As part of its plans to reduce next year's budget, the University is looking to streamline research support and boost its revenue by securing more grant funding. The academic administration team of the Organizational Review Committee — one of the 12 teams formed last September to identify ways to cut $14 million from the University's budget — outlined its recommendations in a report released Feb. 2.
The full set of recommendations will be submitted to President Ruth Simmons and to the Corporation for approval when it convenes Feb. 25 to finalize next year's budget.
The Organizational Review Committee report detailed proposals for a consolidated administrative center that would help strengthen support for research in all departments by providing more unified services and guidance. By improving the availability of staff resources, the center would ultimately help to relieve the University's budget crunch by providing an increased source of revenue through supported grants, according to the report. The group also suggested increasing staff in the Office of Sponsored Projects, the arm of the University that helps faculty identify grant opportunities.
The team was asked last fall by members of the review committee to find ways the current model of research support could be streamlined to make better use of the University's administrative capacity, said Associate Provost Nancy Dunbar, who led the team along with Professor of Engineering Rod Beresford.
Expanding on Brown's already aggressive push to improve its research capacity, Dunbar said the group is proposing ways to strengthen research support through a new academic administrative service center. If the center is approved later this month, it will relieve staffing pressure by joining administrators and staff from various departments in a centralized office. This consolidation would provide better resources and financial advice for grant support, Dunbar said.
"There's an effort to figure out how to make the current system more efficient," she said, adding that the center would make the research support process "less error-prone" and lift some of the burden from individual departments.
The center would most directly aid the humanities and social sciences, departments which the team found were most lacking in grant-support expertise, Dunbar said.
In addition, the center could solve staffing problems for the departments that have lost members who decided to accept the University's voluntary retirement program, Dunbar said, adding that these departments could seek assistance from the center's staff instead of relying on members within their academic fields.
Since the Organizational Review Committee's teams first assembled in September, the groups have been trying to find better ways to allocate the University's available resources to alleviate existing financial pressures, said Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Beppie Huidekoper. She added that the team's goal was to identify ways to enhance efficiency without having to make cuts.
Huidekoper said the team's proposals — which also include increasing training and pay for existing administrators — will allow fewer staff to more effectively provide more services.
"The focus was to improve operations as much as we could," Huidekoper said.
But she said the recommendations have not been fully embraced, especially the plan for the new administrative center. Some University officials feel research support should be implemented through department chairs and through the Dean of the Faculty, rather than through an administrative hub, she said.
"The president's response was to pursue (the center) carefully and slowly," Huidekoper said. "This is a set of recommendations based on a highly consultative