As Yale identifies key projects to drive the next capital campaign, University President Peter Salovey announced Tuesday that Yale will invest in areas including integrative data science, quantum science and neuroscience, per recommendations by the University Science Strategy Committee’s report released in June.
In a universitywide email on Tuesday, Salovey said Yale will invest in facilities and infrastructure for the sciences, restructure funding for graduate students, improve diversity in the sciences and update equipment in core STEM facilities. In September, University administrators held three faculty town halls to gather feedback on the report’s recommendations. While many praised the interdisciplinary nature of the priorities identified in the report, some criticized the exclusion of certain areas of study such as the digital sciences.
“Over the last few months, I have considered carefully all the perspectives and suggestions I have received regarding the USSC report,” Salovey said in the announcement email. He later continued, “Based on the overwhelmingly positive response to the report, I am delighted to accept the USSC’s recommendations. … Our collective efforts will ultimately benefit and improve many more areas than those directly identified — and the university as a whole.”
In the June report, the USSC recommended establishing a universitywide Institute for Integrative Data Science, expanding the Yale Quantum Institute and creating a new Institute of Inflammation Science. In addition, the report called for an integrated Neuroscience Institute that unites research across the School of Medicine and Faculty of Arts and Sciences and suggested that Yale establish an Institute in Environmental and Evolutionary Sciences to study the emerging field of climate change. While Salovey announced that the University will strive to “achieve [its] highest potential in the top five priority areas,” he did not specify whether Yale will establish the recommended institutes in the email. Integrative data science, quantum science, neuroscience, inflammation science and environmental and evolutionary sciences comprise the “five priority areas” the report referenced.
In the announcement, Salovey also noted the importance of building on current initiatives in computer science, cancer research, precision medicine and regenerative medicine. He added that the University will strive to provide additional resources, mentorship and educational opportunities for graduate students.
Salovey’s decision to accept the committee’s recommendation arrives almost exactly two years after he identified science as the “key variable in bringing Yale to the level where it belongs” in a November 2016 memo on the University’s academic strategy. He noted that Yale often falls behind other universities in global rankings, in part because of the University’s science offerings.
But the committee’s findings that grew from that vision — developed from January 2017 to June of this year — drew criticism from faculty members who felt their fields of study were excluded from the University’s investment priorities.
In a statement to the News, computer science professor Michael Fischer said the recent report fails to recognize key areas, including the digital sciences, that Yale needs to invest in to remain competitive with peer institutions.
“What I would like to see is for the focus of the upcoming Yale Campaign to be to give Yale the resources needed to bring all of the STEM fields up to the level of excellence that will be required for Yale to remain a great university in the 21st century,” Fischer said. “Computer science is one field where the need for expansion is particularly acute, but it is by no means the only one.”
In his announcement, Salovey noted that the recent report does not recommend actions that would direct resources away from other areas. Many exciting STEM programs that are not included in the report will continue to thrive, he said.
In an email to the News, Vice Provost for Research Peter Schiffer, who is a professor of applied physics, said the crosscutting investments recommended in the report will directly support every field in the science and engineering disciplines.
According to Salovey, Yale has already made significant investments in STEM research facilities, including the Wright Laboratory, the Greenberg Engineering Teaching Concourse, the Peabody Museum and the Magnetic Resonance Research Center. He added that administrators at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are working to cover more of the cost of graduate student support so that students are less reliant on research grants in engineering and the sciences.
University Provost Ben Polak will soon provide more detailed information about the next steps in the implementation of the report’s recommendations, Salovey noted.
In an interview with the News in September, Polak said the University must raise around $2 billion to implement the initiatives recommended in the report.
“How are we going to get it done? I don’t have a clue,” Polak said. “But we are going to get all of it done. We’re determined to get this done.”
The USSC convened almost 60 times over one and a half years to draft its report.
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