A Message from Executive Director Bill Shilts
The 2013 edition of the Prairie Research Institute’s Annual Report marks our fifth anniversary (July 1, 2013) as an integral part of the University of Illinois. In that short time we have grown to be the largest Institute on the Urbana campus, with over 1,000 employees. From 2008 through Fiscal Year 2013, our annual external research funding has more than doubled, from $28 million to more than $60 million, evenly split between state and federal contracts and grants.
Our core state funding has remained steady at $15.8 million, and with that stable core, we generate one in every 10 research dollars that the university receives from external sources. Raw numbers do not adequately capture the value of the Institute to the state and university, however. As our various component Surveys have done throughout their 160+ year history, we provide a vitally important, focused source of objective natural and cultural resource data and expertise to our clients in Illinois and beyond.
As I approach my 50th anniversary of working with Scientific Surveys in Canada and the United States, I am reminded of how natural and cultural resource science serves society while providing a rewarding career for research scientists and individuals who deliver scientific and technical services. In my own case, the research that I conducted to address societal needs in the areas of mineral development and environmental security allowed me the tools and resources for amazing research opportunities while fulfilling my primary role of serving the public with objective data on which to base important decisions. In my experience, most of the employees of the 70 or more Scientific Surveys in North America are inspired by the same goals that have made my career so rewarding.
Over the spring and summer of 2013, the Institute has, in consultation with our staff, advisory board, and constituents from the university, government, business, and nonprofits, created a short, but comprehensive Strategic Plan which is designed to bolster and guide our employees as they pursue research projects and service. The plan is a blueprint for assuring our stakeholders that our work will be designed to fulfill the Surveys’ traditional expertise and information role while providing abundant opportunities for staff to grow professionally.
The plan establishes four broad goals designed to foster our already well-established inter-Survey multi-disciplinary research projects while improving collaboration with our colleagues on campus and among our external clients. The goals are:
- Enhance scientific knowledge through research applied to scientific and societal challenges
- Build on the Institute’s extensive data, information, and service to support science, policy development, and decision-making
- Enhance visibility and understanding of the Institute
- Ensure effective staffing and leadership, efficient administration, modern facilities and equipment, and adequate funding to support the work of the Institute.
We have thrived in our five years as full members of the University of Illinois community, and, with the strategic planning, we have laid the groundwork for even greater accomplishments in the decades ahead. We are celebrating our anniversary with special lectures and events throughout the year and look forward to our next big milestone in 2017, the 100-year anniversary of the placement of the original three Surveys under one governing board. This anniversary, commemorating the creation of the most unique state scientific research entity in the U.S., will correspond, coincidentally, with the 150th anniversary of the founding of the University of Illinois. The Institute and university have a long, unique, and fruitful relationship that is well worth recognizing as we plan for an exciting future.
Updated 04/28/14 AW