The University’s Institute of Social Research received a $14.8 million grant yesterday for renovating and constructing new additions to its Thompson Street location.
The National Institutes of Health awarded the funds to the ISR through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The ARRA recently allotted the NIH $8.2 billion in funding to help the economy through the advancement of scientific research, according to recovery.nih.gov.
The grant for the ISR will raise the total ARRA stimulus funding for the institute to $48.3 million, according to a press release distributed yesterday by the office of United States Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.).
“ISR is internationally renowned and respected around the nation for the work they accomplish,” Dingell wrote in the press release. “This grant will allow ISR to continue and expand upon its distinguished research.”
The institute engages in an array of research areas in the social and behavioral sciences, ranging from economics and psychology to political science.
ISR Director James Jackson said the ISR was selected for the endowment after an NIH scientific panel reviewed applications from various scientific research institutes.
Jackson said the review process focused on both the quality of research to be funded and the feasibility of the funding proposals.
“Those were the two big elements in the grant,” Jackson said, “How would this improve the science we do at ISR? And how the building would facilitate this.”
Jackson said the money will be used solely for constructing and renovating the ISR Thompson Street site, which will include building three main areas — data storage, gathering facilities and research space. The renovation will include the addition of 50,000 square feet to the building, according to the press release.
“A large part of what we do at the University of Michigan really relates to collecting data and making that data accessible,” Jackson said.
In addition to renovating those spaces, Jackson said ISR officials hope to add conference rooms and a 220-seat auditorium with two floors of research space above it.
“One of the important things we do in the social sciences is to bring people together for conferences and scientific meetings,” Jackson said. “So we’re going to increase our capacity to do that by having meeting room space and a major auditorium that will be on the first floor.”
Jackson said the award will also give the ISR an opportunity to start updating the facility with video conferencing and other communication technologies.
“ISR was built in 1955, and there has been a lot of progress made with regard to how we communicate, so we’re going to be upgrading our facility,” Jackson said.
In addition to enhancing the facility, Jackson said the construction will provide opportunities for employment for local workers.
“We’re expecting to create temporary and long-term jobs because construction’s going to create opportunities for people to work,” Jackson said.
Jackson added that with the new space the institute will be able to employ more researchers. Currently the staff of ISR consists of research scientists who generally have a Ph.D. in one of the social behavior disciplines, research assistants and associates who are involved in data collection and administrative support staff, according to Jackson.
“The new building and new opportunities will mean we’ll probably be hiring people on all those levels,” Jackson said.
Dingell praised the grant and wrote in his press release that it will help bring more jobs to the area in an important research sector.
“ISR’s expansion provides a unique potential for job growth: opening up new positions for the unemployed in Michigan and solidifying opportunities for talented college graduates,” Dingell wrote.
The next step in the process will be for the University’s Board of Regents to approve the award and construction plans, which could take anywhere from 14 to 18 months, Jackson said.