Task force pushes broad research environment

BY SAM LANE | FEBRUARY 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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A UI task force on Monday noted eight areas of research focus it said should act as a guide when contemplating funding in the future.

The 50-page report from the UI Task Force on Research and Creative Excellence is in response to Provost Wallace Loh’s initial charge to extend the university’s strong tradition.

Since then, the task force has worked to find ways to improve the university’s interdisciplinary research. Members of the task force said they wanted to make sure the UI — recognized as a major research university — maintains and eventually enhances, its “overall research environment.”

“We got a lot of input from people across campus in areas where we could potentially build,” said Vicki Grassian, a UI chemistry professor. “Now we have opportunities to enhance these areas.”

The following were some of key recommendations outlined in the task force’s report:

• Provide an adequate information-technology support staff and necessary facilities.

• Build or purchase any necessary infrastructure or equipment to create a proper universitywide research environment and increase administrative support.

• Establish a facility on the East Campus that would facilitate inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary research.

• Develop a university-level policy by July 1 that specifies faculty research incentive plans for each UI college. In addition, create faculty incentive plans to address research differences across departments.

• Produce and maintain a website, which lists all UI outreach activities, and include UI researchers and scholars on outreach committees. Consider outreach and civic engagement in new faculty hires.

• Form eight areas of research focus: biomedical diversity, communication sciences, developmental and aging studies, the expressive arts, global health, sustainability, transformative and translational technologies, and writing and scholarly engagement.

Shifting focus to those areas would include implementing the suggested changes in those fields.
Grassain said these eight areas are key to the UI’s international distinction.

“If we think about problems that are facing mankind right now, they’re complex and require many disciplines to help solve,” she said.

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