Since December, the Commission on Research at Emory has continued
to develop a comprehensive understanding of the Universitys
complex research culture. In the last several weeks, this work has
involved collecting quantitative data specific to Emory and other
competitive research universities, and discussing the philosophical
issues surrounding faculty work.
The committee for defining research evaluated notable changes at
Emory and other highly selective research universities over the
last decade to assess Emorys growth and reputation relative
to peer institutions. This committee is using an information matrix
patterned after one developed to characterize the nature of science
research in Emory College. The committee has asked that all disciplinary
clusters at Emory develop and complete such a matrix.
Together, the committees on cultivating researchers and on infrastructure
jointly hosted 12 faculty hearings. The committee on research issues
also is crafting a quantitative questionnaire to complement these
Further, the infrastructure committee has used information from
the faculty hearings to help focus its own research questions. This
committee plans to discuss key issues and questions that initially
may have been overlooked.
Finally, the committee on ethics and research has considered both
how the research enterprise shapes the priorities and choices of
the university, and how research priorities frame the ethical practices
of each individual researcher at Emory.
Susan Frost, vice president for Strategic Development, is encouraged
to see the commission members embrace this work so fully: During
the last several years, she said, I have worked with
several faculty groups who accepted and succeeded with similar long-term
challenges. Now this kind of planning activity is a hallmark of
Emory. I especially applaud the members of this commission for their
unusual dedication to the work of the commission. Their contribution
will help shape Emorys future.
Subcommittee spotlight: Defining, cultivating research
Both the committee on defining research (chaired by Carol Worthman
and Leslie Real) and the committee on cultivating faculty research
(chaired by Kim Wallen and Michelle Lampl) have carefully considered
research profiles as well as listened to the concerns of Emory faculty.
The committee on defining research spends much of its time reading
research matricestables and charts that measure
variables such as research expenditures, library resources, popular
majors, enrollments and faculty awards. These matrices allow committee
members to understand clearly the position of Emory in comparative
Their next goal is to develop matrices specific to Emory, both to
provide a new perspective on the Universitys comparative rank
as well as look more closely at the primary research issues at home.
Real suggested that areas for improvement include clearly characterizing
where the rate-limiting step to scholarly activity occurs across
the different disciplines, and studying mutually exclusive demands
on faculty time, such as the demand for scholarly production within
the disciplines and consistent intellectual exchange and communication
across the disciplines.
Rather than focus on the quantitative aspects of research, the
committee on cultivating faculty researchers has considered the
issues faculty face daily. The committees faculty hearings
in December brought together faculty from theology, law, medicine,
the humanities, social sciences, clinical, and basic sciences to
discuss infrastructure, collaborative research, rewards and satisfaction.
The committee currently is organizing narrative responses to the
faculty hearings, which have revealed several core issues. One of
the discussions involves the different research cultures at Emory;
one of the most daunting tasks facing the committee is how to bridge
these cultures to provide a more uniform and rewarding research
environment at Emory.
We are just beginning to understand the diverse ways that
research is viewed and rewarded at Emory, Wallen said, but
already we are discovering common ground that should lead to practical
recommendations for change.
The commissions early work indicates that the reward system
at Emory currently values individual achievement most highly. To
foster overall faculty productivity, rewards might acknowledge collaboration
in addition to individual accomplishments. This process is already
under way, but as one committee member recognized, Many faculty
concerns arise out of the legacy of the old system at Emory. A new
system is on the way, but it is going to take some time before the
results are visible.