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Science & Technology Planning Commission
March 22, 1999
Anita Jones, Planning Commission Chair

I. Scope

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 Commissions.

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. Jefferson’s University.

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.

III. Metrics

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 own strategies.

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 1999.

Opportunity Analysis

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 Fall 1999.

Decision-making will follow.

Communication Plan

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 Commission’s 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.

Timeline: On-going.

Note: This plan was developed by Anita Jones and has not been approved by the Commission, so it is subject to change.


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