Monday, September 19, 2005

UH plan calls for faculty
review of Navy projects

A potential $10 million in funding
fails to sway critics of the proposed
military research center

Research funded by a controversial Navy research center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa could be reviewed by a faculty committee to see if it complies with UH polices, according to a recently released management plan.

University of Hawaii The review of the proposed University Affiliated Research Center would also extend to classified research proposed by the Navy, said Gary Ostrander, the UH-Manoa vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

"It's possible to talk about classified research, even to the level to review it," Ostrander said. If the actual request were classified, he said, faculty and administrators with classified clearance could review it.

The Navy and UH-Manoa are finishing negotiations on a contract worth at least $10 million a year during the next five years for research directed by the Navy in the areas of ocean science, astronomy, optics, and communications and information technology. Ostrander said he hopes to be able to post the contract online for public review in the next 10 days.

But the UARC is opposed by a coalition of student, faculty and community members who are against military expansion at the university and have concerns about classified research.

The Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition occupied UH interim President David McClain's office for seven days last spring to protest the Navy research center.

The release of the plan and the faculty review committee "doesn't convince us at all that the UARC should happen," said Ikaika Hussey, one of the organizers of the Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition.

McClain promised not to bring the UARC before the Board of Regents until at least October and to hold a public forum on the issue.

The business and management plan and the contract are being put online so that faculty, students and the community can have a chance to review them before the public forum, Ostrander said.

But because the contract has not been completed yet, the Manoa administration released the business/management plan Monday. Ostrander said he hopes the contract will be finished in the next 10 days, but if it is delayed much longer, the UARC proposal might not go to the regents until November.

The 16-page business/management plan outlines how the UARC would work and what the university's share of overhead and other costs would be.

Ostrander said the university gets about 36.3 percent of most research grants to cover overhead and administration costs. Under the UARC however, the university would get about 61.3 percent in addition to the Navy grants for research performed under the UARC.

"The Navy is paying a premium to have this in place at the University of Hawaii," Ostrander said. "The government is getting something in exchange for that: to be able to go to one of the top experts in the world and ask them if they would be willing to engage in a particular project," he added.

Equipment purchased under the UARC would become the property of the university and be available for other research use, Ostrander added.

Hussey said money is not the issue.

"To address the UARC from strictly a business perspective does not address the weighty moral and political questions," Hussey said. "What is the cost of human life?"

UH-Manoa's UARC would also be unique because it would not be a separate research unit, like UARCs at other universities. Instead, faculty who choose to participate in the UARC would stay in their departments.

An executive director, reporting to the vice chancellor of research, and a small staff would administer the contracts and work with existing deans.

The university would spend up to $3.5 million to get the UARC started.

Under the current proposal, the faculty review committee would consist of seven members selected by the faculty senate executive committee, which will review each Navy task order to see if it complies with applicable university policies.

Sara Rudder, chairwoman of a faculty senate committee gathering information on the UARC, said the faculty review committees already exist to make sure research on animals is conducted according to UH policies.

"The faculty review committee is essential given the controversial nature of the UARC and given the kinds of work that may be requested," Rudder said.

"Faculty are not the only stakeholders in the university," Hussey said, noting that there would be no student or graduate student input.

The goal of the faculty committee was to gather information so the faculty senate can have an informed discussion about it, Rudder said.

"I think for the researchers, it (the plan) is a big help because admittedly and unfortunately the administration had done a poor job of informing the people who would be directly affected," said Roy Wilkens, another member of the faculty committee.

But even with the release of the business/management plan, Rudder still has questions.

"Perhaps seeing the contract, I'll have a better understanding," she said.

University of Hawaii

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