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May 6, 2002

Research commission drafts recommendations

Aimee Pozorski is a graduate assistant in the Office of Strategic Development


Last month the four subcommittees of the Research Commission worked to help the University most effectively invest in its future. After completing information matrices for quantitative areas of the research university, the committee on defining research gathered narratives of Emory’s various research cultures through faculty interviews. These interviews will eventually produce a composite faculty narrative representing research at Emory.

The committee on cultivating researchers has focused on the recruitment and retention of faculty. Preliminary data have revealed striking divisions among different research cultures that tend to produce differing internal expectations about research practices. From information gathered via faculty hearings and a web survey of department chairs, the committee has identified at least three different cultures at Emory, and these differences occupy one of the central issues of the committee’s recommendation. Other concerns include the University’s current standings, its constraints for growth and goals for future development.

The committee on infrastructure has evaluated information gathered from faculty hearings, in-depth interviews and meetings with the Institutional Review Board and the Information Technology Division. Currently, they are focusing on internal support, human subjects, faculty appointments and graduate education. This committee has developed a questionnaire evaluating the perception of tenure-track positions, the expenditure of hard money and soft money, and the opportunity to “buy out” of courses.

Finally, the committee on ethics and research continues to trace the effects of Emory’s rapid growth, which has led to new interest in several areas: how different cultures on campus understand intellectual integrity; how research has shaped the University; and how leaders best decide to allocate resources.

To gather this information, the committee has listened to groups of faculty as well as to individuals. Subcommittee leader Jim Fowler said he learned that faculty need assistance in teaching ethics as well as personal training, and he has proposed the University implement standard procedures for dealing with complaints and preserving the faculty.
Research commission chairs Claire Sterk and David Carr have recognized the call from University leaders for bold and concrete recommendations. Interim Provost Woody Hunter, for example, has followed closely the commission’s work and is impressed with how deeply committed its members have become.

Additionally, Susan Frost, vice president for strategic development, has noted that “even in this time of fiscal restraint, the question before the Commission on Research at Emory is not whether investment in research will continue, but how the University can best direct that investment. We need to be bold in the next step.”


Commission consults Diamond and Geiger
The commission has demonstrated its commitment to this project by consulting leading research scholars. On April 5, Nancy Diamond, fellow at the Pennsylvania State University and co-author of The Rise of American Research Universities (1997), discussed the history of Emory, the lagging support for the graduate school, fiscal priorities and decisions, the dual emphases on teaching and research, and the appropriate role of collegiality and interdisciplinary interaction.

In particular, Diamond talked about the burden of time and expectations for teaching and other activities that disadvantage research, often in the humanities. By looking at this and other issues, Diamond said, the Research Commission follows Emory’s historical tradition of self-critical examination, pushing the University toward further aspiration along with leadership support. Diamond said she fully believes Emory has the ability to reach its long-term goals for development due to its “social capability to adjust to the times.”

In another consultation held April 16, Roger Geiger, Distinguished Professor of Education at Pennsylvania State University and author of To Advance Knowledge, explained that his research illustrates how students are becoming more important in the marketplace as universities become more competitive.

As geography becomes less of a factor in student choice, students will choose their college based on different factors. One of these factors is resources. For Geiger, leading institutions not only have more money, but also spend more money—and spend it strategically. This is an important realization at the heart of the Research Commission’s work.