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Checking in with Dean Forbes -- November 2018

I recently completed my three-year review for Provost Hanson. I was asked to describe my leadership philosophy, evaluate my achievements and identify barriers. Putting this document together reminded me once again just how fortunate I am to lead this College.

We have a unique opportunity to create a research and learning environment that seamlessly crosses levels of biological organization from molecules to ecosystems, and to offer a truly world-class education to our undergraduate and graduate students. Reflecting on the past three years, I see progress toward realizing this vision. Every accomplishment, every successful initiative, every thriving program is a tribute to the incredible collaborative spirit and dedication of my leadership team and the faculty and staff whose daily efforts help advance this work. Thank you!

Teaching excellence
Last fall I established a Teaching Task Force to assess teaching practices across our departments in an effort to ensure equity and transparency in teaching assignments and as a tool to assess where we have untapped capacity. The Task Force is finishing up their report along with recommendations about how to achieve these goals, and the CBS Faculty Consultative Committee and department heads have provided feedback. CBS faculty will have an opportunity to weigh in on December 7 at a CBS Teaching Excellence town hall in Bruininks Hall at which we will discuss the Task Force recommendations in addition to several other questions related to promoting innovation and excellence in our programs.

More about the budget: Indirect Cost Recovery
Bringing greater transparency to the budget process as part of a broader effort to boost internal communications within the College is one of my priorities. In my last message, I talked a bit about fundraising as one dimension of the budget. Another area that is poorly understood is how the College deals with Indirect Cost Recovery (ICR) funds.

Indirect costs, also referred to as research facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, are the sum of all indirect costs incurred in support of research activities within a fiscal year. ICR covers both facilities costs and administrative costs that are incurred by the University of Minnesota when conducting sponsored research, instruction, and public service projects. ICR is the mechanism used to reimburse the University for these infrastructure support costs.

At the University of Minnesota, ICR is returned to colleges to pay for infrastructure costs such as the construction and maintenance of buildings and shared research facilities, utilities, libraries, and central and departmental staff. ICR is critical to the University’s research operations and infrastructure but does not cover all the costs of research incurred by the institution.

Those who regularly apply for grants or administer them already know that some agencies fund ICR and some do not. How ICR is used varies between institutions and between colleges for that matter. Here at CBS we consolidate ICR at the college level so that we have the capacity to finance initiatives that advance research across the college. Most of the available ICR is used for faculty startup packages, bridge funding and unanticipated needs that arise such as lab renovations and equipment replacement. For example, in connection with our cluster hiring initiative we have committed ICR to cover $18 million in faculty startup costs. While we are not using ICR for current capital projects, we use this revenue to pay down debt on past projects including the MCB building.

While some may feel that individual PIs should control their own ICR funds, the reality is that we benefit from taking a more broad-based approach. In CBS, we want to encourage a diversity of research collaborations with a broad spectrum of funding sources, including foundations, corporations, state agencies as well as those that come with ICR. This supports the conditions necessary for a robust research ecosystem and enhances our flexibility to pursue a wide variety of funding opportunities.

On the lighter side
Our Petri Dish series continues later this month and in December. Next up is a discussion around food safety with Dana Davis, Mike Osterholm and Joellen Feirtag. This fall, we are partnering with the Bell so every conversation relates to food in conjunction with their Our Global Kitchen exhibition. The CBS Conservatory is also co-hosting a sold-out food-themed event November 17 with the Bell and Good Acre called Celebrate!

Posted 
November, 2018