EVCP Expresso – December 2015

December 1, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for continuing to read Expresso. With each issue, I have received useful feedback, including suggestions as to what we can do better. I am also pleased to learn that it's an entertaining and informative read, at least for a good number of folks. Keep your messages coming!

One of my goals with Expresso, which I hope you have noticed, is to tackle some of the more uncomfortable issues that we have to deal with on campus. We may not always have a solution, but I want you to at least know we're working on them, and we welcome your input.

The issues covered this month are:

I'd like to hear your thoughts on these topics and your ideas for future ones. Please share your feedback with me at [email protected].

Best regards,


Crowdfunding: The Promise and Pitfalls for Research

I imagine you will agree that UCSF epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit that flourishes here in the Bay Area. Our researchers are thinking like entrepreneurs, and they're getting creative in looking for money to support their research. Having seen crowdfunding work to bring millions of dollars to everything from smart beehives to video games, why not use it for medical research that will improve people's lives?

I've discovered that UCSF has embraced crowdfunding. Megan Smith, senior director of annual and special giving, tells me that we've had some great successes funding projects and bringing new donors into the University. We've even got our own crowdfunding sites.

That does not mean, however, that you should immediately run to Kickstarter or start a campaign from scratch to raise money for your project. We have designated platforms that are viable and are approved for use, and we're working with established players like Indiegogo and CrowdRise. I also need to tell you that all fundraising campaigns need to be coordinated through University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR).

Our approved platforms carry the UCSF logo, and we ensure you and the donor have a successful experience—the donor is appropriately recognized and the funds are transmitted to the university without a hitch. This is important, because if you use your affiliation with UCSF as a means to advertise your ideas, and an external site is not formally connected with UCSF, donors may be misled in thinking they are giving to UCSF.

In addition to the platforms, we have protocols in place that faculty should follow. The Office of Sponsored Research has a website that lists some of the opportunities and explains how to get started with a crowdfunding initiative.

I have to admit, I've been a little skeptical of crowdfunding in the past – in an era where the cost of research is higher than ever and we often pursue grants in the millions of dollars, I doubted that setting up a social site and emailing your friends would have a significant impact. But, Megan tells me that crowdfunding can supplement government and philanthropy, not replace them. In fiscal year 2015, we hosted 14 efforts on our internal platforms and raised almost $800,000. Ninety percent of the donors were new to UCSF, which means we're spreading the word. Now I'm a believer!

Some examples: UCSF's pioneering Sensory Processing Group, led by Dr. Elysa Marco, surpassed its goal of $50,000 to support its research. Our Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology has raised more than $60,000 for a program to teach people how to save limbs in the developing world, preventing added disabilities and deaths. And Dr. Dan Kelly raised more than $140,000 to support the emergency Ebola response in Africa.

UCSF started its pilot crowdfunding projects in 2013, and we've moved quickly since then. Last year, we set up our own licensed platform. We now have three: UCSF Crowdfunding, UCSF Indiegogo, and UCSF CrowdRise. If you want to try this approach, contact Megan in UDAR, and she'll be happy to work with you on a comparison of the three available options in terms of features and administrative protocols as well as applicable fees.

Who knows? Maybe I'll pitch in when I see your site is up!

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Beyond Books: The Library of the 21st Century

I find it incredibly exciting to think about the changes taking place in libraries right now. It used to be easy to define a library as a building that held lots of books. But what is a library in the 21st century?

I believe that libraries will remain of central importance as the keepers of the knowledge of civilization. However, rather than just books, the library will house people, programs, and technology that enable people to connect to the knowledge they need, when they need it.

Our UCSF Library stands at the threshold of change, and I recently checked in with our University Librarian Karen Butter; Gail Persily, director of educational technology initiatives; and Russ Cucina, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer and former chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, and got some eye-opening information and ideas.

Think about these numbers:

  • In 2000, people photocopied more than 3 million pages per year. In 2015 only 20,000 pages are photocopied, while more than 3 million journal articles—with far more than 3 million pages— are being downloaded and viewed.
  • In 2000, the Library subscribed to 4,300 journals. About 1,600 were online. Today the Library subscribes to 54,000, almost all online. Very few print copies; 39 are print only, and 108 are in print and online.
  • In 2000, we had about 350,000 books, all in print. Today we have 225,000 titles in print, and 120,000 e-books in the health sciences.
  • One thing that hasn't changed: This year 600,000 people came through the doors of the Library, same as in 2000!

As a health sciences university, our library caters to some specific needs, even beyond all of those scientific and medical journals. As Russ told me, the research community uses an enormous amount of information services that deliver much more than prose. To help researchers, we're adding lots of new tools, including genomic databases, proteomic databases, structural databases, pathway databases, and the like. The Library will have a significant role in supporting our Precision Medicine initiatives.

It's also home to our archives, to the papers of notable professors, to vast warehouses of documents covering the tobacco industry, the AIDS epidemic, early photos of campus life, and critical historical moments.

Gail noted that the library has become more like the kitchen than the grocery store—it's where knowledge is created, rather than a static place where its ingredients are stored. To that end, we've already established innovative learning spaces like the Tech Commons and the Kanbar Center for Simulation, where students learn and test clinical skills on standardized patients and life-like manikins. Did you know you can check out an iPad for two weeks? Or an Arduino electronics board? We're now working on adding a maker space with 3D printers, art supplies and more.

Given the rapid changes going on in education, and the impact of technology on access to information, you can be sure that we are thinking deeply about how the Library space and resources can evolve further to cater to the learners of the 21st century.

Karen arrived at UCSF in 1992 as deputy librarian and assumed the top job in 2000. She created a top-rate library as well as fostered a place for community and learning. Karen will be retiring on January 5, 2016. Thank you, Karen, for building a brilliant foundation for change.

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Making Space: Bringing Efficiency and Intelligence to Managing Office and Lab Space

Offices and labs may be shifting around in the coming year, and I want you to know the rationale. At UCSF, space was historically under incredible constraints on the Parnassus campus. Things have improved in the past decade as we've added more than 1 million square feet of research space at Mission Bay, but we are still not using our space as efficiently as possible.

This inefficiency carries a tremendous cost to all of us, and we need to commit ourselves to solving this problem. (BTW – this is a dilemma that universities face virtually everywhere...) I am co-chairing a UCSF Space Committee, along with Bruce Wintroub, vice dean of the School of Medicine, with the objective of ensuring that we are managing our space in a manner that is fair, transparent, and addresses the needs of our community as fully and effectively as possible.

A major task of the Space Committee was to assess how much space we have, who is in it, and what they're doing with it. The Campus Planning and Budget Departments, working with all of the schools' associate deans, have been using sophisticated software that is helping to track our space.

We also need to come up with an equitable way to allocate space. We're putting that responsibility on the schools, making them accountable for the space they occupy. The schools, in turn, will work with the departments to do this.

To calculate what constitutes an efficient use of space, we settled on a metric that we already use in other ways: the indirect cost of space. Most of you already know this, but just in case, a quick primer: grants to researchers typically cover the direct costs of their work, such as salaries and special equipment. Indirect costs are all the overhead expenses that enable the research—buildings, environmental needs, maintenance, security, administrative support, and more. Reimbursement of those indirect costs varies between funders, although virtually no one (including the NIH) comes close to covering the costs entirely, and UCSF has to pick up the rest.

Indirect cost isn't the only way we evaluate space use, but it is the only objective criteria we have. By looking at the indirect costs a project—or a department, or a school—recovers, and comparing that to the amount of space the researchers in that entity use, we can determine whether that space is being used efficiently. To put it another way, the activity that goes on in a space should help to cover, to some degree, the operating costs of that space. An efficiently run program typically recovers a higher portion of the indirect costs needed to support its space.

Going forward, that means that each school must meet a key metric of indirect cost recovery per its assigned square footage (ICR/ASF, in case that acronym ever comes up in casual conversation). As the Planning and Budget department have analyzed those numbers for each school, we found that the School of Medicine—which has by far the most principal investigators, the greatest amount of square feet and the lion's share of indirect costs recovered—falls right in the middle, with a ratio of recovering $120 in indirect costs for each square foot that's assigned. We're using that $120 figure as a starting point this January 1, 2016.

If a school doesn't meet the $120 metric, it will have three months to submit a plan to bring its ICR/ASF in line. It could find money to make up for the costs; it could reassign space. But it must address the imbalance. Once the school's plan is presented to the committee, we'll have one month to approve it or suggest changes, and then the school will have eight months to implement it.

We've all heard stories of those who feel they "owned" their space and that once ensconced in a space, they would keep it forever. It was squatters' rights. That's not a strategy. In such a scenario, space had no value assigned to it; people received no rewards for using it well, and suffered no penalties for using it poorly. In addition, developing Mission Bay may have lulled some of us into thinking we could grow our way out of the problem and just build more space as we need it.

We can't build our way out of the problem. All of us need to think of ourselves as fiduciaries, entrusted with using our space well—such that we make the best use of the space so that our researchers can use it to do what they do best—innovate and discover.

We are aware that managing space can be tricky, but doing it well is vital to fulfilling our mission. You can see more details of our space policy online, including a helpful FAQ.

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Dan's Tip of the Month

Perplexus toyMy good friend, Andy Josephson, gave me a Perplexus a few years ago, and it is among the most ingenious and cognitive toys I've seen. I hesitate to recommend it to anyone because of the time-sink it can become.

Be sure to carefully match the age of the giftee to the model you choose -- there are three levels of complexity; don't bother with the highest level ("Epic") unless you are a glutton for punishment.

Enjoy and happy brain play!

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