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ARRA: Research Universities Should Collaborate

The American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) is now law.

While it may have been an unprecedented crisis that led to ARRA’s historic investments, we should now view it as an unprecedented opportunity. This stimulus package is designed to reinvigorate our economy, create new jobs, and foster innovation that will allow the United States to thrive once again.

As President Obama said in his speech to Congress on February 24, 2009, “The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities.” Later, he elaborates and adds that the ARRA had made “the largest investment in basic research funding in American history -- an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.”

We should be heartened by these words and President Obama’s confidence in our research universities and the education that we provide.
As a land-grant research university, Washington State University is extraordinarily well positioned to take advantage of these critical investments and help this country achieve the Act’s ambitious goals. We have “shovel ready” projects that will create new jobs in eastern Washington and further involve our research and graduate school in devising advanced solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. At the same time, stimulus-funded activities will provide our graduate students with firsthand involvement in innovations designed to propel our economy forward.

Using stimulus and other funding effectively, and achieving our full potential in research and graduate studies will depend on our ability to respond in new, creative, and responsible ways that extend beyond traditional geographic borders and academic silos.

WSU is already involved in or well positioned to conduct research related to our nation’s, and the world’s, most challenging problems:

Global warming, waning natural resources, fossil-fuel dependence, animal-to-human disease transmission and food safety, as well as poverty and other social issues, and educational inadequacies. But such all-encompassing problems demand solutions that span the traditional compartments of science, engineering, economics, social dynamics, education, and policy.

Going forward, the most exciting and novel solutions will appear at the crossroads of these fields. The more we work across disciplines and with other interested entities on our work, the more successful we will be.

More and more, we are forming R&D alliances and partnerships with other universities, businesses, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations beyond eastern Washington State.

We have several excellent examples of this already: our Global Animal Health partnerships across the state and globe; myriad agricultural sciences faculty and projects engaged in projects and organizations that improve food safety and pioneer sustainable farming; innovative work with burgeoning industries to drive clean technologies and alternative biofuels; multiple associations in economic development initiatives, and the many connections we make around the state to address social problems and educational imperatives.

Building on these accomplishments and reaching out even more to share expertise with others will make us more competitive in the quest for federal, private, and corporate funding and allow us to fully realize our land grant mission. We will be well served to immediately begin discussions and brainstorm ways we can come to short-term closure around these opportunities. I have already begun several sessions and will be organizing more in the next few weeks.

I welcome your ideas and suggestions on topics that might be addressed from within WSU and the lead faculty in these efforts. When something different is considered, there is always extra work involved. But it leads to new ideas and creative collaborations that make research universities great.

As we do this work, rest assured that I am working closely with the university’s senior leadership to ensure that our research enterprise remains strong and healthy in these difficult times. One of our guiding budget principles is to emerge from this situation as a stronger research university. This will involve strategic limited investments while simultaneously requiring each discipline to make decision ins accordance with our strategic goals of growing our research and Ph.D. education goals.

We continue to collect and analyze the details of the ARRA, and I will continue to use this blog and other messages to keep you up to date on funding opportunities within specific agencies.

We have also set up a “wiki” exchange to encourage faculty to share information and ask questions and otherwise help all of us better understand the ways that this historic legislation affects WSU.

The knowledge we glean in our own research and in concert with others will be of great benefit globally, and it is my hope that the stimulus funds allow us to more swiftly and seamlessly get our ideas and solutions where they are needed.

Warm regards,
Howard D. Grimes
Vice President for Research
Dean of the Graduate School

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