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Report of the General Board on the establishment of a Unilever Professorship of Molecular Sciences Informatics

The GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. Electronic methods of storing, accessing, managing, and exploiting information have developed enormously in recent years and will continue to develop for the foreseeable future, with implications both for academic and industrial research in the sciences and for the education of students at all levels. The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (an independent organization associated with the Department of Chemistry) has established an international reputation through the application of these techniques to the area of crystal structure. It is now proposed to set up a new teaching and research sector within the Department of Chemistry which would extend the use of such techniques to the broader areas of chemical knowledge. The emerging field, known as Molecular Sciences Informatics, deals with the collection and assimilation of all forms of chemical data, together with the development of software systems that can manipulate that data. The Department also seeks to modernize its existing library of books and journals, which it regards as one of its major research assets, in accordance with its development plan.

2. The new sector would handle databases which are relevant to all branches of chemistry and allied subjects, such as chemical physics, biochemistry, and pharmacology, and would therefore be truly interdisciplinary. It would provide a focus for the collection and dissemination of knowledge about molecular sciences, through the identification of data sources and the use of connexions between such sources to solve particular problems. Its aims would include the development of a world-class research unit in knowledge management in the molecular sciences, as well as the provision of teaching for students at all levels and training courses for research scientists from industry and from other organizations.

3. As the result of the offer of substantial external funding from Unilever plc, who share the intellectual aims of the project, the Department is now in a position to proceed with this important development. The Company have generously offered to provide funds, amounting to approximately £13m, for the support of the new sector, including £1.715m for the endowment of a Professorship and provision for the construction of purpose-built accommodation, together with contributions towards equipping and running the building, and funding, for five years in the first instance, for additional academic, computing, and support staff. Proposals for the construction of the new building will be the subject of a separate Report in due course. The Company have undertaken to review their support for posts and support costs, with a view to extending funding for further periods beyond the first five years. Provisions for the confidentiality of the research, and exploitation of intellectual property arising from it, would be in accordance with the University's normal arrangements.

4. The holder of the proposed Professorship would be expected to take a leading role in bringing the initiative to fruition, to provide senior leadership for the new sector, and to attract considerable outside funding to support the research programme. The General Board are advised that candidates of the necessary international standing are available and that the Professorship would be expected to attract a strong field. The Board have accordingly agreed to propose the establishment of a Professorship of Molecular Sciences Informatics as a charge on the benefaction. They have agreed that elections to the Professorship should be made by an ad hoc Board of Electors and that candidature for the Professorship should be open to all candidates whose work falls within the general field of the title of the office.

 5. The General Board recommend:

 I. That the generous offer of £1.715m from Unilever plc for the endowment of a Professorship of Molecular Sciences Informatics be gratefully accepted.

 II. That a Unilever Professorship of Molecular Sciences Informatics be established from 1 January 1999, placed in Schedule B of the Statutes, and assigned to the Department of Chemistry.

 III. That regulations for the Unilever Professor of Molecular Sciences Informatics, as set out in the Schedule to this Report, be approved.

22 April 1998

Unilever Professor of Molecular Sciences Informatics. 1999. Chemistry

 1. The sum of £1,715,000 received from Unilever plc for the endowment of a Professorship of Molecular Sciences Informatics shall form a fund called the Unilever Molecular Sciences Informatics Fund.

 2. If and whenever the income of the Fund shall exceed the amount required for the payment of the stipend, national insurance, pension contributions, and associated indirect costs of the Professor payable by the University, the excess of income over that amount may be applied in support of the work of the Professor in such manner as may be approved by the General Board on the recommendation of the Head of the Department of Chemistry.

 3. Any unexpended income in a financial year may in any subsequent year be expended in accordance with Regulation 2.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 30 April 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.