HARVARD GAZETTE ARCHIVES
Faculty task force makes University science recommendations
Longwood, North Yard, Allston locations highlighted
By Alvin Powell
Harvard News Office
A faculty task force has highlighted future scientific needs and opportunities at Harvard, recommending the University commit resources and space to a number of new initiatives studying fundamental scientific questions and exploring global health issues.
The Harvard University Task Force on Science and Technology was convened by President Lawrence H. Summers and chaired by Provost Steven E. Hyman to engage the University's scientists across all Harvard's faculties in a discussion about the future of science at a time of significant and rapid change.
Though the task force focused its efforts on new endeavors, task force members, in consultation with the deans of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health, also wrote that a serious commitment to strengthen ongoing scientific research programs is critical because the new initiatives cannot succeed without strong core science activity across the University.
The task force interviewed numerous faculty members in the fall of 2003 and received more than 70 responses to a call for ideas in the winter and spring of 2004. Those ideas were analyzed and discussed and, with much work from science faculty across the University, shaped into more concrete proposals that were presented to the task force last fall. The present report describes the outcome of those discussions.
Hyman characterized the report as an important milestone, but said that input will continue to be sought from Harvard's faculty, alumni/ae, and the broader community.
"It is very exciting to watch the process of unleashing the imagination of our faculty colleagues as they think about Harvard's role in science and engineering in the 21st century," Hyman said. "The ideas contained in the report are exciting, interdisciplinary, and they suggest a number of avenues we can pursue to ensure that Harvard remains one of the world's best places to do innovative science."
While the proposals were centered on important research areas, the importance of undergraduate and graduate education was central. Several proposals also included significant community outreach components.
The task force began its work in the fall of 2003 and issued, in January 2004, a broad call to science faculty members throughout Harvard for innovative interdisciplinary ideas. In May 2004, the task force submitted its first progress report, to which this report is the successor. The text of the first report can be found at http://www.provost.harvard.edu/reports/.
The task force was co-chaired by Hyman and Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Edward Harlow, who heads the Medical School's Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. Task force members included faculty and administrators from the Medical School, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Public Health, and the Business School.
Members of the task force reviewed the proposals generated by the call for ideas, grouped those that seemed natural partners, and asked the relevant faculty members to flesh them out. Faculty authors wrote a number of white papers and presented them to the task force, which continued to meet through the fall to consider how best to develop these ideas into more defined scientific proposals.
The report provides an initial glimpse of what scientific initiatives might be located in Allston, in Longwood, and in the North Yard in Cambridge, where two new science buildings are currently under construction.
The task force separated the proposals into groups based on whether the proposal was an immediate or potential University priority, had a status of advanced planning and implementation, whether the grouping with other initiatives created programmatic and research synergies, and according to a consideration of space needs and appropriate adjacencies.
The report recommends locating initiatives on the Environment and on Quantum Science and Engineering in the North Yard in Cambridge. A portion of a third initiative, Systems Neuroscience, will also be located in the North Yard, rooted in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Center for Brain Science. The Center for Brain Science will collaborate in the Systems Neuroscience initiative with Harvard Medical School's Neurobiology Department. In addition to those initiatives, the Engineering initiative aims to build on and enhance the strengths of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences that is centered in the North Yard. Some parts of this initiative will be located in this area, allowing it to maintain connections to the division and the physical sciences, while also allowing linkages with, and participation in, Systems Neuroscience, and the other proximate initiatives.
The task force recommended that the first science initiatives to be located in Allston could be Chemical Biology, Innovative Computing, Stem Cells, and Systems Biology, as well as relevant parts of the Engineering initiative.
"This task force has been successful at eliciting a large number of stimulating ideas from faculty across campus. At the same time, it is important that the output of this task force be integrated into the ongoing planning activities in the various departments, and for the science and technology activities in the Cambridge, Allston, and Longwood campuses to be coordinated," said Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Venkatesh Narayanamurti. "I do believe, though, that we are entering a particularly exciting phase for science and technology at the University. I look forward to engineering and applied sciences, as connecting disciplines, being an integral part of this future, and not only helping advance the boundaries of knowledge but also enhancing our impact on society."
The task force also recommended that a second group of initiatives receive seed funding for further development. These could be located in Allston at the same time as the first group or shortly afterward. The second group of initiatives includes Microbial Sciences, the Origins of Life, and Global Neglected Diseases.
"The opportunity to engage the larger Harvard scientific community in a major mission of the Harvard School of Public Health, namely attacking those infectious diseases that affect primarily people in the developing world, with the latest technology and ideas is one of the major advantages afforded by the Allston campus," said Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases Dyann Wirth, who is also director of the Harvard Malaria Initiative and a member of the task force. "Bringing together scholars from biology, chemistry, infectious diseases, systems biology, engineering, and the social and quantitative sciences affords the opportunity to create new and innovative approaches. The opportunity to engage faculty from Harvard Business School, the Graduate School of Education, and Kennedy School of Government in the implementation of new solutions is particularly exciting."
The task force recommended that these first science initiatives in Allston would be located in two complexes of approximately 500,000 square feet each, the location and timing of which will need to be determined when development of the initiatives is more complete.
The report said that a small committee, made up of faculty representatives of the Medical School, the School of Public Health, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences has been created to begin developing specific activity programs for those buildings, including beginning the process of identifying three or four architects for a competition at the appropriate time.
A third group of initiatives, Global Health, Quantitative Health and Social Science, and Health Policy, may eventually be located in Allston near the relocated School of Public Health, the move of which has been an assumption in the planning for Allston.
The third location covered by the report is the Longwood campus. The report suggests that two initiatives could occupy space vacated by those moving to Allston. These initiatives are Translational Immunology and Translational Biomedicine - both of which are dedicated to moving research developments from the laboratory into use in treating patients. Though Longwood is one possible location for these initiatives, the report indicates that Allston or the campuses of the Massachusetts General Hospital are other possible locations to be considered.
Though the report provides a first glimpse of what functions may be located in Allston in the coming years, building locations, timing of construction and moves, and many other aspects of life in Allston remain to be determined and will be informed by ongoing consultation with members of the Harvard and Allston communities.
"I'm grateful to the many faculty members who have participated in the development of this report, as it provides a wonderful foundation for continuing discussions about opportunities in Allston, Cambridge, and Longwood," Hyman said. "These discussions on science are just part of a broader conversation with the whole faculty about the Allston development, including emerging plans to promote arts and culture."