Recently, we celebrated the dedication of Rowland Hall as a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society. It was a wonderful occasion to reflect on the great research achievements of Nobel Prize winning chemists F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, who demonstrated chlorofluorocarbons’ potentially catastrophic effect on the Earth’s ozone layer. It is profoundly inspirational to be a member of the academic community where the highest quality fundamental research has had such dramatic real-world benefits.

Research is a central and distinguishing mission of the University of California. And the UCI strategic plan calls for major growth in the research enterprise, enriching academic and educational programs at all levels. Importantly, it is growth that makes a difference. The Office of Research is deeply committed to enabling the scholarly community to explore their most innovative ideas, make breakthrough discoveries and benefit the society that supports UCI.

I am sure all of you are aware of the potentially significant changes in federal funding for research. It is important to note that the decline in federal R&D (research and development) funding (as a percentage of GDP) is not new: it has gone from more than 1.2 percent at its peak in the ’70s and ’80s to less than 0.8 percent in recent years. This decline can then be seen in the extreme competition and low success rates in obtaining federal grants.

To succeed in this changing and challenging external environment, we must work creatively and collaboratively across the entire UCI research enterprise. Faculty will need excellent support from staff to prepare the highest-quality creative proposals and to execute funded projects. Staff in the Office of Research are continuing their work at UCI and at the national level to streamline research administration processes and reduce the burden on investigators.

Additionally, we will need to invest in cross-cutting research infrastructure that benefits as many faculty and students as possible. Great new intellectual opportunities are arising from the convergence of traditional disciplines: the idea of deep integration of knowledge bases, tools, and techniques, and most importantly, modes of thinking to devise novel approaches to stubbornly difficult grand challenge problems in health, the environment, sustainability, security, economic growth, and education, among other areas. UCI has a great legacy of encouraging and enabling such collaborations, and we will continue to eliminate barriers across institutional boundaries to foster achievement.

We will also need to energetically explore all possible sources of support: federal, state, private sector, nonprofit foundations and philanthropy. These sources of support will be vital in making progress toward strategic plan objectives.

To discuss potential changes at the federal level and steps we can take at UCI, the Office of Research is organizing three town hall meetings this month. I invite you to attend one of the following gatherings to share your input:

Monday, May 8th: 12-1pm
Location: 2430 Harut Barsamian Colloquia, Engineering Hall

Monday, May 15th: 12-1pm
Location: 6011 Bren Hall

Monday, May 22nd: 12-1pm
Location: 4001 Thorp Conference Center, Gross Hall 

RSVP here.

I look forward to seeing you at one of these meetings and working together to further our shared goals.

Pramod Khargonekar
Vice Chancellor for Research