Response to the University Science Strategy Committee’s Report

Date: 
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

To the Yale Community,

Two years ago, I wrote to you about the academic priorities we are developing for the years ahead. I noted that the sciences are fundamental to our mission of educating leaders and improving the world. To build on Yale’s immeasurable contributions to research and education, the provost and I charged the University Science Strategy Committee (USSC) to identify the most promising opportunities for investment across the sciences. After 18 months of research, consultation, and deliberation, the committee provided its report and recommendations in June.

Over the last few months, I have considered carefully all the perspectives and suggestions I have received regarding the USSC report. I am grateful to those of you who submitted comments and suggestions in writing or in person at one of the town hall meetings. I write today to share my response to the USSC’s recommendations and plans for their implementation.

The USSC’s recommendations include areas where the university can build on existing strengths across disciplines, departments, and schools to discover new knowledge about the natural world, solve pressing technological and scientific challenges, seek new opportunities in education, and advance research. The committee identified five top-priority areas:

Integrative data science and its mathematical foundations touch nearly every aspect of our lives. At Yale, we will not only expand data science in its applications, benefiting research throughout our campus, but we will also advance fundamental research underlying data science.

Quantum science, engineering, and materials involve physics, applied physics, electrical engineering, computer science, materials science, chemistry, and related fields. Investments in this area will build on and augment Yale’s leadership in fundamental quantum research with dramatic potential applications.

Neuroscience could produce revolutionary discoveries in areas ranging from human development to neurodegenerative diseases. Work in neuroscience takes place in many departments, programs, and schools across the university, and investment in this area will leverage a broad array of Yale’s strengths.

Inflammation science is vital to understanding our immune system as well as the cause and role of inflammation in many chronic diseases, including arthritis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. Yale researchers are working across basic, translational, and clinical sciences to understand inflammation—discovering knowledge that could lead to the prevention, treatment, and even cures for many diseases.

Environmental and evolutionary sciences address the threat to our local and global environment. Yale must respond to this challenge, and we are well positioned to do so. In addition to the committee’s recommendations, the university should pursue a more ambitious multi-disciplinary goal by broadening this top-priority area to encompass research across the range of environmental issues. This would include “climate solutions,” which the USSC recommends as an additional priority. Consolidating these areas will help connect Yale’s cutting-edge programs in science and engineering to our strengths in business, law, policy, and medicine—ultimately, providing us opportunities to address critical global issues more broadly.

The committee also highlighted the importance of ongoing initiatives in computer science, cancer research, precision medicine, and regenerative medicine. I fully support building on our current trajectory in these areas.

In addition to these thoughtful recommendations, the committee’s report includes suggestions for four cross-cutting investments—restructuring funding for graduate students, diversity throughout the STEM pipeline, instrumentation development, and core facilities—all of which I support. I would also like to emphasize the importance of providing additional resources, mentorship, and educational opportunities for our graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. We should do more to integrate and support these valuable members of our research enterprise.

It is important to note that the report does not recommend actions that would direct resources away from other areas. Many exciting STEM programs at Yale are not included in the report, and they will continue to thrive—leading their respective fields and educating students in the years ahead.

Based on the overwhelmingly positive response to the report, I am delighted to accept the USSC’s recommendations. I am particularly excited to work with all of you to achieve our highest potential in the top five priority areas, which present opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and education. Our collective efforts will ultimately benefit and improve many more areas than those directly identified—and the university as a whole.

Peter Schiffer, vice provost for research and professor of applied physics and physics, will be working with colleagues across campus to plan and lead the implementation of the committee’s recommendations. We are already enacting some of the recommended actions. For example, efforts are underway in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to relieve part of the cost of graduate student support from research grants in the sciences and engineering.

We will be updating equipment in our core facilities, and we are planning fundraising efforts to further improve our infrastructure. Over the last five years, we have invested significantly in buildings and core facilities, including the Wright Laboratory; Greenberg Engineering Teaching Concourse; the teaching labs in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory; West Campus science institutes; the Peabody Museum; the Magnetic Resonance Research Center; the Center for Research Computing; Lab for Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology; and others. These and our recent projects—constructing a new science building and creating programs and spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives—underscore Yale’s focus on supporting our faculty, students, and staff in their work and studies.

The provost’s office will provide more detailed information about next steps in the implementation process. In the meantime, I thank Scott Strobel and the other members of the USSC for the care and thought they put into their deliberations and for producing a report that will help us enhance Yale’s contributions to STEM education and research. Their report is a vital component of our strategy in the sciences, one cornerstone of the academic priorities guiding Yale. I also thank our faculty, students, and staff for their suggestions and feedback. In the months ahead, I look forward to sharing with you our progress in realizing our academic priorities.

Sincerely,

Peter Salovey
President
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology