In early November, the University, along with 17 other peer institutions, signed the Sponsored Academic Research Agreement (SARA) with Facebook’s Building 8 project. The agreement aims to support research in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality.
Other institutions that have signed the agreement include Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.
One of the main features of the SARA is its ability to decrease the time it takes for research projects to be proposed, approved, and funded down from nine to 12 months to weeks or days.
“Interested faculty are invited to submit research proposals, and based [on] their merits, Facebook will decide to fund them,” said Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research and professor of chemical and biological engineering. Additionally, he explained that Facebook will send the University its own research proposals, which will then be circulated to faculty members. Interested faculty can then decide to take on the research.
Debenedetti anticipates that the SARA will have a positive impact on the University as a whole.
“Whenever we sign a research agreement we make sure it supports the teaching and research mission of the University,” he explained. “When you do exciting research in frontier areas such as these it translates into classroom teaching — new things to talk about, new results, new examples.”
Debenedetti also cited the control given to faculty over their research as a key feature of the SARA.
“We particularly look at the ability of the faculty to post their research results in open literature and we look to see that there’s no editorial control over the content of the research by the sponsoring company,” he said.
The University has yet to receive any research proposals from Facebook’s Building 8.