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K-State Today

October 20, 2014



K-State 2025 Snapshots of Success: Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery — Theme 1

By President Schulz, Provost Mason and V.P. Karen Burg

Since the beginning of the semester, we have visited with hundreds of K-Staters. These meetings have been formal and informal and in various venues, with K-State 2025 often part of the conversations. It is impossible in any single meeting or presentation to highlight in detail our progress in each of the seven K-State 2025 theme areas. For that reason, we are going to provide updates for each theme in letters to campus periodically over the coming weeks. We begin with this letter focused on Theme 1: Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery, or RSCAD.

The Collegian recently ran an article "K-State 2025 is alive and one of a kind." Based on our many interactions over the past weeks, we know — thanks to all of you — Kansas State University indeed is alive and one of a kind. During our college visits this year, the deans have been sharing progress on their college plans. These updates have proven once again the notion that if the departments and colleges are successful, we can achieve our goals.

We have been truly impressed with the progress we are making together in challenging times and with the enthusiasm we hear from students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and other friends for working toward the common directions envisioned in the K-State 2025 plan. We even had a prospective student athlete ask about K-State 2025; probably a real first for a university strategic plan!

Our Theme 1 RSCAD goal calls for creating "a culture of excellence that results in flourishing, sustainable and widely recognized research, scholarly and creative activities, and discovery in a variety of disciplines and endeavors that benefit society as a whole."

This goal is supplemented by activities and outcomes that envision, among other things, extramural funding and research and development expenditures competitive with our benchmark institutions, outstanding faculty engaged in nationally and internationally recognized research centers and collaborative research, enhanced visibility and appreciation for RSCAD, increased participation by undergraduate students in research, and competitive compensation and support for GRAs, GTAs, and GAs. So, how are we doing?

Total research expenditures — one of our key benchmark metrics — are up from $160.7 million in fiscal year 2010 to $183.1 million in fiscal year 2013. A record number of grant proposals — more than 1,500 — were submitted last year. Researchers were awarded 954 grants totaling more than $140.5 million. This total was down slightly after a record-breaking year in total research awards in fiscal year 2013 — perhaps reflecting the reduced federal investment in research. Even in the current fiscal environment, we remain competitive for major research grants. The recent announcement of the largest grant in the university's history, a $50 million grant from USAID for our fourth Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Sustainable Intensification, is evidence of our progress.

To further promote strategic areas of research, colleges identified their areas of RSCAD strengths last spring. These are compiled in the Report on College Areas of Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery Strengths. This work can be used to highlight the value and potential of our RSCAD work to external stakeholders, to promote collaborative interdisciplinary teaming and research, and to recruit outstanding graduate students, faculty and staff in our RSCAD areas. As the deans have pointed out, these lists are a work in progress. There is more to be done to be inclusive of interdisciplinary areas of strength, but these lists serve as an important foundation for further dialogue. Another important report is the Research Focus Group Report, compiled by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs with the assistance of the associate deans for research. The report includes the results of a series of focus groups with researchers across the university and outlines key priorities to support growing research and scholarship at K-State.

Increasing undergraduate participation in research also is a key benchmark of K-State 2025. The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry was established to facilitate more opportunities for undergraduate research participation. During the coming year, that office will be working with our research community to establish a methodology for tracking progress.

The metrics and various university-sponsored initiatives provide one picture of where we are going with RSCAD. But, the heart of our progress is the innovative work being done in the colleges and departments by our outstanding faculty, staff and students. We want to share with you just some of the successes we are hearing about during our college/major unit visits so far this fall.

Researchers in many of our colleges have contributed to increased extramural funding across the university. The College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension alone increased extramural awards from $27.3 million in fiscal year 2011 to $46.3 million during the past fiscal year. The four Feed the Future Innovation Labs, the first NSF Industry/University Collaborative Center for Wheat Genetic Research, and the K-State Olathe Innovation Accelerator are just some of the major areas of research that will have significant impact in the future. Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, researchers are collaborating on National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, transition-funded projects on four of the five priority pathogens approved for work at BRI.

The College of Veterinary Medicine completed construction of a new Electron Microscope Facility and the new Mosier Hall Research Center, which is housing the Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine and the Nanotechnology Innovation Center of Kansas State.

The College of Arts and Sciences has provided funding to support graduate research through its seed grant program and the College of Engineering hosted its first Undergraduate Research Poster forum with 22 poster presentations from five different engineering departments. The College of Education initiated an Educational Research Lecture Series and started a student research journal, Prairie Journal of Educational Research. K-State Salina established a unified research management office jointly appointed with the Manhattan campus Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and K-State Libraries established and awarded its first Kirmser Undergraduate Research Award.

While it is clear research faculty, staff, students, colleges, centers and departments are engaged in advancing research and scholarship, we lag in making progress on providing more competitive compensation and tuition waivers/remission to attract and retain the highly-talented graduate students we need. This is an area where we must do better with new strategies and a multi-year plan that will allow for progress.

With the RSCAD work being done across the university, the recent initiation of the newsletter "RSCAD Momentum" and the continued development of the Global Food Systems initiative this fall, this academic year promises even more RSCAD success. The Office of Research also will be working closely with the deans, associate deans for research, research faculty and staff and others to develop and begin implementing a research plan this year to further grow our research and scholarship and help K-State become a Top 50 public research university.

For a more general overview of where we are after year three of our 15 year plan — and some videos highlighting the amazing work you do — check out the State of the University address. You also can view the set of slides we are using in our college/major unit visits.

While we certainly have more work to do, together we are creating a "culture of excellence with flourishing, sustainable and widely recognized research, scholarly and creative activities." Look for our next letter in a couple of weeks for a progress update on our Theme 2 goals for an outstanding undergraduate educational experience.

Go 'Cats and thanks for all you do!
President Kirk Schulz
Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason
Vice President for Research Karen Burg