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New VPRI David Conover arrives, wants more communications

The recent history of UO’s Office of Research is a troubled one, as has been true of most of the UO administration. Who can forget Interim Provost Jim Bean’s hire, VPRI Kimberly Espy? It took the threat of a Senate vote of no confidence and an investigation led by Bruce Blonigen to get her to leave.

In contrast, President Schill’s new VPRI David Conover seems to be off to a good start:

A Message to the UO Research Community
David O. Conover

Last week I was honored to begin my new role as the University of Oregon’s Vice President for Research and Innovation. This is an outstanding institution with amazing faculty and committed leaders who are accelerating the trajectory of the institution during a transformational time in its history. The VPRI’s office will play a critical role in fulfilling President Schill’s vision to enhance and expand UO’s research portfolio. I very much look forward to working alongside all of you in fulfilling our mission of discovery, teaching, and service.

I’d like to thank Brad Shelton, who took on the role of Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation for two very critical years. Brad’s service to the university has been exemplary, and I thank him for the advice and support he’s provided to me during the transition.

What most inspires me about this position is the opportunity to be immersed in the exciting research and creative activity taking place across so many disciplines — from the social sciences to the natural sciences to the humanities. I’m excited to learn more about your work, and I’ll be doing so while thinking about how we can leverage our strengths. Given the competitiveness of the research funding environment, it’s important that we work collaboratively to broaden and strengthen our research impact. I aim to create even more partnerships across disciplines, schools, colleges, and other institutions so that we can work together to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and technological innovation.

Communication will be key to our future success. It is crucial that we share the value and impact of our work with the local community, the state, the region, and the world. So it will be a priority of mine to help those faculty and students who wish to share their research and scholarship with a broader public audience. We simply cannot afford to keep our stories of discovery a secret.

I believe in the power of research and innovation to make a difference in people’s lives by improving human health, strengthening the economy, and addressing the grand challenges that society faces. I am thrilled to be leading this effort as your VPRI. Your accomplishments tell the story of research and innovation at the University of Oregon. Together, we can build upon UO’s proud tradition of excellence in research, scholarship, and creative expression.


David Conover
Vice President for Research and Innovation
[email protected]
(541) 346-2090

Sounds good. Here are Conover’s application materials:

Under Espy, every UO press release on research, scholarship, or creative expression had to include her name and title somewhere in the text. It drove the press office nuts. Someone even published a peer reviewed empirical piece about it:

Editor’s note: The research article below was recently received by our editorial office. After careful peer review and several rounds of revisions, I have accepted it for publication, and look forward to a press release about it soon in “Around the O”.

Title: VP Kimberly Espy is the driving force behind UO’s scientific research output

Author: No way I’m telling, she controls their budget and their future.* (*The author would like to thank VPRI Espy for her invaluable role in this study.)

Abstract: UO VP for Research and Innovation Kimberly Espy has a key role in almost all of UO’s scientific research output.

Data: We obtained data by searching uo press releases for “espy”. In keeping with NSF data disclosure rules, primary data is below, and a complete data set is available at

Methods: We analyzed the most recent 12 months of UO’s press releases about research using standard textual analysis procedures.

Results: 98.6% of UO releases included references to or quotes from VP Espy. In a comparison group randomly drawn from other AAU public research universities, an average of 0.7% of press releases mentioned their VP for Research.

Conclusion: VP Espy has a key role in the vast majority of UO’s research. If President Gottfredson fires her, scientific research at UO, or at least self-promoting press releases funded by money that should have gone to scientific research, would quickly grind to a halt.

One Comment

  1. Dog 08/23/2016

    Conover says

    “I aim to create even more partnerships across disciplines, schools, colleges, and other institutions so that we can work together to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and technological innovation.”

    Yes this is great, long overdue, but will be difficult to implement given our traditional territorial culture. However, such collaboration is quite key to making the cluster hires work properly.

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