'Dear Colleagues': Refining research priorities

In his latest update for the campus community, Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw shares details about research priorities, a Federal Demonstration Partnership survey, human subjects in research policy changes, and more.

Dear Colleagues:

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, and took the time to spend it with family and friends. This season is one of my favorites, and it provides a wonderful opportunity to thank you for your support of Mississippi State University's research and economic development activities. Each of you, no matter what college, department, or research center you are affiliated with, contributes to our collective strength in research and our attractiveness to industrial partners and associated economic development growth for our state. Our accomplishments are only possible through the individual efforts of our faculty.

As we work toward the end of the semester and begin preparations for an exciting new year, I want to share some news with you.

Research priorities: Feedback wanted
My office has continued to refine Mississippi State's research priorities, and we have now incorporated comments from deans and administrators. In the very near future, I will be asking for general faculty comment and input before we finalize the priority list. They will be posted on the same website as the university's strategic plan, and will use the same mechanism for comments and feedback. These research priorities will guide our investment strategy for the future, and they are important to our long-term planning. I would encourage you to review them and send us your comments and suggestions.

MSU on display
Your university continues to play a leadership role in research. Plans are underway for MSU to host an Unmanned Aerial Systems conference in May of 2012. This follows an extraordinarily successful conference in 2010, sponsored by the Air Force. MSU will also be one of only a handful of universities that will be setting up an exhibit on the National Mall as a part of the Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. during July of 2012. The event this year is focusing on a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which founded the land-grant university system in our nation. This festival is the largest tourist event in Washington each year, with over one million visitors!

Federal Demonstration Partnership survey participation
MSU is a participating member of the Federal Demonstration Partnership. FDP is a cooperative initiative among 10 federal agencies and 120 institutions. One of its many initiatives is a commitment to reduce the administrative burden of faculty to allow more time to be spent on research. This is a key interest of mine, and something the university has been working with FDP on since 2008.

The FDP is administering a Web-based Faculty Workload Survey to explore the impact of federal regulations on the time faculty spend actively conducting research. The purpose of the study is to find out how new and continuing federal research requirements influence the amount of time faculty from FDP member institutions are able to allocate to active research. The data collected from this survey will be used to make recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget and others for reforming and reducing research-related burdens without lessening accountability and compliance with federal regulations.

Sponsored Programs Administration will provide the name, email address, physical address, and department of all those who have received U.S. federal funding in preparation for the survey activity, which will be conducted by a third party. More information on the process will be forthcoming from SPA, but I want to encourage you to participate if contacted. We all want to see administrative burdens decreased, and here is an opportunity to make a difference in that regard. Any questions you may have concerning this survey may be directed to Robyn Remotigue at robyn@spa.msstate.edu.

As always, I solicit and welcome your feedback on our efforts. Please feel free to contact me at any time with your suggestions, comments, or concerns at dshaw@research.msstate.edu or visit ORED's website at http://www.research.msstate.edu.

Human subjects in research policy changes
Over the course of the fall semester, the Office of Regulatory Compliance and Safety staff and the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research (IRB) chair have been meeting with entities across campus regarding a new policy on scientific and scholarly validity of research involving human subjects. This policy is meant to ensure the university complies with regulatory requirements that such research is soundly designed. Additional information regarding the policy and its procedures can be found at

All projects submitted to the IRB for expedited or convened IRB review after Jan. 3, 2012, will require review for scientific or scholarly validity by the principal investigator's department or unit head. Projects eligible for administrative or exempt review are exempt from this policy.

I also wish to mention that Mr. Jonathan Miller, IRB Officer and Assistant Director, has accepted a new position as director of the Human Research Protections program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and will be leaving us in January. He has provided excellent service to the university, and we look forward to continuing to work with him in his new position. Thank you, Jonathan, for your dedication and professionalism while serving MSU, and our collective best wishes for your future success.

I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas and my best for the coming year. Go Dawgs!


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