Domains of Discovery

Strategy 4.  Focus resources on a selected number of domains of discovery that optimize our return on investment as indicated by both quantitative and qualitative (e.g., scholarly productivity and societal importance) measures.

Virginia Tech must focus resources on a selected number of domains of discovery that optimize our return on investment as indicated by both quantitative and qualitative (e.g., scholarly productivity and societal importance) measures. To accomplish this, we need to select and invest in domains of discovery for which three criteria have been satisfied:

  1. We have significant capabilities in a domain, and we have the resource needs to develop it, or maintain it, as world-class capability.
  2. There are both opportunities and needs present in a domain, in terms of research sponsorship and societal need.
  3. We are able to compete in a discovery domain to garner resources and make a substantial impact.  This requires that we understand research organizations that operate in a domain, their level of investment, and our ability to compete with them.

As we move forward with the long range planning process, we need to continuously select and modify discovery domains to maximize their overall impact. These domains need to be specific enough to develop a meaningful capability without being overly constraining.  To make necessary resource investments on an evolutionary basis, we must support domains that meet the above criteria.  Selection, investment, modification, and continuation of these domains need to be an ongoing mission of the Office for Long Range Planning, with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and focused advisory panels of internal and external experts to advise the University Administration on resource investment.

All universities operate in a resource-limited environment.  Almost all invest strategically in centers/spires of excellence.  Such investment allows research universities to:

  • Garner substantial institutional resources while building large-scale research enterprises.
  • Make substantial impacts in areas of societal need.
  • Greatly increase their standing and notoriety in the University Community, both nationally and internationally.
  • Build student research opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Virginia Tech, relative to many of its peer institutions, has only recently begun to make sizable investments in discovery domain of excellence.  Despite this late start, almost one-third of Virginia Tech’s research expenditures, and over two-thirds of its research growth has been from the large Centers and Institutes.  If we can continue this trend through careful, nimble and informed decision making, it will greatly benefit the University moving forward.

There are few obstacles to developing an evolutionary and continuous process for selection and strategic investment in domains of discovery.  It will require minimal resources and many support systems are in place. This strategic plan needs to commit to developing a process that utilizes the long range planning effort on a continual basis with the advice of key internal and external experts in selected domains of discovery. If we can more effectively utilize our limited resources, we can continue to progress as a research university at a pace greater than many of our peers.  This will provide benefits across all aspects of the Virginia Tech mission.

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