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Concern for funding

Winning competitive research grants requires nurturing a critical mass of talented faculty with laboratories equipped with modern instruments to perform science and engineering research in selected areas chosen because they matter for the future of the world. It requires savvy planning and it requires investment. The Board of Visitors has supported neither, since the time that I chaired the Virginia 2020 Science and Technology Committee that recommended both in 2001.

President John Casteen chartered the Virginia 2020 Commission to consider four areas where the University needed to improve its stature as a leading public research university. At the time I agreed to chair the science and engineering area committee of faculty, Casteen agreed that this investment was necessary, and he indicated that the University was prepared to make such an investment in faculty, staff and laboratories.

At their request, I briefed the Board on the results of our committee deliberations. The response was “thank you,” followed by inaction.

I write to express amazement that the Board is concerned by shortfalls in research grant awards. Over the past decade the Board has benignly neglected science and engineering research as an integral part of University education. That neglect contributed to the diminution in the University’s ability to compete. The Board should acknowledge its responsibility, not express concern as though its members are uninvolved and standing on the sidelines. Yet again, the Board members, while likely good and accomplished people in other arenas, show that they lack the necessary experience and knowledge to govern a complex research University.

Anita Jones
Professor Emerita
Computer Science

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