|For Immediate Release: Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Regents' System Strengthens Commitment to Research
MADISON - As the next step toward a goal of strengthening the state's economy through focused university research, the South Dakota Board of Regents is creating a Research Affairs Council to provide leadership and coordination for the higher education system's research agenda.
The council will set goals, monitor progress, and evaluate the public universities' research performance, as well as cooperate with a related state initiative to commercialize intellectual property. The council is composed of the chief research officer or president's appointee from each of the six public universities. The state director of South Dakota's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), among others, will serve in an ex-officio capacity.
"This council's purpose is to catalyze more research in South Dakota," said Regents President Harvey C. Jewett. "Developing a strong state-funded research capacity within the public university system requires cooperation among campuses, as well as with other research-based organizations and various entities on the state and federal level."
This effort is particularly timely given Gov. Mike Rounds' budget proposal for next year, Jewett said. Last week, the governor recommended $3.7 million for a state-funded research infrastructure. Most of those funds would help hire additional research faculty members, pay for graduate assistants, and acquire needed laboratory equipment and space.
This week, the regents received two research-focused reports: one on the status of research in the South Dakota public university system and another on a federal program designed to spur research activity in states like South Dakota with underdeveloped capacity.
The status report notes that South Dakota's public university system was created primarily to teach students, not to conduct research. "The infrastructure necessary for a vibrant university research enterprise is lacking or underdeveloped compared to almost every other state system of higher education in the country," the report said.
If South Dakota is to become a recognized leader in research and technology by 2010, a goal of Gov. Rounds' 2010 Initiative, the report says "serious infrastructure building" in the higher education system is necessary.
A principal source of funding for academic research is the federal government. However, the $22.5 million in federal funds South Dakota receives for academic research and development ranks it the lowest of all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Even on a per capita basis, South Dakota remains in last place. South Dakota gets most of its federal research dollars from only three sources: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Agriculture. The report notes that South Dakota's "funding profile is less diverse than most other states."
One bright spot is research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which since 1989 has been sustained in large part through the EPSCoR program. South Dakota has made significant improvements over the past decade, with the number of active NSF grants in the state steadily increasing from 42 to 1988 to 100 in 2002.
Gov. Rounds' 2010 Initiative has set a goal of improving South Dakota's ranking in NSF funding to 30th nationally. To achieve that goal, the report says South Dakota would need to show a four-fold increase in number of grants and a three-fold increase in the amount of NSF funding.
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