Clayman looks to new challenge

July 08, 2004, vol. 30, no. 6
By Stuart Colcleugh

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Bruce Clayman envisioned years of leisurely morning strolls to work after recently purchasing a condominium in SFU's UniverCity residential community on Burnaby Mountain.

But the outgoing VP-research will now have to settle for a half-hour commute to Vancouver and his new position as president of Great Northern Way campus (GNWC), on secondment from SFU. As of September, he will also direct SFU's centre for policy research on science and technology (CPROST).

The appointments follow a productive 11-year run for Clayman as VP-research, with administrative responsibilities including the offices of research services, university/industry liaison (UILO), research ethics, animal care, biosafety, major projects and the university library. The VP-research also chairs the president's research grant committee, is president of SF Univentures and a board member of the SFU Community Trust and Discovery Parks, Inc.

“My mandate was to enhance the university's overall research profile by enhancing the research environment and increasing external funding for our faculty members, and we've come a long way in those areas,” says the physics professor who began his SFU career in 1968 after earning a PhD from Cornell University.

“But we've also advanced a number of major projects that didn't exist before. I don't claim credit for all we've accomplished, but I like to think the programs I've implemented have helped our researchers improve their ability to obtain increased external support.”

During his watch, SFU's share of research funding has jumped from $20 million to $50 million annually. It has become a North American leader in research commercialization, spinning off university-developed technologies into more than 60 companies garnering $35 million in investment capital and almost $3 million in university revenue.

The library's budget has jumped significantly, funding research innovations like electronic journal access and an information commons. And Clayman has helped reinforce the university's physical and intellectual infrastructure with improvements including a campus-wide network of grant facilitators and the growth of UILO into a major technology transfer agency.

His successor, chemistry department chair Mario Pinto, faces a much more complex research environment than when he took over in 1993, says Clayman. “There are many more funding programs out there and more demanding compliance issues in areas such as research integrity and research with animals and humans.”

In addition, “much of the funding we get comes with two relatively new characteristics. They're often multi-institutional, multi-researcher awards, which require much more interaction with other parties; and they have a range of conditions attached that make the application and reporting processes a lot more demanding.”

Clayman takes away few regrets from his experience as VP-research, save one: “I would have liked more opportunities to learn more about what individual researchers were doing. The demands of the job are such that there is very little discretionary time.”

The experience also left him very little time for anything but work, a condition he says is not likely to change.

“My life and work are integrated so completely that they just sort of flow together. I do find time to go flying and to take holidays, though, and I plan to continue on roughly the same basis.”

As for the future, Clayman is excited about his CPROST responsibilities and his new role as president of GNWC, a consortium of SFU, UBC, BCIT and the Emily Carr Institute focused on collaborative research and innovative academic programming.

Its goal is to become a unique and integrated centre of excellence at the convergence of science and technology with art, culture and design.

He'll miss his morning walk to work, of course, although his partner, UILO communications and information manager Pauline O'Neill, will still have that pleasure. “It's a bit of a shame,” he says, “I was looking forward to that reduced commuting time.”

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