After a Decade David Wynes Retires

David Wynes is the Vice President for Research Administration. He came to Emory in February of 2007 after 16 years at the University of Iowa as Senior Associate Vice President for Research. David will be retiring September 30, 2018. As Vice President David oversees the Office of Technology Transfer, Office of Sponsored Programs, Office of Research Compliance, Office for Clinical Research, the Institutional Review Board Office, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Office, Environmental Health and Safety Office, Investigational Drug Service, and the Conflict of Interest in Research Office.

What are the key responsibilities of the VPR for Research Admin?

The lifespan of research activities is under this position, starting with sponsored programs that do grant proposals, the animal care committee that reviews research involving animals, the human subjects or the IRB committee which does the same sort of thing but for human research, the environmental health and safety department that covers radiation, biosafety, lab safety issues, the office of clinical research that helps develop clinical trials, tech transfer that does the patenting and licensing, we also deal with conflicts of interests within research. So it really covers a spectrum of activities committed to research. My job is the glue that keeps it all together, operating smoothly.

Are there any misperceptions about this role?

(Laughs) I guess I’m not really aware of the perceptions people have about it. It’s a lot of work, it’s a job where you roll up your sleeves. It’s strategy and logistics. The sheer volume of the work we do requires you to take a different perspective than if this was a smaller organization, because when we’re talking about transactions and applications and awards we’re talking about thousands of them. So a lot of time is spent trying to figure out how to manage that volume of activity in a way that is the most streamlined and the least intrusive.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?David Wynes Speaking photo

Because it covers such a breadth of activities, this job requires being able to tackle one nuanced activity after another. It takes adaptability. I also have to be able to tease out the important information from each department. The thing I focus most on is making sure each unit is integrating their business activities, working together and collaborating.

What have been the biggest changes in research administration nationally & at Emory during your tenure?

At Emory, we’ve grown dramatically. When I started here we were at 370 million dollars of sponsored research. Last year we were 637 million dollars, and this year we could hit 700 million dollars. Growth of research activity has been tremendous. Nationally, there has been growth of regulations despite a lot of discussion about the government rolling them back. Numerous studies have shown that the number of regulations impacting research continues to grow, and trying to figure out how to incorporate those added burdens is a never ending challenge. There needs to be more engagement with the research community prior to these regulations being formed.

What are you the proudest of accomplishing during your tenure at Emory?

Building the infrastructure to enable the kind of growth we had. I was hired because I had work at other big universities and could bring some experience and perspective into the job. I knew how to build the infrastructure that enabled us to get where we are today. Emory has grown at a higher rate than federal funding has grown, which means we are actually disproportionately successful.

What are you the proudest of accomplishing during your professional career?

One of the things I’m proudest of is my opportunity to be a chair on the board of directors of the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR). That gave me an opportunity to sit with government leaders and present not only the Emory perspective but also the national research university perspective when discussing issues and concerns. It was an incredibly valuable and rewarding thing to be able to do.

What do you see as the biggest challenges & opportunities to come for research administration at Emory?

D Wynes, C Sterk, T Sherer; OTT Annual Celebration photo

D Wynes, C Sterk, T Sherer OTT Annual Celebration

I think the biggest challenge is coping with the continued growth and being able to maintain providing the right amount of service. I think this growth gives us the chance to focus and expand on areas where we have expertise, like cancer or infectious diseases. Research administration will constantly be examining how growth impacts our operations and what needs to be adjusted. That’s another thing I’m really proud of, instilling that culture of constant change. What’s perfect yesterday isn’t perfect this morning.

I understand that you didn’t oversee technology transfer at Iowa, what type of challenge or opportunity did that bring for you at Emory?

I was working closely with technology transfer in Iowa, so it wasn’t a really difficult transition, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to work more closely with them.

Do you have a memorable of humorous story about technology transfer?

A story I remember is when Todd Sherer and I and two university attorneys all loaded in a car to drive to University of Alabama to spend a day negotiating an agreement. By the time we got over there we had already worked out what we thought the agreement should be. We sat down with them and told them our idea, and after short discussion among themselves they agreed. So, we were sitting there at 9 in the morning with a full day planned and we were already done. That’s how I like negotiations, starting at an extreme point doesn’t do you any good.

What are looking forward to the most in retirement?

Flexibility with my time. I’ve been working for over 50 years so I’m looking forward to doing things like traveling and spending time with my grandchildren.

What do you think you might miss the most?

I’ll miss the pace, and the challenging intellectual engagement I get on a daily basis.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like to fish, I like to travel. I’ve been to Europe probably twenty times. People that know me know I love to ride a bicycle. There’s a path I frequent that starts in West Atlanta and goes all the way to Alabama, its a bike freeway so you can go thirty, forty miles or more on it.

Rapid Fire Questions

Dogs or cats? Dogs, I’m allergic to cats so that one’s easy
Godfather or Scarface? Godfather. Although I really like Scarface, I have to say
Red wine or white? Red
Mountains or Beaches? Mountains
Messi or Ronaldo? Messi, I’ve seen him play in Barcelona and Madrid