Archive for Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Heard on the Hill: Researcher demonstrates how external funds help broader community; KU professor weighs in on Wis. email issue; KU libraries to show ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ distribute free books

April 5, 2011


Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• As part of my story on the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies last week, I had the chance to visit with Mabel Rice, a distinguished professor of speech-language-hearing.

We had a good conversation, but one interesting part of it stood out.

She provided to me her external funding history, from the 1983-84 year to 2008-09. In that time, she brought in just under $26.3 million to the university in total outside funding.

Rice conducts research into language acquisition, and has studied children who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.

When a professor brings in that much money, part of the professor’s job almost becomes like a manager of people.

She becomes almost like an entrepreneur in the private sector.

Each grant application is a little like the NCAA tournament, she said. Professors regularly have to be in the top 10 percent of applications to receive federal funding.

But when it comes, it can have huge benefits to the university.

Here’s a few examples — of that $26.3 million, just more than $5 million has been in indirect funds. That means that cash is given back to KU through the KU Center for Research, and spent in support of the university in a variety of ways.

It can pay utility bills and support KU’s libraries along with many other KU services.

The rest of that funding is in direct costs, which often takes the form of staff, particularly in Rice’s research, which doesn’t have a lot of overhead lab or machinery costs.

She still has to apply to get funding re-upped, and it takes more than just demonstrating that they’re doing the old stuff well. Creative, new ideas are key, she said.

Rice’s research has funded, on average, 16.3 full-time equivalent positions per year during the time period she measured.

That includes faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and support staff.

“If we don’t do this well, these people wouldn’t get paid,” Rice said.

She said it’s good for jobs and good to support the pursuit of knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Rice has isolated a gene that has been linked to children with Specific Language Impairment, who began talking late, and then use simpler sentence structure and immature grammar.

“This matters,” Rice said. And it’s particularly huge for parents who don’t want their children to struggle verbally.

• KU American studies and African and African-American studies professor Randal Jelks was interviewed for an NPR story on his reaction of the Wisconsin Republican Party using an open records law to obtain emails from a professor who wrote a blog critical of Republicans.

“I think every academic institution's eyebrows went up, especially the public ones,” Jelks told NPR while at a political science conference. “I think that politicians are trying to intimidate academics from speaking out on issues, especially those who are in state-related institutions.”

The story said the Republican Party asked to see emails that used the words union, recall and Scott Walker, the name of Wisconsin’s governor. The university complied, but exempted communication that was of a private nature.

It’s an interesting issue — particularly because, as the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press pointed out in the story, professors “do not have a statutory protection for academic freedom.”

• The KU Libraries will screen the film “To Kill A Mockingbird” from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. today in Watson Library.

The libraries will also distribute 250 free copies of the book at the service desks of Watson and Anschutz libraries. The libraries ask that you pass along your copy to a friend or return it to the library to share with someone else, expanding the reach of the program.

The initiatives are part of the Read Across Lawrence campaign sponsored by the Lawrence Public Library that seeks to get everyone in the city reading the same book at the same time.

• How spiffy are Heard on the Hill tipsters? Someone revealed the last business dean candidate to me before it was announced publicly. Not exactly Watergate material, but, hey, we’ll work up to that. In the meantime, keep the tips coming at


Shardwurm 6 years, 10 months ago

Very nice that the researcher brought in tax dollars given up by the American people.

Between that and a 400 percent increase (above inflation) of tuition since 1980 Kan$as Univer$ity, Inc. should be in pretty good shape.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Unlike a high percentage of the money sucked up by Wall Street and corporate America over the last three decades, this grant money got spent 100% in the US (in Kansas, even,) and stayed here-- and it actually produced something extremely useful for real people along the way.

deec 6 years, 10 months ago

The article does not specify that all the funding is from government sources.

devobrun 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually bozo, the Wall Street money and the speech money have produced no discernible increase in Kansas industry.
The U.S. is fully engaged in creating reality. Wall Street political money....bad. $26 million to produce no identifiable result.....good. Meanwhile young people in the inner city continue to choose drugs and gangs. Scholars are taught how to ace tests and care, but have almost no tacit knowledge.
When will all this scholarship build an industry? We need more tax revenue to pay for all the programs that are funded by government.

My favorite is the link to a gene. So what? Genetic explanations have yielded almost no application to date. Fad science. Next she will link some ill-defined speech malady to global warming.....gotta keep that government money rollin' in.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Too bad all that money wasn't funneled to you, the only surviving real scientist in the whole gall-danged uneeverse.

phred 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually, this area of research at KU has produced increases in Kansas industry:

seriouscat 6 years, 10 months ago

Nice article...but could you really not think of a better word to use than "re-upped"? Geez. : /

ahyland 6 years, 10 months ago

Thanks! I actually kind of liked "re-upped" at the time, it being slightly jauntier than, say, "renewed."

But in retrospect, it does look rather silly, and sounds even sillier if you read the sentence aloud. Maybe jaunty wasn't necessarily what I should have been going for...

Andy Hyland

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations to Professor Rice for the job creation.

16 jobs is better than many companies that receive large tax incentives ever manage to accomplish. In addition, these are jobs are likely for well educated Kansans and above-average pay, which provides an even greater boost for the local economy.

An excellent example of how public dollars go to support private jobs directly and indirectly, creating quite the public/private partnership.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

In case you haven't heard much about the Republican Witch Hunt in Wisconsin launched to intimidate the Wisconsin professor, William Cronon, into shutting up.

Here's his op-ed in the NY Times that pissed the Republicans off.

Here's a couple of links to pages on his website concerning the resulting witch hunt.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 10 months ago

Hey Shardwurm, why don't you go post on the Mercury News about your alma mater Kansas State University. I hear they don't care about things like money there.

Oh, and raise tuition at Kansas State University!

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 10 months ago

Kan$a$ $tate Univer$ity has more $'s in its name.

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