UK aims to grow research dollars, rankings

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Shortly after breaking ground Friday morning for a new cutting-edge facility in partnership with the Governor and General Assembly, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees discussed a proposed plan to significantly increase UK’s research expenditures and rankings.

“We will focus on research that addresses the challenges of the Commonwealth,” said Lisa Cassis, UK’s vice president for research. “The overall objective is to use the full capacity of researchers across the disciplines to improve the condition of the Commonwealth.”

Specifically, the university’s proposed strategic plan in research:

– Projects growth in research expenditures from $340 million in 2013 to $364 million in 2020.

– Significant increases in federal research expenditures, such as the National Institutes for Health. The plan proposes a goal of increasing federal research funding from $150 million to $175 million in 2020.

– Increasing the number of programs ranked in the top quartile by discipline by 2020.

– Accelerating growth in licensing and intellectual property

The discussion regarding research was part of the proposed university strategic plan being considered this week by the UK Board of Trustees. Earlier Friday, the board participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $265 million research facility, whose focus will be health disparities in Kentucky.

The trustees are expected to vote Saturday on the proposed strategic plan, which lays out ambitious goals for the university between now and 2020. The plan covers five core objectives — undergraduate education, graduate education, research, diversity and inclusivity and community engagement.

The financial numbers and rankings are important because they reflect a university’s research strength and its capacity. Moreover, Cassis said, the research dollars speak to the impact an institution can and should have in addressing the challenges of the day.

“We believe that what’s applicable to Kentucky’s well-being will benefit the world at large,” Cassis told trustees.

Board members also discussed the strategic plan’s goals with respect to graduate education and community engagement — a core focus of the university as a land-grant institution.

Susan Carvalho, interim dean and associate provost of the Graduate School, said it was important to link the goals for the university’s research enterprise with the health of its graduate programs. Under graduate education, the plan proposes to:

• Increase the selectivity of the university’s graduate programs
• Provide incentives for top graduate programs through the awarding of block grants
• Increase the number of graduate degrees awarded at the master’s and doctoral levels as well as education specialist
• Increase the diversity of graduate students

Finally, in the area of community engagement, Lisa Higgins-Hord, UK’s assistant vice president for Community Engagement, cited the proposed plan’s focus on leveraging greater use of technology, scholarship and research to “advance the public good.”

Specific goals include:

• Creating a unified reporting system through a database to track engagement efforts
• Creating opportunities for students to participate in a community engagement experience
• Creating partnerships between university and community stakeholders

“The proposed strategic plan underscores the depth, breadth and mission of our institution,” said Britt Brockman, chair of the UK Board of Trustees. “We seek to be a place where a distinctive undergraduate education is afforded to all our students, but also a place where the most profound of scholarship and research occurs in ways that address Kentucky’s most significant challenges.”

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