Science & Technology Planning Commission
March 22, 1999
Anita Jones, Planning Commission Chair
The objective of the Science and Technology Planning Commission is
to develop a set of strategies that will, if executed, guide the University
to greater excellence in education and research in science and technology.
Our purview spans the natural, physical and life sciences as well as
engineering and technology across the University. This Commission has
a scope that naturally overlaps to some extent with all the other Planning
We will consider academic programs, research activity, and public outreach
(especially technology transfer) in the many areas. Organizationally,
the Commission will consider the science departments in the College
of Arts & Sciences, all departments in the School of Engineering
and Applied Science, and the basic science departments in the School
of Medicine. However, it is not useful to draw a strong organization-based
definition of the purview of the Commission. Today, there are fruitful
science and engineering research activities that involve the clinical
medical departments, and many other departments that are not listed
as the classical science and engineering departments.
To a great extent, it is the individual faculty or groups of faculty
who pursue a vision that attain the kind of excellence in education
and research that Virginia 2020 seeks. The scope of our endeavor is
to find strategies, opportunities and structures that empower and nurture
faculty, as well as the central administrative leadership as they seek
increased excellence in science and technology.
II. Models of Excellence
The Commission will explore a number of strategies or models for attaining
excellence. We will review programs at other institutions that embody
these models. We will also review such programs inside the University.
Models include, for example, opportunistic pursuit of a scientific topic
"whose time is right", a model used by the Center for Biological
Timing, and the integration of scientific discovery with planned spin-off
of patented technologies and products, a model used by the Center for
Recombinant Gamete Contraceptive Vaccinogens. We will seek models that
support the special strengths and objectives of Mr. Jeffersons
A list of case studies of programs with potentially interesting models
for excellence has been compiled. A sub-group of the Commission will
explore some of these case studies, preparing them for the entire Commission
to study. We anticipate some visits to sites here and at other institutions
in order to understand in detail the experience of those executing a
model program. We anticipate inviting speakers to the University to
discuss their models and programs.
Science and engineering endeavors typically require laboratories and
extensive experimentation. For both research and education programs,
each model will include a plan for financial sustainability over its
lifetime. Funding sources outside the University must be forthcoming
in almost all cases.
Timeline: The Commission subgroup will be created by Spring 1999.
The first collection of case studies and model definitions will be
compiled by Fall 1999.
The Commission will review existing programs both inside and outside
the University. We are in the process of compiling quantitative metrics
that characterize some of the dimensions of the University activity
today. The document is referred to as Vital Statistics. These descriptions
describe activities in terms of level of funding, source of funding,
degrees granted annually (undergraduate and graduate), course hours
taught annually, staffing (academic, research, technical and administrative),
organizational structure, physical space, technology transfer achievements,
research publications, and department rankings. Our first draft of this
material has been compiled with the assistance of the Office of the
Vice President and Provost, the Office of Institutional Assessment and
Studies and the Office of Sponsored Programs.
Similarly, we will develop a Vital Statistics description for selected
peers and competitors. These Vital Statistics packages will document
both the comprehensive science and engineering activities of selected
institutions, as well as some specific case study activities that are
using a model for excellence that may be of interest in developing our
Timeline: Vital Statistics for the University of Virginia Science and
Technology activities will be completed by Spring 1999.
Vital Statistics for outside institutions will be developed by Fall
Research opportunities arise in science and engineering areas for a
number of reasons. The time may be ripe in a single discipline area,
or in a multi-discipline area, in which the precursor research has been
accomplished and a concentrated research effort can yield rich results.
Opportunities can likewise arise because the University or sets of individuals
in the University are poised to achieve greatness. This can be in research
or in education.
Opportunity can arise because of external influences, such the opportunity
for attaining special relationships with industry. There is a particular
opportunity today for information technology; it is materially changing
how research is performed in some areas, and how knowledge is packaged
and communicated to students.
Timeline: Fall 1999
Strategies for Excellence
The Commission will define a set of models and strategies fundamental
principles that will define how the Commission believes that
the University should take action and make strategic investments in
science and technology in the near and far term. It is very clear that
there are myriad opportunities and choices will have to be made. Not
all opportunities can be pursued.
While we will identify specific opportunities in terms of specific
research and education areas, we expect that there will be multiple
ways to implement the strategy. Decision-making will require a process
and a dialog that involves all the stakeholders: the faculty, students,
Board of Visitors, alumni, and central administration. We will jointly
craft that process with the administration and involve ourselves in
its execution. Recall that much of what is excellent in the University
is created by individuals, particularly faculty; often it is not directed
from the central administration. Strategic choices for the University
of Virginia need to be made in some disciplined way that is broadly
inclusive of all the stakeholders. This Commission can be a lubricating
and constructive part of that process.
Timeline: The Commission will create a written strategy statement by
Decision-making will follow.
Virginia 2020 needs to be a process that includes on-going dialog among
all the stakeholders. We will use the various new media of the University
to communicate from time to time with the various stakeholders. In the
early stages (Spring 99) periodic articles that describe Virginia 2020
activity have been published. This has been orchestrated by the University
Public Relations Office.
Our dynamic web-site contains a variety of information about the Commissions
activity. It is updated on an on-going basis.
The Chair has met with, or addressed, several groups of faculty who
focus on science and technology. They include the College Science Department
Chairs, the ad hoc Faculty Form, the School of Engineering and Applied
Science (SEAS) faculty as a whole, and the SEAS Research Advisory Council.
This outreach activity will continue.
During the summer, we will develop several articles to be place in
the University news publications in the Fall. When written products
are developed we will have some town-hall discussion sessions and will
organize other forums for discussion of our results.
Note: This plan was developed by Anita Jones and has not been approved
by the Commission, so it is subject to change.