'Dear Colleagues': Research accelerates into 2012

Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw shares details about productive collaborative work with industry, a research ethics policy for students, communication and outreach efforts, and more.

Dear Colleagues:

I hope that all of you had a wonderful break, and are as excited as I am about the prospects for 2012. My staff and I are continuing our work of supporting Mississippi State University's research enterprise, creating new opportunities that enhance the quality of our research, improves the quality of life for Mississippians, and grows our state's economy. As we begin a new semester, I wanted to take a moment to update you on a few of our activities.

Industrial collaborations encouraged
In recent weeks, we have met with several corporate representatives to discuss a full range of topics from economic development opportunities to research collaborations. One of our most recent successes has been with Mav6, a company in Vicksburg. Mav6 was established in May 2007 to fill a need in the global defense and security market for rapidly conceived, concept-to-implementation technology solutions to emerging global security challenges. Inc. Magazine recently named Mav6 to the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing privately-owned companies in the U.S. "It's great to have an exceptional technical resource like MSU nearby; they have outstanding technical experience and they're eager to join us in our efforts to quickly get new capabilities to the warfighter and support high-tech economic development in the state of Mississippi," said Mav6 co-founder Jay Harrison in a recent news release. MSU is working with Mav6 on three activities initiated in 2011, including development of a defense-focused technology center in Mississippi, execution of the U.S. Air Force Blue Devil Block 2 airship program, and recruitment of an MSU researcher to serve as Mav6 chief technology officer. There are many other examples of the private-sector partnerships we are building, and I encourage faculty to pursue these avenues, as well as more traditional research activities.

Striving for less paper, more efficiency
We are always looking for ways to become more efficient. Sponsored Programs Accounting has been working with Sponsored Programs Administration and Information Technology Services to develop a workflow that will include the scanning of all award documents into the Banner Document Management System (BDMS). In the not too distant future, we expect that anyone with appropriate access can search in Banner for their fund, and, once located, simply click on the BDMS icon to access an Adobe PDF file, which is a scan of the original award document. Our goal is that this feature will minimize the need for duplicate copies to be maintained in multiple offices around campus. In addition, when questions arise about an award, every office will be able to access the same document for reference. This system is already in use with academic records, and we hope this partnership between ITS, Sponsored Programs Accounting and Sponsored Programs Administration will allow us to utilize less paper in our workflow and documentation in the future.

Laboratory and research safety
Too often, we overlook or understate the value of a strong safety program on campus. It is very easy to take for granted when it works well, and Mississippi State's certainly does. I want to share with you a brief story as reported by Inside Higher Ed that illustrates what can happen when laboratory safety measures fail: During the Christmas holidays in 2008 at UCLA, a student researcher assistant was working on an organic chemistry experiment that resulted in the research assistant being burned, resulting in her death a few days later. At MSU, we are acutely aware of the need for laboratory safety, and I'm grateful for the good work that our safety staff provides. We are currently evaluating how safety efforts within ORED, Facilities Management, and the Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine can be more effective.

Research ethics policy for students
I am very proud of a group of graduate students from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration -- Katie Echols, Dennis Farris Jr., Leigh-Ann Sallis and Braxton Stowe -- who wrote a first of its kind policy adopted at MSU: Research Ethics Consultation for Students Participating in University-Sponsored Research, which served as their capstone project under the direction of Marty Wiseman and Kesha Perry from the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development. The concept for the policy is based on practices that occur at medical institutions, but is believed to be the first among public research institutions according to the group's preliminary research. As a result, the group's exit project was awarded the 2011 Most Innovative Research Award by the MSU Graduate Student Association at the 9th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium. MSU OP80.01 provides students at MSU with a resource to help guide them in making responsible decisions when it comes to issues surrounding the responsible conduct of research (RCR). The policy is online at http://www.msstate.edu/dept/audit/PDF/8001.pdf. This policy now provides a resource for students to confidentially discuss research issues of ethical concern. It is not a substitute for the Mississippi State University Honor Code Procedure or the Ethics in Research and Other Scholarly Activities Policy (OP80.02). Rather this new policy provides an additional means for students to identify issues that should be reported under these two policies, as well as the "whistleblower" policy (OP01.07). Trisha Phillips, assistant professor in Philosophy and Religion, has agreed to serve as the ethics consultant for students, and I greatly appreciate her service. My office is working with ITS to implement a secure, confidential form on the ORED website that will allow students to contact Dr. Phillips to share their concerns. Look for details about it in the coming weeks.

Communication and outreach
Sharing your success stories with our peers, state and federal policy makers, funding agencies, and the public at large is a priority for ORED, and we have a number of different channels for distributing news and information about Mississippi State research and economic development. Our website at http://www.research.msstate.edu serves as the hub of our outreach initiative, and it is updated frequently with news releases, key contact information, training and grant opportunities, and more. We also have active Twitter and Facebook feeds at http://www.twitter.com/maroonresearch and http://www.facebook.com/maroonresearch. And we work closely with University Relations on media releases and special publications, including the annual Research Windows magazine and the quarterly Maroon Research newsletter, that highlight MSU's commitment to and leadership in research. If you have suggestions for how we can better meet your communication needs and expectations, please contact research editor Jim Laird at jim.laird@msstate.edu.

Research priorities
In the very near future you should be receiving an email and web link for the draft research priorities for the university. These have been developed with input from the executive cabinet, deans, and center directors. Our next step is to share them with the university community. I strongly urge you to look at them carefully, and provide feedback via the website. This is an incredibly important step in development of the strategic plan for research, and every comment or suggestion will be very seriously considered as we finalize these priorities.

As always, I welcome your feedback on all of our efforts. Please feel free to contact me at any time with your suggestions, comments, or concerns at dshaw@research.msstate.edu.

Go Dawgs!

David Shaw
Vice President for Research and Economic Development

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