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State funding proposal includes $52.8M to benefit Ohio State Discovery Themes initiative


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Two Ohio State buildings might soon undergo $52.8 million in renovations as part of the university’s Discovery Themes initiative.

The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission announced its 2015-16 state funding recommendations Thursday, which included funds to be given to OSU for renovating Pomerene and Oxley halls into facilities that would “house the university’s new comprehensive data analytics program,” according to an OSU press release.

The Discovery Themes initiative, which was launched in October 2012, targets health and wellness, energy and environment, food and food security, areas identified by some OSU officials as university priority areas. The $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring new faculty.

OSU plans to bring in 500 tenured or tenure-track faculty over the next 10 years as part of the initiative, costing about $100 million.

There is also set to be $250 million in one-time funding made available for startup costs like staff, equipment and facilities. That money is slated to be obtained through monetization efforts, affinity agreements and cost-saving initiatives outlined in the OSU strategic plan, according to the Discovery Themes website.

For the new faculty hires besides those each college has allocated for, approximately $50 million is slated to be provided by the Office of Academic Affairs. The funding is set to be taken from increases in OSU’s endowments. That $50 million is also set to be matched by OSU’s colleges to total $100 million for new faculty, half of which will be reserved for hiring tenured and tenure-track faculty with focuses in Discovery Theme areas, according to the website.

OSU Provost and Executive Vice President Joseph Steinmetz, who is in charge of developing the Discovery Themes, said for now, the focus is on one area.

“We have defined the first initiative which cuts across all three discovery themes — data analytics,” Steinmetz said in an email to The Lantern Wednesday.

The data analytics component would be housed in Pomerene and Oxley, if the recommendations are approved by lawmakers after first going to Gov. John Kasich’s office for consideration. Specifically, the buildings would give space to “newly recruited faculty experts and research space dedicated to synthesizing and understanding ‘Big Data’ across numerous disciplines,” according to the release.

Steinmetz said in the Thursday press release the two buildings would be rejuvenated with the funding.

“With 21st-century state support, they’ll get brand-new beginnings — fittingly, as the hub of our first Discovery Themes initiative, data analytics,” he said in a released statement.

For each individual theme, there is a committee. Casey Hoy, professor of entomology, is the convener of a committee focusing on the energy and environment theme.

Hoy said it has been challenging to sort, combine and prioritize the ideas submitted by more than 250 faculty members for how data analytics could build on what OSU is already doing, but likes having a variety of input.

“I appreciate very much the engagement of faculty in this process, and the fact that the initiative is being designed by faculty from across the entire university,” Hoy said.

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