February 10, 2003

Research@Emory draft report to kick-start conversation


By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

The Commission on Research has completed its draft report surveying the breadth, depth and nature of Emory’s research culture, and now it is ready to listen to the community’s reactions before producing a final report this fall.

Some 80 pages in length, the draft report is available through the president’s office website, and the research commission’s cochairs hope it will serve as a touchstone for what promises to be an exhaustive and comprehensive campus discussion over the next several months.

“It’s only a starting point,” said Claire Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education, who cochairs the commission along with David Carr, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy.

“It’s nowhere near what we envision the final report to look like,” Sterk continued. “Actually, I suspect it will look totally different.”

Throughout the spring semester, the commission—comprising 27 faculty from across the University, along with four administration representatives and several graduate students and staff members—will talk directly with various campus groups (such as Faculty Council) and also will hold open meetings to gain as much input as possible.

After this second data-gathering phase, commission members will regroup in late spring to assimilate all information, new and old, into a final document to be published in September. The goal is to produce a third component in the Universitywide self-examination process that began nearly a decade ago with Choices & Responsibility and continued with 1997’s Teaching at Emory.

“Of the three projects, faculty work on this one is most intense,” said Susan Frost, vice president for strategic development and the lead administration representative on the commission. “I am very impressed with the dedication and stamina of this group.”

“I hope,” said President Bill Chace, “the report from the research commission will serve my successor as a guide, created by some of the most visionary faculty members at Emory, to how the University might understand itself in the future and how it might best manage its resources. In that sense, the report can serve as a ‘dowry’ for my successor.”

Indeed, the draft report already is valuable as a comprehensive survey of the kind of work being done at Emory, the departments and centers in which it is done, and the various structural mechanisms through which the work is facilitated. The first half of the report is basically an empirical snapshot of the current state of University research—comparing Emory with its peers, analyzing research cultures within Emory’s schools and departments, investigating infrastructure support—while the second half discusses these findings in more detail and spells out recommendations for the future.

“What we wanted to do was communicate to the community at large what a wide variety of activities there are that fall under the heading of ‘research,’” Carr said. “That’s an important part of what we’re doing: educating the community about what research means. I’ve certainly learned a lot.”

But the report is more than a survey. It culminates with a set of six principles, each carrying its own set of recommendations for action. Recognizing that Emory is in a state of administrative flux, the draft report presents itself as a sort of research roadmap for the University’s future leaders, whomever they may be.

But, as commission members point out, the map is worthless unless everyone in the Emory community contributes to the sense of direction.

“Broad and deep improvements will take hold here only if they evolve from serious and focused consultation among all who hold a stake in Emory’s future,” the report states. “This report and its recommendations offer an opportunity for members of the University and its leaders to consult and shape the future together.”

To that end, the commission will have help. A group of internationally renowned consultants in higher education have been retained to offer their own expertise. Some consultants are involved in the ongoing Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaccreditation process, which Emory is wrapping up. The research commission is loosely tied to the process; SACS offered institutions an opportunity to conduct an alternative self-study, and last week commission members spoke with the SACS team during its site visit, Feb. 2–5.

“Our consultants are certainly enriching our work,” Frost said. “As historians, scientists, scholars of the academy and skilled leaders, they are deepening our knowledge and helping shape questions about academic research for the national stage.”

But the most important input will come from Emory faculty themselves, which is why the commission cochairs look forward to broad, passionate participation this spring.

“My biggest hope for this process is that it will really show the faculty how we can play a key role in continuing to establish the identity of Emory and its excellence,” Sterk said. “And I hope the finished product plays another role, as a very constructive guiding document for incoming new leadership.”

The research commission draft report is available at www.emory.edu/PRESIDENT/StrategicDevelopment/ResearchAtEmory.






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