Paul Murphy, Director of Research Administration
September 2004, Issue 3

Paul Murphy, JD, MPA, came to Tufts in May 2003 to join the Office of the Associate Provost for Research (recently renamed the Office of the Vice Provost) as its first director of research administration. He brings to this new post 13 years of experience at MIT in both corporate development and research administration. Murphy's responsibilities include developing and implementing systems that promote and foster research and overseeing Grants and Contracts Administration.

Grants and Contracts Administration is responsible for assisting the faculty with the proposal submission process and ensuring that Tufts is in compliance with federal regulations concerning grants and contracts. Soon after arriving on campus last year, Murphy began visiting faculty members, department managers, and staff in all the Tufts schools, asking them how Grants and Contracts Administration could improve service. He also got to know the people and the research being done at Tufts. From that input Murphy developed a roadmap for improving the way the office can respond to the needs of the faculty. The roadmap includes a proactive service for targeting funding opportunities to faculty and improving the preaward process for proposals. Initiatives include adding a new grants management administrator, building science teams, and setting up new management systems with the goal of contributing to the overall academic mission of Tufts by encouraging and facilitating research.

The grants management administrator will be responsible for coordinating large grant proposals, working on proposal budgets, collecting important background material such as faculty CVs, and compiling supporting documents on faculty and staff (such as the large tables required for training grants). This administrative support will allow investigators to concentrate on the narrative section of the proposal.

Murphy works with other staff members of the Office of the Vice Provost to promote and foster interdisciplinary research by building science teams. He and the staff of Grants and Contracts Administration search for funding opportunities in areas of multidisciplinary research and then alert Tufts researchers working in those areas. He also helps bring together faculty members from different Tufts departments and schools whose research interests may intertwine and kindle productive collaborations. The Office of the Vice Provost plans and sponsors casual faculty get-togethers designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas. If a science team arises out of one of these meetings, the office assists the team with administrative support, which may include grant writing assistance from Peg AtKisson, a scientific proposal specialist. Murphy has been instrumental in developing an online faculty search engine containing investigators' research key words and contact information that should help researchers connect with one another.

Moving beyond Tufts, Murphy is also looking at improving collaborations and partnerships with other universities. "We're finding that many sponsors want to see established collaborations, not just letters of pending collaboration contingent on receipt of funding," says Murphy. "One of my challenges right now is to locate existing relationships." Collaborative relationships with other institutions can be used in the preparation of grant proposals and in the promotion of future research. Murphy is also working to increase Tufts involvement with industry and the state government — for example, offers of matching funds are being promoted by the Massachusetts Science & Technology Initiative.

Murphy has accomplished a great deal in the year and a half he's been with the Office of the Vice Provost. His goals for the next five years are to have systems in place that work well and give faculty the service they need to advance their research.

 

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