Upgrading social psychology lab

Project Title: Upgrading social psychology lab

Project Lead’s Name: Allen McConnell

Email: mcconnar@miamioh.edu

Phone: (513) 529-2407

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CAS

Are There Other Project Team Members?: No

Brief description of project: In the Department of Psychology, I am the lab director for a socialpsychology lab with six cubicle rooms, each of which has a computer in it. This lab is used between 30-40 hours each week to collect data for students related to undergraduate independent research (e.g., senior honors theses, student-led projects) and to graduate student research (e.g., master's theses, doctoral dissertations). Historically, this lab has been very productive, and during the past 10 years (since we moved into the new psychology building), we have published 37 papers in peer-reviewed outlets, and these papers have featured 15 different graduate student and 5 different undergraduate student co-authors (20 of those 37 papers were first authored by Miami students). Thus, the research conducted in the lab has a direct impact in the lives of the student researchers, undergraduate and graduate, who direct research projects, as well as the undergraduates who serve as research assistants in the lab for independent research credit (approximately 100 during this period).

When we moved into the psychology building, I brought many older lab computers that I purchased from two grants (a R01 NIMH grant and a NSF grant). Since then, however, these computers have begun failing. In the lab currently, we have six computers, two of which are 10 years old (HP-Compaq computers) and four of which are 7 years old (Dell Optiplex 960s). Unfortunately, these machines are failing (e.g., sometimes they don't boot or they crash in the middle of data collection, they only have 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM). What I am seeking from the technology fee is to buy six replacement machines, which have been recommended by Wayne Stone: Dell 7040 MT desktops (each one is $540) with a 275 GB SSD drive upgrade (each one is $94.99). Because we already have adequate monitors, keyboards, and mice, six new CPUs would bring the lab up to modern standards and serve student needs for years to come.

At the moment, I am a PI on two different grant proposals: a NICHD grant proposal ($440K) and a NSF training grant proposal ($3M). The NICHD grant received a very favorable score (priority score of 27) in December, but it is currently in funding limbo as NIH awaits new orders from the new administration in Washington DC. The NSF grant was just submitted. Unfortunately because of projects constraints involving co-PIs, I was not able to write computer equipment into these grants, but I will definitely write in support for equipment going forward in all future grants. Since coming to Miami in 2000, I have had 3 NIMH grants (2 R01s, 1 R03) and 1 NSF grant, and I will continue submitting grants going forward. Thus, although I am requesting technology fee support to help with this crucial moment in the lab's history, I also view seeking extramural funding as an important component of my job, and given past histories of success in receiving federal support, I am hopeful that I will not need the tech fee mechanism in the future.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: Yes

If yes, please explain: This lab supports graduate student education very directly and in a very positive fashion. As noted above, this lab is used between 30-40 hours each week to collect data for students related to undergraduate independent research (e.g., senior honors theses, student-led projects) and to graduate student research (e.g., master's theses, doctoral dissertations). Many of the undergraduates involved in our research activities are trained in part by our graduate students (which furthers their professional development).

Historically, this lab has been very productive, and during the past 10 years, we have published 37 papers in peer-reviewed outlets, and these papers have featured 15 different graduate student co-authors, and 20 of these 37 papers were first authored by graduate students. These graduate students have gone on to tenure-track positions at universities such as Indiana Univ. Bloomington (Robert Rydell, a tenured associate professor), St. Louis Univ. (Christina Brown, now a tenured associate professor at Arcadia Univ.), Central Washington Univ. (Tonya Buchanan, assistant professor), and Mount Ida College in Boston (Hayley Skulborstad, assistant professor).

Thus, the research conducted in the lab has a direct impact in the lives of graduate student researchers, leading to research development, high-impact publications (many as lead author), and tenure-track positions that reflect very well on Miami and its doctoral programs.

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.: This lab explores the social psychology involved in social relationships with entities such as family and pets (e.g., how pet ownership improves one's mental and physical health) and how people rely on these relationships for social needs fulfillment (e.g., greater interest in family or pets when they feel lonely). Because many of our studies require precise stimulus presentation or that information be conveyed through non-human means (e.g., if we are trying to induce a feeling of loneliness in a participant, instructions presented by a computer a more effective than instructions provided by a person, which by definition means the participant is not alone), we rely on individual computer workstations in individual cubicle rooms for our research. Thus, computers are essential to the execution of the studies conducted in the lab because they are the primary vehicle for experiment presentation, data collection, and data analysis. Thus, when these computers do not work (e.g., don't boot, crash), the graduate and undergraduate research projects conducted in the lab do not work either. Further, because these studies require that participants are assessed in private conditions, these studies cannot be run en masse in large labs or via the internet (e.g., a person won't feel lonely in a room with others or at home when sitting in their living room with roommates present). Thus, these computers are not only essential for the research conducted, but the physical facilities present in the psychology building (e.g., ability to experimental control conditions, such as making sure people are not feeling socially connected to others or distracted by other activities) are essential for the research involved.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?: The support from the technology fee to upgrade these computers would have very significant benefits to students in the lab. For example, there are currently two graduate students and ten undergraduate students involved in research efforts, including one graduate student collecting her dissertation data, one graduate student collecting his master's thesis data, and two undergraduates completing their senior honors thesis projects. One of these undergraduates is also a Dean's Scholar, further underscoring the quality of her project and its scholarly value. Without functioning computers, these research efforts cannot happen. Moreover, the current problems we're running into with the computers (e.g., 10-year-old machines that require 30-40 minutes to boot) means that these students are often losing data (e.g., crashes in the middle of a study) or opportunities to collect data (e.g., having to simply shut down data collection cubicles where computer performance is too unpredictable). We currently have six empirical papers under review at top journals based on data collected in this lab -- thus if the lab cannot support research, these are papers that would never exist in the first place! Thus, if we're publishing research in top journals (e.g., Psychological Science has an impact factor of 5, which is an outlet where we have an invited revision based on data collected in the lab), that's pretty clear evidence of both innovation and significance (along with undergraduate student placements in top Ph.D. programs and graduate student placements in tenure-track faculty positions after leaving Miami).

How will you assess the project?: Project assessment will take many forms. First, there is the raw number of studies conducted in the lab, the number of researchers conducting work in the lab, and the number of participants involved in the studies. Right now, we are having to cancel sessions and to reduce the number of participants we can run at any time because of unreliable equipment. Thus, improved study throughput is one clear indicator. In addition, we can also see downstream evidence with respect to the number of conference presentations and journal articles that are accepted. Finally, the work supported will lead to more studies that can serve grant submissions as preliminary data. Thus, we can track impact of the project in both near-term (e.g., number of studies, number of participants, number of student researchers involved) and long-term (e.g., presentations, publications, grant dollars) metrics.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: No

Budget: Hardware

Hardware Title(s) & Vendor(s): Dell computers (6 Dell 7040MT desktops), Crucial SSDs (6 275 GB drives)

Hardware Costs: $3,809.94

What is the total budget amount requested?: $3,809.94

Comments: The budget and equipment identified were developed with the assistance of Wayne Stone to determine cost-effective equipment that would conform to University purchasing rules, serve the needs of the research conducted in the lab, and produce solutions that would provide many years of future service to many undergraduate and graduate students in the lab.