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COO’s Report: A successful transition

photo of John Tuke COO
John P. Tuke, CSHL Chief Operating Officer
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2022 was a year of transition from a COVID-dominated environment to a “new normal.” While the pandemic is still with us, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) community has effectively responded to its many challenges and is now better prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Financial resources

The year began with uncertainty, requiring us to budget conservatively and manage expectations on many fronts. A deficit and the use of some reserves were projected. Fortunately, the year ended with a small surplus and no use of reserves. This allowed for additional capital investments.

The main drivers for our positive financial results included a robust rebound of Meetings & Courses, record-breaking philanthropic support, and lower-than-budgeted expenses. Meetings & Courses saw a surge of in-person attendance and continuing virtual participation from a more diverse audience. All major donor events exceeded their financial goals, led by the Double Helix Medals dinner and Women’s Partnership for Science luncheon. Expenses were kept in check by prudent spending and a tightening labor market. The educational divisions—the Press, DNALC, Banbury Conference Center, and School of Biological Sciences—all made or exceeded their net revenues.

CSHL continues to leverage its endowment as a stable source of support for research and administrative expenses. Despite a reduction in the year-end balance from $795 million to $698 million, reflecting both performance (–10.4%) and the 2022 draw of $31.5 million, the endowment will increase its support in 2023. Notably, the endowment’s conservative asset allocation, which pays close attention to risk-adjusted returns, yielded a performance in the top 25th percentile of all endowments and foundations for 2022.

Operating and capital matters

The return of many in-person programs made it critical to complete important renovation projects that started during COVID. The seawall restoration was finished, as was the construction of a temporary parking lot and new access road off Route 25A in anticipation of the campus expansion. In 2023, the Board will continue to study this significant investment (more below).

In 2022, the administration launched two major initiatives that will be important for CSHL’s future operations. Our enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, which supports all major business, financial, and human capital processes, needs to be replaced. This multi-year project will impact most of the community by automating and improving many activities.

Emerging from the Board Spring Retreat, the Trustees endorsed CSHL’s first-ever branding assessment. An agency will assist CSHL with understanding how it is perceived and valued by internal and external stakeholders, especially outside the scientific community. A major goal of this project is to broaden our audiences and sharpen the tools we use to engage them.

Lastly, CSHL ramped up significantly its cybersecurity investments to meet rising threats from increasingly sophisticated actors. We hired our first dedicated cybersecurity manager and added other assets to continuously monitor, assess, and respond to cyberattacks.

Human resources

One of the most discussed residual effects of COVID is the changing relationship between employer and employee. We experienced unusually high turnover, and replacing staff took additional time and money. A remote work policy put in during COVID to provide greater flexibility was extended into 2023. Management monitors the benefits and costs of this new way of working, especially on our culture where in-person collaboration is so important.

Inflation impacted some employees more than others, so for the first time in CSHL history, annual raises were tiered to provide more for those who make less. Additionally, two modest stipends were given to hourly staff to help offset higher gas and food costs.

The 2023 budget includes a global license to thousands of LinkedIn courses available to all employees. As a research and education enterprise, we believe lifelong learning benefits both CSHL and staff and is a sound investment.

Foundations for the Future campaign

In June, the Board of Trustees approved a campaign to invest in the future of our mission. Following more than four years of planning, CSHL is getting closer to achieving the expansion needed to accommodate additional faculty and visitors. Once approved, CSHL will add approximately seven acres of labs, office space, and a vivarium to support the brain-body and NeuroAI initiatives, the latter focused on neurodegenerative diseases. The whole community is excited by this major development, which will ensure CSHL remains a world-class research and education institution.

—John P. Tuke, Chief Operating Officer

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