From the Boardroom: Interim president emphasizes research excellence in update

UBC’s Board of Governors met yesterday on Zoom to say goodbye to outgoing governors, and hear an update about the search for UBC’s next president and a brief presentation on UBC’s upcoming priorities from Interim President Deborah Buszard.

Here’s what you might’ve missed.

Chancellor Steven Point gave an update on the current search for a new UBC president. Point is the chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

Point said the committee last met on January 12 and has since sent broadcast messages to the UBC community to seek their input. The broadcast messages direct community members to fill out an anonymous online survey and to attend public forums scheduled in February.

“I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to provide your ideas to the search committee,” said Point.

In her update, Buszard said while the president has a mandated set of priorities including Indigenous reconciliation and climate action, she wanted to bring improving research excellence to the forefront of her work, and keep those set priorities as guiding values.

"It's my hope that we'll be able to focus a little more on thinking about research and teaching excellence as being our purpose," she said.

Buszard presented statistics on research at UBC — the university has 6,296 faculty members, 5,200 doctoral students and postdoctoral research fellows, $759 million in research funding in 2020/21, 10,116 funded projects and 69,000 publications in SciVal from 2016 to 2021.

Buszard said UBC’s research dollars per faculty is lower than other Canadian universities with a similar amount of faculty, like the University of Toronto, University of Montreal and McGill University, because those schools do not typically hire educational leadership as tenured faculty.

UBC also has lower Tri-Agency and Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding compared to the University of Toronto, with just over $1.2 million in funding, compared to Toronto’s approximate $1.9 million. The Tri-Agencies include the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Buszard said this funding gap was an area for improvement, and that her and VP Research and Innovation Gail Murphy would be engaging with federal and provincial governments on the subject this coming year.

Moving forward, Buszard is looking forward to the development of a new UBC Okanagan campus in downtown Kelowna and the new UBC presence in Surrey.

“I'm very proud to be a part of UBC and I'm grateful to have this opportunity to be part of UBC stepping to that next level,” said Buszard.