Discovery and Innovation

Charge

The Discovery and Innovation Workgroup was charged with comprehensive examination of proposed growth in research, scholarly activity and creativity on West Virginia University’s campuses. Metrics associated with research, research funding, and the awarding of advanced degrees impact the national and global rankings of the institution. Further, research and scholarly activities are mainstays of the academic environment, promote current and informed instruction at every level, and foster a reputation that attracts faculty, staff and students and assures those seeking clinical services. The Discovery Workgroup quantified the various ways in which research, creativity and scholarly activity may benefit WVU and identified the level of activity appropriate for the institution. Some discovery was self-sustaining by relying on external support following initial investment, while some discovery required sustained internal support. The resources required needed to be carefully examined. The culture and structures related to research and scholarly activity needed to be addressed and areas requiring change need to be identified. These areas included recognition of D&I success, research administration, the role of research in graduate education, the relationship between academic structure and research, and the role of discovery in promotion and tenure. Externally, the Discovery Workgroup examined funding availability for research growth, global impacts on discovery and the role which discovery at WVU can play in growing economic success and workforce advancement in our state. The Workgroup was charged by the Strategic Planning Council (SPC) and tasked with reporting findings, identifying strategic and measurable objectives, quantifying benefits of change, and identifying a realistic pathway to meeting objectives.

Expected tasks will include:

  1. Identification of the areas within WVU and the state that are impacted by discovery activities. Gathering of comprehensive data on research, funded research, and discovery administrative structure at WVU.
  2. Benchmarking of WVU research and scholarly activity metrics against those at peer institutions. Investigation of D&I initiatives at peer institutions and development of an understanding of differences and similarities in opportunity and effort between WVU and peer institutions. Describing the academic and research structures which impact D&I at other institutions, and the changing culture of discovery within the US.
  3. Identification of the benefits of growing discovery in general and in growing externally funded research at WVU. Examination of quality and quantity tradeoffs or synergies in advancing research, innovation, creativity and scholarly activity.
  4. Identification of structural and cultural changes, within administrative and academic units, and across campuses, which may be effected within WVU to grow research efficiency and productivity.
  5. Examination of the role of the individual investigator, the department, centers and institutes in assuring future discovery success.
  6. Investigation of the barriers to interdisciplinary activity at WVU and identification of potential approaches to removal of those barriers. Consideration of the relationship between interdisciplinary research programs and interdisciplinary academic programs.
  7. Examination of ways in which discovery may be grown through specific investment of internal resources, and discussion of the capacity limits, present and future, for research, innovation, creativity and scholarly activity within the WVU system.
  8. Investigation of external sources of funding and tangible resources available to grow discovery at WVU. Discussion of the extent to which an increase in the number of investigators on campuses may be self-supported through the acquisition of external funding.
  9. Examination of faculty, employee and student recruiting, retention, morale and efficiency, and the role that these will play in future discovery success.
  10. Presentation of objectives and the optimal path for advancing discovery at WVU.
  11. Identification of measures to recognize and assess future success in meeting objectives & benefits, and collate data to form a baseline for future comparison.

Preliminary Recommendations

WVU is committed to excellence in the discovery of new knowledge and innovation derived there from, ranging from the artistic to the applied, and the dissemination of such works for the benefit of WV and the World through education and outreach. To fulfill this commitment the WVU leadership should consider the following recommendations as philosophical guiding principles understanding that they must be constantly adjusted to reflect the extent to which they are realistic within a fluid fiscal environment:

  • Establish a clear vision statement for Discovery and Innovation (D&I) at WVU and develop a marketing plan that universally promotes WVU as a global leader in Discovery and Innovation, balancing our traditional message of undergraduate education with an emphasis on D&I appropriate to WVU’s commitment to linking WV to the global economy.
  • Systematically increase performance to that of increasingly productive peers: transforming WVU into a model Research University (very high research activity) and striving to attain AAU membership by adapting peer practices to fit the needs of WVU.
  • Undertake a review of D&I at WVU utilizing a panel of external individuals such as Vice Presidents of Research from the peers, National Academy members, business executives, and leading scholars.
  • Determine what existing cultures, infrastructures, organizational structures, business practices, and roles of personnel, departments, divisions, colleges, centers, institutes, and support units at WVU and peers stimulate or inhibit growth in D&I, translational research, and associated economic development. Then, undertake strategic changes to emulate/implement the best practices of others to increase our competitiveness with peer institutions, while retaining the positive aspects of WVU’s culture.
  • Compare current rewards system at WVU, including P&T, merit pay, and administrator performance metrics, with those of peers and adopt their best practices to incentivize collaboration, increase competitiveness, provide public service, and enhance economic development at the individual, department, division, clinic, center, institute, college, and support unit levels.
  • Determine how peers balance instructional and/or clinical demands on faculty time against increased research expectations and adopt appropriate workload models that achieve balance to grow D&I.
  • Develop objective guidelines for the strategic and transparent investment of WVU, WVU Research Corporation, and WVU Foundation resources to build spires of international excellence in discovery and innovation with clear metrics for continued investments tied to success and timelines for self sufficiency instilling an expectation of high return on investment.
  • Establish strategic partnerships to attract additional external resources to support economic development, university technology transfer, research commercialization, and research park activities, and adapt best practices from peers to ensure success in these endeavors at WVU.

Conclusions – July 15, 2010