Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: Maintaining our focus on research

Monday, December 5, 2016

In October, I wrote a piece for The Conversation on how science education and research funding are crucial to our nation’s prosperity and national security. At that point in the presidential campaign, neither of the two leading candidates had addressed science or research in a meaningful way or provided a clear picture of what their science agenda would look like if elected.

Two months later, there remains uncertainty regarding the future of science education and research funding generally, as well as how President-Elect Trump’s administration will address specific issues like the Affordable Care Act, embryonic stem cell and fetal tissue research, climate research, and the appointment of a National Institutes of Health director. These are important issues that impact our nation, the University of Kansas and all of you who contribute to our research and discovery efforts.

I remain deeply committed to working with policymakers, elected officials and university leaders nationwide to promote science, research and universities’ central role in driving new discoveries and technologies. At the same time, I call on all of you to continue doing what you do best — that is, making discoveries that improve lives, create prosperity, and help us better understand the world. This is our obligation as a community of scholars.

I am heartened each day by how you are fulfilling this obligation. For example, in September, our Life Span Institute was awarded a five-year, $5.4 million grant for the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, one of only 14 such NIH-funded centers around the country.

Last week, we announced that two KU professors have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Alice Bean, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy, and David Darwin, distinguished professor and chairman of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, will both be honored during the 2017 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Also last week, The Washington Post wrote about fascinating research by John Kennedy, associate professor of political science, on China’s “missing girls” theory. While media and academics often cite the statistic that China’s one-child policy has led to 30 million to 60 million “missing girls” and a gender imbalance in China, Professor Kennedy argues these numbers are likely overblown due to the way births are registered at local levels in China.

Looking ahead, I’m especially excited by the development of our Central District into a new hub of research at KU. For our students, the new Integrated Science Building will provide new classrooms, new ways of interacting with instructors and classmates, and close integration of their undergraduate studies with cutting-edge research activity. For our researchers, it means a state-of-the-art facility designed to spawn multidisciplinary research and be an anchoring point for collaboration among KU’s research centers and campuses.

The abovementioned research successes are just a few of the ways we are doing great work in fields ranging from biotechnology to medical research to clean energy. As I suggest in The Conversation piece, without this kind of advancement at KU and other universities, our nation risks stagnation in all these areas, threatening our well-being and eroding our role as global leaders in innovation.

While it remains to be seen how leaders in Washington D.C. will address science and research, there is no question how to address it here at KU — that is, with skill, passion and a desire to improve the world around you.

Thank you for your commitment to research. Your efforts matter to KU, the nation and the world.


Bernadette Gray-Little

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.