Federal cuts would devastate research, innovation

U.S. flag in front of a federal building

When the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal last month, the plan’s significant cuts to research funding jolted the research community.

In a recently published op-ed, the University of Minnesota’s Interim Vice President for Research Allen Levine, Ph.D., warned of the devastating affect such cuts could have—not just for public research universities, but for US discovery and innovation across the board. Levine wrote in MinnPost that following the path laid out in the Presidential Budget Request would cut short potential discoveries, economic growth opportunities, and improvements to our quality of life.

The budget proposal includes cuts in medical, humanities, arts, energy, and environmental research. U of M researchers rely on resources distributed by nearly every federal agency that supports research—their funding made up 60 percent of the $788 million the U received last year. Continue reading

Recognizing the U’s most entrepreneurial innovators

Photos from four Inventor Recognition Award winners' research

Picture a researcher, and you might think of someone running experiments in a lab, collecting data in the field or piecing together a prototype. But for many researchers, the job doesn’t end when a discovery is made. Increasingly, researchers are helping guide their technologies through development and toward the market.

Last night, the University of Minnesota celebrated the accomplishments of some of these innovative and entrepreneurial researchers. The Inventor Recognition Event, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office for Technology Commercialization, recognized researchers’ breakthroughs and their efforts to bring these innovations beyond the lab to provide growth opportunities for businesses, benefit the public good and improve quality of life in Minnesota and beyond.

The event, held at the McNamara Alumni Center, recognized 220 University inventors whose technology had been licensed or patented between July 2014 and June 2016. During those two years, researchers submitted more than 750 disclosures of new inventions to OTC and filed for nearly 350 patents to protect the intellectual property behind some of these inventions. Continue reading

Workshops share best ethics practices around human research

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the "Research Partners with Community Members" workshop, part of the U's inaugural Research Ethics Day.

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the “Research Partners with Community Members” workshop, part of the U’s inaugural Research Ethics Day.

Across the U.S., researchers conducting studies that involve human participants must make decisions that advance scientific progress without sacrificing the welfare or freedom of their participants.

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota researchers came together with experts from across the nation to explore a range of ethics questions related to adults, adolescents and children participating in research. For example, past studies have found some research participants do not fully understand that they are signing up for research instead of routine clinical care.

Through a series of workshops and training sessions hosted by the U’s Human Research Protection Program with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research, attendees learned practical skills to help them navigate issues of informed consent while ensuring a high level of ethical conduct. Continue reading

Highlights from a year of excellence in research

Collage of Annual Report story images

Last month, the University of Minnesota’s annual State of Research report highlighted a research enterprise that continues to grow, driven by greater diversification of funding sources and enhanced public-private partnership.

The report, produced by the Office of the Vice President for Research, also highlighted several ongoing research projects that are advancing knowledge across a wide variety of fields. These efforts are shedding light on youth brain function, boosting computing technology, exploring new mining processes and improving transportation systems.

Below, Inquiry explores each of these projects and their potential to benefit society. Continue reading

Meet Allen Levine, interim VP for research

University of Minnesota flag outside of a building

Allen Levine, Ph.D., has more than a passing familiarity with the University of Minnesota’s research enterprise — in one capacity or another, he has been connected to the U for more than 45 years.

Levine, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and adjunct in the Department of Psychiatry, began his role as the U’s new interim vice president for research this week. He previously served as vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, as well as dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. As head of the Office of the Vice President for Research, Levine will oversee the University’s $900 million research enterprise across all its campuses and facilities, including the administration of sponsored projects, research compliance and regulatory offices, and offices dedicated to economic development and technology commercialization.

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“In my new position, I look forward to keeping the University’s research enterprise moving forward and preparing the office for its next permanent director,” he said. “Since arriving, I have found the staff at OVPR to be knowledgeable and well suited to the important work they do for the U.” Continue reading

The future of research universities: Q&A with departing VP Brian Herman

Vice President Brian Herman

In 2013, Brian Herman, Ph.D., joined the University of Minnesota as its vice president for research.

During his tenure, Herman helped the U’s research enterprise continue to grow by diversifying funding sources, increasing public-private partnership and enhancing protections for human research participants. His recent report to the Board of Regents highlighted, among other accomplishments, research funding at record levels and thriving technology commercialization and economic development efforts.

Now, four years later, Herman is preparing to transition out of the Office of the Vice President for Research and join the College of Science and Engineering faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In the Q&A below, Herman discusses the progress of the U’s research enterprise and the future of public research universities. Continue reading

University research enterprise continues to grow

Glass windows on the side of a building

The University of Minnesota’s research enterprise continues to grow, driven by greater diversification of funding sources and enhanced public-private partnership.

At today’s Board of Regents meeting, Vice President for Research Brian Herman delivered this message as part of his annual Status of University Research and Commercialization of Intellectual Property report. The report summarized the U’s research metrics for the 2016 fiscal year, documenting trends in research productivity, scholarship and technology commercialization. It also noted the progress of strategic priorities that build the University’s research strength and work to eliminate barriers to research success. Continue reading

Leader in research administration receives field’s top honor

A longtime leader in research administration at the University of Minnesota has been recognized with her profession’s top honor.

Pamela Webb, associate vice president for research, received this year’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Administration from the National Council of University Research Administrators. The award recognizes Webb’s significant contributions to the field of research administration, as well as the time, knowledge and service she has provided to NCURA itself.

Pamela Webb

Pamela Webb

Webb has been involved in research administration for 32 years, with responsibilities including pre-award and post-award non-financial sponsored project services, research compliance oversight, negotiation of facilities and administrative (F&A) rates, effort reporting, and export controls. She has also worked with technology transfer, conflict of interest, animal subject tracking systems, and human subject policy and procedure. Continue reading

Research ethics — a responsibility of the University and individuals alike

The University of Minnesota is a research university dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Our research enterprise is premised on the idea that our faculty, staff and students will pursue the truth and allow the data to speak for itself. It also relies on researchers conducting their work in ways that respect the rights and interests of people participating in their studies, as well as the community in which those people live.

As I indicated in a note to researchers this month, faculty, staff and others have made an immense effort to strengthen human research protections across the University. There is a great deal of that work in motion right now, and, as part of those efforts, we are launching a University-wide research ethics campaign, one that includes posters, digital communications, events and other activities to promote and build awareness of the University’s principles, policies and processes that support and require ethical research practices. Continue reading

Streamlining regulations to help innovative research flourish

By Pamela Webb, associate vice president for research

At universities across the nation, excessive regulatory demands are posing a large challenge for researchers. That concern, which has long been expressed by both faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota, is validated by a September 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that found “continuing expansion of the federal regulatory system and its ever-growing requirements are diminishing the effectiveness of the nation’s research investment by directing investigators’ time away from research.”

The national Faculty Workload Survey by the Federal Demonstration Partnership found that faculty spend about 42 percent of their time on administrative activities associated with research, including proposal preparation, award oversight and reporting, and a wide variety of compliance-related responsibilities. While I would be hard-pressed to suggest an ideal timeshare for faculty to spend on such activities — it would certainly depend on the type of research and its risk to the safety of participants and researchers — 42 percent is clearly too high. Researchers I speak with believe spending a third to half of their time on compliance is a real barrier to innovative research. Continue reading

U research infrastructure gets $2.4 million boost

The University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research has announced the recipients of its 2016 Research Infrastructure Investment Program, which helps maintain the robust, state-of-the art equipment key to propelling research and innovation.

The awards, which totaled over $1.2 million from OVPR and were matched one-to-one by funds from supporting colleges, centers and external partners, are a one-time investment in university research infrastructure designed to ensure that crucial research facilities and support services on all campuses are viable and up-to-date for cutting-edge research. The program supports transdisciplinary research and encourages collaboration across the U’s colleges and campuses.

Eleven proposals were chosen for funding, which range from expanding the presence and research capacity of the Driven to Discover building at the Minnesota State Fair to acquiring a machine that tests the quality of asphalt mixtures and determines how well they hold up against wear and tear. The selected proposals impact researchers in at least nine colleges and eight centers and institutes across the University system. Continue reading

2016 Minnesota Futures awards explore health and the environment

Mushrooms

The University of Minnesota continues to research innovative solutions in major areas of study and impact. This year, The Office of the Vice President for Research awarded a total of $491,990 to two projects for the Minnesota Futures grant program, an internal funding opportunity that promotes novel research to advance new ideas that cross disciplinary boundaries. The two winning projects, selected out of 55 proposals submitted, address significant challenges in health and the environment while encouraging collaboration on emerging research opportunities.

Continue reading