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OU Research and Partnerships vice president shares progress, research priorities for strategic framework

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Evans Hall (copy)

Evans Hall pictured Sept. 12, 2019.

OU faculty received an update on the university’s research goals on Monday, outlining the research priorities identified in OU’s new strategic framework.

OU’s vice president for research and partnerships, Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, sent an email to all OU faculty describing the progress made in developing a plan for growing OU’s research prospects. The email also presented the primary priorities of OU administration to expand and maintain research programs.

“These first 90 days have afforded me an opportunity to get to know the community better and ascertain the state of OU’s research in general, and of the Office of Vice President for Research and Partnerships in particular,” Díaz de la Rubia wrote in the email. “We are developing and evaluating ideas for an ambitious long-term plan to grow OU’s research scale, scope, and impact to the level of top-tier, public American Association of Universities institutions by 2025.”

In the email, Díaz de la Rubia wrote that in order to analyze how OU could best position itself “for growth and maximum impact of its research enterprise,” the faculty senate and college deans were asked to provide “about three dozen names” of faculty members to serve as a group to formulate and review ideas on how OU could use existing strengths to become more competitive in research regionally, nationally and globally.

Díaz de la Rubia wrote that this working group, which will be chaired by Senior Associate Vice President Randy Hewes, will be guided by a drafted selection of issues, including defense and national security, energy and sustainability, life sciences and the future of health, and flourishing societies. 

The working group will be asked to hold town halls with faculty across campus and submit recommendations to Díaz de la Rubia and Provost Kyle Harper to determine which of the issue areas OU will best maximize its research impact and which academic areas of strength OU has that can contribute to research goals in that area.

The group will also provide input on recommending “a series of large, cross-campus, multi-college transdisciplinary centers of excellence” as well as providing a template for future solicitations from the office for “mid-scale multidisciplinary research efforts.” The solicitations will be peer reviewed by OU faculty and competitively presented.

All research centers and projects currently funded by the office will be reviewed as part of the process, Díaz de la Rubia wrote, and will be given a chance to continue operations through “internal research competitions.” The goal is for recommendations and review of existing centers to be finished to be completed before fall 2020.

“In the final analysis, all of these internal investments are aimed at growing our base of extramurally funded research,” Díaz de la Rubia wrote, “in order to grow our research mission and therefore enhance the creation of new knowledge and expand our creative activities and impact on society.”

To enhance OU’s ability to gather “business intelligence” and be aware of emerging and competitive research priorities of the federal government, the university has hired Lewis-Burke and Associates, a federal relations firm “advocating for the interests of higher education” institutions, Díaz de la Rubia said in the email.

Díaz de la Rubia wrote that the firm will improve OU’s competitiveness for federal research funding by providing daily information on research opportunities at federal agencies and how the leaders of these agencies “plan for the future.” The firm’s activities will complement existing OU operations in federal organizations like NASA and NOAA.

The office will also expand efforts to form more local corporate partnerships in Oklahoma, Díaz de la Rubia wrote, by establishing a new Office of Corporate Sponsorships.

“This office, working closely with University Advancement, will serve as OU’s entry point for private sector companies seeking to work together with our faculty and students on strategic research efforts of mutual interest,” Díaz de la Rubia wrote, “and would also be responsible for streamlining intellectual property (IP) negotiations, with the goal of accelerating and enhancing industry funded research on campus.”

To protect and successfully commercialize faculty and student IPs produced through university research, Díaz de la Rubia wrote that the office has renamed the Office of Technology Development to the Office of Technology Commercialization, and a search to fill the position of office director is currently underway.

“We refocused OTC’s mission to excel in the support of patenting and licensing of faculty and student IP. By separating IP negotiation for new industry-funded research contracts from patenting and licensing of existing faculty and student IP,” Díaz de la Rubia wrote. “We believe we will be able to much better and more effectively support faculty on all of their endeavors.”

Díaz de la Rubia wrote that the research office is also centralizing responsibilities regarding export control and classified information management, forming the new position of director of Export Control and Research Security to oversee the operations. A search committee headed by Professor Mark Yeary is already searching for candidates for the position.

“In summary, our goal is to provide you with a supportive, effective, and efficient research administration environment that is tailored to your needs and laser-focused on meeting our ambitions for the future,” Díaz de la Rubia wrote. “This is an ambitious agenda, but I am certain that working together we can develop a shared vision ... that will bring the University of Oklahoma to new heights in the scale, scope, and impact of its research mission.”

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