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STRATEGIES SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS [REVISED DRAFT]
14 December 1999

Goal: Over the next twenty years, to increase substantially the University’s excellence and leadership in science and technology by strengthening existing areas of excellence and ultimately by developing world-class programs in an additional three to five research areas.

 

Summary: To increase the University’s excellence and leadership in science and technology, the Strategies Subcommittee believes that the University needs a process for continuously stimulating innovative research projects and an immediate focus on several areas for major investment. These areas should be selected on the basis of opportunity and internal capability. We also believe that the University needs to develop a research infrastructure, including policies for faculty and graduate student recruitment and reward and for building construction, that is consistent with an institutional commitment to excellence in science and technology.

We propose that the University immediately establish a Science and Technology Venture Fund, funded at $2 million each year for the first five years, to seed highly promising initiatives in science and technology. We also propose a centralized process for selecting programs for major University funding and for evaluating funded programs. By March 2000, we propose that the Virginia 2020 Science and Technology Commission identify three to five broad research themes, such as information technology, for additional University financial support. By August 2000, we propose that the Commission complete plans for developing excellence in specific aspects of these three to five broad research areas. During this period we also propose that the Commission review and recommend improvements in University policies regarding faculty and graduate student recruitment and reward. From March 2000 to September 2002, we propose that the Vice President for Research and Public Service, initially in consultation with the Commission and after September 2000 with a University-wide science and technology advisory committee, oversee investment of new and reoriented funds (including funds for new faculty start up, for graduate students and postdocs, and for a new building and laboratory renovation) in these three to five research areas. By September 2002, we propose that the Universeity launch a major fundraising campaign for very significant resources for major investments in our science and technology priorities.

 

The Science and Technology Venture Fund: We recommend that the University strengthen its research infrastructure and stimulate innovative research initiatives by establishing a Science and Technology Venture Fund (STVF), capitalized at $10 million over the first five years. The STVFwill support a range of research initiatives, including smaller awards for workshops, conferences, and symposia to assess the feasibility of launching a major research effort, for "no hassle planning grants," or for proposal development ($5K-$10K), as well as larger awards to support emerging pairs or teams of faculty members engaged in multi-disciplinary or multi-investigator research ($50K-$100K) and very substantial awards to position an established group for institute or center support and recognition from federal funding agencies ($500K to $1M). Funded proposals need not be limited to the priority areas selected for major University investment.

To insure continuation of the STVF, we recommend that STVF awards be structured so that each project supported by the STVF return a portion of indirect costs associated with its subsequent external funding to the STVF. We also recommend that the University secure private contributions to endow the STVF.

 

 

The University’s Science and Technology Research Priorities: We propose that by March 2000 the Virginia 2020 Science and Technology Commission identify three to five broad research themes for which there are opportunities for significant growth in national prominence. We anticipate that many of these themes will be multi-disciplinary and will fall outside traditional departmental and school boundaries. Once the Commission has identified these research themes, we propose that it make a formal presentation of these themes to the University science and technology faculty, either through departmental meetings, a faculty retreat, or an interactive website, and solicit faculty suggestions and faculty consensus.

Following this exchange with the faculty--a exercise that we believe will elicit good suggestions for reconfiguring existing resources and pursuing new ones--we recommend that the Commission undertake, in consultation with the Vice President for Research and Public Service and the deans, a rigorous six-month strategic planning process for building excellence in particular aspects of each one. We anticipate that this process will include nationally-prominent experts, from other universities, from federal agencies, from industry, and from private foundations. By September 2000, this process will yield implementation plans for developing and measuring the University’s progress in achieving excellence in three to five new research areas.

We recommend that the University designate $100,000 for this six-month planning process.

 

Strengthening the University’s Research Infrastructure: At present, our capacity to form teams, develop research programs, and attract major federal funding is limited by a shortage of laboratory space, the lack of funds for new faculty laboratory start-up, by the uneven quality of our graduate students, by inconsistent policies regarding faculty consulting, and by the lack of incentives for faculty members to move beyond existing research activities to develop new and innovative research relationships, either with colleagues within the academic community or from industry.

Insofar as University policies inhibit innovation and leadership in science and technology, they devalue the funds we now spend or can anticipate spending on faculty salaries, graduate student fellowships, or laboratory renovation and construction. We propose that the Commission identify institutional impediments to innovation and leadership in science, including multi-disciplinary research, and make recommendations for new policies.

 

The Strategic Investment of Current Funds: In addition to establishing the STVF, we recommend that the University immediately begin to develop a plan for a major campaign for theme-based science and technology. We recognize that it may not be possible to launch a public campaign for theme-based science and technology until a campaign case is prepared, until the University’s central and unit-based development offices have designed a fundraising organization for theme-based fundraising, and until prospects and volunteers have been identified and cultivated. This process may take two years.

Until the University secures major new external funding for the three to five research areas selected by the Commission, we recommend that the University reallocate some current and anticipated resources (either from Commonwealth or private sources), with special emphasis on priorities developed by the Commission, for new faculty laboratory start-up, for graduate student fellowships and postdoctoral awards, and for building and laboratory renovation. We recommend that the Vice President for Research, in consultation with the deans, oversee the strategic investment of these funds.

 

Faculty recruitment: If, for example, the Commonwealth this year provides new funds for faculty laboratory start-up, either to the University or to Virginia research universities through competition, we recommend that the University use these funds to recruit faculty members who can provide leadership in building excellence in the areas identified by the Commission. Should the state not provide these funds, we recommend that the University immediately provide commensurate funds, to be administered by the Vice President for Research, on a matching basis and in consultation with the deans, so that we can recruit at least twenty-five faculty members over the next two years who are equal in quality to our fifty best funded faculty members in the new three to five priority research areas.

 

Graduate student and post doc recruitment: We recommend that the University provide funds to attract the highest-quality graduate students and postdocs, to be administered by the Provost on a matching basis and in consultation with the Vice President for Research and Public Service and deans, in the three new three to five priority research areas. We propose that the three Schools (Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, and Medicine) each take responsibility for securing $3M each over three years for this purpose.

 

Research building: We recommend that the University immediately build a new research facility, on a new, fast-track model, perhaps as surge laboratory space, to provide temporary space for research groups. We believe that adequate space can be constructed at less expense and in less time than current University practice, certainly by the end of 2001. Space constraints on research are so urgent that we require innovative measures. We propose that the University designate $10M for building construction, with funding supplied from a combination of sources, including private fundraising and indirect costs.

 

Implementation of the Commission’s Recommendations: By September 2000, we propose that the University administration assign the Vice President for Research and Public Service responsibility for implementing the strategies for building excellence in science and technology identified by the Science and Technology Planning Commission.

We propose that the Vice President for Research then form a University-wide science and technology committee. This committee, appointed and given its charge by the President, will advise the Vice President on the development and implementation of strategies that lower the administrative barriers to multi-disciplinary and multi-investigator research (such as promotion and tenure requirements, faculty consulting, space alloation, indirect cost returns, shared graduate students, and the like).

The Vice President for Research and this committee will work with the deans to develop procedures for strengthening the University’s research infrastructure, such as recruiting faculty members with joint appointments (such as in chemistry and pharmacology) or appointments in one department that complement existing strengths in others (such as an appointment in laser physics that completes a team with members in physics, chemistry, and physiology).

The Vice President will administer the Science and Technology Venture Fund, using funds to support multi-disciplinary and multi-investigator research groups.

The Vice President will assist in initiating the construction of a new research building, by the end of 2001.

The Vice President and this committee will develop procedures for measuring the performance of STVF grants (such as subsequent external funding) and of the three to five research areas (such as publications, external funding, and national rankings). The Vice President and this committee also will develop procedures for selecting new research areas for special institutional investment or for modifying or phasing out research areas.

 

 

New Resources for Science and Technology Priorities: We also propose that the University immediately will begin to develop a capacity for major fundraising for the sciences and explore opportunities for partnering with the state and private industry. We recommend that the Vice President for Research recruit an external advisory board composed of leaders of knowledge- and technology-based companies and representatives of leading private and public science funding agencies to assist with resource development. Within two years of the conclusion of the current campaign, that is, by 2002, we propose that the University launch a $200M to $500M campaign for science and technology funding within three years.

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