Jay Walsh, vice president for research at Northwestern University, emphasized the importance of research to the nation’s future during a recent roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C.
Hosted by the Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities (AAU), "All Things Research 2015” brought together journalists with senior research officers from leading universities at the National Press Club for a lively panel about the current state of research in academia.
In an era of government cutbacks that have slashed federal dollars for sponsored research at universities and other institutions, uncertain and inconsistent research funding was a major topic of concern at the roundtable.
“What is actually difficult for us as [administrative] leaders within our universities, as well as faculty members, is dealing with the variations, the fluxes that occur in the funding,” Walsh said. “[Having consistent funding] is absolutely vital to moving from an idea, to data, to knowledge that can be moved out into society.”
Despite uncertain funding from various government entities, many of the panelists expressed optimism for their students’ and faculties’ future endeavors. Northwestern is continuing to develop new avenues to ensure that the University’s innovative approach to research has enduring and significant social impact, Walsh said.
Investment in Northwestern research now comes from many sources, including start-ups and other businesses in the Chicago community. Managing those new relationships between universities and companies can present new challenges.
“There is now a closer linkage between the discoverer of technology and the company that’s moving it forward,” said Walsh. As these lines continue to blur and relationships evolve, he added, universities must keep designing the optimal mechanisms to manage the exceptional value that is derived from the collaborations.
Moderated by Mike Waring, executive director of federal relations at the University of Michigan, the roundtable explored the following topics:
- Science and the national interest
- Economic development and the research university
- Future innovation opportunities and challenges
Joining Walsh were David O. Conover, vice president for research, Stony Brook University; Fred King, vice president for research, West Virginia University; Michael Pazzani, vice chancellor for research and economic development, University of California, Riverside; Mark Redfern, vice provost for research, University of Pittsburgh; Paul R. Sanberg, senior vice president for research, innovation and economic development, University of South Florida, and president, USF Research Foundation; Gloria S. Waters, vice president and associate provost for research, Boston University; Denis Wirtz, vice provost for research, Johns Hopkins University; and David Wynes, vice president for research administration, Emory University.
The Science Coalition is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading public and private research universities. It is dedicated to sustaining strong federal funding of basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation and drive America’s global competitiveness.
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