THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

OFFICE OF VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH

2006 REVIEW

 

I.  INTRODUCTION

 

The University of Iowa Operations manual requires periodic reviews of administrative and academic units.  In response to this requirement, President David Skorton appointed a committee to review the Office of the Vice President for Research.  The committee was formed and met with President Skorton in March 2005.  President Skorton emphasized that the review should be conducted only of the Office of the Vice President for Research and not the Vice President herself (Vice President Meredith Hay joined the University on June 1, 2005).

The committee members include:  Richard E. Kerber (Internal Medicine), Chair; Lori Bassler (Internal Medicine), Jackie Bickenbach (Anatomy and Cell Biology), Kathryn Brown (Pharmacology), Steve Collins (Electrical Computer Engineering), Anuja Dokras-Jagasia (Obstetrics-Gynecology), Michael Flatte (Physics and Astronomy), Hazel Kerr (Chemistry), Christine Pawley (Library and Informational Sciences), Mark Peterson (History), David Soll (Biological Sciences), Sarah Vigmostad (Biomedical Engineering), and Michelle Wichman (Biostatistics).

Members of the committee interviewed a total of 53 individuals.  Interviewees included members of the University of Iowa Central Administration, Deans of various colleges, faculty, including the Faculty Senate immediate Past President and other Past Presidents, Staff Council’s Past Presidents, center directors, and faculty and staff reporting specifically to the Vice President for Research office.  Several of these individuals were not physically available to meet the committee members and, therefore, those interviews were conducted by telephone.  The interviews were conducted during the summer and fall of 2005.  Appendix I lists the individuals and their titles that the committee interviewed.

A set of standard questions to be used by the various committee members in their interviews was developed.  The questions were as follows:  1) What is the nature of your interaction with the Office of the Vice President for Research?  2)  What is the major strength of the OVPR?  3)  What is the major weakness of the OVPR?  4)  What changes should be made in the OVPR?  5) Should the office be restructured to reduce the number of administrators and/or units reporting directly to the OVPR?  If so, how?  6)  Should some of the office’s “allied units” be moved to other administrative units within the University?  If so, which ones and where should they go?  7)  How should the OVPR do more to encourage entrepreneurship?  8)  How should the OVPR help increase funding opportunities for investigators?  9)  How should the office increase service to the faculty? 

These questions were developed to address concerns which had already been noted in the self-study.  Not every question was asked at each interview, nor were the interviews restricted to these questions.

In addition to these interviews, the committee received important assistance from Dr. Theodore J. Cicero, Vice Chancellor of Research at Washington University in St. Louis, who served as an external reviewer.  Dr. Cicero met with members of the Central Administration, selected deans and directors of University facilities and the committee members.  Dr. Cicero spent two days in Iowa City in order to conduct these interviews and was provided with numerous documents concerning the Office of the Vice President for Research, including the 2004 Self-Study.  The committee and Dr. Cicero agreed that his role was not to conduct an independent review, but, instead to assist the committee in this review by providing the viewpoint of a Vice President for Research at a prestigious Midwestern university.  Dr. Cicero’s written report to the committee is provided in Appendix II.

The committee also reviewed the thorough and informative self-study that was prepared by the staff of the Office of the Vice President for Research as called for in the University Operations Manual.  That self-study was completed in 2004.  A portion of the self-study consisted of comments solicited from the broader University community by E-mailing a Web-based survey to approximately 900 faculty and research-based or administrative staff in the spring of 2004.  That survey received 450 responses (50% return rate).  Since at the time our committee began its work this survey was only one year old, we decided to rely on the comments gained in the survey rather than repeating it, given the relatively short period of time that had elapsed since the survey had been completed.  This decision was agreed to by Dr. Richard LeBlond, the Faculty Senate President.

 

II.  OVPRMISSION, ORGANIZATION AND RESPONSIBILITIES

The mission of the Office of the Vice President for Research is to provide academic and administrative leadership to the conduct of research, scholarship and creative activity at The University of Iowa by fostering, supporting and inspiring such activity, by overseeing its ethical and regulatory compliance, and by ensuring its dissemination and application in the public and private sectors (2004 Self Study). 

The Office of the Vice President for Research consists of the Vice President and 14 individuals who report directly to the Vice President, either as Associate Vice Presidents or as directors of various centers, divisions, and foundations.  A number of allied units also report to the Vice President for Research.  An organization chart of the Vice President for Research as of April 2006 is provided in Appendix III.  Three units have recently been removed from the jurisdiction of the Vice President for Research and transferred to the Office of the Provost:  the University of Iowa Press, the International Writing Program, and Women in Science and Engineering.  Two units were subsequently added to the allied units:  Old Capitol Museum and the Museum of Natural History.

The main function of the office of the Office of the Vice President for Research is to oversee the University’s research activities and to provide support services and infrastructure for those activities.  These activities are extensive.  For example, the OVPR oversaw the distribution and use of $359.6 million in 2004-2005 ($249.7 million Federal, $109.9 million non-federal).

The 2004 Self-Study identified six areas of OVPR function: a) grant and contract administration, b) development, c) research policy development and oversight, d) regulatory compliance, e) technology transfer and economic development, f) infrastructure and other support.  As further discussed in the 2004 Self-Study each of those areas perform various activities: 

a)  Grant and Contract Administration: the Division of Sponsored Programs and the Clinical Trials Office provide assistance to UI members who are seeking external financial support for various aspects of research (basic and applied, clinical trials, training and service activities).  

b) Development:  Development activities are aimed at initiation or growth of scholarly, creative and research programs.  Notable in this category is the Arts and Humanities Initiative, established as a separate budget line in 1988, providing seed money for a wide range of competitively assessed faculty-initiated projects.  Although this initiative no longer has a budget line of its own, it has been funded at an average level of approximately $313,000.  Its seed money has contributed importantly to scholarly, research and creative accomplishments in the liberal arts.  Development also involves the exploration of ideas with external funding agencies.  The Division of Sponsored Programs and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies play active roles in such activities.

cResearch Policy Development and Oversight involves three separate but related areas: governmental and sponsor policies, UI policies and oversight/enforcement.  Governmental and sponsor policies result in legislation, regulation and other activities which have a major impact on the conduct of university based research.  UI policies include intellectual property policies, policies on conflict of interest, authorship issues and databases.

d)  Regulatory Compliance includes regulatory and technical support for UI research and scholarship which ensure that research activities are conducted in accordance with federal and University policies and procedures.  The Senior Associate Counsel in the OVPR is the University’s integrity officer.  The Health Protection Office provides technical and logistical support for safety procedures.  The Human Subjects Office has a centralized review program within the OVPR for review of research protocols involving the use of humans in research.  The University’s two Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are a component within the Human Research Protection Program/Human Subjects Office.  The Human Subjects Office has also taken on the role of addressing health information portability and accountability (HIPAA) compliance.  The Office of Animal Resources reviews research and teaching protocols using live vertebrate animals; the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee receives staff support from the Office of Animal Resources.

e)  Technology Transfer and Development attempts proactively to make technology available for commercialization and deals with activities related to work force community and business support.  OVPR units are heavily involved in this area.  The Oakdale Research Park fosters private sector relationships with the UI and attracts businesses which are linked to the University of Iowa.  The Technology Innovation Center is a business incubator providing space and services to new commercial enterprises using advanced technology, typically start-up companies spun off from UI research activities.  The Office of Corporate Partnership works within and outside of the University of Iowa to enhance the University’s participation as a partner in the economic community and social development, fostering alliances among industrial, state, educational and community partners.  The UI Research Foundation in 2004 received 86 new invention disclosures from faculty and staff, filed 118 US patent applications, received 46 issued patents and executed 47 license and option agreements.  These activities resulted in approximately  $10.7 million in royalty revenue and licensure earnings in FY 2004.  These revenues increased further to $19.1 million in FY 2005.

f)  Infrastructure and Other Support includes physical research space, data management and electronic systems. Research Information Systems develops and maintains electronic grant management systems.   Core Research Facilities include the Central Microscopy Research Facility, High Resolution Mass Spectroscopy, High Field Nuclear Resonance, Academic Technology – Research Services, and Large Scale Fermentation Facility.  

For a more detailed discussion of each of these OVPR activities, the reader is referred to the 2004 Self-Study.

The next two sections of this report are derived from the numerous interviews the committee undertook with various members of the administration, deans and faculty, from our review of the self-study and the comments from the University community which were gathered in 2004.  Since the committee felt that the review should concentrate on areas of weakness, concern and need for change, the first of these two sections, “Positive Aspects of the OVPR”, is by design brief.

 

III.  POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE OVPR

            The OVPR was considered to be efficient, especially at matters involving compliance and regulatory issues.  The Department of Sponsored Programs was commended for reasonably rapid processing of grant applications.  The personnel of the office were considered to be hard working and generally efficient and knowledgeable.  The open door policy pursued by the administrative officers and staff was widely acknowledged and appreciated by our interviewees.  The new Vice President for Research, Dr. Meredith Hay, specifically stated that the major strength of the office was the quality and performance of the staff.

            Numerous interviewees attributed the deficiencies and problems of the OVPR (see next section) to budget cuts and reversions to which the University has been subjected in the last several years, a situation which is largely beyond the University’s control.

 

IV.  CRITICISMS AND WEAKNESSES OF THE OVPR           

This section will list criticisms and areas of weakness that numerous interviewers identified.  Where appropriate, specific suggestions for improvement are included. 

  • General Weaknesses

     The OVPR was widely considered to be not proactive but mostly reactive in encouraging research.  Numerous suggestions were offered to improve this situation.  The OVPR could bring together clusters of investigators who might not be aware of each other’s common interest in order to collaborate on large projects.  The OVPR could identify projects which would be of interest to funding agencies and for which there are particularly appropriate groups of investigators at the University of Iowa.  A specific subgroup within the OVPR could be created for this purpose, or this role might be assigned to the UI Research Council (see later in report).    

The organizational structure of the OVPR is diffuse, with too many centers and offices reporting directly to the OVPR, sometimes only for historical reasons.  Our external reviewer, Dr. Cicero, suggested that a number of units presently reporting to the OVPR could be moved to other offices, specifically citing the Hygienic Laboratory (see his report) and, in our interview with him, the National Advanced Driving Simulator and the Museums.

The boundaries between the working responsibilities of the Provost, the Vice President for Research and the Senior Vice President and Treasurer should be clarified and formalized.   

Interviewees encouraged the OVPR to provide more help with bridging funds and seed grants for new projects.  Of note is that four internally funded programs targeted at the biological sciences, mathematics and physical sciences, social sciences and undergraduates have recently been established.  The OVPR should establish and publicize hard funding goals for the next several years.  Appropriate metrics for such goals might include new dollars raised and/or the percent of the faculty receiving support for research.

Visibility of the OVPR was a theme.  Many faculty members felt that there was a general lack of knowledge and understanding of what the functions of the OVPR were.  Vice President Hay has stated that a priority of hers is to increase visibility of the office, both on and outside the campus.  We see here an opportunity also to increase public understanding of the substantive research and scholarship performed on this campus.  One way to accomplish this might be to identify faculty members with successful educational and/or research programs, who would be willing to make presentations on their work to legislators, community groups, high schools, etc.      

The University of Iowa Research Council needs to be strengthened.    Its role and functions are at present primarily advisory in the formulation of research policies and guidelines.  It provides a “forum” for faculty and student questions about research policies and procedures.  It has dealt with various matters concerning research in useful but ad hoc fashion.  It does not appear to have any regularly assigned recurring function.  It has no budget.

  • Arts and Humanities

       The OVPR has long played a leadership role among the UI’s peer institutions regarding the sustaining and promoting of scholarly and creative work in the arts and humanities.  The fear was forcefully articulated to us that with the loss of dedicated funding, this role is eroding.  The Office of Sponsored Programs was seen to put insufficient energy in assisting faculty in securing funding for projects in the arts and humanities. Several observers urged that the OVPR should act as an advocate for small units (e.g., the Center for the Book, UI museums).

  • Entrepreneurship/Economic Development

     The recent demands for focusing research on economic development and entrepreneurship were a major concern of many interviewees.  Although all acknowledged the need for money to support the activities of the OVPR that need expansion, and recognized the importance of entrepreneurship and economic development, many expressed considerable fear that we are moving toward focus on service activities designed to support the economic goals of the state, but which do not advance the scholarly mission of the university.    The expansion of knowledge should be our goal.  Faculty appointments and promotion/tenure decisions should be based on scholarship and teaching, not entrepreneurship. 

Intellectual property was a common focus of discussion; a number of interviewees felt that there should be more efforts by the OVPR to develop technology transfer and to commercialize University findings. Connections between the Vice President for Research office and the University of Iowa Research Foundation were considered suboptimal.  Interviewees suggested that there should be a specific staff member in the OVPR in charge of technology transfer and/or in charge of recruiting faculty who might have a particular interest in or plans for establishing businesses.

Despite a substantial increase in revenue in 2005, the Research Foundation was the target of many complaints.  The Research Foundation was considered to be “woefully understaffed” especially compared to Iowa State University.  The Research Foundation was considered not proactive and not making sufficient efforts to find partners or to market intellectual property.  A morale problem was identified by several interviewees.  It was felt that the Research Foundation needed to prioritize its goals and to better define its mission.

Some interviewees complained that unwarranted distinctions were made among research ideas based on the sponsorship of the ideas, i.e., that industry-supported research was undervalued compared to NIH, NSF, NEA, NEH sponsorship – even if the industry-sponsored research was investigator-initiated.  It was stated that Iowa State University publicly identifies Iowa companies which sponsor research for public relations purposes, and that we might consider a similar program.

  • Funding incentives reflecting levels of indirect costs as a research incentive.

       Many of those interviewed were deeply concerned about the distribution and use of funding incentives which reflected levels of indirect costs.  This was one of the most intensely discussed issues; people had strong opinions.  Iowa returns 3.8% of such costs to the deans of the various colleges.  The rest goes to the University budget.  Dr. Cicero, our external reviewer, indicated that at Washington University all such costs go to the Deans of the various schools and none go directly to the departments or individual investigators. Some faculty here expressed agreement with Iowa’s current practice because it sustains the full intellectual agenda of the entire university, permitting flexibility in the distribution of these funds.  Dr. Cicero felt there was a great need to provide incentives for research which would reflect indirect costs.

·                    Other Concerns

        Interviewees called upon the OVPR to show sensitivity to the needs of professional, scientific and merit staff by establishing more training and retraining programs, especially to fill the needs of new or open positions.  Several interviewees suggested that ongoing programs to keep skill and knowledge up to date should also be provided.  They expressed the wish that UI grants, now available to support staff when taking courses, be expanded and specifically directed to encourage research and scholarship.

            A number of comments were directed at the Institutional Review Boards and particularly delays in processing and approving projects.  It was noted that this situation has been alleviated somewhat in recent years. Time off or financial salary incentives were suggested as ways of encouraging additional faculty members to serve on the IRB and therefore speed processing grants.  One dean suggested that multiple IRBs, specialized according to areas of research, should be created.

            A related concern was the Animal Care and Use Committee.  Concerns were expressed about inadequate faculty input into the policy and procedures of this Committee.

V.  RECOMMENDATIONS

      These recommendations are informed by the comments of the interviewees and of the external reviewer Dr. Theodore Cicero, with which we strongly agree.  Dr. Cicero’s separate written report is provided in Appendix II.

·        The OVPR should be an advocate for support from the state legislature for the University’s general fund, which supports research and scholarship across all disciplines. 

·        Understanding that the mission of the University is teaching, research and the advancement of scholarly and creative endeavor, be cautious about prioritizing the role of economic development and entrepreneurship; seek unrestricted funding from the state.  Make it clear to the Governor and legislature that the University’s capacity to be an economic engine is not unlimited and in some cases is not consonant with the role and mechanisms of scholarship.

·        The OVPR should be more proactive in encouraging research and scholarship, and specifically should try to identify “hot” areas and seek to bring together appropriate investigators to pursue these areas.  Support for preliminary efforts could be provided with limited funds.  Consider establishing a group which biannually would specifically meet for the purpose of identifying such areas.  This might be a regular assigned function of the University Research Council. 

·        Make the University community more aware of what the OVPR does and how it can assist individual investigators, especially new ones, throughout the University.

·        Begin an open dialogue with the University of Iowa community concerning the distribution and use of funding reflecting levels of indirect costs, with an emphasis on the use of such funds to incentivize research and scholarship and to seek equilibrium against imbalances in funding opportunities for different fields of research and scholarship.

·        Sustain the Arts and Humanities Initiative, giving it a very high priority.  Considering the limited funding available to the humanities (as compared with the sciences and medicine), an increase in the modest dollars already committed for this purpose is crucial for the ability of Arts and Humanities faculty to compete for sponsored funds.  The University needs to be better situated to compete for major grants from private as well as public sources of support in the Arts and Humanities.

·        We commend the recent restructuring of the OVPR to appoint an Associate Vice President for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and an Associate Vice President for the Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences, who will act as strategic advisors to the OVPR.  We urge that these advisors respond to the specific concerns articulated to us, identify and address imbalances between the potential funding sources for various disciplines, and position the University better to engage federal and private sources of support.

·        Establish more infrastructure support for research grant submissions; establish a core office specifically to advise and assist with the mechanics of research grant development.  This was a major recommendation of our external reviewer Dr. Cicero, and we strongly agree.

·        Formalize the relationships between the Provost, the Vice President for Research and the Senior Vice President and Treasurer. 

·        Revitalize the University of Iowa Research Foundation.

·        Assign the Research Council specific tasks so it does not only function as an ad hoc advisory body.  It could act as a peer review body for the Provost’s Faculty Scholar Awards.  As noted earlier, it could be asked to regularly identify areas of research particularly likely to be fundable, and to bring together UI investigators interested in such research.

 

 


Appendix I

INTERVIEWEES OF THE COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH

 

UI CENTRAL OFFICERS/DEANS

Michael Hogan                         Executive Vice President and Provost

Douglas True                            Senior Vice President and Treasurer

Nancy Baker                            University Librarian

 

P. Barry Butler                         Dean, College of Engineering

David Johnsen                          Dean, College of Dentistry

  & Chris Squier                       Associate Dean, Research

John Keller                               Dean, Graduate College

Linda Maxson                          Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Jean Robillard                           Dean, Carver College of Medicine

 

UI FACULTY

Michael Apicella                       Microbiology Professor

Debashish Bhattacharya            Biology Professor

Tom Boggess                           Physics & Astronomy Professor

Leon Burmeister                       Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs, College of Public Health

Kevin Campbell                        Physiology & Biophysics Professor

Sonya Franklin                         Chemistry Professor

Johna Leddy                             Chemistry Professor

Geoffrey McLennan                  Internal Medicine Professor

Jeff Murray                               Pediatrics Professor

George Neumann                     Economics Professor, Chair of 1994 OVPR Review Committee

Mark Sidel                               College of Law Professor

Jack Stapleton                          Internal Medicine Professor

 

UI STAFF

Audra Haddy                           Staff, Grant Accounting

Randy Jordison                         Staff, Internal Medicine

Jeanne McCabe                       Staff, Carver College of Medicine

 

FACULTY SENATE

Michael Cohen                         Faculty Senate Secretary  

Steve McGuire                         Faculty Senate

Katherine Tachau                     Faculty Senate Past President  

 

STAFF COUNCIL

Cheryl Reardon                        Staff Council

Charles Eastham                       Staff Council

 


CENTER DIRECTORS

Mark Arnold                            Director, Optical Science and Engineering

Beverly Davidson                     Director, Gene Therapy Vector Core

John Nelson                             Past Director, Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry

Lauren Rabinovitz                     Director, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs

Stephen Vlastos                        Past Director, Center for Asian and Pacific Studies

 

 

FACULTY/STAFF OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH

 

Meredith Hay                           Vice President for Research

William Decker                         Senior Associate Vice President

Derek Willard                           Associate Vice President for Research and Special Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations

David Wynes                            Associate Vice President

Francois Abboud                      Associate Vice President

Christine Brus                           Director, Women in Science and Engineering

Greg Carmichael                       Co-Director Center for Global, Regional, and Environmental Research

Holly Carver                             Director, UI Press

L. D. Chen                               Director, National Advanced Driving Simulator

David Forkenbrock                  Director, Public Policy Center

Mary Gilchrist                           Director, University Hygienic Lab

Christopher Merrill                   Director, International Writing Program

Kenneth Moore                        Director, Central Microscopy

Elizabeth Pauls                          Director, Office of the State Archaeologist

Twila Reighley                          Assistant Vice President – Division of Sponsored Programs

Jack Rosazza                            Past Director, Center for Biocatalysis & Bioprocessing

Jay Semel                                 Director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies

Tom Bauer                               Interim Director Technology Innovation Center, Oakdale Research Park, and Oakdale Campus

Brenda Akins                           Associate Director, University of Iowa Research Foundation

 

 

 

 


Appendix II

 

Site Visit Report

Review of the Research Administration Structure

of the University of Iowa

by

Theodore J. Cicero, Ph.D.

Vice Chancellor for Research,

Washington University

St. Louis, Missouri

 

Introduction

 

In the fall of 2005, the University of Iowa carried out an internal self-assessment of its Research Administration Office through the aegis of a twelve-member committee of faculty, staff and students chaired by Dr. Richard Kerber.  The committee’s activities included a survey, summarization of the organizational structures and a number of interviews with representative faculty and administrative staff.  After having read their November 2005 report, I was asked to come to the University and conduct a broad series of interviews as per the attached schedule.  My evaluation is based upon both reading the internal report and, most importantly, interviewing a large number of people at both the individual schools in the University and within the central administrative staff. 

 

Evaluation

 

I. Current Vice President for Research

 

Meredith Hay is the new Vice President for Research, having come from the University of Missouri, Columbia.  I knew Meredith at the University of Missouri and believe her to be a competent individual.  Thus far, she seems to have taken over the reins of the office in a very effective manner, although there seems to be some feeling that she’s acting too quickly, perhaps without all the necessary input. 

 

II. Detailed Comments and Recommendations

 

I believe, overall, the office functions well and the job seems to get done.  There is, however, a great deal of concern that has been expressed that falls into the following general categories:

 

(A) Organizational Structure of the Research Office

 

There seem to be an awful lot of direct reports to the Vice President for Research (VPR), and this will undoubtedly, in my estimation, lead to a diffusion of effort.  Indeed, there are many centers and other laboratories, such as the University Hygienic Laboratory, which report to the Vice President for Research for reasons that are unknown.  It is probably unfair to the center’s long-term interests to be so far down the “food chain” and not have unfettered access to the VPR.  In this connection, it is not reasonable to expect the VPR to have sufficient time and energy to provide oversight and mentorship to so many reports.  Although I believe there are too many direct reports, I believe paradoxically it would be important to add a direct report to Dr. Hay who would then have these offices report to them (if reporting to the Research Office was still viewed to be important). 

 

(B) Budget and Changing Climate

 

There is a strongly held view that the recent state budget, which emphasizes commercialization of research as a budget line of $4,000,000[*], will affect the campus research community in an entirely negative way.  Specifically, there are very serious and surprisingly widespread concerns in the following areas:

 

            (1) That the efforts of a research office that already appears to have limited resources, and does not always necessarily meet the needs of the faculty, will be diluted by efforts to commercialize research and technology transfer.  I share this view, and there needs to be a concerted effort to manage expectations of the state legislature (see below) and to make sure the Research Office concentrates on its main mission.

 

            (2) There is a concern that the entire atmosphere, both collegial and academic, will suffer as a result of this emphasis on commercialization as opposed to the fundamental precepts of universities, which is to conduct and carry out objective basic research without any concern about its implications for commercial outlets. 

 

         (3) There were fears expressed that the tenure process might also be influenced by the emphasis on commercialization; that is, the traditional benchmarks for promotion and tenure will be expanded to include, or replaced by, success at technology transfer.  On the other hand, there seemed to be a general view that commercialization, for those faculty members who are interested in it, does need to be beefed up, but this should not be over-emphasized. 

 

In this connection, there is a view that the University did not properly sell its mission to the State (“sold-out”), and rather accepted the $4,000,000* for commercialization based on just the dollars alone without considering its implications and standing fast for unrestricted funding.  Whether or not this view is correct, it appears to me that the Vice President for Research and the University need to manage expectations of both the faculty and state legislature.  By this I mean, most universities across the country are being looked upon by their state legislatures to be the source of ideas and knowledge that will form the basis of companies and therefore rescue the state’s economy, driving it in the direction of an information-based technology.  This is simply not feasible and it needs to be emphasized to the legislature what, indeed, technology transfer in a university can do or should not do.  My concern and worry, of course, is that the University will not deliver in a timely fashion on upgrading the economy as was suggested, and this will, in the long run, hurt the University’s funding by the legislature.  The faculty’s concerns raised above have been very inadequately addressed and this is, or should be, a major and immediate concern of the VPR’s office.


(C) Discretionary Funds

 

Another major concern is that the limited discretionary funds within the research office are, in fact, mishandled and there may be some bias in the system which favors one department or school over others in the institution.  Clearly, what needs to occur here is that the review process for these applications be changed in such a way that the process is viewed as fairer and less political.  This comment came mainly from non-Medical School faculty, but occurred at other levels who felt that they were treated less well because of the “800 pound gorilla” in the School of Medicine.  Steps should be taken to correct that perception.

 

(D) Research Council

 

Somewhat related to the above, there is a Research Council which reports directly to the Vice President for Research, but no one seems to be exactly clear on the nature of its overall functions.  It is also striking that, as one looks at the membership of the Research Council, there is only a single voting member from the School of Medicine.  This seems to be hardly representative of the research portfolio at the University of Iowa, and there needs to be better representation of all the research-intensive schools for the Council to have any credibility.  One other interpretation of this is that the School of Medicine and others really don’t care about representation on a committee that has no clear functional importance.  Moreover, there needs to be a charge to this Committee that is more clearly defined and indicates what its general function is and what it isn’t.  Perhaps a subset of this committee could be used to help review the discretionary funding issues that were raised above.

 

(E) Bridge, Gap Funding and Special Projects

 

There were a number of concerns raised about bridge or GAP funding.  Many departments believe that they get very little help from the Research Office or their schools.  Moreover, there is a view that Dr. Hay’s recent decision to meet their financial needs by expecting a third from the department, a third from the school and a third from the office of the Vice President for Research represents a huge financial burden for many schools and departments, one that they have no ability to meet.  They believe this new policy effectively means that they get very little real help from the Vice President for Research’s office and that this decision was made too hastily with no input from the stake-holders.

 

(F) Grants Administration

 

A number of the departments indicated that they had no expertise at all with grants administration and grants processing.  Specifically, very few of the non-medical schools and their departments seemed to have any mechanism available to help faculty in the preparation of applications, preparing their budgets, or insuring compliance with various federal statutes.  They believe that the central unit is not very helpful in setting up the grant and that going to them for help and assistance was always viewed with disdain by the central unit, because it too felt it was understaffed.  Clearly there needs to be a mechanism developed by which departments can avail themselves of some grant’s administrators who can help them prepare grants.  It is, I think, a terrible waste of time and effort for faculty members to have to do the science as well as handle all the administrative aspects of their grants. 

 

My suggestion would be, as we have done at Washington University, to establish Grant Administration Officers that might serve six or eight departments.  These grant management specialists should be located within the central unit to assure consistency with existing University policies, but should be assigned to provide these necessary services to faculty in their departments.  Again, my concern is that the faculty is spending a great deal of time on issues for which they have no particular training and their time should not be used for that purpose.  I also worry about compliance issues and errors in grant submissions since it appears that this process is so diffusely organized.

 

Finally, I believe it is important that the administration better involve the faculty in decision making and listening to their concerns.  I heard a number of concerns raised at the various interviews where the faculty basically felt as if they were disenfranchised about the developments within the University, such as the emphasis on commercialization, bridge funding and things of this sort.  Furthermore, they feel there are no mechanisms in place for them to express their viewpoints, and there was a very clear view that the administration was insensitive to their needs.  Clearly, this needs to be corrected.

 

III. Conclusions

 

Despite the somewhat negative tone of the preceding analysis, which is inherent in this type of review, there are significant strengths at the University of Iowa, not the least of which is the very talented faculty and very dedicated administrative staff that I saw throughout the visit.  The University has a large number of very gifted individuals in administrative positions in need of some new directions to be better viewed as a resource to the faculty.  The ingredients are there, but there clearly needs to be a refocusing of efforts to service functions.  My comments are simply made to better enhance the function of the Vice President for Research office.

 


Appendix III

VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONAL CHART

 



[*] Clarification by The University of Iowa:  The University of Iowa received $1,925,000  Grow Iowa Values Fund (GIVF) new funds.  The funds need to be matched dollar for dollar by University funds; the total is $3,850,000 including the match component.