The Research Universities Futures Consortium

The Current Health and Future Well-being of the American Research University

Developing and managing a research portfolio is not easy. There are many points of failure and the benefits are often not immediately obvious. The research grants and contracts landscape is competitive and globalized and the competition is only likely to intensify as a result of the current U.S. financial budget situation. In recent years, research has become more international and more interdisciplinary, making the management of research funding an increasingly complex task. On a broader level, universities are heavily regulated and scrutinized by governments and other sponsors who seek transparency and value for their investment.

In an effort to understand the current U.S. research landscape, identify common challenges faced by leading research institutions and recommend and develop solutions, a community driven effort involving 29 of the nation’s top research universities was established in 2011-2012, with support from Elsevier. Using a bottom up approach, the leadership of this group, the Research Universities Futures Consortium, conducted interviews with the Research Executives and their staffs at 25 universities of the Consortium and held a national workshop, which informed their report,  “The Current Health and Future Well-Being of the American Research University” which was released in June 2012.

The core findings

While there were many areas worth discussing in the study, the most important of these were consolidated and reported as six key findings: Hyper-competition, Compliance, Research Quality and Impact, Planning and Decision Support, Value of the Research University and Fragility of Research Administration. The main conclusions of the report included the need for collaboration, shared metrics and a required shift of focus to productivity, rather than size.

The Research Universities Futures Consortium will continue to collaborate on efforts in order to develop solutions for the research management challenges indicated within the study. All the information gathered and produced by the Consortium will be made freely available to the academic community, research sponsors, and the public via published reports and presentations.