Date October 24, 2022
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Brown releases final Operational Plan for Investing in Research

Building on substantial growth in its research enterprise over the last decade, the plan provides a roadmap for expanding scholarship at Brown to make an even greater positive impact in the world.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — With the goal of strengthening the positive impact it makes by advancing solutions to pressing challenges facing the world, Brown University has finalized a plan to propel research across all fields of study to new levels of excellence over the next five to seven years.

The bold Operational Plan for Investing in Research aligns with Brown’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction. It builds on substantial growth in research activity at Brown in recent years and provides a comprehensive strategy for targeted investments and increased support structures for faculty, staff and students, as well as investments in facilities that support research.

After a months-long engagement process on campus, University President Christina H. Paxson and Provost Richard M. Locke shared the plan in a Monday, Oct. 24, letter to the campus community.

“The research Brown produces plays a critical role in benefiting communities locally, nationally and around the world,” Paxson and Locke wrote. “With increased investment in research across all disciplines — in areas ranging from treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and unraveling the mysteries of RNA, to confronting social and economic inequality, addressing climate challenges, and deepening understanding of the historical and cultural legacies that shape current issues — Brown stands ready to make a transformative impact on the lives of individuals, families and society.”

The plan articulates that Brown is already a major research university with a well-established reputation that is inextricably linked to the strength of its research enterprise, which has grown significantly faster than many peer institutions as indicated by growth in faculty and Ph.D. students; increased publications, such as books and journal articles; more honorific awards for Brown faculty; and growth in external funding. Much of that success has been activated by the University’s strength in innovative research and education that integrates knowledge across diverse fields of study.

“Research conducted at Brown improves the health, well-being, capabilities and human possibilities of people across the globe and in our local community,” the plan states. “Faculty experts advise government institutions, elected officials, business leaders and non-governmental organizations while also catalyzing innovation in the commercial and non-profit sectors. Brown’s distinctive institutional character stimulates our researchers to think differently about the most significant issues facing our society and to develop novel approaches that might not emerge elsewhere.”

The operational plan offers a roadmap for advancing Brown’s position by building even more intensively on that recent growth and on the University’s distinctive culture and strengths. It outlines three principles to guide every investment in Brown’s research enterprise — strategic alignment with Building on Distinction; supporting Brown’s teaching and learning mission; and diversity and inclusion. This is reflected across strategies for growth in four areas:

  • People: The plan details the ways in which Brown will make new investments in faculty, staff and students. This will include the addition of more people to write grant proposals, perform research and produce scholarship, as well as increases in tenure-track and research faculty; staff researchers and administrators; graduate students, postdoctoral researchers; and undergraduate research assistants.
  • Space: To accommodate growth, Brown will need additional and upgraded space across disciplines, including the humanities, life and medical sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences. In addition to facilities already under construction or in planning — from the Lindemann Performing Arts Center on College Hill to a planned integrated life sciences building in the Jewelry District — the plan references capital projects under consideration across each of these areas, as Brown is engaged in space planning studies to evaluate needs and current spaces. The plan also articulates the need to add research space through new construction and renovation, while also addressing deferred maintenance of existing facilities.
  • Administrative and Support Services: The University will improve and invest in resources and services that support the research enterprise across campus. The plan outlines a framework for increasing library resources, special collections, internal research funding, research administration, administrative systems and processes, computing infrastructure, service centers such as research core facilities, and faculty development programs, among other forms of support. These investments will be scaled over five to seven years, with a goal to make research and scholarship at Brown easier and more seamless.
  • Signature Research Initiatives: The plan makes clear that to maximize the impact of growing Brown’s research enterprise, the University must continue to grow in ways that build on existing areas of distinction, align with the University’s culture and ethos, and support broader societal priorities. The plan explains that Brown will implement a process to solicit proposals for Signature Research Initiatives that have the potential to become innovative, world-class research programs. These initiatives will build on distinctive strengths, illustrate interdisciplinary breadth, demonstrate potential to garner external support, and align with the integrative themes in Building on Distinction. Nearly two dozen Signature Research Initiatives proposed during the development of the plan represent a wide array of academic disciplines. They focus on areas such as pandemic response, digital scholarship, biomedical engineering, systemic racism, quantum materials, collaborative humanities, cancer treatment, sustainable energy and more.

Achieving the goals outlined in the Operational Plan for Investing in Research will require significant financial investments, the plan notes. Funding will come from new and existing revenue sources ranging from federal grants and foundation funds to new philanthropy and University support. Investments will be phased over time, and many of the goals have been established as priorities in the ongoing $1 billion extension of the University’s BrownTogether fundraising campaign, which has a total goal of $4 billion after Brown surpassed the original $3 billion goal ahead of schedule.

Paxson and Locke noted that research touches every area of the University, and in addition to elevating Brown’s impact on society, growing scholarly activity will benefit the entire Brown community: “Deeper investment in research will reinforce innovation in classrooms, attract world-class faculty and top students to Brown, stimulate innovation and economic development in Rhode Island, and benefit society through the creation and dissemination of knowledge,” they wrote.

The final plan was developed with the input of deans, chairs of academic departments, directors of major academic institutes and centers, faculty, and staff. After the release of an initial draft of the plan to the community in June 2022, it was further refined by hundreds of members of the Brown community who provided valuable feedback through an online survey and multiple campus forums and focus groups.