Strategy 3. Establish an innovative process for promoting collaborative research and scholarship in selected areas to enhance Virginia Tech’s research mission.
Virginia Tech will benefit from implementing a process to establish groups of faculty who will pursue collaborative research and scholarship in high profile, high impact, high growth areas. The task force process implemented for health sciences is the first such initiative. In the future, other task forces will be established, driven by collaborative faculty efforts around a common research area.
The Task Force on Health Sciences has recommended the formation of the Faculty of Health Sciences as the best organizational framework to promote health sciences research and graduate education in the near future. The Faculty of Health Sciences will help form synergistic interactions among Virginia Tech faculty and build partnerships with all potential external collaborators at a variety of medical and health sciences institutions
Virginia Tech has developed a robust and expanding set of endeavors in the health sciences arena. Estimates developed from data gathered for the Committee from the Office of Sponsored Programs indicate that annual research funding in the health sciences is currently at approximately $100M. Recent investments have been made in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, coordinated research efforts in life sciences and translational medicine, along with broader efforts in other health-related investment institutes. Individual faculty researchers across numerous departments and all of the Colleges are also building research portfolios in the health sciences. However, despite these investments, the health sciences at Virginia Tech remain fragmented and lack a single focal point for building new collaborations, developing and coordinating large ($10 million plus) research programs that require clinical partners, and creating a set of graduate degrees that can attract the best students in the health sciences.
For Virginia Tech, the Faculty of Health Sciences will:
- Allow Virginia Tech to respond rapidly to the world’s evolving scientific landscape and emerging trends in the health sciences;
- Promote the “health sciences” brand at Virginia Tech and truly “invent the future,” particularly through partnerships with other institutions, clinical and otherwise;
- Shift the paradigm at Virginia Tech to focus on interdisciplinary scholarship through the creation of “faculties” that cut across and leverage multiple departments, institutes, and colleges. The Faculty of Health Sciences could be the first “faculty” created at Virginia Tech and offer a testing ground for a new approach that could be employed for other emerging strengths.
For faculty at Virginia Tech, a coordinated and leveraged health sciences presence will:
- Promote the “health sciences” brand at Virginia Tech, thereby increasing the visibility of the health sciences at Virginia Tech;
- Promote synergistic research collaboration among Virginia Tech faculty in ways that afford faculty the freedom to roam in their research across many health centers, both within and outside of Virginia Tech;
- Afford them new opportunities for work with clinical partners by providing infrastructures to better develop and manage such partners.
- New sources of financial aid for graduate students in the health sciences;
- Build comprehensive multi-disciplinary research teams that can complete for center grants;
- Provide benefits to individual faculty members with access to shared facilities, partnerships with clinical components (including clinical trials), equipment, access to a pool of graduate students (both GTAs and GRAs), grant support, travel support, and IRB support;
- Develop core facilities that might include shared central laboratories, each capable of performing a specific set of experimental functions that enable investigators to perform experiments more efficiently and at a more affordable cost. Cores thus facilitate research activity by providing resources and services that are beyond the means of most individual labs. The Faculty of Health Sciences could assemble a comprehensive reference inventory of University-wide core facilities that are of interest to faculty and graduate students;
- Serve as a gateway to and amplifier of health sciences research at Virginia Tech.