The Future Of Academic Research Looks Bright
| Feb 25, 2013 1:00 PM
Recently at one of our Town Halls (see video), we were asked about how we are balancing the tightening fiscal realities of research funding while ensuring that scientific discovery at the University of Utah continues to flourish. This is a critically important question to me, to Dean Li, our Vice-Dean for Research and Chief Scientific Officer, and to the entire leadership team. In challenging times like these, the efforts of administration can set the stage for an organization’s success. Personally, I am excited to share with you some of our thinking and strategy that we believe will generate opportunities for some amazing discoveries.
Investing in Our Scientists
We want our faculty to have the best possible shot at successful careers. To get there, we appointed Carrie Byington as the first Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development who, together with a dream team of new appointees, is expanding training programs for faculty in clinical and translational research, quality improvement, education and leadership. In conjunction with Dr. Dean Li, Dr. Byington will also be developing programs to support career development for basic scientists. Recognizing the worsening payline challenges, this year we enhanced our bridge funding pool for our faculty. Over the past year, the Research Advisory Committee has heard a series of proposals for our already outstanding Core Facilities, and we are preparing to announce a number of new investments. By pooling our resources in Cores, we can ensure our faculty access to some of the most enabling technologies available.
Strengthen Critical Masses of Collaborative Science
Another central tenet of our strategic plan is to develop a critical mass of investigators who can collaborate to build strong programs together. Dean Li and his team are identifying major disease-oriented clusters: Diabetes/Metabolism, Cardiovascular, Neuroscience, Immunology/Inflammation/Infection, and Cancer, among others. Additionally, new collaborative efforts—such as the Center for Medical Innovation, a proposed Center for Air Quality, Health and Society, and a proposed Institute for Health Care Transformation—will help us leverage strengths across the University. Our flagship research initiative, the Utah Genome Project brings together our genetics experts, bioinformaticians, pathologists, clinicians, drug developers, epidemiologists, genetic counselors, and even our health service researchers. We plan a major investment here and expect important, high impact discoveries for many years to come.
Expand Other Funding Sources
To help diversify our funding sources we are increasing our fund-raising effort. The University supports our hiring of additional development personnel and, once we do, connecting our scientific community with donors will be a major goal. Additionally, we would like to increase revenue from our intellectual property through licensing, start-ups and royalties as a means of feeding our research programs and efforts like the new Center for Medical Innovation will help bring faculty together and leverage TCO strengths.
Using What We Have Efficiently
In an environment of constrained resources, using those resources as efficiently and effectively as possible becomes paramount. This requires a higher degree of scrutiny for how we are spending our faculty’s time, and using space and other resources. These conservations may not be comfortable for everyone in the short term. However, our LEAN efforts are intended to empower all of our faculty and staff to think about how we can use a focus on efficiency to make our individual lives easier and less bureaucratic in the long term. Whether it’s getting faculty appointed or industry contracts approved, most of our processes have some room for improvement and with LEAN, we can all be better off.
All in all, while it is true that times have been tight for research programs over the past few years, we are on the precipice of a new era. With collaborative programs, proactive resource utilization and the high quality, innovative approach to research that Utah is known for, we’ll continue to make great discoveries and succeed in tough times.
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus