Emory Report

November 2, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 10

New faculty council to help decide science initiatives

The construction of several buildings devoted to research and science education over the next few years attests to the fact that science will continue to be a top priority for Emory. But before bricks and mortar and a new science infrastructure can be set, so must priorities and future agendas for Emory's scientific disciplines.

This summer Emory College Dean Steven Sanderson announced the creation of the Faculty Science Council to address the future of science at the University. Specifically, the group will be called on to "enhance basic scientific research and teaching in the Arts and Sciences; to work in partnership with scientists across campus ... [and] to advise the college on science priorities and issues in the coming years," Sanderson wrote in announcing the new body.

Sanderson asked Dobbs Professor of Chemistry Lanny Liebeskind to direct the council, and Liebeskind has spent this semester solidifying the group's working structure and getting a sense of the issues facing scientists on campus. The council is led by an executive committee and has four subcommittees: general science education, science and society, graduate initiatives and facilities.

Liebeskind said he's excited by the council's concept and charge. "It's a very different way of doing things, putting a lot of responsibility and decision-making privilege in a faculty body," he said. "The idea is to go beyond departmental priorities. This is hopefully a group of individuals who will do bigger and better things that departments by themselves cannot do."

That means looking at such "big picture" issues as developing a strategic plan for the sciences, establishing effective outreach to the humanities, the health sciences and the larger Atlanta community, and serving as liaison to the graduate school and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Just as importantly, the council will seek to develop interdisciplinary initiatives between departments without blurring their various distinctions. "We don't want to break down all the walls between the disciplines, only put up very large doors between them," Liebeskind said, using his favorite metaphor.

Liesbeskind plans for the council to advise the college in hiring, use of space and resources, conflict of interest questions, indirect cost recovery, intellectual property and other issues that affect the professional lives of faculty and the teaching of students. "We want to help originate as well as evaluate initiatives that come out of the science faculty," he said.

Each of the council's subcommittees will have a distinct role in promoting and nurturing science at Emory. The focus of the general science education subcommittee will be internal, Liebeskind said, and will emphasize the expansion of existing programs and the development of new undergraduate initiatives.

The mission of the science and society subcommittee will be reaching out from the sciences to the broader University community "in ways that stimulate interactions and encourage thought," Liesbeskind said. This group will have the most immediate public impact, establishing a lecture series promoting a dialogue between science and the humanities, helping to set up the new Science and Society Program and working with both the journalism program and the new environmental studies program.

"Graduate initiatives will promote interdisciplinary teaching and research in conjunction with the recently instituted physical, materials and computations sciences graduate program and will seek ways to encourage new federal funding," Liebeskind said. This committee will also explore ways of collaborating with arts and sciences and health sciences faculty throughout the University.

The facilities subcommittee will assist in planning and programming for new buildings, including the new Chemistry wing in Phase I of Science 2000 that will house physics, Emerson Center, and mathematics and computer science faculty, as well as another building slated for construction that will be home to the Science Library, science faculty, classrooms and labs.

Liebeskind has invited faculty from the natural and social sciences to sit on the executive committee. "[The council members] were chosen on the basis on their commitment to education and demonstrated expertise," he said. "The idea is to take the best of Emory faculty and say, 'Here's where we should be going.'"

--Stacey Jones

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