KU outlines four areas of research
Points of investment laid out under each category
By Kevin Boatright
Research at KU has grown considerably over the past decade. For that trend to continue, KU must focus on a few niche areas of excellence and pursue them aggressively, said Jim Roberts, vice provost for Research.
All faculty research at KU has value and importance, Roberts said while speaking before a faculty gathering last week at the Kansas Union.
But only a handful of universities can do everything well. The rest, including KU, will thrive only by making choices and focusing on areas of proven research strength.
Roberts reported on a yearlong strategic planning process for research, "one that involved a great many individuals and which, I believe, gives us a useful guide for priority setting and future investment." As part of this process, a subcommittee chaired by Kim Wilcox, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, identified four main directions for KU research, directions that may serve as a roadmap for the next 10 to 20 years.
"The directions are tied closely to KU's mission," said Roberts, "and build on existing strengths. The intent is not merely to describe KU's future but to help shape it."
KU has experience setting goals and sticking to them, said Roberts. He described a 1998 effort – dubbed "Megathemes" – that steered KU research toward an emphasis on biomedicine and information sciences.
"Megathemes was a precedent for what we're doing now," said Roberts. "Looking back, it's clear that much of KU's research success and investment during the past decade reflected and built on those priorities."
The four research directions announced last week, and specific areas of investment identified under each category, are: Environment – global ecology; biodiversity.
Human Cultures and Institutions – area studies; international and global processes; design, implementation and impact of public policy; social dimensions of science, technology and engineering
Human Health and Development – life span studies; drug discovery and delivery; genetics of organismal development; neuroscience; bioengineering
Information and Technologies – energy; information, technology and social change; new communications media; bioinformatics; remote sensing and imaging
There will be further discussion about the directions throughout the year. "I introduce them now as a way of encouraging you to see how your own research might link with this approach," Roberts said.
Roberts was joined in his remarks by Mary Lee Hummert and George Wilson, associate vice provosts for research. They reported on investments being made by the KU Center for Research (KUCR) in people, programs and facilities on the Lawrence campus. Wilson provided an update on the Multidisciplinary Research Building (MRB), which will be completed on West Campus next month. He noted that KUCR is paying the cost of the $40 million MRB – a facility that will support research.
More information about Roberts' presentation and the strategic plan for research at KU.
Members of the Scholarship and Research Subcommittee that identified the four research directions were: Kim Wilcox, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (chair); Jane Aldrich, medicinal chemistry; Nancy Baym, communication studies; Stella Bentley, dean of libraries; Diana Carlin, Graduate school; Chuck Epp, public administration; Steve Hedden, School of Fine Arts; Bill Tsutsui, history; Chriss Walther-Thomas, special education; and Joy Ward, biological sciences.