Knight Campus?

A helpful reader notes this opinion piece from PNAS, asking if Knight Campus is a potential example of it:

Opinion: Expansion fever and soft money plague the biomedical research enterprise, Henry R. Bourne

Academic biomedical science has had both a long boom in its funding and a subsequent scary bust. From 1970 to 1999, NIH budgets increased 9% per year (1); from 2000 to 2004, they doubled (23). In 2005 came the unmistakable bust: flat-lined NIH budgets converted the doubling into a paltry 14% increase in inflation-corrected (4) dollars over 16 years (1999–2015; Fig. 1A). But during the bust, two stealthier dangers escaped notice, their quantitative details and significance masked or denied. Universities recklessly overbuilt laboratories to fill with more scientists, just when the bust removed funding increases they needed to do science. As diminished NIH dollars made research riskier, universities required principal investigators (PIs) to earn high proportions of salary from grants, transferring much of the risk to PIs: Universities in the 1970s paid PIs about 75% “hard” salary from their own coffers; those coffers in the 21st century pay PIs much less, forcing them to corral most salary as “soft” grant money.

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14 Responses to Knight Campus?

  1. duckduckgo says:

    No, the Knight campus is not an example of soft money pyramid schemes. The article calls out medical schools and private institutions for throwing up buildings, filling the buildings with faculty that they barely have to pay salary support for, then extracting high grant indirect rates from the NIH to pay off the loan used to build the building.

    Is the Knight campus being built by loans to be re-paid by grant indirects? Not that I know of. Will faculty be left to support themselves almost completely off of grants. Don’t think so. They are more likely to be endowed positions.

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  2. Patrick Phillips says:

    All of the faculty positions in the Knight Campus are hard money. It is the opposite of this trend, actually, since it is built upon a sound fiscal approach via endowment. Funding is still important of course in terms of hiring staff, running facilities, etc, just like any other scientific research. Really, just come talk to me. I’m happy to chat.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If it’s $500M, I’ll take it. Don’t throw me in the briar patch…

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    • Kevin Reed says:

      Patrick: Come talk to you? But if he did that, Bill couldn’t make things up, speculate, and insinuate or accuse you of lacking transparency. Where’s the fun in that for heaven’s sake?

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      • uomatters says:

        Did I make this up? https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-Is-a-University-s-Top/239199

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      • Patrick Phillips says:

        Oy, I don’t want to get into the middle of any of this. And my intent was not to accuse Bill of any misdeeds. I am actually simply encouraging anyone who has concerns such as this (apparently like “helpful reader” in this case) to talk to me directly if they wish. There is little need to speculate because we have been quite forthcoming in public fora, in presentations to the Senate, meetings with individual departments, etc. It is a nice story to be able to tell.

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        • uomatters says:

          Usually when people ask me to “talk to them directly” before I post something, it’s because they want to feed me some b.s. or try and co-opt me.

          Having heard Patrick talk about the Knight Campus in the Senate, and talked to him just an hour ago, it’s clear that is not his style, and that he has been very committed to making sure the Knight Campus “lifts all boats” at UO.

          That said it will take sustained effort to make sure it does that, and meanwhile I think we can expect that it will divert some donations, state money, and central administration focus from other academic causes.

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          • Dumpster Fire says:

            But does the math work? Is there really enough money to endow all these faculty lines? How much of the “endowment” (which isn’t fenced off yet), will be eaten up before it is asked to start paying faculty salaries?

            Cynical prediction: The endowment will come up short and the Knight campus will come asking for money to “get it over the hump”

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            • UO Community Member says:

              UO wants to raise another $500 million.

              Should they achieve that figure they will be well positioned.

              $1B = >$500M for operations + <$500M for facilities.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Is this before or after you become the Dean of Science at the UO?

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  4. UO Community Member says:

    Knight Campus External Advisory Board details are up on the Knight Campus’ website: https://accelerate.uoregon.edu/knight-campus-external-advisory-board

    Some googling tells me the executive director has assembled a highly qualified group of individuals.

    However, the Knight detractors are not going to like the corporate connections.

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    • justsayuotoducks says:

      From the cheap seats, that looks pretty freaking impressive.

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    • Dumpster Fire says:

      As someone who has been extremely skeptical of the Knight Campus, my impression is that UO hit it out of the park by landing Bob Guldberg as initial director.

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      • Dog says:

        This is correct. We have a director with a much better understanding of the biomedical engineering landscape
        than anyone IN house. This was a good initial move.

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