Davis, J. M., P. S. Soltis, D. C. Adams, S. L. Larkin, and R. A. Gilbert. 2020. Seed Funds Leverage External Awards for Research in Natural Resources and Agricultural Systems. Forests 11:76.[View on Publisher’s Site]
In the United States, “seed fund” programs in biomedical fields have been reported to enhance faculty success in securing federal awards. Seed funds are relatively small internal grants that are allocated by universities to their faculty to invigorate research, in anticipation that they will lead to larger benefits—these benefits could be the creation of stronger teams that lead to larger external grants and/or more impactful publications. We hypothesized that a seed funding approach for research on natural resources and agricultural systems, including forest systems, may have similar benefits. Here, we report that seed funding supported faculty development in numerous ways, including leveraging to generate external competitive awards. For each dollar of institutional investment in each of the three seed funding programs, faculty acquired $6, >$50, and $4.50, respectively, in external funding that was leveraged within three years of the seed fund award date. Notably, the majority of the leveraged funding was from federal granting agencies through competitive programs. Federal competitive awards are important elements of tenure and promotion dossiers, as they reflect success in acquiring grants that are difficult to obtain, thus providing evidence of research excellence. We speculate that the seed fund proposal review process prepared faculty for competitive awards. Finally, we suggest best management practices for the implementation of seed funding to support teams of faculty.