Chancellor Dutta discusses state of research at Rutgers
Chancellor Debasish Dutta's department continued its ongoing Campus Conversations series on Monday with a town hall-style meeting discussing the state of research at Rutgers.
“The goal of the Campus Conversations is to bring faculty, staff and students together to have a conversation around the topics we think are critically important for the future of the campus,” Dutta said.
The latest conversation sought to engage with faculty and to invite ideas and involvement into the University's most important functions — education and research.
“The topic of this evening was research. We are a research university. We are doing reasonably well in research,” Dutta said.
Rutgers is focused on both research and education, according to the presentation. This has been the case since 1924, when the University introduced its first graduate education programs.
Rutgers began its path as a research organization in 1864, when it was awarded a land-grant by the U.S. government for the purpose of teaching agriculture and engineering in response to the Second Industrial Revolution.
The University's research spending has been steadily increasing since 1985, and although spending stalled slightly in the late 2000s, it has been on the rise again. Dr. Robert J. Heffernan, executive director for the Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Planning, stressed that the 1990s were an important time for research growth.
Rutgers' total research spending lands in the middle compared to its Big Ten counterparts, according to the office. Rutgers spent more than $628 million in total on research in 2015, $323 million of which was the result of federal funding.
Rutgers was in the top five Big Ten schools with regard to the number of members in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2015, according to the Office of the Chancellor. There are 39 members of the Rutgers faculty in this organization. The Office of the Chancellor called the National Academy, “... the nation’s top experts to advise the federal government on critical issues."
Dr. Prabhas Moghe, vice chancellor of Research and Innovation, seemed encouraged by the school's current performance. He said that research has been steadily growing for years. The total research expenditures at Rutgers are more than the research expenditures of all other New Jersey universities combined.
“That’s something that we are proud of,” Moghe said.
Despite this optimism, Moghe also saw the need to improve certain areas in the future.
“We’re doing extremely well in life sciences, but we have to grow our footprint in defense and other non-medical science fields,” he said.
Dutta agreed, stating that there are many opportunities to grow in the engineering and computer sciences field.
“It’s interesting that we fall in the middle of all the Big Ten schools in price ranges and research, that we’re always in the middle, that we have room to grow but don’t want to fall below," said Kassandra Scheese, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
The meeting itself did not appear to have much appeal to the student body.
“The people interested in this are research leaders,” Moghe said. “They are people that are leading research centers, they are the department chairs or they are institution leaders who are interested in policies ... In the future we could host talks that may be of interest to the students."
Scheese was one of the only students to attend. “I really think (the campus conversations) are a good idea,” she said. “A lot of people give great feedback, they’re really engaged and willing to participate.”
She also praised the town hall atmosphere that allowed students, faculty and staff to discuss matters of importance to the University.
This is the purpose of the Campus Conversations series, as outlined by the chancellor.
“Thus far we haven’t had this kind of a forum, and I want to be more transparent and I want to be more inclusive with the faculty, staff and students,” Dutta said.
The next campus conversation will be in April on a topic which has not yet been disclosed, according to the Office of the Chancellor.