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Volume 68, Issue 72, Monday, December 9, 2002


UH research funds increase

By Ray Hafner
The Daily Cougar

UH research professors were awarded $72.1 million in grants during Fiscal Year 2002, a $19 million dollar increase over the previous year.

That enormous increase was achieved by playing to strengths in biomedical sciences, computer and material sciences and the behavioral sciences said Arthur Vailas, vice president for research and intellectual property management.

The increase represents a nearly 36 percent jump over 2001, far exceeding the 4 to 5 percent Vailas said was targeted.

While itis difficult to calculate the exact effect, UHis still-new Tier 1 research funding from the state Legislature undoubtedly played a big role in the jump, Vailas said. The money from the state is used to build better facilities and attract better faculty, which in turn attracts more research grants from other sources.

The increase came from all areas of the research sector, with state agencies granting $11 million more than last year, federal agencies granting $6.1 million more and private or other agencies granting $1.9 million more.

The extra funding has allowed UH to invest in the infrastructure for research, namely people, facilities and equipment. Vailas said UH has been competitive in attracting young professors and their potential.

The feat will be hard to repeat in Fiscal Year 2003, which began Aug. 1, Vailas said, because Texas is now facing a possible $12 billion deficit when the Legislature convenes next month.

"Thatill hurt" he said, but added, "itill hurt the state in the long run ­ research has an effect on the intellectual capital."

Failing to invest in the future could hurt the workforce and even enrollment, he said, as some students choose institutions based on the type of research being conducted.

The actual number of grants applied to was down 20 percent, to 676 proposals. This was because many professors are writing bigger grants that take longer and ask for more money, Vailas said. Only about 18 to 25 percent of UH faculty fall into the category of research professor.

"Weire a public institution. I think we need to pay attention to the area we reside in," Vailas said, describing the type of research most valuable to Houston.

Using air quality research as an example, Vailas explained how any study on air quality would be of use to Houston ­ the second-most polluted city in the United States ­ but would have broad national uses. 

Vailas said he could direct research toward certain areas that benefit the community through internal grant programs.

For the rest of 2003, Vailas said his office would be doing its best to find funding.

"Always try to do better than you did previously," he said.

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