AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott is emphasizing the importance of research in luring academic stars to Texas and elevating the state’s universities as well as its economy, according to a newspaper report.
The Governor’s University Research Initiative is intended to attract elite researchers to Texas academic and health campuses by offering grants that are matched by schools for establishing labs and other costs, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
The top priority goes to recruiting Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Prominent researchers can burnish a school’s reputation, bring with them millions in federally funded research projects, offer the potential for private-sector startups, and are magnets for top graduate students.
The state Legislature set aside $38 million to fund the initiative for two years, a modest expenditure in light of existing recruiting programs at the University of Texas System, the A&M System and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
But Abbott’s interest in higher education is encouraging to school officials, who are already lining up potential candidates for recruitment.
“You can’t overestimate the importance of the governor of a state creating a fund that will attract the best and brightest researchers,” said Patricia Hurn, vice chancellor for research and innovation for the 14-campus UT System.
Abbott’s efforts are seen as a departure from the higher education policies of his predecessor, fellow Republican Rick Perry.
Perry had endorsed a controversial set of recommendations that included bonuses for teachers based solely on student evaluations, paying teachers for the number of students they teach and compensating researchers according to the grants they receive, according to the Statesman.
And while some of Perry’s supporters questioned the value of university research, especially in the humanities and social sciences, Abbott has emphasized the importance of research in elevating the state’s universities and the statewide economic benefit that can follow.
Abbott said he wants Texas to be in the forefront of life-sciences research and related medical advances. He said UT with its Dell Medical School, scheduled to enroll its first class in July, is part of that vision, which also includes a “research corridor” near the school.
“It’s a paradigm shift, including the fact that the governor is talking about this,” Abbott told the Statesman. “As it concerns both our universities and economic development, this is a core element of the future vision of the state, where Texas will be the home of innovation. And one pathway we achieve that is bringing in the best and brightest innovators from across the country.”