Panel of Administrators
MAKING IT A BLIP ON THE PUBLIC'S RADAR SCREEN
Guikema, Associate Dean of the Graduate School
Kansas State University
There is an
old proverb: the only person who really enjoys a change is a baby
with a wet diaper.
I began my
life at Kansas State University in 1981, when I joined the Division
of Biology as a young assistant professor. The goals and expectations
of my career were simple and well-defined: I would shape the young
Kansas undergraduate in my classroom, and the citizens would be
grateful. I would, through scholarship, publish in the best journals,
and my path through the landmines of the academic landscape would
be successful. In short, my future depended upon the classic linkage
between the state/federal funding agencies and my success in attracting
the resources to do my scholarship, coupled with my ability to transition
that scholarship into creative experiences for the K-State graduate
and undergraduate community. The contention here is that, in the
past two decades, times have changed.
It is time
to unload some myths that colored my early years as an assistant
professor. As to the first myth--the public perceives that science,
per se, is always used to foster the public good. Examples
of science-gone-awry, especially when compliance procedures were
not observed, have made recent headlines. These are times when research
should not be on the publics radar screen. As a corollary
to this myth--the University enjoys strong support for research
and scholarship among the Kansas taxpayers. This "myth" has proven
true in the past, and I am not yet willing to give it up.
I sincerely hope that current initiatives demonstrate to our legislative
community that Kansans continue in their resolve to support a strong
university research base.
A second myth--federally-funded
research and development programs are a growth industry. In recent
days, there are indications that the federal attitude toward human
health research has warmed significantly. However, the indicators
from 1970 to 1997 show that the total federal sponsorship of the
research endeavor, when viewed as a percentage of the total effort,
has declined (Figure 1).
A third myth
we must abandon--Universities should never look to industry for
funding to support scholarship. Many rationales have been used in
the past to support this contention, such as, industry will not
let us publish, and this would be suicide for our graduate students;
and industry funding is tainted by preconceived notions of expected
outcomes. In fact, however, protection practices for intellectual
property are in place on our campuses, and partnerships between
universities and industries (and their philanthropic foundations)
can be vigorous. As the federal percentage of research sponsorship
has declined during the past decades, corporate sponsorship has
increased (Figure 2). The
total FY 1998 sponsored research expenditures funded by industry
were $2.4 billion, a 9% increase from that in FY 1997 (AUTM: FY
98 Licensing Survey).
A final myth
that needs to be put to rest--Universities, by themselves, can effectively
place the blip of research on the publics radar screen. We
are currently viewed by the public as our own special interest group.
Unfortunately, this view extends to the legislature, and often to
the Kansas Board of Regents. At a past Merrill Conference, an executive
director of the Board noted that there was no effective mechanism
to bring research issues before the Board. Happily, this has been
Happen: Universities in Partnership
There is an
old proverb: "Nothing is impossible for the person who does
not have to do it."
era has become the "information age." Information is now the
currency of our economy, with informational advances touching the
fabric of the Kansas agriculture, aviation, telecommunications,
and biomedical industries. The Kansas universities should be, and
are leading the charge to increase knowledge in these areas. Yet,
how can we effectively take our message--that university research
deserves state-wide investment--to the Kansas taxpayer? We take
the message by building partnerships and having our partners help
validate the message.
partnership between science research and science education. This
is a potent alliance. K-12 educators have an impact on society.
At Kansas State University, the Division of Biology currently has
a $1.8 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which
creates partnerships between biologists and budding young educators
who wish to teach biology. This grant facilitates two-year experiences
for science educators in their sophomore and junior years. The young
educators receive hands-on opportunities to perform the scholarship
of science, to recognize its value, and to build a reservoir of
knowledge that they will pass on with enthusiasm to their students,
and in some way, to their students parents. Likewise, the
University of Kansas was recently awarded a special "cross-cutting"
grant from the National Science Foundation. This was the first year
that such grants were offered. Graduate students, who are studying
the sciences at KU, will be placed in K-12 classrooms. We believe
that by reaching the K-12 students, we also reach their parents.
A second potent
partnership must be forged between the research universities and
the governing bodies that oversee them. The Board of Regents has
been charged with this responsibility, yet research and scholarship
has taken a back seat to the education of the undergraduate masses.
There are strategies that can help bridge this perceived gap between
undergraduate education and research. The gap itself exists because
of a misperception. We must emphasize that the best education occurs
within a creative environment, and our brightest students learn
by doing, not by listening. The organization of Named and Distinguished
Professors has brought this concept to the Boards attention.
universities must form partnerships with the economic communities,
to emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of university research
for the Kansas economy. The mainstream agricultural commodity groups
in Kansas understand this and have been an historic voice for research
at Kansas State University. Their voices, however, have been diminished
by economic forces beyond their control--yet their voices will rise
within the next decade, if food-production estimates are accurate.
Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC) has been beneficial as
an economic voice urging the research universities to showcase strategic
technologies supported by their campuses. From the perspective of
Kansas State University, we have a potent mandate to continue our
efforts on several fronts. In order to address our economic needs,
we can continue to fuse the study of agriculture with exciting advances
in biotechnology and with research on the devastating effects of
drought and disease. Because our state ranks high in red meat production
and we value food safety and security, we have a mandate to continue
university research on production processes and security. In a world
where animal diseases are also diseases that can affect humans,
university research is vital. The KTEC message, from the Kansas
State perspective, emphasizes the importance of agricultural biotechnology
to our state.
There is an
old proverb: "The sight of the gallows clears the mind."
a good thing or a bad thing, that university research is a blip
on the publics radar screen? As an individual, I would like
to turn off the surrounding radar, but this is a wrong-based view
at best. As an administrator who is concerned about others, I want
that radar turned on. University research, like every other form
of human endeavor, must be a public concern. In an information age,
how can this concern be anything but positive? Only if we opt for
the wrong partners.