Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

COR reauthorizes Biotechnology Center, Natural History Museum for five years

(The following report was written from meeting minutes taken by Pam Pettry.)

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 10 - October 26, 1995

At the October 11 meeting, the Commission on Research voted to reauthorize the Biotechnology Center and the Natural History Museum for another five years, and discussed the process by which centers are reviewed.

Ernie Stout, associate provost for research, presented the review of the Biotechnology Center. The executive summary stated that the center, established in 1987 "to encourage and develop interdisciplinary initiatives in biotechnology consistent with the threefold mission of the university...has expanded during the past five years in all phases of its mission....Outreach activities and formulation of undergraduate- and graduate-education programs have been particularly impressive....The review focused on whether a foundation has been established for enhancing success during the final half of this decade....We are optimistic that this foundation is being established."

Recommendations included having Tracy Wilkins continue as director, authorizing a laboratory specialist staff position to prepare materials for teaching laboratory courses, developing policy and procedures for the submission and administration of sponsored projects, developing guidelines for inviting faculty members to occupy Fralin Hall and faculty members to return to their home departments, developing rules to regulate the administrative interactions between the colleges and the center, increasing support from Extension as funds become available, including the Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology Committee as its teaching committee, and development of undergraduate and graduate options in molecular cell biology and biotechnology, and consideration of establishing an advisory group to review development of total resources.

Joe Schetz stated that he is uncomfortable making budgetary recommendations, and Peter Eyre and Lucian Zelazny agreed.

Ann McNabb said the review committee is charged with evaluating the resources available and judging the needs or excesses.

Pat Edwards said it is appropriate to consider the budget according to the guidelines, pointing out that budgetary items are one of the first items that come up in an external review.

Regarding the recommendation for funding from Extension, Stout said the center's outreach program is clearly an Extension activity and it is now being funded without Extension or outreach funds. He explained that if the center engages in taking teaching activities away from Blacksburg such as graduate courses, then it involves the Graduate School. If it is engaged in non-credit courses, then it involves Continuing Education. The report recommended discussions amongst the groups involved with outreach education.

Bonham Richardson presented the Virginia Museum of Natural History review report. He stated that the conclusions were very positive. Funds are their principal concern at this point. Richardson said the committee had met with several interested faculty members and had thoroughly reviewed the facilities on Main Street as well as in Derring Hall.

It was recommended that Susan Eriksson continue as director, preferably full-time rather than a half-time position as it is now; that the museum be given a high priority in the university capital campaign, that the museum play a leading role in current university discussions and concerns about environmental education, and that every effort be made to locate a permanent, on-campus site for the museum.

Joe Cowles asked, "Since this is outreach, shouldn't Extension be helping?" Stout responded positively. Stout said the center is also involved in many normal university classroom teaching activities.

Stout proposed that the Transportation Center be reviewed in an abbreviated manner this year. It has been operating for more than a year with an interim director. The search for a permanent director is nearing a close. Stout suggested a small group be appointed to interview the interim director and Len Peters, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, with specific questions about the recommendations from the last review.

Schetz asked what type of concerns were expressed in the first review. Stout responded that the primary difficulty that the committee perceived was the relationships of the center and the center director with other faculty members, who are very much needed for the center to do its job. McNabb said it would be beneficial to have this review completed before the new director comes in. It was suggested that the committee meet with faculty members involved with the center. Stout agreed. The membership voted for the abbreviated review.

Stout asked the commission to discuss the whole center-review process. He mentioned the difficulty of finding members to serve on review committees because it is a very time-consuming process.

McNabb said criticisms related to one center review several years ago increased the amount of work for all the reviews.

Eyre said it is a very healthy thing to do. He mentioned that since several centers still have to be reviewed for the first time, we might have to `bite the bullet' and do their reviews thoroughly the first time around. Maybe a more cursory review will suffice the second time around. Eyre said that COR members need to volunteer to carry out the review process.

Stout said the results of the reviews have been good. He mentioned a couple of SCHEV centers that are not research-related and that perhaps should be reviewed by some organized group other than the Commission on Research. He said that next year the two research centers to be reviewed will be second-time reviews and perhaps will not be as difficult, particularly if they are doing well.

Tze asked if the review teams really need seven members, or if it could be trimmed to five members. Schetz said that sounded like a good idea. Regarding the numbers, Smith said, you could have a minimum of five and maximum of seven, and this choice should be left to the review committee chair. Tze said this is effectively what has been happening. McNabb said it is harder to get large committees together.

Richardson said he was pleased to learn so much about the museum through chairing the review. He said that it was very valuable for faculty members to have open-ended discussions

McNabb said there is a lot of dissemination of information across the university that comes out of these reviews.

Edwards suggested that the chair be allowed to make the assignments of the chairs of each review committee.

Tze solicited questions or comments on the policies and procedures document. Discussion of the details of the review and the report continued until Schetz suggested there be a COR subcommittee of people who have done the center reviews. Tze said he would get together a group who have reviewed centers and hopefully next time have specific recommendations.

The commission agreed to allow the committee numbers to fluctuate between five and seven, and agreed to let the chair select someone to serve on the review committee.

In other business:

Tze said the Center for Toxicology has been terminated as a result of a self-evaluation.

Jay Williams will chair the Housing Center review and Mark Smith will chair the review of the Center for Stochastic Processes in Science and Engineering.

Delbert Jones agreed to serve on the lab-animal care committee.

Smith was elected vice chair of the commission.

Tamara Kennelly, reporting from the library committee, said technical services is attempting to free more than $200,000 in people resources for work within user services to improve library user services. With the shelving crisis in Newman, the library is considering ways to move to storage or discard 300,000 resources.

Kennelly also reported:

The collegiate librarian/information officer program is in place for the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, Human Resources, and Education. A librarian will be made available for the College of Business and someone will be hired for the College of Engineering.

The library is looking at the possibility of working with the Center for Excellence in University Teaching to develop pilot programs in information literacy.

The class of '45 is pledging $100,000 for library remodeling to make a more user-focused lobby area.