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Chancellor's Column - November 2003  

Research Pays Off Throughout the State

Maybe it comes from being raised on a farm in Kay County, but I sometimes find myself in meetings about high-tech, high-dollar research projects wondering, “What does this have to do with the price of eggs?” That kind of common sense question helps remind me that our state is not simply made up of four or five cities. In fact, nearly 35 percent of our population lives in rural areas.

It might surprise you to know that much of the research that goes on at Oklahoma colleges and universities and other places actually has quite a lot to do, not with the price of eggs exactly, but with some real common sense things that help our entire state. This is important to keep in mind as Gov. Brad Henry’s EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) project continues to pick up steam because you will be hearing more about increasing our investment in research.

Investing in research pays off in a number of ways. It’s no coincidence that the states with the strongest economies have a strong research component at their colleges and universities. And this research often reaches into the private sector helping businesses, their customers and employees.

For example, the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station in Stillwater has developed a fertilizer system that uses sensors to detect how much fertilizer is needed within a given four-square-foot area. Profits for wheat producers can be increased by 15 to 25 percent using this system.

Scientific research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center has led to the development of potential vaccines and therapeutics for various animal and human diseases such as food poisoning, strep throat and anthrax. The research may ultimately yield therapies for a variety of infectious bacterial diseases, including agents of terrorism.

These and other projects have a direct impact by improving our health or helping our businesses, and it can also have an indirect benefit on our economy. In fact, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) reports that it attracts about $5.68 in matching research dollars for every $1 invested by the state of Oklahoma.

When high paying jobs are created by research, our Oklahoma graduates have more incentive to stay, live and work in their home state. That result is definitely worth the investment.