Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UNLV NFA president John Farley on the importance of research funding for higher education

Remarks delivered by UNLV NFA president John Farley to the Committee on the Funding of Higher Education; Febraury 29, 2012.

I’m John Farley, president of the UNLV chapter of Nevada Faculty Alliance. I’m also  Professor of Physics.

I urge the committee to throw out the old funding formula. The old funding formula does not fund either UNLV or UNR as research institutions.

At a research institution, faculty in the sciences have to write proposals to funding agencies, secure funding, administer grants and contracts, perform experiments and calculations, and write up manuscripts for publication in the scientific literature. That’s a lot of work, and it’s not reflected in the current funding formula.

The old funding formula came from a bygone era when neither UNLV nor UNR did as much research as they do today. The old funding formula didn’t really promote the interests of UNLV or UNR as research institutions.

The expectations placed on the research universities are high these days, as state leaders look to research to help lead the way to economic diversification and economic recovery.

One additional point is that research is a part of education. Not just graduate education, but undergraduate education also.

In my physics department,  it’s a requirement to get a bachelor’s degree that the student has to complete a research project.  Two undergraduate students did research in my lab last summer.

At UNLV in a typical summer,  about 50 undergraduate students participate in research in the sciences (not just physics). And there are more undergraduate student researchers in engineering. And there are similar numbers at UNR.

UNLV and UNR cooperate on a Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium, which alternates between north and south. About 40 undergraduate students statewide participate.

The money spent on research produces a return for students who work in the laboratories at all levels, for the regional economy, for the quality of life which benefits from innovation, for the system of higher education and the university - which gets a significant return on its investment in money invested in scientific research.

I’d like to ask the committee members to consider not just - is there a research component AT ALL, but is it sufficient to create incentive for our university to fulfill that part of its mission?

For all these reasons, I urge you to throw out the old funding formula, and get a new funding formula that reflects the research mission of the research universities.


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