UB’s Communities of Excellence research initiative needs clarification

Research is well intentioned but remains too vague

UB’s newly announced Communities of Excellence, a new research-based initiative designed to address “pressing societal problems” facing the world, will bring together faculty members from nearly every department in an attempt to utilize interdisciplinary research across campus

While the initiative is well intentioned, the research topics are vague and potentially stretched too thin. UB prides itself on the research it performs, and rightfully so. UB should continue to fund research initiatives that help to solve major problems in the word and continue to be a leader in interdisciplinary campus research.

Three proposals were selected from a pool of over 100 applicants and will receive a combined investment of $25 million over the next five years.

The proposals include Global Health Equity, Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART) and The Genome, Biome, and Microbiome (GEM). The Global Health Equity community seeks to address health inequity across the globe. The SMART community will research and design cost effective manufacturing technologies. The GEM community will research personalized medicine and healthcare.

The university should establish clear goals and timelines so students can understand what research is being conducted.

Different ranges of research within each community have potential to stretch faculty too thin. It would be a shame to see this initiative fail simply because there was no clear goal in mind. All of the topics proposed are noble pursuits, but their lack of direction is concerning.

Each of the communities’ introduction videos posted on UB’s website discusses various topics of research within the community they plan to study. For example, the Global Health Equity community’s introduction video mentions sanitation, air pollution, vaccines, food insecurity, malnutrition, child survival and fighting infectious diseases as areas they plan to study. It is admirable that faculty and students at UB want to address and solve these kinds of problems, but it may be better to focus on fewer topics so superior research can be conducted.

The same is true for the other two communities. Research on so many broad topics at the same time could lead to inferior research across the board. Spending $25 million on vague research is risky.

Advancements made in these kinds of areas would not only benefit Buffalo, but also have potential to impact the entire world. Faculty at UB are amongst the best in the nation, so their efforts should be focused on fewer topics to produce the best results possible.

It will take time to see if the Communities of Excellence are worth $5 million per year. Once research begins, it is possible that certain topics will be changed or even removed completely. UB should continue to focus on being a leader in university based research, but should do so with a clear agenda in mind that students can understand.

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