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Volume 72, Issue 136, Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Doubling up 

Birx outlines plans to increase UH-sponsored research 
in push for ‘Tier I' status

by Shannah LeDee 
The Daily Cougar

For UH to become a flagship university, more funding is needed to expand the University's research programs, UH Vice President for Research Donald Birx said. 

"No one ever says ‘Tier I university' without saying ‘research Tier I university,"' Birx said at a Faculty Senate meeting in February. "We have to roughly double our sponsored research."

There are three objectives Birx's department has focused on in order to garner more funding, including the development of the University's core facilities. 

"One of the things we are creating here by creating research clusters in focal areas is we've now got the ability to create core facilities. The cost of start-up packages in facilities that are involved in research has grown enormously over the last 10 years," Birx said. "But if we can pick areas in which we will cluster faculty around and develop strong core facilities, we can be very competitive and grow to become a ‘Tier I' university." 

Another objective is building up operations at the Science and Engineering Research and Classroom Complex, Birx said. 

"The SERCC building represents approximately 125,000 square feet. On research space that a university gets in research dollars, UH does about $200 per square foot … (the SERCC building nets) about $20 million of additional research," Birx said.

By turning the SERCC building into a research facility, the University will be able to bring in new research at the same dollar value UH already has in research space and raise the level of research done by $20 million, Birx said. 

"That's a considerable reason to turn the SERCC building into a real research facility," he said. 

The third objective is to provide more research funding in non-science areas such as the humanities and social sciences.

"We need to make sure that we … invest (money) in the humanities and social sciences and the arts, because a little goes a long way there," Birx said. Birx said his department will continue the method of research funding distribution between the colleges. 

"We've got a fairly good mechanism for when we do joint endeavors, and that's at the very beginning you set up the allocations that go to each group that's involved in the proposal efforts," Birx said. "I think we'll continue with that practice, which seems to be pretty equitable. I don't get very many complaints about it." 

Under this method, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will receive most of the allocation, Birx said, because it submits the most proposals. 

"NSM submits the largest dollar value volume in proposal efforts and gets the largest awards," Birx said. "(The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences) is increasingly submitting proposals, and they have actually a pretty good track record for starting to grow their research enterprises." 

The interdisciplinary research centers will receive the most attention, Birx said. 

"We're going to put more efforts into those clusters and developing cross-disciplinary programs because it has the highest growth area," Birx said.

At least 80 percent of the new funding opportunities that are created are created in interdisciplinary areas, Birx said. 

To generate more revenue for the research expansion programs, Birx said there are seven or eight areas his department is working on. 

"We're working on (a list of things), stemming everywhere from development of research clusters where faculty come together in groups and work on cross disciplinary proposals and generally larger type proposal efforts, to leveraging our closeness and proximity to the city and thereby developing a center for industrial partnerships that facilitates relationships between the business community and the University as a whole," he said. 

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