The budget requests for next year show how deeply research became part of the mission for South Dakota’s public universities during the past decade.
The millions of dollars sought for more faculty, staff, equipment, facilities, fellowships, student grants and legal fees are unprecedented in South Dakota.
How much, and for which projects, will be formally requested from the Legislature is a decision that will be first made in mid-August by the state Board of Regents, whose members govern the state universities.
Under South Dakota’s current political system, the regents make a unified request to the governor. The Daugaard administration in turn decides what to recommend to legislators.
A new request the regents are considering is whether to seek $2 million as a one-time pool for spending on the processes involved in turning research into commercial products and purposes.
Known as “technology transfer,” there are expenses and fees involved for invention disclosures, patent protection and patents.
South Dakota State University is likewise looking for $100,000 that can be used for 50-50 matches with private partners for the same types of needs. The university’s president, David Chicoine, has considerable experience in the development side of research from his time in the Illinois university system.
“They are all needed in the pathway to the marketplace,” Chicoine said.
He estimated that each project would cost about $30,000 from the university side in moving toward becoming a private company.
Each of South Dakota’s six traditional campuses clearly is moving deeper into research. All want money for expansions and improvements that weren’t on their drawing boards a generation ago.
The shift began in 2003, when Gov. Mike Rounds took office and grabbed hold of a planning document that had been assembled by the then-regents and their then-executive director, Tad Perry.
One of the projects since then was the research park developed at Sioux Falls. Adding a second wing to the GEAR Center building there, with $1.8 million in annual operating costs and $2.6 million in one-time funding, is part of the University of South Dakota’s research-related proposals in its budget request.
SDSU meanwhile seeks $20 million of public funding toward a $50 million research center for bio-science and engineering study on its Brookings campus.
SDSU has the most ambitious research-related requests. Among those are 11 new faculty for bio-science and engineering, two professional proposal specialists and a five-person staff for the technology transfer office.
Then there are one-timers in SDSU’s list, such as $4.9 million for 17 pieces of equipment, $1.6 million for three shared spaces for research activities and $1.5 million for high-performance computing services.
USD and SDSU together want to add three faculty members for an expansion into jointly offering a master's degree in public health involving the campuses at Vermillion, Brookings and Sanford Medical School at Sioux Falls.
“We’re not taking advantage of enough opportunities (in research) in public health,” said Mary Nettleman, the medical school dean.
Northern State University in Aberdeen is looking for $180,000, mostly for new equipment and replacements for pieces that are outdated. NSU also wants to build a greenhouse for $650,000 rather than continuing to grow materials piece-meal indoors for research and coursework.
“I don’t know historically why we’ve gotten to this point,” said James Smith, NSU president. “We did it on a small scale, and we left opportunities on the table. That’s shame on us, institutionally.”
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is asking for $200,000 to develop an institute of underground science to work with the deep underground laboratory at Lead.
School of Mines also wants to put more money into mindset by adding two entrepreneurs in residence at the Rapid City campus to work with faculty and students on turning their work into businesses, providing $250,000 in grants to students for projects and hiring a coordinator for them.
“The people who invented it aren’t business people, aren’t finance people,” said Heather Wilson, the new president at Mines.
Dakota State University at Madison wishes to provide $50,000 to students for project work and $150,000 to faculty members for their projects, including giving them more release time and adding staff.
Black Hills State University at Spearfish has seen research funded by outside sources grow from $1.1 million in 2000 to about $6 million currently.
The university, because of its connections and proximity to the underground lab, now seeks funding for faculty in particle physics and biology, as well as a half-time position to coordinate BHSU’s work in underground science research.
BHSU also wants an environmental safety officer and a chief research officer, as well as two research associates for equipment maintenance. Money for research fellowships for undergraduate students is also sought.
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