UARC not the evil its opponents claim
Many in the University of Hawaii community who were present at our recent meeting of the Faculty Senate have expressed to me their surprise at Beverly Keever's summary of the event and her interpretation of the proposed University Affiliated Research Center ( -- UARC would not bring big money, just big secrecy, -- Star-Bulletin, Oct. 2
). As a primary speaker at this meeting, I offer the following clarification.
UH has been conducting research for the Department of Defense for at least four decades. Last fiscal year our revenue from DOD funding was approximately $54 million. The UARC is simply another contract vehicle that will enable the university to increase its research funding from the DOD and the UARC proposed task orders will be executed in the same manner as our other contracts and grants from the DOD.
The existing $54 million in contracts and grants from the DOD has not jeopardized the campus research infrastructure of buildings and personnel that Hawaii's taxpayers have funded for years. On the contrary, the DOD funding has helped to maintain and upgrade our buildings as well as hire highly technically skilled professionals.
It is important to note that the accounting structure of the UARC allows the research operation under this vehicle to be charged to the federal government and therefore it is not subsidized by the taxpayers of the state of Hawaii. It also enables the university to overcome difficult financial times in the state by shifting some of the burden from taxpayers of the state of Hawaii to the federal government.
Keever's comparison of the current funding model and that of the proposed UARC involved two levels of effort, was confusing and risks leading your readers to erroneous conclusions. To analyze the potential revenue income to UH from the proposed UARC, a simple calculation shows that under our current accounting structure for each dollar we spend on direct costs we receive 36 cents for indirect costs. Direct costs pay for the specific research project (e.g., salaries, equipment) and indirect costs are provided by funding agencies to cover costs that do not directly affect the research grant of contract (e.g., utilities, administration). Under the proposed UARC accounting structure, for each dollar spent on direct costs we receive 69 cents in various indirect costs. The difference in revenue is compelling and reflects the premium that the DOD would pay to anticipate in this program with the UH. A detailed budget comparison can be found at UH-Manoa's Web site (see below), along with the answers to many frequently asked questions about the proposed UARC at UH.
If the UARC is approved, the administrative offices will be housed at the Manoa Innovation Center, which is managed by the High Technology Development Corporation. Contrary to Keever's assertion, the Manoa Innovation Center has not been renovated for the proposed UARC with installation of sensors, surveillance cameras and safes.
Finally, relative to economic development and entrepreneurship for small business, members of Enterprise Honolulu, the Department of Business and Economic Development and Hawaii's defense and dual-use technology sector, among others in the business community, have all expressed support for establishing UARC at UH.
We invite those who want to know more about exactly what the university is proposing to visit the Web site, where a business management plan has been posted and where the actual contract we have negotiated with the Navy is now available for review.
Gary K. Ostrander is vice chancellor for research and graduate education at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.