The Collaboratory’s launch is funded through a $1 million appropriation from the N.C. General Assembly, and the organization has the potential to receive an additional $3.5 million if the University can raise money to match the funds provided by the legislature.
Brad Ives, the University’s chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises, will be the Collaboratory’s interim director.
Unlike other research institutes at UNC, the Collaboratory will be conducting research specifically for use in environmental policy.
“We here have things like centers and institutes that are groupings of researchers who research the topics,” Ives said.
“The Collaboratory is a very different entity because what it’s doing is funneling money into research ideas or questions that come across from the legislature.”
Ives said the Collaboratory will not have its own research staff like institutes such as the Institute for the Environment. The Collaboratory will instead take existing faculty from these institutes who are experts in the area and channel money to them so they can specifically research issues and then share their findings with the legislature.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean will oversee the faculty advisory committee within the Collaboratory. He said he would be inviting faculty to join the committee within the next few days.
Dean said University and government collaboration is not a new idea, but is in fact a tradition in North Carolina.
“This is sort of, in some ways, part of a long tradition of the state of North Carolina and the government of North Carolina looking to the University to try and provide a research basis for important questions that are a concern to the state,” he said. “In this case, they’re about environmental issues.”
Dean said there may be times when the research is better suited for someone at another institute within the UNC system or even at a private sector.
He said that if that were to happen, he, Ives and the faculty advisory committee would still have the responsibility of overseeing all findings.
One law student organization on campus, the Environmental Law Project, said they think it is good to see the University involved in another avenue to research environmental topics.
Tas Lagoo, president of the Environmental Law Project, said he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
“Ultimately, I think it’s about making sure there isn’t an undue amount of influence from Raleigh, and the University is allowed to do what it does,” he said.
Dean said he believes the Collaboratory will prove its value in time.
“I hope that as people see the research that comes out of this initiative, they’ll be happy with what we’ve produced,” Dean said.
“Time will tell.”