

  • Goal 1: Work to increase understanding by chairs, faculty and executive committees of the purpose of the integrated case, the guidelines for substantiating an integrated case, and when it is appropriate to use the integrated case.
  • Goal 2: Request the integrated case be discussed in more detail in the Tenure Workshop offered by Bascom.

Action item 2: Incorporate DEI work in the SMPH promotion guidelines as appropriate.

  • Goal 1: Office of Faculty Affairs and Development to form a committee to review the guidelines and suggest revisions to the SMPH guidelines.
  • Goal 2: Provide guidance to chairs, faculty and executive committees on using service and outreach (including DEI work) as an area of significant accomplishment in promotion decisions on all tracks.

Action item 3: Clearly define the importance and benefits of service and outreach to the university, the advancement of science, and the well-being of Wisconsin communities and underserved populations.

  • Goal 1: Ensure clarity in all documents and seminars related to promotion that innovation is key for the areas of excellence and significant accomplishment (research, teaching, service).
  • Goal 2: Develop guidelines for including innovation in clinical activities as the basis for significant accomplishment in service.
  • Goal 3: Develop specific examples of types, levels and impact of service that would justify service as a secondary area of significant achievement in considerations of cases for tenure and promotion.

Action item 4: Improve mentoring and promotions oversight committee functions in SMPH departments.

  • Goal 1: Increase awareness and utilization of the Promotions Oversight Committee and Mentoring Guides.
  • Goal 2: Disseminate and encourage utilization of mentor training opportunities.

Objective 7: Dramatically increase philanthropic funding of basic science research and research training.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Implementation team lead:

  • Richard (Rick) Moss, PhD, Special Advisor to the Dean

Action item 1: In concert with the Basic Sciences Strategic Leadership Committee, create a task force to understand the research landscape in SMPH and identify areas in which philanthropic resources should/could be raised.

  • Goal 1: Work collaboratively with departments and the UW Foundation to understand best opportunities for philanthropic support of basic science research and research training.
  • Goal 2: Establish committees to tap into the large pool of trainees who have completed their research training in SMPH laboratories for raising funds.
  • Goal 3: Generate a list of specific initiatives, strategies and goals to attract donors, e.g., X number of graduate student fellowships, X number of URM postdocs, professional development awards, or welcome checks to help recruit postdocs (as presently done for graduate students).

Action item 2: Work with UW Foundation to connect SMPH principal investigators and training programs with family and corporate foundations having interests and goals that align with PI research interests.

Action item 3: Create/implement basic science philanthropy development plan that bolsters the all-SMPH philanthropy plan.

  • Goal 1: Define SMPH philanthropy/fundraising priorities.
  • Goal 2: Identify and qualify prospective donors.
  • Goal 3: Cultivate top 25 prospective donors.
  • Goal 4: Define Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for our quantitative goals, then monthly KPI reporting.

Objective 8: Develop and implement school-wide mechanisms to encourage, recognize, and reward exceptional achievement by SMPH faculty, staff, and learners.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 1, 2

Implementation team co-leads:

  • Nihal Ahmad, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Dermatology
  • Wei Xu, PhD, Professor, Department of Oncology

Action item 1: Develop new mechanisms for identifying and then recognizing outstanding achievement by faculty and staff.

  • Goal 1: Develop metrics that define outstanding achievement in research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Goal 2: Create a process to regularly review salaries of high-achieving faculty, compare these to salaries to departmental and school scales at similar professorial rank, and recommend increases when appropriate.
  • Goal 3: Develop, implement and evaluate new or existing processes for nominating SMPH faculty for national awards.
  • Goal 4: Annually communicate with high achieving faculty members via letters from the Dean congratulating them on their success and thanking them for their contributions to the research and research training missions of the school.
  • Goal 5: Develop material compensation to recognize achievement.

Action item 2: Actively engage departments, centers and faculty to ensure that highly qualified faculty and staff are nominated for national awards made on the basis of professional achievement.

  • Goal 1: Meet with the SMPH Office of Faculty Affairs and Development to determine the status of school-wide initiatives in this area.
  • Goal 2: If these initiatives are already under way, provide support through active participation of faculty and staff in school-wide and departmental awards committees AND by submitting nominations of deserving colleagues to these committees.

Action item 3: Create new awards for SMPH learners. (moved to objective 3, June 2023)

  • Goal 1. Create a group to define timing, review criteria, and recruit reviewers for nominations. Determine how to communicate awards in research, teaching, outreach and service, and dissemination and Implementation in ways that build community.

Action item 4: Create new awards for SMPH faculty and staff.

  • Goal 1. Appoint a committee to define new awards for SMPH Faculty who demonstrate excellence in mentoring learners, teaching, research, and service.
  • Goal 2. Appoint a committee to define new awards for SMPH staff who demonstrate excellence in leadership, service, teaching, and research.

Objective 9: Exploit the recently executed data use agreement between SMPH and UW Health to accelerate basic science discoveries from de-identified patient data.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 3, 5

Implementation team co-leads:

  • Jomol Mathew, PhD, Chief of Biomedical Informatics
  • Muhammed Murtaza, MBBS, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery

Action item 1: Work with and provide support for efforts to implement the data use agreement between SMPH and UW-Health/other clinical partners.

  • Goal 1: Identify key projects that could leverage the data use agreement.
  • Goal 2: Develop approaches to educate faculty regarding the benefits of the new data agreement, including its platform functions, and facilitate relationships between researchers and clinicians for research projects.
  • Goal 3: Develop a limited set of funding opportunities to support pilot projects submitted by teams of investigators (composed of both basic sciences and clinical faculty) and encourage applications/submissions to compete for funding.
  • Goal 4: Determine whether modifications to the data use agreement with UW-Health would be beneficial and work towards relevant amendments, if necessary.

Action item 2: Establish hybrid (HPC and cloud) environments for analysis of Omics and Imaging data, i.e., Platform R.

  • Goal 1: Obtain user input through faculty working groups.
  • Goal 2: Establish connected infrastructure for omics.
  • Goal 3: Establish connected infrastructure for imaging.
  • Goal 4: Develop a limited set of funding opportunities to support pilot projects submitted by teams of investigators (composed of both basic sciences and clinical faculty) and encourage applications/submissions to compete for funding.

Objective 10: Foster interdisciplinary collaboration between artificial intelligence (AI) experts and medical imaging researchers at the University of Wisconsin to develop and apply state-of-the-art AI and quantitative imaging to deliver precision health solutions.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 5

Implementation team leadership:

  • Pallavi Tiwari, PhD, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Radiology – team co-lead
  • Diego Hernando, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology – team co-lead

Action item 1: Establish the Wisconsin Initiative for AI in Imaging and Medicine (WI-AIIM).

  • Goal 1: Discovery: Expand AI and Quantitative Biomedical Imaging (QBI) research efforts for precision health solutions.
  • Goal 2: Education: Engage the AI and biomedical imaging community as well as the larger audience beyond UW-Madison via seminars, workshops, bootcamps, etc.
  • Goal 3: Dissemination: Invest efforts in creating seamless workflows and pipelines for clinical translation/dissemination of the cutting-edge AI/QBI approaches being developed at UW-Madison.

Note: The objective was expanded in 2023. The original objective was “Expand our expertise in quantitative biomedical imaging (QBI) and define new approaches for diagnostic biomarker discovery.”

Objective 11: Improve health in underserved communities by developing or improving the methods, metrics, and tools needed to study root causes of health disparities.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 5

Implementation team co-leads:

  • Barbara (Barb) Bendlin, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine
  • Amy Kind, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine

Action item 1: Develop or improve methods, metrics, and tools needed to study root causes of health disparities.

  • Goal 1: Facilitate establishment and growth of the Center for Health Disparities Research (CHDR).
  • Goal 2: Work with CHDR leadership to identify RFAs (potentially leveraging MedRamp services) to which CHDR faculty could be responsive, particularly as collaborative teams.
  • Goal 3: Identify and compile lists of investigators and clinical practitioners by research areas/interests, with the potential to form interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary research teams to apply for grant funding.

Objective 12: Facilitate the use of genomics and data analysis pipelines to understand normal development, deepen our knowledge about disease, and improve human health.

This objective relates to Strategic Priority 5

Implementation team lead:

  • Mark Burkard, MD, Professor, Department of Medicine

Action item 1: Facilitate the use of genomics and data analysis pipelines.

  • Goal 1: Facilitate efforts for genomics pipelines and analyses integrated across multiple departments and centers of UW-Madison, including the Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine (CHGPM) and the Biotechnology Center. (Revised 2023; Incorporates original goal #1: Facilitate growth of the CHGPM.)
  • Goal 2: Expand UW-Madison human genomics footprint spanning infrastructure, training, and collaborative research through external grant mechanisms. (Revised 2023; Incorporates original goal #2: Identify RFAs to which CHGPM faculty could be responsive, particularly as collaborative teams.)
  • Goal 3: Work with CHGPM leaders to establish short- and long-range plans for CHGPM to catalyze human genomics at SMPH and UW-Madison, including the identification of programs and services that the center provides.
  • Goal 4: Develop marketing strategies to promote the mission and goals of CHGPM, as well as the programs and services the center provides.
  • Goal 5: Collaborate with the academic health system to facilitate consent for genomics and biospecimen research, to integrate clinical genomics into electronic medical records (EMR), and to support clinical/translational research, including interventional studies. (Goal 5 added in 2023.)

Objective 13: Continuously scan the scientific landscape to identify targeted opportunities that leverage our emerging strengths.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Implementation team co-leads:

  • Christy Schulz, MS, Research Administration Director, Office of Basic Research, Biotechnology and Graduate Studies
  • Deneen Wellik, PhD, Chair and Professor, Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology

Action item 1: Identify targeted opportunities that leverage our emerging strengths.

  • Goal 1: Develop new mechanisms to highlight RFAs to specific scientists (including multi-investigator teams) who would be highly competitive, particularly with appropriate administrative support for grant submission purposes.
  • Goal 2: Analyze current research portfolios across SMPH departments to determine the balance of funding for research projects (i.e., level of support from various NIH institutes), and based on these data, promote areas for increased collaboration and diversification of funding sources. (moved to objective 5, March 2023)
  • Goal 3: Develop approaches to incentivize collaborations between investigators focused on the creation of new technologies and investigators working on specific pathogen/organism/disease states to spur new innovations.
  • Goal 4: Redesign the medRAMP website to better reflect its purpose and highlight key funding opportunities.
  • Goal 5: Assess and potentially revise the funding model that supports the medRamp Grant Office to provide investigators administrative support for submission of large and complex grants (e.g., P & U grants, etc).
  • Goal 6: Define standardized processes by which research cores can be responsive to RFAs to support instrument acquisition. (moved to objective 4, August 2023)

Action item 2: Scan campus for research areas of strength where new training grants could be awarded.

  • Goal 1: Identify gaps in the SMPH training program landscape where there exist current T32 training grant opportunities.
  • Goal 2: Identify faculty who are enthusiastic, willing, and capable of submitting new T32 training grant applications in areas of strength across the SMPH.

 

Objective 14: Increase industry collaborations and funding for sponsored research and clinical trials.

This objective relates to Strategic Priorities 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Implementation team co-leads:

  • William Hartman, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics
  • Kurt Zimmerman, MS, Senior Director, Office of Biohealth Industry Partnerships

Action item 1: Expand our portfolio of industry partners.

  • Goal 1: Work collaboratively with departments and the University of Wisconsin Clinical Trials Institute to understand best opportunities for industry-sponsored studies.
  • Goal 2: Facilitate quality research throughout SMPH by assisting ACRES accreditation efforts and making our site more desirable for industry studies.
  • Goal 3: Promote the research capabilities of our institution to external partners.

Action item 2: Create a model for developing Center(s) of Excellence for industry studies in a particular disease/therapeutic area that can be expanded and applied to other specialties.

  • Goal 1: Identify key companies to engage with on disease-specific studies.
  • Goal 2: Cultivate relationships with industry stakeholders and key SMPH faculty.
  • Goal 3: Prioritize what industry sponsors expect from academic partners and what our center can provide.

Action item 3: Enhance the quality of community engagement interaction by SMPH faculty and staff.

  • Goal 1: Identify and engage companies that have interest in collaborating on community engagement.
  • Goal 2: Establish plans to conduct educational sessions on best practices for engaging with key community stakeholders.

Action item 4: Proactively align basic science researchers with potential clinical collaborators.

  • Goal 1: Identify champions for industry studies in basic science departments.
  • Goal 2: Establish plans for educational opportunities and mentoring for early career faculty.