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University of Iowa News Release


March 19, 2007

Life Sciences Task Force To Improve UI's Research And Education Structure

A task force of University of Iowa faculty and administrators will examine ways the university can better focus the knowledge and expertise of its diverse life sciences departments on cross-disciplinary projects. Such a focus will not only improve the overall quality of life sciences research and education at Iowa but will put the university in a better position to compete for research funding, says Michael Hogan, UI executive vice president and provost, who initiated the task force.

"Currently, the university's research and education efforts are spread across multiple colleges and departments, an organization that sometimes gets in the way of researchers putting their heads together with scientists outside their discipline," Hogan says.

Hogan also points out that facilitating cross-disciplinary research in the life sciences is a core focus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a key funding agency in the field of biomedical research. He quotes the NIH publication "Roadmap for Medical Research," which lays out a framework of research priorities for the 21st century: "the scale and complexity of today's biomedical research problems demand that scientists move beyond the confines of their individual disciplines and explore new organizational models for team science."

For more information about the NIH research priorities, see:

The task force will be chaired by Michael Apicella, senior associate dean for scientific affairs in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine to chair the task force, which will be supervised by a committee of deans from the Carver College of Medicine, the Colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate College.

The Life Sciences Task Force is charged with investigating the extent to which cross-disciplinary research and education in the life sciences are currently occurring at the UI, and the nature of barriers that may be undermining such activities. The task force will also examine whether the university's organization of and allocation of research space to the life sciences are optimal in today's environment.

The Task Force will submit a report addressing these issues and offering recommendations for how the university can better meet the growing need for a more balanced, cross-disciplinary approach to basic and applied research and education in the life sciences by September 2007.

The creation of the Life Sciences Task Force follows several recent developments at the UI in the realm of applied health sciences, including the creation of the new position of vice president for medical affairs; the establishment of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science; and early planning, currently under way, to develop a new Iowa Institute for Biomedical Discovery.

While these developments are critical to building on the university's well-recognized expertise in the life sciences, Hogan notes that reports from federal funding agencies and advisory groups, such as the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have called for more balanced commitments to the basic and applied sciences.

"Without this balance," Hogan said, "we run the risk of slowing the pipeline of discovery and jeopardizing our ongoing ability to generate innovations that improve people's lives."

Hogan proposed the formation of the Task Force and developed its charge after consultation with Interim President Gary Fethke and Vice President for Research Meredith Hay.

In addition to Apicella, the Task Force membership includes Mark Arnold, professor of chemistry; Kathleen Buckwalter, professor of nursing; Kevin Campbell, professor and head, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics; Gregory Carmichael, professor and associate dean of graduate programs and research, College of Engineering; Beverly Davidson, professor of internal medicine; Vicki Grassian, professor of chemistry; Gary Hunninghake, professor and senior associate dean for clinical and translational science, Carver College of Medicine; Joseph Kearney, professor and associate dean for research and development, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Jack Lilien, professor and chair, Department of Biological Sciences; Susan Lutgendorf, professor of psychology; Paul Rothman, professor and head, Department of Internal Medicine; and James Torner, professor and head, Department of Epidemiology.

The first meeting of the Task Force is scheduled for March 27.

For more information about the Intercollegiate Task Force on the Organization of Research and Education in the Life Sciences, including the formal charge, see the Office of the Provost web page:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Michael Hogan, 319-335-3565,