Addressing The Unprecedented Challenges Facing U.S. Research Universities Today
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The Research Universities Futures Consortium, a group of 25 leading U.S. public and private research universities, announced today the findings of a new study: The Current Health and Future Well-Being of the American University. The study, funded by Elsevier, outlines the critical challenges faced by U.S. research universities today and calls for collaborative action, suggesting a shift of focus towards productivity. It also identifies the need for better information and cohesive strategies to address these challenges effectively in order to sustain U.S. competitive advantage.
U.S. Research Universities are at a critical juncture. American Research Universities are facing combined pressures of declining funding, increasing competition, intensifying compliance requirements, and loss of political and public confidence in the value of academic research. At the same time, the expectations for scientific research to produce solutions to today’s global challenges have never been higher.
The study, led by Dr. Brad Fenwick, professor and former Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, conducted in depth interviews with the research leaders of 25 leading research universities. A day-long report development workshop was conducted at a national meeting in Washington DC to review the findings and discuss preliminary solutions.
The study reveals the following core challenges:
- HYPERCOMPETITION AND COMPLEXITY: Scarcity of resources, relative to the demand for them, has engendered a hypercompetitive environment and increased the difficulty of managing academic research activities.
- COMPLIANCE AND INDIRECT COST RECOVERY: The growing number of regulations, reporting requirements and unfunded mandates have exacerbated institutional stress and increased pressure on administration while diverting valuable faculty time from research.
- RESEARCH QUALITY AND IMPACT: Innovation requires diverse, high quality research. Standard metrics of quality and impact that reliably reflect the complexity and nuances of today’s research need to be developed by the academic research community in partnership with key stakeholders. Such metrics will provide more transparency and enable more effective management of research to improve productivity and research outcomes.
- PLANNING AND DECISION SUPPORT: Enabling the highest impact research requires current and predictive data to assess programs, and to evaluate key opportunities in a funding-constrained environment. Strategic decision making requires credible local, national and international data.
- VALUE OF THE RESEARCH UNIVERSITY: The value of the research university in serving society, contributing to local economies, and promoting national innovation and security needs to be better communicated.
- FRAGILITY OF RESEARCH ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP: The complexity and fragility of the academic research administrative enterprise and leadership responsibilities is not fully understood or appreciated within the university or by sponsors and stakeholders. Better understanding of and support for research administration and leadership will help institutions to increase the productivity and build competitive advantage.
“The cooperative nature of this effort provides confidence that the findings represent the most pressing issues that threaten the ability of research universities to create new knowledge, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers of the highest caliber,” said Dr. Fenwick. “Our next step is to focus our attention on the development of realistic and sustainable solutions. We look forward to joining forces with the National Research Council and their study on the same topic.”
The study supports the need to increase the productivity of research conducted at U.S. universities. Its findings suggest collaborative action is required to address some of the key challenges such as the burden of compliance, erosion of public support of academic research as well as strengthening of the research program development and administration. Furthermore, they outline how standard metrics, and current and forward-looking data, would play a critical role to realize this. Finally, U.S. academia could benefit from a cohesive research strategy, supporting a national research and innovation agenda. The Consortium intends to explore and develop these preliminary recommendations further during a subsequent phase.
Elsevier’s sponsorship of the study is consistent with its mission to support research and help improve research outcomes.
“We were privileged to have facilitated this collaborative study,” said Dr. Nick Fowler, Managing Director for Academic & Government Institutions at Elsevier. “U.S. universities are leaders in the global research landscape. However, that landscape is becoming increasingly competitive as other nations and universities increase their R&D spending at far more rapid rates than the US. Participating universities have identified clear recommendations on how to sustain and advance the US’ position in this environment. We look forward to working further with universities and other research stakeholders as they move to implement these recommendations.”
About The Research Universities Futures Consortium
The Research Universities Futures Consortium currently includes 25 top public and private research universities in the United States. The Consortium includes a cross-section of universities of different sizes, organizations, and geographic regions. Collectively the universities of the Consortium have annual research expenditures of more than $9 billion which includes external grants and contracts as well as self-funded research, and educates thousands of students in all fields. The Consortium’s purpose is to identify shared challenges, exchange ideas and approaches, and to develop workable solutions that will enhance and sustain university-based research and graduate education.
Participating universities include: Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado State University, Duke University, Emory University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, University of California, University of California – Riverside, University of Kansas, University of Kentucky, University of Georgia, University of Maryland – College Park, University of Minnesota, University of Rochester, University of South Florida, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, University of Texas – Austin, University of Utah, Vanderbilt University, Washington State University, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale University.
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier’s online solutions include SciVerse ScienceDirect, SciVerse Scopus, Reaxys, MD Consult and Mosby’s Nursing Suite, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite and MEDai’s Pinpoint Review, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.
A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world-leading publisher and information provider, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).
NOTE TO EDITORS: Author Dr. Brad Fenwick, University of Tennessee, will be presenting these findings at the APLU meeting in Washington, DC, Thursday, June 28. To interview Dr. Fenwick, please contact Marie Gentile at firstname.lastname@example.org or call mobile: 917-679-6299.
SOURCE The Research Universities Futures Consortium