trouble at Wash State Univ (long)

Steve Thompson: VADMS genetics THOMPSON at WSUVMS1.CSC.WSU.EDU
Fri Apr 16 17:57:22 EST 1993


Friends and fellow supporters of bio-computing netwide:

I apologize to those among you who would rather not bother with the plight of a
small program at a relatively insignificant university in Washington state for
my disrespect of precious bandwidth, my cross-posting and my cluttering of
mailboxes.  You might as well delete this message right now.  For you
individuals who do give a damn --- The VADMS Center at Washington State
University is getting shafted by the political/economic policies of the
university's administration in the present round of budgetary belt-tightening!

The VADMS Center exists at WSU as an interdisciplinary service to ALL molecular
scientists campus-wide.  We have demonstrated ourselves, as verified by a very
positive recent faculty review, to be a vital and much relied upon resource at
WSU.  The success of many principal investigators across campus is contingent
upon the full existence of both the research/service and instructional
capacities of the Center.  Indeed, it is nearly impossible to separate them,
even though in a constant and futile attempt the administration tries to do
just that --- a student is exposed to us through our instructional efforts,
continues to consult with us after completion of the course, and the work
eventually ends up in the P.I.'s research publications and grant proposals! 
However, because we have not been successful in generating our OWN grant
income, we have lost all favor with the central administration.  Funny, how in
these days of "excellence in education" and the "molecular initiative" those
programs most closely allied with those concepts are the first to receive the
budgetary executioner's axe.

This is not a plea for monetary assistance, rather it is a philosophical query
for sympathetic supporters.  If you feel that the existence of a central and
comprehensive facility, such as VADMS, that all of a university can access,
rather than merely the use of specialized, individual laboratory resources, is
a good and special thing, please read and respond in any way you desire to the
following letter which summarizes our situation to our users.  Susan Johns, my
supervisor and the letter's author, has authorized me to release the memo to
the nets.  It is a copy of the version which I hand delivered to our most
ardent supporters on campus. 
						Sincerely, Steve Thompson

                              Steven M. Thompson
            Consultant in Molecular Genetics and Sequence Analysis
VADMS (Visualization, Analysis & Design in the Molecular Sciences) Laboratory
           Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-1224, USA
          AT&Tnet:  (509) 335-0533 or 335-3179  FAX:  (509) 335-0540
                  BITnet:  THOMPSON at WSUVMS1 or STEVET at WSUVM1
                   INTERnet:  THOMPSON at wsuvms1.csc.wsu.edu

enclosed memo begins here--------------------- 
 
To:             VADMS Users 
From:   Susan Johns and Steve Thompson 
Date:           April 12, 1993
Subj.:          Appeal for VADMS Support 
 
        This is an appeal to keep VADMS alive. If you feel that your 
research efforts, classroom activities or graduate training have benefited 
from VADMS, please read this completely, form your own opinions and act 
accordingly.  
 
        To date, the VADMS budget has recently been reduced by more than 50% 
and proposed staff layoffs may close the VADMS lab completely. With the 
current financial situation, all of WSU's divisions are scrambling to survive.
A unit such as VADMS that serves numerous colleges and departments but is not 
directly controlled by any of them can easily be forgotten. We feel that the 
continuation of VADMS is important to the university. It must not fall through 
the cracks. 
 
        VADMS activities are currently supported by an informal association 
between the Graduate School and Systems & Computing. The Graduate School 
provides funding for Steve Thompson's position, operating funds for software 
and database maintenance, operating funds for hardware maintenance on VADMS' 
major pieces of equipment (i.e., the MicroVax and the E&S) and clerical 
support. Systems & Computing provides funding for Susan Johns' position, 
office space for VADMS' technical staff and its clerical support, space for 
the VADMS central laboratory, most of the computing platforms on which VADMS 
houses the software and its databases, and the associated disk storage costs, 
account fees and printing charges generated by VADMS. 
 
        VADMS' success is primarily the result of the efforts of its technical 
staff, Susan Johns and Steve Thompson. Each of them is in a different 
administrative unit. These units are acting independently in this budget 
crisis. By not interacting with one another, one or both of the two VADMS 
technical staff positions may be lost. One position elimination has already 
been suggested by Systems & Computing. VADMS has grown to the point where it 
cannot be handled by one person. The loss of either position would destroy 
VADMS' effectiveness. 
 
        Steve Thompson provides sequence analysis support. He provides 
consulting services and keeps current on developments in this area. He also 
collaborates with individuals working in the field. He is responsible for the 
operation of the VADMS Fulmer lab and maintains equipment in VADMS workstation 
sites. Steve's role in VADMS is very visible since he visits workstation sites 
and the Fulmer lab regularly. He also attends relevant seminars in the field 
across campus. 
 
        Susan Johns primarily provides resource support with some molecular 
modeling consulting. She keeps the software and databases updated, puts new 
programs into service and keeps VADMS functioning in general. She provides 
software development services for those whose needs are not met by existing 
VADMS software. She is responsible for the VADMS central lab operation and its 
equipment. Susan's role is less visible, but vital to VADMS' existence. This is
particularly noticeable if you have molecular modeling, visualization, or
software development needs or if something doesn't work. 
 
        Susan and Steve jointly conduct the laboratory portion of BC/BP GenCB 
578. Susan developed the core materials for the lab during its first three 
offerings and both she and Steve have been embellishing these in their 
respective areas during the last two offerings. This course requires both VADMS
staff positions, not only because of the number of students involved, but also 
to keep the materials relevant to current field developments.
 
        The Graduate School is moving Steve's FTE plus a small amount of the 
operating budget over to the Division of Sciences, probably to be 
administered by Biochemistry. The success of VADMS' instructional activities 
and its lack of extramural funding has prompted this move. While there may be 
advantages, it also generates some questions. The primary one is, can VADMS 
continue to serve the entire WSU campus or will it be restricted to only the 
Division of Sciences? The amount initially proposed in operating funds ($8,000)
is also too small to allow VADMS to maintain its software and hardware. It must
be increased to a minimum of $20,000. 
 
        Systems & Computing's plans are uncertain at this time. They will 
probably generate three 5% cut proposals, allowing the central administration 
to choose among them to produce the required level of cuts. We believe that 
the reduced level of support for VADMS by the Graduate School over the last 
few years coupled with its further reductions insures that Systems & Computing 
will place its support for VADMS in one of these cut proposals.
 
        If Susan Johns' position is lost, VADMS would have to radically change 
in order to provide any level of effective service to the WSU campus. Since 
Steve Thompson's strengths are in sequence analysis, VADMS would become 
solely a sequence analysis resource. BC/BP GenCB 578 would only teach sequence 
analysis techniques. Only sequence databases and easily maintained sequence 
software packages would be updated. As demand for disk storage space by the 
sequence databases grew, non-sequence analysis software and databases would 
have to be removed from the system. VADMS users of modelling, visualization 
and calculational tools would be on their own and their software and databases 
would be unsupported.
 
        Even if Susan Johns' position is retained, the shortfall in the 
operating funds being supplied by the Graduate School will force VADMS to go 
to a user subscription fee system starting July 1, 1993. The details of this 
subscription plan are currently being developed. User input is sought in 
determining a fee structure. Contact either of VADMS technical staff with your 
ideas (Susan at 5-0424, prcadams at jaguar.csc.wsu.edu or Steve at 5-0533, 
thompson at jaguar.csc.wsu.edu).
 
        If you support VADMS' continuation and want it to continue serving the 
entire WSU molecular sciences community, please contact the individuals listed 
below through memos, e-mail or by phone and express your views. NOW!  When you 
call on the phone, if you can't reach these people directly, please tell 
whoever you talk to why you are calling and what your views are. The message 
must get through to:
 
Dean Robert Smith, Graduate School 335-3535, FAX 335-1949;
Tom Mueller (mueller at wsuvm1.csc.wsu.edu), Systems & Computing 335-8616; and
Provost Tom George (george at wsuvm1.csc.wsu.edu) 335-5581, FAX 335-0103 
 
Thank you.
 



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