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October 23, 2000

New name, new leader for research office

By Michael Terrazas

It’s only one word, but it signifies a fundamental shift in focus for one of the University’s most important offices. The Office of Research will add the word “Administration” to the end of its name, and new Vice President Frank Stout is determined to live up to that moniker.

“I’m not a scientist—I’m an administrator,” said Stout, who comes to Emory after many years at as vice president for research administration at Tufts University New England Medical Center in Boston. In April 1994, Stout was asked also to serve as “acting” VP for clinical operations in the Tufts health care system; six years—and six medical center presidents—later, the “acting” still remained in Stout’s title, and he left Boston for the South.

“I’m tired of arguing with insurance companies,” Stout said. “My real interest is in research. I’m more concerned with the day-to-day operations of research administration and structures— compliance issues with human subjects, cost accounting, clinical trials, data pools, etc.”

“[Executive Vice President for Health Affairs] Mike Johns and I decided to shape [Stout’s] position into a vice president for research administration after consultation with faculty and deans,” said Provost Rebecca Chopp. “The new position will focus on providing quality services for our faculty so that they may excel in research.”

Stout said his first priority is making the research structure at Emory more “customer-friendly” through goals such as streamlining the grant approval process, reducing the time between a researchers’ first writing a proposal and actually getting the project up and running. The University’s decentralized structure can sometimes be a challenge in communicating research protocols to faculty.

“This institution struggles with communicating,” Stout said. “Management understands and wants to provide faculty with the data to expand their own desires and meet their general needs, and my job is to help build data systems so faculty know what’s going on on campus. Emory faculty are a huge group of extremely bright people—what they need is access to the data.”

One instrument of communication Stout said he will try to use is the existing University Research Committee (URC), which hands out approximately $1 million in grants each year. URC Chair Josiah Wilcox said he sees the committee’s role changing as well.

“As it stands now, the URC is a body that gives out grants, and I’ve been expanding that over the past year to be an advocate for research on campus as well,” Wilcox said. “I see us representing researchers from all portions of campus.”

Indeed, Stout would like to see all schools appoint a research ombudsman, of sorts, to act as point person on research issues related to that particular field. Emory College, with a range of research needs from the pure sciences to the humanities, recently named chemistry chair Lanny Liebeskind as its first senior associate dean of science and sponsored research.

“The sciences have grown dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years,” Liebeskind said. “The issues surrounding science development and research support sort of overwhelmed the college office, [and] they needed somebody to focus just on these issues. So that’s my big mission.”

Other schools such as the School of Medicine have their own point people for research, and Stout’s job is to provide and improve the overarching infrastructure that supports the University as a whole. At an institution that draws in as many research dollars at Emory, that job is challenging now, and it’s only going to get more so as facilities like the Whitehead Memorial Research Building, Science 2000 and the soon-to-break-ground Winship Cancer Institute come online.

“When those places open, this University is going to take off again,” Stout said, referring to sponsored research totals that have leveled off somewhat in the past few years. “You can only put so many projects in one lab. One of the reasons I came here was Emory’s ability and need to grow research programs.

“This institution has a vision, and this institution is moving on that vision,” Stout said. “A lot of institutions say that—the difference is this institution is actually doing it and doing it now.”


Back to Emory Report Oct. 23, 2000