SPARC - Stimulating Partnerships Among Researchers and Clinicians - Clinical Research Exchange Fellowship

Sponsor Name: 
Penn State Strategic Initiatives
Description of the Award: 

Information Session to be held Wednesday, December 4th at 4 pm:

The Penn State Strategic Initiatives via the thematic priority – Enhancing Health – has provided funding for an Exchange Fellowship to stimulate partnerships among faculty clinicians and non-clinician faculty researchers and engineers, bridging interests, resources and expertise to unite patient care with other scholarly disciplines.

The Exchange Fellowship will allow each partner to immerse in the other partner’s realm. Clinical faculty members will spend time in scholarly contexts across the University and a non-clinician faculty member will spend time in the clinical environment.

The goal of the SPARC Program is to initiate and nurture interdisciplinary collaborations as a powerful way to address unmet medical needs while, simultaneously, expanding health sciences research at Penn State.

Applications in response to this RFA may initially request up to $7,500 per partner for teaching or clinical buyout (minimum 5% effort-maximum 10% effort) for a 6 month period (Level 1 Funding). Additional competitive funds for $40,000 (Level 2) to $100,000 (Level 3) will be available for collaborations yielding projects on a trajectory to attract external funding.

Program Guidelines and Eligibility

  1. Clinicians can be any practicing health professional in Penn State Health or the College of Nursing at any site, with a Penn State faculty appointment. Researchers can be anyone with a full-time faculty appointment in any Penn State college and on any campus.
  2. Matching funds for salary support (1:1), from each partner’s home unit (college, school, institute, department or division) are required for Level 1 and 2 Funding*. Applicants are very strongly encouraged to seek support from the Department Chair, and/or other individual with supervisory responsibility for the applicant, with regard to providing the match and approving the associated leave from teaching or clinical responsibilities during the initial 6-month period. There are no restrictions to using sabbatical leave congruent with the timing of Level 1 or Level 2 funding.

*Applicant pairs where both partners are faculty members of the College of Medicine should alert the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies of the intent to submit by email at prior to applying.

  1. Funds will NOT be used to support existing projects.
  2. Both partners with be required to participate in SPARC cohort events to include: Kick-Off, Interdisciplinary Research Workshop, and Strategic Doing Workshop to build interdisciplinary skills and encourage cross-fertilization among pairs.
  3. One interim and one final report will be required of both partners reflecting on the SPARC Program and their individual partnership, noting any early tangible outcomes such as publications or submitted proposals.


Program Timeline

The Clinical-Research Exchange Fellowship initiative encompasses the following phases:

  • Phase I: Partner Identification – Clinical and research faculty members seeking suggestions for potential partners should contact any member of the SPARC Oversight Committee and/or the Research Concierge at the College of Medicine.
  • Phase II: Application for Level I – Interested partners apply for Level 1 Funding (January 6, 2019). Selection committee reviews applications, prioritizes partnerships, and awardees are notified (early February 2020).
  • Phase III: Immersion – A six-month period, either July 1 – December 31, 2020 or January 1 – June 30, 2021) where face to face discovery interactions take place on an approximately weekly basis between the partners to immerse in the respective professional environments, identify questions, resources and approaches that will allow acquisition of the premise necessary for being competitive for Level 2 Funding.
  • Phase IV: Application for Level 2 – Interested partners apply for Level 2 Funding (December 2020 or June 2021) to continue face-to-face interactions and generate preliminary data. Applicants are expected to identify and describe opportunities for collaborative presentations and publications.
  • Phase V: Project Development – July 2022 – December 2022
  • Phase VI: Interested partners are encouraged to apply for external funding and may apply for Level 3 funding (July 2022) to begin June 1, 2023, to continue face-to-face interactions and fuel scholarly productivity. Applicants are expected to provide evidence of collaborative scholarship and to have engaged appropriate funding agency program directors.

Scientific Merit Review for Level 2 and 3 funding will be implemented by Research Development at the College of Medicine, to include relevant Penn State units, and will forward the review outcomes to the SPARC Oversight Committee for prioritization and funding decisions.

Please direct any questions regarding this announcement to Research Development (717-531-6949;





Available Funding

Time Frame



Partner Identification



November 12, 2019 - January 6, 2020






January 6, 2020 - February 14, 2020

Submit application




$15K per pair/ with unit match

July-Dec 2020 or Jan-June 2021

Engage, identify problems/questions/approaches





Dec 2020 or June 2021



Project Development


$40K per pair/with unit match for salary

Start July 2021 or January 2022

Generate preliminary data for future funding


The SPARC Oversight Committee includes:

Rick Brazier, PhD (University College);

Lorah Dorn, PhD, CPNP (College of Nursing);

Kathy Drager, PhD (College of Health and Human Development);

Mary Frecker (College of Engineering);

Santosh Girirajan, PhD (Eberly College of Science);

Cory Griffin, PhD (Penn State Altoona);

Paul Hallacher, PhD (Penn State Harrisburg);

Daniel Hayes, PhD (Materials Research Institute);

Michael Hickner, PhD (Materials Research Institute);

Ivor Knight (Penn State Behrend);

John Liechty, PhD (Smeal College of Business);

Susan McHale, PhD (Social Sciences Research Institute);

Emily Morris, JD (Penn State Dickinson Law);

Shannon Nowatarski, PhD (Penn State Berks);

Leslie Parent, MD (College of Medicine);

Chris Rahn, PhD (College of Engineering);

Andrew Read, PhD (Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences);

Lawrence Sinoway, MD (Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute);


*Additional SPARC Oversight Committee Members are welcome. If you are interested please contact Sarah Bronson at

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jan 06, 2020
To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Monday, January 6, 2020 - 12:00pm