Research Strategic Plan Forum Q&A
In order to communicate the draft Research Strategic Plan and gather input on it from members of the UNM community, the OVPR hosted four public forums. As part of each forum, participants were invited to submit questions in writing to the moderator who then led a discussion of as many of the questions as time allowed.
1. My department/discipline was not well-represented on the committees and working groups. How was our perspective included in this process and the resulting plan?
The Research Strategic Planning Committee and the associated working groups were made up of over 60 members of faculty and staff across the entire institution, including representatives of Humanities disciplines. In addition, all Department Chairs and Center Directors were invited to provide input to the Research Excellence Working Group through an on-line survey. A separate on-line survey was sent to all main campus and branch faculty to solicit their input for the Research Infrastructure and Human Capital Working Groups.
There will be opportunities for additional participation (i.e., evaluation committee) in the RSP in the future. We welcome volunteers from all disciplines to help us with this important endeavor.
2. Who determines “new areas” for research investment?
The OVPR will work with the Associate Deans for Research (ADRs) to analyze data from the campus-wide Faculty Annual Activity Report (FAAR) with respect to the diversity of excellence in research, will distribute a report to university leadership, faculty listservs, and will post the report to the OVPR website. A part of this analysis will be the identification of crosscutting areas of research strength and possible new areas for investment (financial and otherwise).
3. My research area/discipline is not listed as an area of investment, but we’re valuable. How do we fit into the plan?
The objective of the RSP is to develop a framework by which we can increase our research capacity throughout the University. The areas listed for 2017 investments (social and cultural place-based research, renewable energy and water in the west) were identified in the Research Excellence WG report as emerging areas of research that could benefit from some additional limited seed funding. New emerging areas may be identified annually.
4. If my discipline does not bring in substantial external funds through OSP, will our research “count” in future evaluations of research excellence?
Yes. The working groups of the RSP committee have emphasized the importance of recognizing the great diversity of research throughout campus.
5. My research area is well established and has brought in substantial funding, yet we are not listed in the RSP as an area of excellence. If we’re not a new area, what is our role going forward?
Existing ‘Research Focus Areas’ (which are not listed in the RSP, but are identified on the OVPR’s website) will remain priorities for the OVPR. Research excellence requires continual creativity, discovery and innovation. Areas of existing and emerging research excellence will be identified on a yearly basis as described above.
6. What is the impact of the plan on F&A funds in the “top slice” and those that are returned to the Colleges?
The objectives and tasks in the RSP can be implemented over the next four years within the current funding model for OVPR. In other words, the RSP will not increase the “top slice” that covers required operations of main campus research administration and support activities. Implementation of the tasks in the RSP will be funded by using the F&A funds currently held by OVPR for strategic initiatives.
7. Is OVPR advocating for faculty hires? How will OVPR support faculty hires?
Faculty hiring is the prerogative of the department chairs and Deans. The VPR has advocated for the annual submission of faculty hiring plans to the Provost’s Office that address research priorities as well as academic/ teaching priorities. A substantial portion of the F&A held by OVPR for strategic initiatives is intended to support start-up packages for new interdisciplinary faculty who can address the needs of more than one department, preferably in more than one college.
8. How does collaboration with HSC fit into the plan?
A working group was established to evaluate Main Campus & HSC relations. The report and subsequent recommendations are taking longer than originally expected to finalize. We will continue to work on this and will provide updates, as we are able.
9. What is the best way for researchers and IT to collaborate?
As part of the current reorganization of central IT, an IT Research Technologies Advisory Board has been established. The Associate Deans for Research from each college participates on this Board and can serve as a conduit for researchers to express their needs and concerns about IT. In addition, colleges have IT Officers who can also assist faculty in determining needs and accessing IT resources. CARC is the High Performance Computing Center that reports to the OVPR and is developing a strategic plan to address the computing needs of researchers across campus.
10. What would be the source of funding for incentives and other recommendations to the Board of Regents?
Such funding has not yet been discussed in detail. Availability of new funds would be determined by the senior administration and the Board of Regents. Under our current fiscal situation, the OVPR does not advocate for the use of I&G funds for research stimulus.
11. How will the outstanding work of faculty and its impacts be communicated to the citizens of NM and other non-academic stakeholders?
Recognition of research excellence at UNM is a priority in our strategic plan. The OVPR will highlight research activities on the OVPR website and through increased PR work (bimonthly and on ad hoc basis). Press releases highlighting research activity and accomplishments will be sent to relevant media outlets (print and TV).
12. How will you measure customer service?
This will be accomplished by continued interaction with research faculty, staff and students. The RSP includes an annual follow-up survey to assess progress towards achieving the objectives. In addition, annual metrics of service will be compiled for research support services units that are associated with the OVPR.
13. Will surveys of graduates (alumni) be used to determine excellence?
The plan includes increased collaboration with the UNM alumni office. We will include discussion of how to best include input from alumni in the determination of research and scholarship impacts.
14. How aware is OVPR of the priorities of funding agencies? How will the plan respond to changes in those priorities?
OVPR works with the Office of Government Relations, UNM’s lobbying firm, and contacts at funding agencies to stay abreast of state and federal priorities and budgetary changes. The RSP is a “living document” that can be revised, with input from the university community, in light of changes to the funding environment and other relevant drivers.
15. Why don’t we implement a faculty-driven process where cross-cutting proposals with a high potential for external funding are solicited from faculty teams?
OVPR has an open invitation to any faculty members who wish to pursue new interdisciplinary research ventures to submit their ideas to the VPR. The VPR will host a facilitated meeting to develop the idea and can provide support to refine and develop proposals for external funding.
16. How can you reduce the amount of time required to meet the budget/compliance aspects of proposal submission?
The OVPR has invested in the Faculty Research Development Office which provides proposal development support both at the college level and across colleges through a central office. This network of professionals will assist faculty in all aspects of proposal development except the technical/scientific merit, including finding funding, gathering ancillary documentation, building a budget, editing, checking alignment with solicitation requirements, and creating a Cayuse record. They do NOT submit proposals, but help faculty to prepare the materials required by the Office of Sponsored Research.
17. How will you ensure that performance incentives foster excellence in research and integrity?
The RSP calls for a task force to establish and implement a policy for incentives. It will be part of the charge of this group to also implement a means for ensuring the process for awarding these incentives is fair and does not foster misconduct.
18. Does the plan call for changes in research administration, such as centralization of research support staff?
The RSP calls for an evaluation of the distribution and availability of research administration support, but does not make recommendations for reorganization of research administration.
19. What is the role of Centers (Category 3, not within a college) in the research strategic plan?
The Centers that report to the OVPR (Category 3) were established to support interdisciplinary research and will continue to do this work.
20. Will candidates for university President be made aware of the Research Strategic Plan?
The VPR is a member of the Presidential search committee and will advocate for including the RSP in the materials provided to candidates. He will also encourage members of the university community to ask candidates about areas of the RSP that are of particular interest during the public forums that are typically held for candidates.
21. To whom is OVPR accountable for transparency and efficient use of resources?
Ultimately, the OVPR is accountable to the members of the research community. The annual budgets and information about research expenditures and F&A distributions are posted on the OVPR website and accessible by the public.