ORU Directors Discuss Research Directions in Strategic Planning Group Session

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Faculty leaders who direct campus Organized Research Units (ORUs) met Jan. 14 to discuss how UC San Diego could forge new pathways to scholarly achievement by restructuring administrative systems and reinvigorating a climate of intellectual audacity.  They emphasized the need for greater budget transparency, and they suggested ways to bolster grant revenues by offering more substantial incentives for successful proposals.

The strategic planning session was led by Sandra Brown, Vice Chancellor for Research, who began the discussion by telling her colleagues, “This is really an opportunity to re-create ourselves based on the strengths that we have here at UC San Diego and the vision that you are helping to formulate about where we would like to go.”

As with previous strategic planning groups, the ORU gathering was asked to identify campus assets that helped recruit and retain them.  But the bulk of the exchange addressed one salient question:  How can UC San Diego improve the research experience?

Feedback on campus strengths cited such signature traditions as ease of collaboration across units and with neighboring institutes, interdisciplinary vigor, and an entrepreneurial culture.  However, several research directors who have been at UC San Diego two decades or longer shared concern that growth in size and bureaucracy coupled with shrinking financial resources may have sapped the vitality of the maturing campus.

Ideas to improve the research experience included:

  • Eliminate the administrative hurdles to large grant applications that have driven some faculty to apply for grants through other institutions or to give up grant-seeking altogether.
  • Provide researchers the support they need to excel in their grant projects, in part by siphoning off less “indirect cost” money from grant awards.
  • Nurture productive relationships between researchers and support staff, particularly in grant application and administration systems.
  • Realign incentives and rewards for a better match with the activities they encourage, including publications, administrative responsibilities, and high-impact research that does not generate traditional academic papers.
  • Respect the autonomy of research faculty in pursuing their own avenues of scholarly inquiry.

Future stakeholder group town hall meetings will be held for health care staff and the external community.