Education

University of Iowa VP job returns to research focus

What the committee is looking for in shifting focus back to original function

Aliasger Salem (Photo by University of Iowa)
Aliasger Salem (Photo by University of Iowa)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is returning its vice president for research position to its roots, shifting the economic development focus the role currently assumes elsewhere in the university.

Before a review of the Office of the Vice President for Research more than a decade ago, the office did not include the economic development function.

Aliasger Salem, co-chairman of the committee to search for the office’s new vice president, told The Gazette in an email that UI officials made the decision to return the role to its research focus following open forums with the campus community following the departure of Dan Reed, who previously held the position, in October 2017.

The search comes amid a string of administrative departures among UI leadership, which have left officials searching for new deans and high-ranking administrators such as the provost.

“This is a time of great challenge and great opportunity,” Salem said. “We’re excited to find the kind of leader who can accelerate impactful, multidisciplinary research at the University of Iowa.”

Q: What benefits should the UI community expect to see under this structure?

A: The new vice president will be able to focus on:

• Facilitating and fostering the excellence in research, scholarship and creative activities.

• Strengthening relationships with the public, private agencies and corporations that provide support for research and scholarly endeavors.

• Enhancing relationships with community partners.

• Assuring the integrity of the research enterprise.

• And overseeing the formulation and implementation of research-specific policies related to regulatory compliance and intellectual property management.

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Q: Where in the university might the economic development leadership role be shifted — and would that come in the form of another vice president or some other position?

A: University leadership is working with campus partners to determine next steps for coordinating economic development units and activities.

Economic development is a natural outgrowth of research but requires different tools and skills.

We need to focus our vice president for research on developing innovative ways to support faculty in their discovery efforts and developing equally robust approaches for fueling innovation. ...

Q: The UI just reported a dip in external funding this past year in a time where the regent universities are increasingly relying on external funding due to state budget cuts. How will the new vice president be expected to work within that higher education landscape and fulfill the UI’s research mission?

A: The University of Iowa had another strong year for projects that will benefit Iowans, the country and world, thanks to an increase in federal funding for research and the number of proposals, grants and contracts awarded in fiscal year 2018.

The National Institutes of Health granted UI medical and (health care) researchers 29 percent — or $40 million — more in FY ’18 than in FY ’17.

In fact, NIH support in FY ’18 was the highest since 2012, when funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — an economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009 — ran out.

Overall, funding for research and other scholarly activities, including grants from federal agencies and contracts for research-related work, including the State Hygienic Lab, declined 2 percent, or $8.6 million, over FY ’17 for a total of $434.5 million.

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Total external funding, which includes the research funding plus UI Foundation (moneys), is down 1 percent, or $3.7 million, for a total of $554 million.

The numbers are pretty remarkable, given all of the challenges and pressures facing researchers and scholars and the UI these past few years.

The new vice president will continue to support the hard work of our faculty and staff, who are continuing to seek answers to the big questions across the disciplines, undaunted by our shifting fortunes and the trend of generational disinvestment in the state.

l Comments: (319) 398-8332; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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