The Stony Brook University Administration Building. The Research and Innovation Task Force spoke in a public forum on Jan. 21. EMMA HARRIS/STATESMAN FILE

The Research and Innovation Task Force identified several areas of needed growth for Stony Brook University’s research programs during a public forum on the Strategic Budget Initiative on Jan. 21.

One priority raised by the task force was increasing Stony Brook’s standing in the Association of American Universities (AAU), a collective of well-established research universities around the U.S. and Canada. Stony Brook spent less federal research funds than most other public institutions in the AAU in 2019, according to data gathered by the task force from the NSF Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey.

“That is really not a position we want to be at because it’s not a safe position,” Research and Innovation Co-Chair Anissa Abi-Dargham said. “A little move and we could be — I don’t want to say kicked out — but we may be kicked out of AAU.”

AAU membership depends on several factors, including citations, published work, awards, education and more, but Stony Brook has stayed in the bottom quartile for research spending among AAU public institution members since 2015. Losing AAU membership could hurt Stony Brook’s reputation, its ability to attract funding and grants and its student recruitment, according to Abi-Dargham.

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The task force also wants to review and implement recommendations made in 2017 by upper administration through the Facilitating Researcher Success (FRS) study, which evaluated administrative barriers to research. So far, the university has followed through on some of the lower cost recommendations from that study, but not many higher-cost investments, the task force said.

Other top issues the task force listed include obtaining larger multidisciplinary and training grants, connecting Stony Brook’s research to Long Island and New York’s businesses and encouraging more interdisciplinary research across campuses and departments. Throughout the forum, there was plenty of emphasis on connecting students, researchers and faculty from different areas of study to learn from each other and conduct collaborative research. 

“Can we serve as a catalyst to get groups that might not talk to each other, the sciences and the humanities, for example, and see what unique innovations could come from that?” Co-Chair Jon Longtin said.

Abi-Dargham believes the task force has the enthusiasm and backing to be useful in the future to Stony Brook’s research programs. 

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“We have a challenge and an opportunity to meet this challenge to grow,” Abi-Dargham, said. “If we do nothing, we’re not going to survive very well.”

The fourth phase of the strategic budget initiative is currently scheduled to begin in March, with the final phase ending in April. Slides from Thursday’s presentation are available here.

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