Campus & Community

Vice provost for research policy named

4 min read

Huchra chosen for position

Provost Steven E. Hyman announced today (June 2) that John P. Huchra, Doyle Professor of Cosmology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and senior astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been appointed to the newly created post of vice provost for research policy.

Huchra will work closely with the Office of Sponsored Research, the General Counsel’s Office, and the several school-based research offices; lead efforts to develop consistent University policies and practices in the area of research policy; represent the University in discussions and negotiations with outside funders; and chair – and in some cases create – University research policy committees. He will also advise the provost and president on important matters of research policy and practice.

“I’m tremendously pleased that John has agreed to serve in this capacity,” said Hyman. “His long experience as an astrophysical researcher and an administrator at the Center for Astrophysics makes him an extraordinary resource for the University.”

Hyman also commented on the importance of the new position: “The regulatory environment affecting the University, particularly in regard to research matters, continues to become more complex and demanding. The University must comply with frequently changing laws and regulations and respond appropriately to the concerns of nongovernmental funders while at the same time protecting the academic freedom of our faculty and our capacity to conduct research on the subjects and in the manner of our choosing.”

Huchra welcomed the challenges presented by the new role. “I’m honored that the president and provost have demonstrated their confidence in me in this way. I’ve been a researcher and faculty member here at Harvard for many years and know firsthand just how important these issues are.

“This is an enormous and complex place,” he continued, “with diverse research cultures and needs which need to be respected and addressed. Given the current regulatory environment, it’s more important than ever before for us to deliberate together and then speak with one voice. This won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to working on it with my colleagues across the University. My goals are to keep Harvard in the absolute forefront of research and to make it easier for our faculties to actually do their work.”

Hyman remarked that “Professor Huchra has already begun to provide advice informally to the president and me, and he has emerged as a wise, thoughtful, and energetic participant in discussions of research policy. It is clear even from these informal interactions that Professor Huchra’s appointment will fill an important need in the central administration, and I am confident that he will be welcomed by those who work in this area.”

Huchra is a distinguished astronomer whose own research has focused on the large-scale structure of the universe. His latest large research program has been a near infrared survey of the whole sky, the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS), which has provided the most detailed map ever of the nearby universe. Huchra also serves as the chair of the FAS Committee on Research Policy and will continue in that role.

He has been an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) since 1978 and was appointed professor of astronomy at Harvard in 1984. He became Doyle Professor of Cosmology in 2002 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Huchra is also a highly regarded and experienced administrator. He served as associate director of the Harvard College Observatory for eight years and as associate director of the SAO overseeing the Optical and Infrared Division for nearly a decade. He was also interim director of Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics and director of the F.L. Whipple Observatory.

Huchra has long experience in research policy. He is an active scientist who has sought and received government support for his work for decades. In addition, he has served as a grant reviewer and an adviser during his career to NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, and several international funding agencies. Recently, he chaired the NAS Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Board on Physics & Astronomy. He was a member of the NAS/NRC Mid-Course Review Committee, chaired the NASA Next Generation Space Telescope Review, and participated in the NSF’s Astronomy Portfolio Review. He chaired the AURA Board of Directors; AURA operates the U.S. National Optical and Solar Observatories and the International Gemini Observatory for the NSF, as well as the Space Telescope Science Institute for NASA.