What's happ'nen at Wash. State VADMS Lab (long)

Steve Thompson: VADMS genetics THOMPSON at JAGUAR.CSC.WSU.EDU
Tue Jan 11 16:29:42 EST 1994


     Dear BioNetters and concerned world citizen -

     Now that the new year has begun and our teaching commitments have
     waned with the successful poster session and conclusion of
     Biochemistry 578, Molecular Biology Computer Techniques, we would
     like to take the opportunity to update interested parties on the
     situation with the VADMS Center at Washington State University. 
     I apologize for not writing earlier, things were still very
     uncertain most of the summer, then I was gone all of August---
     vacationing with relatives first and then helping Mitch Sogin
     with the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory Molecular
     Evolution Course computer laboratory, and then this last semester
     has been insanely busy with teaching and trying to catch up. 
     Enough excuses, for those who are interested, read on ....

     We obviously survived the university's "reconfiguration" process
     this last summer, albeit with greatly reduced funding (40%
     reduction from both the Graduate School and Information
     Technology), no secretarial support, no administrative "home" or
     director, and other painful changes.  The worst was Information
     Technology's (formerly Systems and Computing) refusal to continue
     funding Susan's position.  The Provost's Office came up with an
     offer to support half of her position for one year after our
     users pled for us in public hearing; we were forced to implement
     a user subscription system to raise the balance.  Under our
     subscription plan we have been able to generate almost $23,000. 
     During the reconfiguration process Central Administration
     challenged us to raise 20K, so we have met this immediate demand. 
     Unfortunately, that was not enough for any guarantee of
     permanency.  We have recently heard that neither the Graduate
     School or the Provost or the Division of Sciences is willing to
     come up with any additional funding to compensate for next year's
     20K shortfall caused by the Provost's one-year-only support
     offer.  It is ridiculous to expect our users to generate twice
     the present subscription revenue; this is not realistic and will
     not happen---they would simply drop us.
  
     At this point we are operating strictly on a Fiscal year-to-year
     funding basis, full of uncertainty.  And it is only going to get
     worse.  Next year's university-wide budget is predicted to be cut
     an additional 1.5% because of Washington's newly passed tax
     reform referendum.  In order to maintain any semblance of present
     service capacity in the future, it is becoming increasingly clear
     that outside operational funding must be found.  This appears to
     be the only way that we will be able to continue with two staff
     members and two staff members is the only way that we can
     continue our present level of expertise and support.  This route
     is being pursued (particularly with our curriculum development
     work and secondarily with a potential multi-division large
     equipment grant in order to obtain an independent platform), but
     we have neither the available staff time or the name recognition
     for its reliable success.  Additionally, most extramural sources
     are willing to provide for startup or equipment funding but are
     reluctant to provide subsistence operating funds.  Furthermore,
     any grant process takes over a year, even with first-time
     success, and we only have operational funding to last part-way
     through next Fiscal Year.  Perhaps Central Administration will
     string us along to the very last minute and then come up with
     just enough funding for us to squeak by for yet another year; we
     should not have to exist under such a tenuous situation.

     As it is, we have no monies available for equipment repair and
     all of our equipment maintenance contracts will expire by the end
     of January 1994.  Our graphics and molecular modelling resources
     have been seriously depleted---only one of our three SGI machines
     can even display a picture.  We must now ftp update all of our
     databases whereas we formerly maintained subscriptions, and the
     present Information Technology VAX cluster is becoming woefully
     inadequate.  How can a service function, which consistently
     receives glowing reviews, which has developed and teaches a very
     successful graduate level laboratory course as well as offering
     instructional modules in a number of other graduate and
     undergraduate courses, and which is constantly defended as being
     invaluable by its users, be treated with such indignation?  We
     have done everything that has been asked of us, what more can we
     do?

     Furthermore, our previous Acting Director, A.K. Dunker, set up
     a VADMS Center Advisory Board which should be able to help in
     just such problems as we are currently experiencing.  Yet he has
     steadfastly refused to tap the potential for fund-raising within
     this board by not involving them or even making them aware of our
     fiscal problems.  The current members of our board follow:

	      Jurgen  Bajorath    Bristol Myers Squibb            
	      Jeffrey Blaney	  Chiron Corporation              
	      Fred    Cohen	  Dept. Pharm. Chem. UC San Fran          
	      John    Devereux    Genetics Computer Group         
	      Richard Douthart    Pacific Northwest Laboratories  
	      Steven  Fodor	  Affymax Research Institute      
	      Mickey  Gorman	  Pathogenesis                    
	      Michael Gribskov    San Diego Supercomputer Center  
	      Arne    Hagler	  BioSym Technologies Inc.       
	      Mathew  Hahn	  Molecular Simulations           
	      Leroy   Hood	  Molecular Biotechnology Univ. Wash.  
	      Carl    March	  Immunex Corporation             
	      Joseph  Modelevsky  Digital Equipment Corporation   
	      Patrick O'Hara	  ZymoGenetics                    
	      George  Purvis III  CAChe Scientific Inc.         
	      Peter   Saurugger   Pioneer Hi-Bred Internatl. Inc.
	      Teresa  Webster	  Arris Pharmaceutical      

     If any of you from this list is perusing this message, please
     contact us with any ideas you might have and please inform us of
     your E-mail address so that we may keep in more intimate contact
     in the future.  I do have several of your E-mail addresses
     already and have sent this message to those, but many others are
     not available through standard Internet routes as they are
     commercial.  Susan is sending you all a more detailed letter on
     these matters via snail mail in the meantime.  Also, if any other
     readers are familiar with these individuals, please forward this
     message on to them.

     In summary, as in the past, we are not so much whining, as we are
     advising interested parties of our situation and inquiring for
     advice and consul.  A little bit of begging never hurt
     either---one can always use a guardian angel.  Of course, our
     alternative is just to give up and start a job search now. 
     Washington State University would lose a very good thing, but it
     would probably be a hell of a lot easier on us.  Unfortunately,
     both Susan and myself do very much enjoy the work involved in
     providing our services to the academic community.

							- Steve

                   Susan J. Johns & Steven M. Thompson
                        VADMS Center & Laboratory
       Visualization, Analysis & Design in the Molecular Sciences
        Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-1224, USA
       AT&Tnet: (509) 335-0424, -0533, -3179  FAX: (509) 335-0540
            INTERnet: PRCADAMS & THOMPSON @jaguar.csc.wsu.edu





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