We recently had a wonderful experience that I should like to share with faculty members at schools that are geographically isolated or that have limited financial resources. Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, is approximately 300 miles from other major metropolitan areas. It is cost-prohibitive for many of our faculty to go individually to the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies during the year, and it is cost- and time-ineffective and perhaps inappropriate for NSF program officers to visit individual universities such as ours.
In venting my frustrations to Janice Hicks of the NSF Chemistry Division during the recent ACS meeting in Chicago, she asked if we had teleconference facilities. I said yes, and what followed was the development of a teleconference among program offers in the Chemistry Division and members of the chemistry and biochemistry faculty at Texas Tech. It was a first for both NSF chemistry and for us, and it was an unqualified success.
During the three-hour teleconference, members of our faculty were able to meet with about a dozen program officers in a number of disciplinary research areas. Division Director Luis Echegoyen and Executive Officer Janice Hicks were among the officers. They told us about a variety of programs of which we were unaware. They were able to provide feedback to faculty about appropriate programs in their areas, how NSF works, and so on.
The information they provided has allowed our faculty to approach grant writing more intelligently. At least two faculty members have received NSF grants in programs for which they otherwise would not have applied because they became aware of these opportunities during the teleconference. It is a win-win situation for both NSF and for schools with limited resources, and I would encourage universities that have not been visited recently to contact the NSF Chemistry Division to explore teleconferencing with them.
Dominick Casadonte Jr.