Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

Appeal unlikely in loss of grant

As research millions pulled, KU decides to focus on future

August 10, 2006


Kansas University leaders may disagree with the National Science Foundation's decision to back out of one of the largest research grants in KU history.

But there likely isn't anything they can do about it.

"If they've made a decision to move on, I think one way or another they'll find a way to stick with that decision," Jim Roberts, KU vice provost for research, said Wednesday.

Provost Richard Lariviere said he didn't know whether an appeal would be successful.

Three years after KU announced its receipt of a $17 million, five-year NSF grant to establish the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, the federal agency is withdrawing its support. NSF maintains KU has not lived up to the expectations set when it awarded the research grant - at the time the largest in both KU and state history.

The CEBC seeks to develop chemical processes for industry that are better for the environment and economically viable.

In a recent report, NSF cited a plethora of concerns, including a "near absence" of innovative research and lack of sufficient collaborative research with industry.

An April site visit left no indication that such a critical report was coming, Roberts said.

"The report did not agree with what we had heard verbally," Roberts said. "That's the real shocker."

But NSF's move to drop support for the center should not be a surprise, said Lynn Preston, NSF deputy division director for centers in the engineering directorate.

"There were indications, very clear indications, in both prior site visit reports of the weaknesses that led to the decision - if people could deal with them," Preston said.

As for verbal feedback at the time of the site visit, Preston said that's not how the process works.

"We don't do a debriefing," she said. "We don't do anything like that."

The report, based on the third-year site visit in April, states the center's work lacked creativity and researchers produced an alarmingly low number of publications, among other problems.

"I think the scientists in the center need to take all that carefully into consideration and, as they move forward, incorporate whatever changes they need to make in order to be more successful," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said in a recent interview.

According to NSF's Web site, the center has received nearly $9.2 million of the $17 million as of June 22.

The center could have received up to $4 million annually in the final two years of the grant, and it could have been eligible for up to $4 million annually for a second five-year term.

Instead, CEBC likely will receive $2.2 million in its fourth year and $1.5 million in the final year of the grant. And it won't be renewed for another term.

No engineering research center has ever asked NSF to reconsider its decision after a poor report, Preston said. She declined to speculate why.

KU has about a month to decide whether to contest the decision, a process technically called a "reconsideration."

Roberts said an appeal might bring KU a victory in the short term, but the question is whether KU would win in the long term.

"There's a lot of factors here," he said. "We're going to be working with NSF in the future. ... In the end, would you really win if you won an appeal?"

KU could contest the review process, but it couldn't contest the facts, Roberts said. He said he viewed any chance of a reversal of the decision as very difficult and it might be best simply to focus on the future.


Ken Miller 11 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like Roberts is admitting KU screwed up. That's step one. Step two...don't screw up again, and start kissing some serious tushee at NSF.

LogicMan 11 years, 9 months ago

So where in the six stages of grief?

From :

'It is important to acknowledge the process of grief and where you are in it. Kubler-Ross and others have developed six stages of grief. They are:

* Denial  'This can't be happening to me.'
* Anger  'It isn't fair. What did I do to deserve this?'
* Bargaining  'I'll be nice to everyone if you just make it go away.'
* Depression  'I feel hopeless. Nothing matters anymore.'
* Acceptance  'I'll be ok now.'
* Outreach  'What can I do to help others?'

jogger 11 years, 9 months ago

An appeal could give some insight into the process that was apparently missing, and show a determination to improve. If that determination is indeed missing, perhaps KU should focus on religion or philosophy instead.

oldgoof 11 years, 9 months ago

My My My.......quite a change from KU's previous comments:

"If the review panel was right, NSF were fools to give the money in the first place," KU Provost Richard Lariviere said. "This is a 180-degree turn from what NSF said when they gave the grant." . . .

Lariviere became testy when asked who was responsible for ensuring the center met expectations and who is responsible when such a grant falls through.

"I will not engage in that kind of nonsense," he said.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 9 months ago

""I think the scientists in the center need to take all that carefully into consideration and, as they move forward, incorporate whatever changes they need to make in order to be more successful,"

There we go, Chancellor. This is what should have been said in the first place instead of the intemperate remarks replayed above.

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