March 2, 1998
Volume 50, No. 23
Faculty town hall focuses on current and future research
As much as the University has focused on improving teaching recently, if attendance at the Feb. 19 town hall is any indication-organizers had to lug out dozens of extra chairs for the 200-plus people in attendance-Emory's faculty is still very much interested in research.
Everyone packed into Cox Ballroom to hear President Bill Chace, Interim Provost Rebecca Chopp and Vice President for Research Dennis Liotta speak and answer questions regarding the current state of and future plans for research on campus. After introductory comments from Chace and Chopp, Liotta gave a presentation detailing research funding and outlining the University's goals for research in the coming years.
Citing a "phenomenal" increase in the University Research Committee budget for fiscal year 1998, in which URC funds jumped to more than $800,000, Liotta said Emory will be able to fund a significantly larger number of projects than in previous years.
Liotta also outlined the University's general educational and budget (see above story). Of the myriad sources of funding, he emphasized Emory's relationship with the corporate sector and increasing the extramural support base as two areas in which the University has the capability to affect signficant revenue increases.
Chace added that the Board of Trustees recently allocated $144 million in matching funds over the next four years from Emory's endowment to finance construction projects. Once these new facilities are completed, he said, they will enable the University to better attract both research dollars and scholars.
In terms of research funding, the vast majority of Emory's income is through federal grants, 90 percent of which come from the National Institutes of Health. Liotta said federal monies to NIH are projected to grow by 33 percent after inflation in the next five years, and the National Science Foundation is expected receive an increase in excess of 10 percent. Despite these increases, the University "has to diversity our funding portfolio in case federal government funding trends change," he said.
One way, Liotta suggested, is to form partnerships with the private sector and capitalize on intellectual property created by University researchers. Currently Emory generates between $2 million and $5 million annually through technology transfer projects, and Liotta thinks this could "grow into a real revenue stream," as he expects the number of patents Emory secures to increase significantly in the future. "This will enable us to form partnerships with people who may not otherwise have any connection to Emory," Liotta said. "We'll be, in effect, growing new donors to the University."
Liotta also listed several initiatives his office is helping coordinate, including a proposed biotechnology incubator in cooperation with Georgia Tech, an electronic scholarly interest directory, an electronic routing and approval system, and new ways to recognize outstanding research. In the future, he said he would like to see more interdisciplinary research, improved internal funding mechanisms and more undergraduate involvement in research.
This last point was echoed by graduate school Dean Don Stein, who said involving undergraduates in research and scholarship would also be an effective teaching tool. "I can't think of any better way to demonstrate that seamless relationship between teaching and research," Stein said.
Chace agreed. "When we do research, we follow the imperative of what we call 'truth'-we look for what's out there," he said. "When we teach, we take that truth and display it, arrange it, color it, to make the world better through the people we have the most influence on-our students."