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Vice Chancellor Brown Joins National Peers to Talk Research Trends, Challenges

All things Research 2014

Vice Chancellor Sandra Brown (center, back row) joins other senior research officers from peer institutions at the National Press Club for “All Things Research 2014,” the annual AAU-Science Coalition media roundtable. Brown spoke on the connection between U.S. leadership in science and U.S. global competitiveness; technology transfer and the growing role of universities in driving regional economic development; and the intersection of science and politics.

In early July, the Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities (AAU) hosted their 5th annual media roundtable, “All Things Research 2014”, featuring 10 senior research officers from top U.S. universities. Vice Chancellor Sandra Brown attended to represent UC San Diego.

Our participation in the Washington, D.C. event was arranged and coordinated by Dave Schroeder, director of Government Relations in the Office of Research Affairs.

A significant focus of the discussion, held at the National Press Club, was on the impact that reduced research budgets and sequestration are having on university research.

“This is such an important and compelling issue these days,” said Vice Chancellor Brown. “As we reflect on the federal funding for research, we know that in the National Science Foundation, for example, there has been a reduction in the number of RO1 grants that have been awarded; and we if we look at the statistics from the National Institutes of Health, it is clear that 40 percent of those students   that we invest years of graduate training in biomedical education in   are leaving the basic science arena. This is an incalculable long-term consequence for the U.S. in terms of the human capital loss.”

“I’m terribly concerned that the lack of respect for and focus on people doing basic science is really going to lead us to a place where we are really losing in terms of coming up with new ideas, technologies, developments, etc.,” said Gloria Waters, vice president and associate provost for Research at Boston University. “Basic science is critical to the applied work that follows it, but if we don’t invest in basic science and follow it, it will result in a horrible situation for universities.”

“The real issue is that some of the very talented faculty in the labs, if they have to close a research program, you have a significant momentum with building your program in the labs and once you close the program, even if the funding opportunity returns in three or four years,” said Robert Clark, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Rochester. “You've lost the intellectual capital that was in the labs, you've lost the ability to quickly respond and do the work. So to restart that is a significant investment far more than sustaining the program.”

The discussion also highlighted great examples of research being done at participating universities, including the development of a deep brain stimulation technology at The Ohio State University; early detection of e-coli and foodborne pathogens at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; genetic engineering and vaccine development at Texas A&M University; and clinical trials of an Alzheimer’s drug at UC San Diego.

Participating university research leaders in addition to Vice Chancellor Brown included Robert J. Bernhard, vice president for Research, University of Notre Dame; Dawn A. Bonnell, vice provost for Research, University of Pennsylvania; Alexander N. Cartwright, vice president for Research & Economic Development, University at Buffalo; Robert Clark, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, University of Rochester; Glen A. Laine, vice president for Research, Texas A&M University; Richard McCullough, vice provost for Research, Harvard University; Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for Research & Economic Development, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Gloria S. Waters, vice president and associate provost for Research, Boston University; and Caroline C. Whitacre, vice president for Research, The Ohio State University. The event was moderated by Mike Waring, executive director of Federal Relations at the University of Michigan.