The Transition Advisory Team Research sub-committee looked Thursday at parallel negative trends across the LSU System that began in 2008 following the first round of cuts in state appropriations.
The data plainly shows a decrease in research activity and numbers of faculty over the past five years, said Nicole Honorée, LSU System director of Research and Economic Development initiatives.
“The University research enterprise is like a pipeline in that there are inputs and outputs,” Honorée said. “Everyone wants to focus on outputs like inventions and start-ups, but you can’t grow that if the input of basic research isn’t also growing.”
One of the main problems with declining research trends is decreasing state appropriations, which hit LSU hard in 2008 and have continued ever since, said Research and Discovery sub-committee chair Jim Firnberg.
“If you look at our state appropriations in 2008, that’s down. If you look at our tuition and fees since 2008, that’s up,” Firnberg said. “You’ve got to put all of this together.”
The sub-committee meeting focused on a new metric for what commercialization and tech transfer models should look like as a product of the System reorganization, as both are key features of the University’s research enterprise.
“Those are outputs of a strong research institution and help support an entrepreneurial department that benefits faculty and students,” Honorée said.
Raising tuition and fees, more collaboration and research with industry and business, working with other institutions, and raising private money, especially in the form of LSU Foundation funds, are all potential solutions for increasing input into the University’s research pipeline.
“Hopefully that will counteract some of the decrease in state appropriations,” Firnberg said.
The sub-committee’s prime objective is to look at all the data and recommend strategies that might reverse the wide-spread declines and drive trends in the opposite direction.
Collaboration will only improve research if it’s done correctly, said James Duderstadt, president emeritus of University of Michigan.
Duderstadt advised sub-committee leaders to work toward the University’s membership in the Association of American Universities.
“Membership in the AAU is a lofty goal,” Firnberg said. “It’s not a goal we can achieve this year or in the next five years, but it’s a goal we should shoot for.”
Honorée said the first step in improving the LSU’s research trends is understanding the starting point.
“When we talk about wanting to have increased economic opportunities for faculty and students and the state that are built upon LSU’s knowledge, we have to understand where we are,” Honorée said.
As long as these trends continue, student and faculty can expect less opportunity to do research, Honorée said.
“Students should be concerned about the long-term effects,” Honorée said. “It does matter.”