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October 27, 1994

Daehnick plans to step down as administrator in January

Wilfried Daehnick, associate provost for Research since 1989, will resign the job in January to return to being a full-time professor of physics.

Daehnick, 65, said that after five years of being an administrator and having only a day or two each week for his physics research, the time had come for him to choose: devote the rest of his career to administration or return to research and teaching full-time.

"I love both administration and research, but I love research more," he said.

Physics is a rapidly changing discipline whose researchers depend heavily on external funding, Daehnick noted. English professors might be able to drop out of their field for several years and resume their scholarly activity without difficulty, but a physicist who cuts back on his or her research for that long risks falling far behind his colleagues and losing research funding, he said.

"You don't get these research grants because people like you," said Daehnick, who will receive $270,000 in external funding for his research this year. "Once you lose your funding, you're in trouble. It can take years to build up your standing in the field again.

"I decided that five years of reduced research activity was more than is safe in a field like physics." Even so, Daehnick said he has served longer as Pitt's chief research officer than his predecessors and about as long as the late Alan Fisher, who in 1977 founded the Office of Research.

The associate provost considers his most popular achievement to have been establishing, in 1993, a Research Allocations Policy that returns a larger portion of external research overhead funds to faculty, deans and department chairpersons than was previously the case. Prior to the allocations policy, overhead money was distributed by the central administration. Under the policy, more of the money goes directly to principal investigators and their academic units.

Among his other accomplishments, Daehnick said he is proud of the following:

* Improving the Office of Research and hiring Michael Crouch as director. Crouch has made the office more modern, more efficient and more user-friendly, Daehnick said.

* Helping to establish, in 1991, the Materials Science Research Center, which recently won its second major multi-year federal grant.

* Leading the efforts to create what he called "a number of difficult and potentially unpopular compliance policies" — Pitt's Research Integrity Policy (along with a series of related workshops), a Conflict of Interest Policy, and a policy on Conflict of Interest Disclosure for Consultants. Daehnick and his long-time assistant, Beth Dutton, are currently completing a 1995 edition of the Faculty Handbook.

* Creating an on-line database called BESTPITT, which includes career and biographical information on 1,200 Pitt researchers.

As associate provost, Daehnick stayed involved in overseeing academic computing through the Executive Committee for Academic Computing, a committee he had chaired for years as a professor. Last winter, he helped to reorganize the committee, broadening its charge to take a stronger role in departmental computing support and instructional technology.

Daehnick said he felt gratified that Pitt's senior administration consistently supported his office's projects, some of which could have stirred up conflicts about resources and priorities.

"Let me say that I have had a good time as an administrator," Daehnick said. "I enjoyed my relations with the senior folk. They were very nice to me, which not everyone at this University can say." Daehnick also said he has enjoyed what he called "the very close and collegial" working relationship among the provost's office staff, an atmosphere he credited former Provost Donald Henderson with fostering. It was Henderson who recruited Daehnick to become an associate provost.

"Do I regret anything? Not really," Daehnick said. "If I had not tried my hand at being an administrator, I think I would be saying to myself today, 'Well, Daehnick, you always complain about things not being done right at this University. Why don't you do anything about it?'"

–Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 5

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