Investing in IU’s compelling research story

Guest post courtesy of Mark Land, IU associate vice president for public affairs and government relations. 

Education. Service. Research.

The work of all universities is embodied by the first two of those three words. At Indiana University and its peer universities across the country, however, faculty research rounds out the tripartite missions of these institutions.

Research is a large economic driver at institutions such as IU, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the state and supporting a significant number of jobs.

Research is a large economic driver at institutions such as IU, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the state and supporting a significant number of jobs.

This work – done across a spectrum of disciplines, encompassing the physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities – is pursued by talented and dedicated scholars and researchers, and provides many of the basic intellectual discoveries that serve as the foundation for life-saving medical treatments, life-changing technological advancements and life-enhancing knowledge. Indeed, well over half of all basic research in the United States that results in commercial products, technologies or therapies is performed at universities.

Research also is a large economic driver at institutions such as IU, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the state and supporting a significant number of jobs. For example, IU researchers spent $533 million on their work in fiscal year 2014, and that total has exceeded $500 million annually for the past four years.

The lion’s share of that funding comes from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, which are charged with supporting basic research that helps advance the nation’s vital interests. This infusion of financial support is an important driver of IU’s economic impact on the state – which exceeds $10 billion a year when taken together with our healthcare partner Indiana University Health.

As you might imagine, a research enterprise of this magnitude is complex. Competition for funding at a time of dwindling public funding is especially fierce, which makes effectively communicating the breadth and value of IU faculty research more important than ever.

At IU, that work traditionally has been done by skilled communicators embedded across the university in our various schools, as well as in our campus and university research organizations and the office of public affairs. That work routinely results in interesting stories about breakthrough research at IU, which often is shared through the media and regularly pushed out by the university through our social media channels.

I’m extremely proud of our efforts to share IU’s outstanding research story, but we know there is more to do, and we have taken an important first step in raising our game in this area by creating the university’s first-ever manager of research communication.

This position, a cooperative venture between the offices of Public Affairs and Government Relations and the Vice President for Research, will lead a coordinated university-wide effort to better communicate the scope and impact of IU’s research enterprise to key audiences. Steve Chaplin, a veteran science writer at IU, has moved into this new role and we will be adding another science writer in the office of public affairs to further bolster our efforts.

Veteran IU science writer Steve Chaplin is IU's first-ever manager of research communications.

Veteran IU science writer Steve Chaplin is IU’s first-ever manager of research communications.

Our intent is to do more than just tell individual success stories about research grants, but rather to leverage our communication resources to highlight broad themes and areas of expertise as they relate to IU’s research enterprise across all our campuses. We also intend to do more to show the real-world impact of IU research, which is vitally important at a time when funding sources are under considerable stress.

And we don’t intend to stop there.

Research communications will continue to be a top priority across the university, and we will be examining every aspect of how we do this work – from staffing to story selection to distribution to how we work with researchers to help them become better advocates for their work.

IU has a great research story to tell. And we intend to do a great job of telling it.

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