Emory Report Dec. 10, 2002

Multifaceted commission work under way

Since October, the Commission on Research at Emory has been working to understand how best to gain a comprehensive understanding of the University’s complex research culture, as well as how to advance Emory’s research profile as compared to the country’s top research institutions.

            This work includes drafting comparisons of major research universities, organizing faculty hearings and clarifying questions about the intersections of ethics and research. However, the most resonant questions throughout this process have been: How does the commission envision the future of Emory as a result of its work? How can the commission advance Emory as a major research university without repeating the past mistakes of other research universities?  While considering these questions, commission chair Claire Sterk emphasized that “like other leading institutions, we are thinking about Emory as a research university, but—crucially—we also understand it to be an institution of higher education.”

            The commission continues to make important progress in building relationships with the Emory community and in keeping their activity in the public domain, particularly through reaching out to faculty from diverse research fields on campus. For example, the commission has asked important questions about the way in which priorities are set at Emory, while investigating the budget process, the relationship between the University budget and research funding, and possible barriers to the effective support for research.

            The four committees that make up this commission are currently profiling other research universities as well as faculty researchers at Emory.

            One committee is developing a research profile of Emory and comparing it to the profiles of other universities. This work includes establishing a research matrix that takes into account both school and departmental differences, as well as diverging descriptors for research.  Both the committee on faculty support and the committee on infrastructure have begun hearings to obtain faculty input on research issues. These hearings will help both committees determine whether they are addressing and considering the appropriate issues.

            The committee on infrastructure also has considered the necessary transformations for fulfilling Emory’s future research capacity based on present capacity and resources; further, this committee has analyzed the best practices at other leading research universities.

            Finally, the committee on ethics and intellectual community is studying the many different research cultures at Emory, focusing on methods, guidelines for rigor, ethical underpinnings, social networks and intellectual community.

            Referring to the commission’s interest in Louis Menand’s recent New York Review of Books article, “College: The End of the Golden Age,” cochair David Carr stressed that the commission is mindful of the development of the research university since World War II, and Emory’s place within this history. If, as Menand claims, the educational system feels “to many of the people who work in it as though it is struggling,” then this commission seeks to understand the struggle in the context of both performing and teaching research. 

            Inviting consultants from other respected programs and institutions is one way this commission will study Emory within the history and culture of other universities. With the help of Susan Frost, vice president for strategic development, the commission has invited such scholars as New York University’s Thomas Bender, Penn State’s Roger Geiger, University of Illinois’ Nancy Cantor and Vienna University’s Barbara Sporn to provide advice in the coming year.


Shared Credit for Research 

One structural change already in effect at Emory concerns the multidisciplinary, externally sponsored, collaborative research projects crossing school and division lines. In the past, these collaborative projects helped the faculty to accomplish their scientific aims and objectives; however, the University’s system for acknowledging and rewarding faculty’s efforts in these projects was inadequate.

            A growing challenge surfaced when interschool grants were necessarily submitted as single projects with single budgets because only one account number was established upon award. As a result of this structural barrier, it was impossible to acknowledge that the project was collaborative.

            In an effort to encourage these collaborative projects as well as to identify the scientific and intellectual contributions of each party, the University in cooperation with the schools and divisions now recognizes that the financial contributions of the participants, based on the sponsored research project award, must also be documented and allocated. This recognition has led to a new policy that allows for shared research credit.

            The primary principles of the policy are:

• Faculty must identify their work as collaborative in their proposals at the time of submission and follow a procedure already developed for distributing indirect cost income at the time of award.

• The administrative home of a grant or contact will be where at least half of the work is carried out.

• Indirect costs will follow direct costs.

• Each collaborating unit will identify an account for receipt of revenue from grant sources.

• At the end of each fiscal year, the Office of Research Administration will report on the revenue shared through this policy.

            Faculty at Emory have requested—and indeed have needed—this new policy for several years, and leaders at Emory hope it will encourage highly-valued interdisciplinary work.

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