The University will invest $5.4 million in research and hire a vice president to oversee it, University President Steven Knapp announced at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.
“We look forward to being the premier research University in the nation’s capital,” Knapp said.
The $5.4 million in research funding will be distributed over a period of three years. Almost half the funding will not fund research directly, but will go toward setting up infrastructure that aims to help professors receive more funding from the government and private corporations. About $1.2 million will go toward funding new research projects and another $1.2 million will go to the Research Enhancement Fund.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said a University’s commitment to research is measured by its federal research expenditures, an area GW lags in as it just misses being ranked in the top 100. He said improving GW’s ranking is a priority because a high ranking can attract faculty and graduate students.
“Our efforts are all towards getting us to the top 100,” Lehman said. “The research expenditures are a measure of prestige for the University.”
Professors interested in research funding from the University will need to submit proposals to Lehman showing how their research fits with the goals of the University.
“It’s not just going to be distributed, it’s going to be competitive,” he said.
The vice president for research will work with Lehman and John “Skip” Williams, provost and vice president for health affairs, to conceive of a plan for the future of research at GW. A nationwide search committee will be looking for a new vice president to replace Elliot Hirshman, the outgoing chief research officer who is taking the position of provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, in July.
The position was created “to tighten up, improve and increase the number of grants and research money that we receive as an institution,” said Tracy Schario, a spokesperson for the University.
The vice president for research will also work with administrators at the Virginia campus. Knapp said he especially wants to focus development efforts on the Virginia campus, where unlike Foggy Bottom, there is physical room to grow.
“I think this is a unique opportunity to develop a strategic plan to move forward and to look at the Virginia campus as an opportunity to develop things we never thought were possible at the Foggy Bottom campus,” Knapp said.
“We want to create programs across time and space that model the economy and are Internet-centered,” said Craig Linebaugh, chief academic operating officer for the Virginia campus.
Gary Simon, a professor of medicine, said though the new initiative “is a start,” most of the funding will end up being channeled only toward areas of the University that are expected to grow, like science, technology and medicine. He called research at GW “under-funded.”
GW’s heavy reliance on part-time professors who are not required to do research has also hindered the University’s total research productivity. In a December interview, Kip Lornell, a music professor and a key figure in the unionization of the part-time faculty, said GW must hire more full-time faculty members in order to become a preeminent research university.
Lehman said GW is looking to hire more full-time faculty for the Virginia campus, but that a lack of laboratory space in Foggy Bottom makes it more difficult to hire more full-time faculty for the main campus.
-Danielle Meister contributed to this report.