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Connecting Collaborators

Research Development staff have developed a series of programs to strengthen and facilitate new collaborations across the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; and the University of Tennessee Space Institute. From simple conversations over coffee to long-term commitments to Communities of Scholars, these programs seek to meet faculty members’ interests and introduce them to others who have similar interests in a variety of disciplines.

Coffee & Convergence promotes interdisciplinary collaborations and fosters convergent research by bringing faculty together for casual conversations. These brief events align with the Office of Research and Engagement’s plans to support transdisciplinary research, develop strategic internal partnerships, and increase the number of faculty with external research funding.  Convergent research also responds to priorities set by federal sponsors including NSF, NIH, and USDA.

Every semester, Research Development staff coordinate these opportunities for faculty from diverse disciplines to interact informally and create integrative research networks. Small groups of three to five faculty members, formed around research focus areas identified in ORE’s 2020 Strategic Action Plan, join the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development conversations that explore potential collaborations. Late assistant and early associate faculty who are emergent leaders in their disciplines (as demonstrated by scholarly and research excellence, e.g. NSF CAREER awards, fellowships, publications, citations, partnerships) are invited to participate alongside researchers with complementary expertise. 

Faculty members who would like to participate in a future Coffee and Convergence event should contact AVCRD@utk.edu.

SPARKS events pursue new research partnerships among UTK and UTIA faculty. The goal is to bring together or more disciplines together, focused on a common interest or research opportunity.  These events general last from 1.5 to 3 hours, and they often include facilitated activities, such as speed networking and/or lightning talks. 

Research Development staff work with research leaders to identify topic areas and invitation lists. In addition to fostering introductions between faculty and breaking down disciplinary siloes, faculty leave with a list of potential collaborators, their research interests, and contact information. This low-risk approach to collaborations enables UTK and UTIA faculty to build their research networks, as appropriate, and develop more comprehensive, competitive research proposals for external funding opportunities.

Faculty members who would like to suggest topic areas for future SPARKS events should contact AVCRD@utk.edu.

FUSION seeks to bring together curated groups of faculty to tackle a particular topic. This enables researchers to understand the problem in new ways; learn from the perspectives offered by other disciplines; craft interdisciplinary research questions; and develop new interdisciplinary methods.

Research Development staff facilitated workshops to explore one scientific topic from multiple perspectives and timelines.  As the day-long event progresses, teams coalesce, set goal,s and develop action plans. Those are so inclined are invited to make presentations to the group, which culminate in new and active collaborations, some of which are seeded with a small award.

Faculty members who would like to explore ideas for future FUSION events should contact AVCRD@utk.edu.

Twice a semester, the Office of Research and Engagement brings together staff who fulfill research development roles across campus. Past topics have included:

  • Informed Decision-Making Strategies
  • College of Education, Health and Human Sciences: Approaches to External Funding
  • Collaborations with Nursing
  • How Institutional Research Can Help Research Development Efforts Across Campus
  • College of Communications and Information: Resources for User Experience, Message Effects, and Social Media Research

To join the RDC listserv, send an email to Sharon Pound (spound@utk.edu).

We encourage the growth of research affinity groups that cross disciplinary boundaries. Objectives include supporting interdisciplinary scholarship; encouraging new, collaborative research directions; and submitting proposals for external funding.

  • Appalachia
  • Biomembranes
  • Brain-Computer Interface
  • Cancer
  • Critical Race Collective
  • Illuminate Digital Scholars
  • Intersectionality
  • Simulations + Gaming + Role-Playing (SGR)
  • Substance Abuse

For more information on the Communities of Scholars, contact Diana Moyer (dmoyer@utk.edu).