Consumer Protection Research Grant

 

University of Oregon School of Law

2021/2022 Consumer Protection Research Grant

Background on Grant Fund

This research fund came about through a 2014 jury trial in the case of Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Product, where the plaintiffs alleged that more than two million consumers buying gas in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest were charged an unauthorized transaction fee for using a debit card.  The case resulted in a jury verdict of more than $400 million against BP.  After the funds were distributed to the class members, more than $66 million will remain unclaimed.

The court was then tasked with distributing the remaining funds for “purposes directly related to the class action or directly beneficial to the interests of class members.”   The court awarded a minimum of $300,000 per year for ten years to the University of Oregon to “research consumer issues in Oregon.”  The court stated that research eligible for funding would not be limited to legal research, and that “consumer protection is interpreted to the fullest extent possible including without limitation, areas such as securities and investment fraud, cyber fraud and cybercrime, insurance fraud, antitrust law, and trade regulation.”

The $66 million fund is administered by a non-profit, Oregon Consumer Justice (OCJ), which has created an initial workplan to systemically address consumer justice in Oregon.  OCJ’s workplan includes a particular focus on efforts to ensure a fair marketplace for those consumers historically excluded from access (e.g. BIPOC community, women, mothers, immigrants, disabled community, elders, LGBTQ community, and rural low-income people).

OCJ has interpreted the court’s order to encompass four different types of consumer-related research that may be eligible for funding:

  1. Legal Research.  Legal research that serves to inform and influence case law and legislation relating to consumers;
  2. Policy Research.  Research regarding policies that would promote a fair marketplace for consumers;
  3. Community Impacts.  Research that provides insight into consumer needs, harms, or inequities at a community level, or that tests community interventions to address those harms or inequities;
  4. Consumer Response.  Research regarding consumer behavior or decision-making at the individual consumer level, or that tests interventions to address those harms at an individual level.

An interdepartmental committee composed of faculty from academic units throughout the University of Oregon, as well as community leaders appointed by OCJ, will be soliciting grant applications through this RFP and making award decisions. 

Research Projects Eligible for Funding

A wide variety of research projects would fall into one or more of OCJ’s four categories. 

For example, research relating to consumer education involving legal interventions may fall into category (1) or (2), while research into community-based interventions, consumer education, or community harms from predatory practices would fall into category (3).  Experimental research on how consumers respond to different educational messages might fall into category (4).  As additional examples, research on security, surveillance, fraud, data ethics, consumer privacy, social media, consumer finance, real estate, banking, credit access, bankruptcy, deceptive advertising, predatory practices, student debt, debt collections, or consumer law would fall under one or more of the above-listed categories depending on the project’s methodology.  Projects relating to consumer or product safety or public health and policy would likewise be relevant.

The committee is open to a wide variety of disciplinary inquiries and methodological approaches, including but not limited to interdisciplinary, social-psychological, critical cultural, legal, and other qualitative or quantitative methods.

Please be aware that all applicants will, however, need to draw a connection between their research to Oregon consumers.  Research specific to a subpopulation or community in Oregon satisfies this standard.  For research that broadly benefits all consumers, applicants will be expected to articulate how Oregon consumers will ultimately benefit from the research.

Eligibility

All UO faculty are eligible to apply for a grant award.  Current UO undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral scholars, are eligible and encouraged to apply.  Students must also be enrolled during the grant period to be eligible and should list their faculty advisor on their application. 

There are no restrictions as to the size or structure of the study team, which can include faculty and students together, or multiple faculty members.  UO faculty members with collaborators at other institutions are eligible for funding for the UO faculty members’ portion of the research.

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on whether the research will ultimately benefit consumers in Oregon. Secondarily, the committee will also consider the feasibility of the research, efficiency of the expenditures, the academic integrity of the proposal, and the plan to disseminate the results of the research.  The Committee will provide preference to proposals that advance principles of equity and inclusion, whether through the substance of research proposal, the diversity of the research team, or both.

Size of the Award/Use of Funds

For 2020, the committee will be awarding funding of up to $25,000 per project, estimating $5,000 for undergraduate research, up to $10,000 for graduate research, and up to $25,000 (including OPE) for faculty.  Teams composed of students and faculty, or multiple faculty members are encouraged to apply for grants proportional to the team composition. We especially invite teams to apply whose members reflect the populations impacted by the issues to be studied.

The length of the project period should be no more than 12 months.  Funds may be used for research-related travel, equipment, supplies, and services (such as expenses associated with IRB approved human subjects research or open source publishing), summer salary, or stipend (including OPE) as well as for the dissemination of the research results.  Funds for undergraduate and graduate students to conduct their research may be awarded as a stipend during the academic year (students must be enrolled at UO during the term(s) of the grant period), and/or as a summer stipend to conduct the research (even if students aren’t enrolled in classes during the summer award period).

Funds may not be used to cover indirect costs, although administrative expenses directly attributable to the research may be included as part of the budget proposal.   Award monies may not be used for reimbursement or direct expenditure prior to the project start date.

The awarded funds will be dispersed to awarded research teams at the beginning of the project period. Research teams must submit a progress report on December 15, 2021, and a final report within 30 days following the conclusion of the project period.  Projects that conclude prior to June 1, 2022 need only submit a final report.

NOTE: Late applications will not be considered.  However, a grant award committee will convene on an annual basis to review applications for that year’s grants.   If you are unable to complete a grant application by the deadline, you can always apply for a grant the following year.


Submission

Proposals should be uploaded to the following Qualtrics survey.

Formatting requirements: Times New Roman font (minimum 11 point) and 1” margins.  Proposals may be single spaced.  Please consolidate separate files into a single PDF.

Application Components:

  1. Proposal Narrative: 3-page maximum for sections A-D; include the following elements:
    1. Project Title and Identifying Information: Please provide a title for your project.  Please list the names, titles, and departmental affiliations of all members of the research team. 
    2. Concept and Rationale: Provide background or rationale for the proposed project, including the significance and rationale with a particular focus on how the research will ultimately benefit consumers in Oregon.  Where possible, please identify which types of consumers or communities would benefit from your research, and how they are currently harmed or underserved by the status quo.  Please identify which of the four research categories (listed under “Projects Eligible for Funding”) apply to your projects. Applicants are invited, though not required, to describe the respects in which the research project and/or team composition advances principles of equity and inclusion.
    3. Proposed Plan: Describe the objectives of the proposed research and identify the specific activities, methodology, and timeline to achieve those objectives. Identify specific research, scholarly, and/or proposal development activities to which funds will be applied, how you will complete these activities, and the roles and responsibilities of each collaborator.
    1. Budget justification: Describe the basis for your proposed budget (no more than 1 page).
    1. Dissemination:  Describe how the team plans to disseminate the results of the research in a manner intended to benefit Oregon consumers.
    1. References/Citations: (not included in page limit)
    1. CV: Participants are invited to submit a CV for each member of the research team.

Budget: Students should use the Excel budget template, available at Faculty may use the Excel budget template, or budget templates from their unit or past grant applications.  

Sponsored Project Services.  Please be advised that this grant program is subject to policies and requirements of the University's Sponsored Project Services, including but not limited to: (a) completion of the Principal Investigator certification; (b) approval from Research Compliance Services for human subjects; (c) expenditure reporting (if applicable); (d) the completion of a progress report and final report; and (e) a non-exclusive royalty-free license to intellectual property created through the funding.

Questions about the Consumer Protection Research Fund, application, or submission process may be directed to the Committee Chair, Professor Liz Tippett at tippett@uoregon.edu.