Improve the proposal for Navy research at UH-Manoa
The interim chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa has opposed a proposal for a Navy research facility on campus.
OFFICIALS at the University of Hawaii are divided about whether to accept a lucrative Navy research contract that has generated controversy. The proposal needs changing to satisfy reasonable concerns about classified research and the placement of such activity on the Manoa campus, although antimilitary activists will continue their shrill opposition.
The UH Board of Regents gave preliminary approval a year ago to establish a University Affiliated Research Center, or UARC, for the Navy. The center could generate up to $10 million annually during its first five years.
Contrary to insinuations that it would turn the Manoa campus into a weapons laboratory, the research would focus on ocean sciences and technology, astronomy, optics and communication technology. The Pentagon already accounts for $54 million of the campus' $330-million yearly intake from outside research and training grants.
Gary Ostrander, vice chancellor for research and graduate education, has advocated the contract. Following the Faculty Senate's 31-18 vote in opposition to the proposal, Denise Konan, the interim Manoa chancellor, has recommended its rejection. Interim UH President David McClain said he is undecided but will make his recommendation to the regents next month.
Four other universities have such centers: Johns Hopkins University, Penn State, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington. However, all of those UARC centers are located off-campus. UH's center would be woven into other research facilities on the Manoa campus, although the administrative offices would be off-campus.
The UARC staff would be comprised of university faculty members who could move in and out of UARC research, according to the proposed contract. At the other UARCs, employees are not university faculty members, being more akin to employees of the UH Research Corp., a separate state agency attached to the university for administrative purposes, according to a legal analysis of the proposed contract for the Faculty Senate.
One of the concerns is that UARC's status as a "trusted agent" of the government could create conflicts of interest for researchers, according to the analysis. Ground rules need to be established to protect them from such conflicts by putting research for Navy contractors off-limits to researchers who have performed work for UARC, and vice versa.
About 15 percent of the UARC research at Manoa would be classified, according to UH officials. In March, the Faculty Senate supported classified research on campus only if "there is a reasonable expectation that timely publication of the results of the research will not be restricted by its sponsor." That stipulation is reasonable and should be a part of the contract.