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onCampus--Ohio State's faculty/staff news

Vol. 38, No. 18

By: Adam King

Targeted Investment proposals selected for funding

Is humanity dooming itself by affecting the Earth's climate? Will there be enough fresh water to sustain the world's population? Can clean, sustainable energy be found to replace our dependence on oil?

Ohio State hopes to begin answering these and other questions by funding research through the new Targeted Investment in Excellence initiative. Ten proposals from a variety of disciplines, including bioscience, astronomy, physics, health care, medicine, music and advanced materials research, have been selected to share $100 million over the next five years.

In 2005, Provost Barbara Snyder established TIE to encourage colleges and departments to move their teaching and research into the top 10 or 20 among their world peers as part of Ohio State's Academic Plan. Deans and program directors submitted 52 proposals, all of which are required to move forward with or without TIE funding.

"The impressive number of proposals indicates the commitment our faculty have in improving Ohio State's reputation as an academic and research leader," Snyder said.

The top proposal, which will receive more than $11 million over five years, will establish the Ohio State Climate, Water and Carbon Program. Its research will focus on determining if humans are causing an abrupt climate change today, whether the planet has enough fresh water for everyone and what strategies can be implemented to offset the impact of fossil fuel combustion on cycles affecting climate change and water resources.

Like six of the top 10 plans, the CWCP is a collaborative effort. In this instance, the Colleges of Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; and Social and Behavioral Sciences; as well as the Byrd Polar Research Center and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, are pooling resources.

"There's no question that interdisciplinary collaboration is where all the new science is and where the new funding is," said Richard Freeman, dean of MAPS. "Traditional science and traditional ways of funding science have seen their high points."

Case in point: the proposal for the Center for Clean, Sustainable Energy involves research by virtually every department in the College of Engineering. But TIE put an extra $2 million on the table for CWCP and CCSE to share if they would work together. While the former seeks new sources of energy, the latter could study the impacts of that new energy consumption on the environment.

Freeman was thrilled that faculty from MAPS and the other colleges were able to compose such a compelling proposal for CWCP and make a strong impression among the evaluators. The true value in TIE, he said, is how it pushes each college to commit resources to faculty's top ideas. Colleges represented in the chosen proposals had set aside a collective $68 million of their own funds for implementation.

"A university's reputation and ability to draw great faculty and students depend on it being exceptionally good in a finite number of things," Freeman said. "Universities can't be excellent at everything. Provost Snyder's targeted investment allows us to carry the best programs into the national spotlight. This initiative shows some real leadership on her part."

TIE funding comes from central funding, from one-time cash awards and from a $25 million line of credit. Five separate entities gave feedback on each proposal, including the Council of Deans, the President's Cabinet, the University Senate Steering Committee, the President and Provost's Advisory Committee and the University Research Committee.

For details of all the proposals, visit oaa.osu.edu/tie.

The 10 Targeted Investment in Excellence winners, by rank. (Schools involved in parentheses):

1. Climate, Water and Carbon Program (various colleges)

2. Mathematical Biosciences (Biological Sciences, MAPS)

3. Interdisciplinary Public Health Preparedness Program for Emerging Infectious Disease Threats: From Discovery to Application (various colleges)

4. Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics (MAPS)

5. Center for Clean, Sustainable Energy (Engineering)

6. The OSU Advanced Materials Initiative (Engineering, MAPS)

7. Multidisciplinary Initiative in Population and Health (various colleges)

8. Translational Plant Sciences (Biological Sciences, FAES)

9. School of Music, Music Industry Program (Arts)

10. MicroRNA Genes in the Diagnosis, Prognosis, Prevention and Therapy of Cancer (Medicine)

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