A Message from VP for Research and Economic Development
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too), those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” — Charles Darwin
With respect to research, Darwin’s words are probably even more true today than when he spoke them. The problems we study today — like climate change, sustainable supplies of energy, loss of biodiversity, feeding the world — are so complex that they can’t be solved by researchers from any one discipline.
This presents a particular challenge for universities because departments and faculty are most often organized around disciplinary lines, rather than with a focus on problems to be studied. Collaboration is a priority for us at the University of North Dakota, and enhancing collaborative work is a specific item in our new strategic plan for research and scholarly and creative activity. UND faculty and students are already highly collaborative, but we want to become even better at working together. You will find a summary of the strategic plan on Pages 5-8 in this issue of our magazine. The full-length version of the plan is on our Web site at http://www.und.edu/dept/research/. Development of this strategic plan was itself a collaborative effort between the Division of Research and Economic Development and faculty from a wide cross section of the campus community.
To further foster collaboration, we have just made the first internal grants of seed funding for collaborations among faculty from different UND departments. Like other seed grants, these awards are intended to give faculty the means to plan large collaborative projects and acquire preliminary data so that they can submit full-fledged proposals to external funding agencies. We’ve also created a new award recognizing collaborative work that will be given for the first time at our next Founders Day celebration in February 2011.
The focus of this issue is on collaborations large and small. Our collaboration with North Dakota State University as part of North Dakota EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) is the granddaddy of many other collaborations within our campus and beyond it. Funding from the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program and similar funding from other federal agencies allows us to provide seed money for a variety of research projects that often involve collaborations among multiple investigators. We also remember the late Dr. Richard Schultz, professor and chair of electrical engineering, who was a very visible role model for what it means to collaborate effectively.
Companies in the private sector are also important partners. Our state-funded Centers of Excellence are required to partner with the private sector with the goal of leveraging research to create jobs and other economic impact. Other collaborations with the private sector involve working together to solve a company’s specific problems. Of course, we also work with private companies as we license inventions and technology from UND so they have new products to manufacture and sell. We expect to significantly ramp up our commercialization activity now that we have a new Associate Vice President for Intellectual Property Commercialization and Economic Development, Mike Moore. Mike joined us in early October after we lured him away from Gopher country at the University of Minnesota. You will find a profile of Mike on Page 4 in this issue.
Phyllis E. Johnson
Vice President for Research and Economic Development