Annual Report: U of T-wide effort brightens research future

May 13th, 2013

Important improvements realized in funding, partnerships, new initiatives

Paul Fraumeni

Thanks to a collaborative effort that included leaders, faculty and staff throughout U of T’s research community, the university is in a much better position to enable researchers in all disciplines to conduct their work at the calibre of one of the world’s top-ranked universities.

This is the key message of Beyond Sustained Success: Leveraging Our Unique Strengths and Charting New Territory, the recently-published annual research report from the Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation (VPRI).

As the report outlines, in 2010, OVPRI recognized that the university – like many across the country – had to focus on three key areas in order to adapt to changing times in the research funding landscape:

  • A decrease in the proportion of Tri-Agency (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) funding that had resulted in a further decrease in the number of Canada Research Chairs allocated to U of T.
  • A need to strengthen the impact of research on society through partnerships with government, other universities and business.
  • An increased demand for universities to meet more stringent regulatory requirements for the conduct of research.

“We needed to address these challenges or the university risked losing ground but, more importantly, its ability to conduct work that helps global society,” says Professor Paul Young, vice president, research and innovation.

VPRI worked with administrators and researchers throughout U of T in an intense, two-year examination of the University’s strengths and weaknesses in how it applied for funding, developed partnerships and managed the compliance and oversight process.

The result, as the annual report outlines, is a turnaround on all the challenges:

  • U of T has increased its Tri-Agency market share and gained 10 new Canada Research Chairs, bringing the new total to 248.
  • U of T continues to lead the country in the awards and honours that go to faculty.
  • Partnerships have increased between U of T and various external bodies in business, government and the not-for-profit sector.  Of particular note, says Young, are new partnership initiatives such as the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform.
  • U of T’s ability to adhere to new regulatory measures is stronger due to the development of VPRI’s newest service team, the Research Oversight and Compliance Office (ROCO).

How did the turnaround happen?  “With colleagues throughout U of T and with our partner hospitals, we looked hard and we thought big,” says Young.  “In the end, these improvements are due to fine-tuning processes and developing better lines of communication between our teams in VPRI and administrators and faculty across the U of T research community.”

The mission now, adds Young, is to sustain this improved landscape – and go further.

“We didn’t want to just return to the successes of U of T 10 years ago.  We needed to redesign our processes to lead the university into the future.  There is no question of the talent of our researchers and scholars.  But if we are to continue to realize successes and build even further, we need to function in a mode of continuous attention to keeping U of T connected through the right internal and external networks.  Collaboration is essential.”

2012-2013 Annual Report