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 firstname.lastname@example.org.