Making the Most of our Intellectual Passions
The Commission on Research at Emory

BY CLAIRE STERK, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR, BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE AND HEALTH EDUCATION, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH


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Members of the Commission on Research at Emory

Claire Sterk
Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education and chair of Research at Emory

David Carr
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy and co-chair of Research at Emory

Juliette Stapanian Apkarian
Associate Professor of Russian

George Benston
John H. Harland Professor of Finance, Accounting, and Economics

Lucas Carpenter
Charles Howard Candler Professor of English

Morgan Cloud
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law

Samuel Dudley
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Physiology

Dwight Duffus
Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

James Fowler
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development

Karen Hegtvedt
Associate Professor of Sociology

Arthur Kellerman
Director, Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health, and Acting Chief and Professor of Emergency Medicine

Howard Kushner
Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor of Science and Society

Michael J Kuhar
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Pharmacology

Michelle Lampl
Associate Professor of Anthropology

Lanny S. Liebeskind
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry

David G. Lynn
Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry

Reynaldo Martorell
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of International Nutrition

Kathy Parker
Associate Professor of Nursing

Laurie Patton
Associate Professor of Religion

Leslie A. Real
Asa Griggs Candler Professor
of Biology


Bob Rich
Executive Associate Dean for Research, School of Medicine

Richard Rothenberg
Professor of Family and Preventative Medicine in the School of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health

Richard Rubinson
Professor of Sociology

Luther E. Smith, Jr.
Professor of Church and Community

Rebecca Stone-Miller
Associate Professor of Art History and Faculty Curator of Art of the Ancient Americas

Kim Wallen
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Stephen T. Warren
William Patterson Timmie Professor of Human Genetics

Carol Worthman
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology


 

 

Does Emory need another commission that takes valuable time away from already overburdened faculty? The ready response to this question might be, “Of course not.” Commissions such as Research at Emory, however, allow faculty to help advance Emory in ways that resonate with their own intellectual passions.

Many Emory faculty will recall the Commission on Teaching and its report, Teaching at Emory. The work of this faculty commission resulted in significant improvements, including increased focus on teaching excellence and increased support for teaching. Now we need to advance our understanding of research at Emory and to put forth recommendations critical for developing Emory as an excellent research university.

This Commission on Research can make important contributions to our intellectual community that values its responsibility both to education and research. The Commission will allow Emory to strengthen its vision of the research university in the twenty-first century; to promote the quality of life for faculty, research staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students; to identify emerging research-related issues; to develop appropriate reward structures; and to ensure access to an efficient infrastructure.

When asked to chair the Commission on Research at Emory, I was torn between the increased demands it would place on my already long list of responsibilities and the opportunity to make a difference. I contemplated, “Why me?” and tried to decide whether I could adequately support the work of this commission. I talked with numerous colleagues, ultimately agreeing to the task. I view it an honor to work with Candler Professor of Philosophy David Carr as the co-chair as well as twenty-four excellent colleagues from a cross-section of the disciplines. Formally charged by President Bill Chace and interim Provost Woody Hunter in October, the commission has begun a two-year process to investigate the ways we define, support, and advance faculty research.

Probably to the surprise of few colleagues, our initial discussions focused on the name of the commission. We debated the use of the term research versus scholarship and agreed that the Commission will apply a broad definition of research, including all scholarly activities that result in the creation and production of knowledge. Research may take place in a laboratory or a library; it may be funded or not; or it may focus on the natural world or on cultural production. The ultimate outcome will be a set of specific recommendations that stakeholders at all levels are willing to implement with protected resources and structural support. Determining how to direct our resources will, in part, require an understanding of Emory in the context of national debates about the future of U.S. research universities, and it will allow Emory to influence those ongoing broader conversations.

NATIONAL DEBATES

Scholars and higher education leaders have articulated specific aspects of this debate during the last decade. For example, in 1993 Columbia provost Jonathan Cole analyzed dilemmas of choice facing research universities. He emphasized the choices that need to be made to ensure a balance between research and teaching, as well as the partnership between the research university and the federal government. The ways and extent to which universities balance the research and teaching demands will have a significant impact on the vision and strategic plan of the academy.

In 1997, Burton Clark suggested that four broad areas in which to locate future directions for university reform include protecting and strengthening the intellectual core of academic work throughout the system, as well as understanding and promoting indirect connections between diverging academic cultures. Also in 1997, scholars Thomas Bender and Carl Schorske considered questions related to the diverging academic cultures. To build on these and other general claims, the committee may either apply current thinking about influential forces to Emory’s case or use our development to illuminate broader trends

FOUR INQUIRIES


The Research Commission has been organized into four subgroups. Each one covers a specific issue:

1) the content and nature of research, 2) Emory researchers and ways to reward and maintain them, 3) support for research, and 4) the culture and values of research. Some central themes naturally cut across all groups, such as the high demands on faculty time; the constant tension between teaching, research, and service; and the impact of the faculty life cycle on the quality of life. Each group is also examining questions like, Is this situation unique to Emory, or is it part of a larger cultural problem? Can Emory help researchers find the time to engage in excellent research? If yes, then how can we accomplish this?

Although each subgroup is free to shape the specific questions it explores, the questions listed below provide a general description of scope of the work.

What is research at Emory?
This is the central question for one of the groups. It concerns the content and nature of research at Emory, including how we describe and define research, how research impacts teaching, and how the Emory research profile compares to that of other U.S. universities.

Who are Emory researchers? This is the focus of the second group. The discussions address how Emory prepares, rewards, and motivates the faculty to engage in funded and unfunded research at the highest levels; how intellectual life is cultivated over the life cycle of a faculty member’s tenure at Emory; and how research standards impact expectations for tenure and promotion.

How should Emory support research? This question captures the main theme of the third group. Its members explore the structural and physical support needed to ensure high quality research productivity, the availability of current resources, and the specific contours of Emory’s aspirations. This group focuses on personnel, facilities, and technical and internal support.

At Emory, what are the culture and values of research?
This question occupies the members of the fourth group. The group will also engage in a serious dialogue about ethical values and the intellectual community at Emory, as faculty concerns about research ethics grow. The members of this group also consider matters such as our ethical values regarding research; how researchers come to know these values; what policies we should have regarding intellectual property for faculty, staff, and students; and how we can use the intellectual community to strengthen and disseminate the ethics of research.

Most of the commission’s work will be conducted in the 2001–2002 academic year. Throughout this year, we will seek input from as many faculty as possible through a wide variety of means. By now, some of the groups will have held faculty hearings; others will have contacted colleagues to participate in a survey or open-ended interviews, and others will have been asked to share their views in less formal ways. In the spring of 2003, the commission will publish a written report of its findings and send a copy to all faculty and university leaders. We expect this report to provide a platform from which the university will consider how we can best direct our resources for supporting and advancing both research and researchers at Emory. We hope that, like Teaching at Emory, our work will take its place among other major documents the university uses to guide its development in the future.

The Commission on Research at Emory provides us with the unique opportunity to make a major contribution not only to our university but also to higher education and research universities in general. In addition to looking for regular updates in Emory Report, please feel free to contact me with any
suggestions you have for the commission. I can be reached at csterk@sph.emory.edu and look forward to our work as we both investigate and improve research at Emory.

Sterk is chair of the Commission on Research at Emory.