One year down, one to go

TRU halfway to forming strategic research plan

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

TRU is half way to finalizing a strategic research plan for the next five years. The plan will help guide the university’s research priorities and activities from 2014 to 2018.

The new strategic research plan will be approved by the Senate in Spring 2014 and will include much of the same themes as the 2009 plan. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

The new strategic research plan will be approved by the Senate in Spring 2014 and will include much of the same themes as the 2009 plan. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Sustainable development was the overarching research theme for the previous plan, formed in 2009.

The 2009 plan included areas such as advanced technologies and applications, agri-foods, bio-products, quality control, bioremediation and product testing, ecosystems and environmental resources, verbal and cultural literacy and communication technologies.

Associate vice president of research and graduate studies Will Garrett-Petts said many of those issues are coming up again.

“The feedback is that there are too many, and what we need to do is prioritize four, or at the most five, areas that we really want to focus on in the next five years,” Garrett-Petts said.

Between 80 and 90 faculty attended the initial consultation in September 2012, which aimed to align the university’s academic plan with the old research plan, recognizing that the old plan was stale and dated and needed to be revised.

“The university’s strategic plan, the academic plan and the strategic research plan all have to be coherent,” Garrett-Petts said. “It was an opportunity for us to see where we’ve come in the last five years and see to what extent [the old plan] still represents us.”

In the past year, the department of research and graduate studies had been involved in outreach, which included faculty meetings discussing partnership development and the impact of new technology on research.

A meeting was held with the associated undergraduate research conference to look at the role of undergraduate research. Garrett-Petts has also met with nine departments to discuss research capacities with faculty and was invited to discuss research with TRUSU.

A strategic research plan consultation website was formed where visitors can comment on the old research plan, but Garrett-Petts said there hasn’t been much of a response. The majority of the feedback is coming in-person from the strategic research plan community committee, which includes faculty, staff, students and community members.

In May, a survey was distributed to fourth-year students, graduate students and faculty, which spawned the major areas of concern, including tensions regarding the balance between teaching and research and lack of space. Space is a concern for science faculty and students because of the lab space required to do research.

However, the survey identified that over 80 per cent of both faculty and students see research as being a key component for the university to move forward.

“That was something we weren’t sure about before we did the survey,” Garrett-Petts said, adding that he feels there is a strong base of support for increased research.

The first of three town hall-style research planning meetings was held Sept. 20, when faculty were able to provide detailed feedback on the concerns that arose from the survey.

One of the biggest changes this time around is TRU’s public declaration that it is a research university. This will be TRU’s first strategic research plan since TRU joined the Research Universities’ Council of B.C. (RUCBC) in 2011.

The RUCBC monthly meeting took place on Sept. 13 at TRU, where the presidents of the six universities met to review and plan the council’s future focus and activities.

“One of the things that the universities have decided is they need to push for more graduate students opportunities in the province, more funded seats,” Garrett-Petts said. “They also want greater access to universities for communities like ours.”

Kamloops mayor Peter Milobar was the guest speaker and spoke highly of TRU’s research initiatives and their direct benefit to the Thompson Nicola region, specifically in relation to mining and forestry.

Garrett-Petts says the membership will surely have an impact on the research plan, which will be approved by the senate in April.

“I think it raises the stakes for all parties,” Garrett-Petts said. “It’s a public declaration of our intention to integrate research activities and opportunities as widely as possible, into everything that we do.”