Order of Questions Presented to President Shumaker

Concerning the Proposed University of Tennessee Research Foundation

 

February 18, 2003

 

 

1.      What model is the UTRF based upon? Is there an existing RF at a Top 25 Research University that UTRF is based upon?

2.      25% of the F&A recovered from grants currently is returned to the colleges to help defray operating expenses and to add funds to the research budgets of faculty generating the grants.†† Will this practice continue or will this money be used to help fund the proposed Research Foundation?

        Follow-up question: Currently a sizable portion of F&A monies are used to supplement the general operating budget. Where will the monies come from if F&A will be controlled by the UTRF?

3.      What changes, if any, will occur relative to the current way that 25 percent of F&A return is returned to Colleges/Centers/Departments/Principal Investigators?

4.      Much has been discussed about how the RF will handle getting grants, but little has been said about how purchasing will be done under the new system. How will purchasing rules change? How will accounts be kept?Who will own the equipment, maintain the inventory, and cover equipment maintenance costs?

5.      We discussed the UT Research Foundation at the department meeting this week and generally people are very enthusiastic about the proposed plan if it is something new.†† We all feel change is needed.The greatest area of concern with the UT foundation had to do with staffing.Will new people be hired (seen as a requirement for this to mean anything) or will existing staff be imported into the new structure.There is a strong feeling in our department that new, competent people who are facilitators and who will be dedicated to speeding up all issues involving grant submissions and administration are needed.Simply creating a new Foundation with the same people won't work.

6.      We seem at UTK to be generating funds for infrastructure improvement, yet floors are left unclean and electrical wiring upgrades are one and two years behind request.How will the Foundation address these issues of infrastructure?How will the University address these issues?

7.      Can we realistically invest this large amount up front to launch the Foundation when we are being asked to significantly reduce spending because of the state's budget problems? We've postponed new administrative positions, wisely in my opinion. Why would it not be prudent to also postpone starting the Foundation?

8.      We often submit proposals at the eleventh hour because of the time needed to gather the people and incorporate their input, craft a proposal, obtain letters of support from collaborators outside the University, et cetera. Routing proposals through an additional administrative layer before submission adds to the problems of meeting deadlines. Is it necessary?What will it add?

9.      The Office of Research Administration continues to be barely able to handle grant proposal submission in a timely fashion, and is still 5-6 months behind on processing new awards, despite very forceful recommendations made by an external auditor. These problems are a result of significant understaffing. It is clear that the way to recruit and retain competent personnel is to offer them competitive salaries plus concrete assurances that they will not be overloaded with work. What provisions are being made to ensure that with the new system, this will happen?

10.  Based on the discussion with many faculty members who are active in research, and from concerns expressed by the faculty during the town hall meeting on February 11, it appears that the majority of the faculty is opposed to the proposed Research Foundation.Also, there have been enough legitimate complaints expressed by the legislature about increasing administrative costs in the University over the past decade, and the Foundation is going to further increase administrative costs.At this time, how can you justify forming this foundation to the faculty, students, and the taxpayers?

11.  I do not see any performance standards pertaining to the research office or research foundation on your scorecard.The performance of the research office services greatly affects our research productivity as a faculty.Are you going to have performance measures such as goals for time to negotiate contracts, time to process subcontracts, etc.?I feel these are needed.

12.  Given that the UT Research Corporation has been losing more than $300,000 per year for the past three years, and currently is in debt to UT for more than $1,200,000, how can UT possibly justify the tremendous expenditure (more than $8,000,000) of the University's limited resources to expand such a financially-failing operation, that would benefit a very small fraction of UT faculty, particularly as the Business Plan has no description for how such a Foundation could ever be financially self-sufficient without depletion of the F&A currently being used to fund basic operations throughout UT?

13.  We are about to establish an independent entity whose board members are all appointed by the UT President and whose Bylaws place few restrictions upon the manner in which F&A funds may be distributed or used.I believe a much safer course of action would be appointment of members of the board by the Faculty Senate rather than the President, or at least appointment of a majority of the members by the Faculty Senate.Why do you wish to place this power of appointment under the exclusive control of the President of the University, and why donít the Bylaws place additional constraints upon the financial relationships between the UTRF and the University?

14.  Last year, the Research Council advocated a funding model that would return a portion of F&A receipts directly to sponsored researchers in proportion to their funding.The Research Councilís position is that a funding reinvestment rate of approximately 10% of direct cost research expenditures is necessary, at least in Engineering and most of the physical sciences, to sustain growth of funded research efforts with an acceptable level of risk.†††† Are you willing to modify the UTRF draft documents in a manner that assures that established rates of reinvestment will continue?

15.  The proposed Research Foundation has the campus Chief Research Administrator reporting to the Chancellor and also being accountable directly to the Foundationís Executive Director so there are two masters to serve.

a.       Would it not be more direct and responsive to the Universityís colleges and faculty simply have a Vice Chancellor reporting directly to the campus Provost/Chancellor?

b.      Wonít an unhealthy situation develop for the Campus if the Research Foundation is established quickly but the Chancellor search is slowed?

16.  Most businesses require confidentiality regarding their sponsored research activities. Will the proposed research foundation be able to handle this requirement? If so, how?

17.  Another basic premise of the Research Foundation is that technology transfer and licensing of patents will generate income for the University, inventors and the Research Foundation.

a.       Given the fact that UTRC has not accomplished this in many years of operation, how can the Research Foundation make money for the University even if it theoretically manages these activities better than UTRC?

b.      Given the large amount of work usually asked of inventors to commercialize an invention, wouldnít drastically reducing the share of income to inventors as proposed by the new Research Foundation reduce the incentive of faculty to obtain patents and commercialize their work?