Dear Members of the Brown Community, 

Brown is preparing to embark on an ambitious plan to build its strength in research across all disciplines. With the goal of making a greater positive impact in the lives of people and communities around the globe, we aim to double the University’s research activity over the next five to seven years.  

Almost 10 years ago, our community participated in an inclusive process to help develop Building on Distinction, the strategic plan that launched in 2014, establishing a vision for elevating Brown to the next level of excellence in all that we do. This was followed by two operational plans — in 2015 and 2018 — that have served to guide our collective work in strengthening education, scholarship, campus life and operations.

Today, we are presenting the draft of the “Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise.” Like the two previous operational plans for Building on Distinction, the operational plan for growing Brown’s research activity reports on the substantial progress the University has made since the launch of the strategic plan, and establishes a detailed framework for new investments. These include investments in space, people, systems, tools and strategic support structures that will allow Brown to build momentum and accelerate our growth.

We invite you to review the draft plan this summer or, if you prefer, in the early fall after the semester begins. We will have an opportunity to engage together in campus discussions in fall to finalize this important roadmap.

In this detailed letter, we do the following:

--1.  Outline the key elements of the draft Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise;

--2.  Provide information on an external review of our research support infrastructure that is taking place this summer, which has the goal of identifying ways to expand and strengthen support for Brown researchers; and

--3.  Share the launch of architect selection for a new Integrated Life Sciences Building in the Jewelry District, which will house lab space and core facilities for interdisciplinary research in the biological and life sciences and biomedical engineering.

All of these efforts are in their early development phases and will become more clearly defined through processes of engagement with faculty, staff, postdocs and students who are active participants in the Brown research enterprise.


The draft Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise establishes that significant growth in research activity promises to drive Brown to a new level of excellence. Meeting the goal of doubling research will reinforce innovation in classrooms, attract world-class faculty and top students, stimulate innovation and economic development locally and across the state, and benefit society through the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

The draft plan provides data on Brown’s strong foundation for growth — including increases in faculty and PhD enrollment (with 14% and 15% growth, respectively, from 2014 through 2019), as well as a surge over the past several years in research productivity and expenditures. Brown’s federally-sponsored research expenditures increased by 41% over the last five years, which is the highest growth rate among our peer institutions by a wide margin.

The plan builds on this foundation in articulating plans for growth in four key areas:


Doubling Brown’s research enterprise will require significantly more people to write grant proposals, perform research and produce scholarship. This means increases in tenure-track and research faculty; graduate students, specifically Ph.D. students; postdoctoral researchers; staff researchers; and undergraduate research assistants. The plan offers data-informed analysis and explains that growth will not be uniform across disciplines, as academic departments have different needs. Although much of the growth in people will be financed by external grants, it also will require new philanthropy and University support.


To accommodate growth, Brown will need additional and upgraded space for research across a number of disciplines in life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities and the arts. The plan lists 15 specific capital projects under consideration across each of these areas, as Brown is engaged in space planning studies to evaluate needs and current spaces across campus. The plan articulates the need to add research space through new construction and renovation, while also addressing deferred maintenance of existing research facilities. All capital projects will follow the University’s capital planning processes, will be evaluated against guiding principles for growing Brown’s research enterprise, and must align with the University’s long-term priorities and plans.


The University will need to increase and improve its research infrastructure across campus. The Growing the Research Enterprise framework outlines plans to increase library resources, internal research funding, research administration, computing infrastructure, service centers such as research core facilities, and faculty development programs, among other forms of support. These investments will be scaled over the next five to seven years, with a goal to make research and scholarship at Brown easier and more seamless.


To maximize the impact of growing our research enterprise, Brown will continue to build on existing areas of distinction and support broad societal priorities. The draft operational plan includes 10 examples of signature initiatives that illustrate the kind of research programs that can help propel Brown to the next level of excellence. Each initiative falls under at least one of the integrative themes in Building on Distinction that have guided targeted investments in academic units and programs across campus since the strategic plan’s launch. Examples of signature initiatives include “Creating Collaborative Humanities Laboratories,” “Preparing for and Responding to Pandemics;” “Treating and Curing Cancer,” “Promoting Ethical and Socially Responsible Data Science,” and “Reviving the Arts Ecosystem through Innovation,” in addition to other projects and initiatives. The plan considers the sources of investment and impact for each signature initiative.

You can find a link to the draft plan at the end of this letter. The Office of the Provost will offer several forums to collect and hear feedback on the draft plan over the summer and early fall, and President Paxson will share a final plan with the community in the Fall 2022 semester.


Expanding research will require that we grow and strengthen administrative support for research and researchers. Brown has engaged Huron Consulting Group to evaluate research administration and support across the University and offer a set of recommendations on how to appropriately organize and scale these functions over the coming five to seven years. In addition to the need for increased staffing in the future, we are also interested in understanding what additional changes to process, technology or structure would help facilitate growth across our research enterprise.

Over the summer, Huron will engage with staff to gain insights into our current and anticipated future needs. Interested faculty are also welcome to volunteer to provide thoughts and ideas to Huron. Faculty and staff can email [email protected] with questions or to volunteer input for the assessment. After the fall semester begins, we will host opportunities to discuss Huron’s recommendations with the Brown research community.


At its May meeting, the Corporation Committee on Budget and Finance approved moving to architect selection for a new integrated life sciences building in the Jewelry District. This is one of the first major capital projects under consideration as part of the Growing the Research Enterprise operational plan. Approval for architect selection launches a process that involves an extensive programming phase to assess factors ranging from space needs and site requirements to conceptual design and projected scale and scope, as well as estimated project costs and funding sources.

This is a critical first step toward realizing a long-held vision for a large interdisciplinary facility to offer a combination of wet and dry lab space, plus core facilities. As envisioned, the facility would provide state-of-the-art space for researchers in biology, medicine, brain science, bioengineering, public health and other disciplines to work together on integrated health and science research teams.

We know that Brown scientists, physicians and scholars already are at the leading edge of work toward new discoveries and solutions that impact lives here in Rhode Island and around the world. Our goal is to advance that positive impact even further. Building a major new facility in Providence will enable integration across fields of expertise to launch breakthroughs in cancer research, brain disorders, bioengineering and other fields.

Identifying a location in the Jewelry District would offer researchers the proximity to enable close collaboration with scientists and physicians at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, Laboratories for Molecular Medicine, and School of Public Health, as well as the University’s affiliated hospital partners. Establishing this space in the Jewelry District dates back to the launch of Building on Distinction and its operational plans, as well as the needs identified as part of the BrownTogether comprehensive fundraising campaign launched in 2015 to advance support for the strategic plan’s priorities.

Architect selection is expected to take three to six months. And while a target timeline for the full Integrated Life Sciences Building project would emerge during the extensive planning process, the University estimates eventual construction completion in the range of five or more years.


As a community of scholars and educators, we are at an important moment. We have the opportunity to increase the impact, visibility and reputation of Brown University as a global research university that develops solutions to pressing issues and challenges facing society and the world. From Alzheimer’s disease to economic inequality, and sustainable energy to cultivating creative expression and unlocking the mysteries of RNA — Brown researchers are well positioned to make a transformative difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities.

We want to thank the deans, faculty, staff and other members of our research community who already have contributed insights to the draft Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise that we’ll discuss in the coming academic year. You may read more about the process to begin planning for the integrated life sciences building in a Brown News announcement later today.

We look forward to engaging with you early in the fall about these plans, and hope that our full community shares excitement for the work we’ll do together in the months and years ahead.


Christina H. Paxson, President

Richard M. Locke, Provost


Related Links:

Operational Plan for Growing the Research Enterprise


Brown News on the Integrated Life Sciences Building


Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown