An Academic Think Tank

Posted on January 19, 2010

Jacqueline Resnick (bio) explains why the Office of Research Development at UNC is innovative.


I was the founding director of the Office of Research Development at Carolina approximately 14 years ago. Probably it was formalized around 13 years ago. 1996 was when we formalized it. It was being done as an experiment for one year and it's not an experiment any more.

I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to be able to work with so many wonderful people. I have had an abundance of positive interactions and that really is a privilege because they share their ideas.

When I first began this division 14 years ago, there was no such formalized division at another major institution. All of a sudden there are about 35 universities that have started this type of approach within the academy, the approach that we've taken here at UNC in Chapel Hill.

I think that there are pockets of what we do at institutions, and many of the major institutions are now developing programs like ours, and we are connecting with those programs so that when we build multiinstitutional research grants, we've already started doing that in the area of energy. Instead of being in competition with each other, I've asked if we could work together and we're doing that. So that's very exciting.

And I think you will find that there are even miniunits. We have them here too at the school level. So you want to look around. Is there any type of research development unit on your campus?

Now I want to be really clear. We're very different than the traditional development office that is available at every academic institution. Development offices deal with bringing donors, working with industrial partnerships that want to get involved in academia or want to provide funds back in support of research.

We are an academic think tank. So we have no one traditional role, except for dealing with limited submission awards and grants. We're really an out of the box, facilitative, consultative, innovative unit on campus. But we do work with development and work with other divisions to make sure that we can get the best out of everything when supporting a project. So that's very important.

Look for the smaller units that may exist, or there may be people who are doing that. You always have these entrepreneurs in academia, who think a little bit more out of the box, and you need a place for traditional thinkers and out of the box thinkers on a campus. One doesn't negate or is better than the other. So you really want to look for those types of approaches, if that's what your interest is about.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September, 2009.


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