Resources, Risk, and Reward
Getting what you need as a faculty member

Join the discussion
What's your opinion of post-tenure review at Emory? Should internal resources such as University Research Committee grants be closed to senior faculty? Can Emory support its faculty without reducing the motivation to push the envelope?

Balancing Money and Biomedicine
An academic physician's ambivalence
Samuel C. Dudley, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

I could do some things here that I couldn't do at other established seats of power
Carol Worthman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology

If Charles Darwin had wanted to be comfortable, he never would have taken the voyage on the HMS Beagle.
Kim Wallen, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Keeping the Passion and Keeping a Job
Is post-tenure review a faculty development tool or a lurking threat?


Academic Exchange September 1999 Contents Page

Carol Worthman's 1986 decision to leave the Harvard faculty for the anthropology department at Emory baffled her Ivy colleagues.

"Definitely it was viewed as going down a power grade in terms of status," she recalls with a quick laugh. "It was kind of like, 'You're doing what?'"

But Worthman, who helped medical school faculty design research protocols as co-director of Harvard's Laboratory for Human Reproduction and Reproductive Biology, says she has never regretted her move to Emory. "Harvard is a very intense research environment, a dense setting. Competition for status and space and resources is fierce."

Moreover, Worthman, now a Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology, wanted to pursue her own interests in comparative biocultural approaches to human development. "There was no support for me to do international comparative work at Harvard," she says, explaining that Harvard's biomedical research is driven by its chief underwriter, the National Institutes of Health, whose agenda is American health.

"The department here had an exciting vision--to promote exploration of the interplay of biology and culture," Worthman continues. "Rather than fight with each other, we would try to at the very least tolerate one another and preferably have a dynamic of interchange. And I'll be honest--it was the resources: two years of technical support and very good start-up funds. They built the lab for me. And I got URC [University Research Committee] money to develop some novel assays and jump-start the risky work."

Although many faculty at Emory debate the quantity and quality of support they receive from the institution for their research--some say it's generous and others say it's inadequate--the university resources Worthman received buoyed her plans for an ambitious and unconventional program. She says the atmosphere of cutthroat competition she left behind operated on the assumption that pressuring faculty to hustle for external resources is the best motivator of top-notch researchers. The model for scientific research support she encountered here, Worthman says, diverges from that mainstream. Unlike at Harvard, the internal support available to her at Emory does not necessarily hinge on the external dollars she brings in. But it does, she says, foster the research that generates other funding: her current extramural support tops $1.4 million.


SOFT MONEY, HARD CHOICES

To others, however, Emory presents a different picture. For faculty in the health sciences, the issue of "soft money" looms large. School of Public Health faculty members, for instance, are required to raise a portion of their salaries through public or private sources (it is this portion that is termed "soft money").

"The average percentage of salary our faculty is expected to raise from external funding [is] roughly 70 percent," Professor of Epidemiology David Kleinbaum of public health wrote to Provost Rebecca Chopp last year in a memo outlining the dilemma. "This 'requirement' undermines our school's missions of excellence in teaching, research, and service."

That system, Kleinbaum wrote, prevents public health faculty from pursuing the most innovative research. "Instead," he says, "we have become motivated to do more 'trivial' types of research, as we are pushed to go for the money. There is insufficient time to spend on writing after project funding diminishes. There is no support for time to develop ideas for proposals. There is no support for faculty sabbaticals. There is no support for young faculty who need a few years to get research programs started because they are often brought in on grants that keep them busy with other
programs of research. There is also an increasing trend to over use (perhaps even 'exploit') our non-tenure-track faculty."

For Chopp, one crucial issue is how to address the varying needs in the university's different divisions. "Across the major research universities, faculties are rewarded in different ways," she says. "For us, some of the questions are, Are the right resources in place, and are the avenues to these resources clearly marked and well-used? How do we foster an academic culture that is both motivating and rewarding for the best in the production and reproduction of knowledge?"

At the heart of the matter, Chopp adds, is the passionate pursuit of scholarship. "I don't think many of us become biologists or philosophers simply to compete, but because we are passionate about our topic, because it never leaves us. As human beings, we compete and cooperate, but what really makes us tick as scholars is the passion for a question, for a point of view, for a problem."
A.O.A.