Our research investment should match the scope of the problems we face

research

Maggie Pasterz | Staff Photographer

Laboratory tools lie on a table, ready for student researchers to use them.

Edwin Wang, Contributing Writer

From the banners that adorn McAlister Drive to Tulane’s frequent flaunting of its US News rankings, it is clear that Tulane lacks a research culture fundamental to contributing academic discoveries to society. 

Prioritization of unrelated initiatives and lingering misfortune stunt Tulane’s research development, but as humanity approaches an era confronted by seemingly undefeatable threats, our university is obligated to adapt by championing a research culture that will devise solutions to the problems that stump the world. 

Funding deficiencies remain the most glaring weakness endangering Tulane’s short-term research development. For comparison, neighboring Emory University’s $500 million research budget dwarfs Tulane’s $140 million research budget, a glaring reminder that Tulane must escalate funding initiatives to nurture future research efforts. 

Although funding inequalities remain a pressing concern, successfully amplifying Tulane’s research impact is contingent on the university’s ability to foster a diverse, collaborative research culture, an achievement that would attract talented academics and generous research grants alike.

Despite previous shortcomings, university leaders have taken constructive steps towards enhancing Tulane’s research ambitions. In September, Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte, a pediatric research expert with decades of leadership experience at multiple research powerhouses, was named the new vice president for research. An element that Piedimonte emphasized as fundamental to his vision for transforming Tulane into a global research leader was teamwork.

“Research and scientific discovery is going to be more and more a game based on collaborations and the creation of teams that can work well together,” Piedimonte said. “And I hope that Tulane is going to be a driving force in creating these types of connections and creating convergence among different disciplines.”

Modern strategy experts overwhelmingly emphasize the importance of fostering a collaborative culture to accomplish complex initiatives and Piedimonte is an enthusiastic advocate of this increasingly popular organizational philosophy. Echoing his colleagues’ consensus, Piedimonte pinpointed Tulane’s extensive research duty.

“[Our mission] is identifying very important, cogent problems of social relevance and then bring together people from totally different backgrounds to work on that particular project,” Piedmonte said. 

Evaluating Tulane’s Bywater Institute offers merit to Piedimonte’s progressive approach of fusing teamwork and diversity to achieve ambitious goals. The Bywater Institute, which conducts research to combat coastal erosion, would be a fantasy without the compound expertise of a diverse team of architects, engineers, environmentalists and public health authorities. 

Expanding on his conviction about collaboration’s integral effects, Piedimonte ambitiously envisions the Bywater Institute as only an introduction to a series of initiatives Tulane’s research can undertake to impact the world and the environmental issues it faces.

“These are global problems, of course, deriving from climate change, and energy sources, and erosion of coastal areas, and, in particular, the increase in the ocean levels their complexity does not make it possible that they can be solved in an effective way looking at only from one angle …” Piedimonte said. “This requires a large, diverse higher education institution like Tulane to address these problems.”

Despite Tulane’s aggressive institutional research ambitions, millennials eager to accomplish tangible progress towards combating pressing issues must also acknowledge that institutions are a telling reflection of their students. 

While university administrators can woo esteemed professors or secure funding grants, the solutions to issues like climate change only emerge from constructive solutions arrived at by diverse pockets of individuals who diligently unite around a common purpose to act and resolve global crises. 

Though the retooled thinking guiding Tulane’s research initiatives has borne encouraging early breakthroughs, these efforts must be prioritized and augmented for Tulane’s research to tangibly impact the world. 

As a university with stellar liberal arts, business and medical programs, Tulane is obligated to fulfill its academic duty by inspiring and enabling its unique institutional body to launch and achieve research initiatives that will monumentally advance humanity.