Initial Implementation Actions on Science Priorities

Monday, December 3, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Following President Salovey’s message earlier this week regarding the recommendations of the University-wide Science Strategy Committee (USSC), I am writing to elaborate on our initial plans for implementation. The recommendations were the culmination of almost two years of thoughtful exploration and deliberation to identify the most promising opportunities for investment in the sciences and engineering across Yale. Our actions in response to the recommendations will continue to be informed by the input of many stakeholders across the university.

The completion of a university-wide strategic report is just the start of our work. The next stages include planning for implementation of the recommended initiatives as resources become available. Many of the initiatives will require time to implement, and many will depend on fundraising efforts. We do, however, have the ability to take some initial immediate actions of broad impact, focusing on the recommended cross-cutting priorities.

Enhancing Internal Graduate Student Funding in Science and Engineering

The USSC report recommended that the university improve internal funding for graduate students to reduce funding pressure on faculty and increase the competitiveness of our programs. We will implement two changes as initial steps in this regard:

Twelve-month University Fellowships:

University Fellowships (UFs) in science and engineering that currently support students during the nine-month academic year will be expanded to cover twelve months. As the majority of UF support is for first-year graduate students, extending UF funding through the summer will both relieve burdens on external grants and give these students additional time to explore research opportunities. This initiative will go into effect in June 2019, so UFs for the current academic year will cover the upcoming summer. All UFs will continue at the twelve-month level in subsequent years.

Funding for Combined Award Top-ups:

Graduate students who win outside fellowships can currently take advantage of the GSAS Combined Award Policy and receive $4000 above their standard stipend.  Starting in July 2019, funding for the $4000 “top-up” will be covered for FAS science and engineering departments and for FES for their respective students. The YSM, YSN, and YSPH will continue their current practices for combined award top-ups and will also be looking at other ways to enhance internal graduate student support.

The funding for these two changes represents a substantial commitment by the university to improve internal support for graduate students, approximately equivalent to the return from a $40M endowment. In line with the recommendations of the USSC report, we hope to be able to provide significant additional internal support in the coming years for graduate students in science and engineering across the university.

Supporting Core Facilities of Shared Instrumentation

The USSC recommendations underscore the critical need to improve and expand the support services provided through the University’s core facilities. We have already taken first steps in this direction by coordinating an inventory of existing facilities. We are also planning a significant investment to upgrade and improve equipment in University core facilities, and we will issue a call for internal proposals early in the new year to help prioritize the investments. Finally, we are preparing to restructure the university-wide coordination of facilities activities as recommended in the USSC report.

Building Community around Instrumentation Development

The design and development of new and cutting-edge instrumentation and measurement tools is also a priority recommendation in the USSC report. Toward this end, Yale hosted its first Day of Instrumentation on November 14. This community-building event drew more than 200 attendees and all of the talks are online at Feedback from this event will be used to help further our goals in this arena.

In the coming months, the provost’s office will be in touch with regular updates about developments in these areas and also as we gear up to make progress on the top priorities recommended by the USSC. As always, I am grateful for the input, advice, and partnership of colleagues across the university as we move forward with Yale’s academic priorities.

Peter Schiffer
Vice Provost for Research