Faculty Senate

March 31, 2004

 

Attendees:  Cheryl Geisler, Art Sanderson, Wolf von Maltzahn, Bob Block, Pat Search, Bud Peterson, Jun Abrajano, Terry Blanchet, Achille Messac, Joel Plawsky, Jim Stodder, Jeff Durgee, Gary Gabriele, Deborah Kaminski

 

Agenda

Approval of Minutes from the 3/3 Faculty Senate Meeting and 3/17 General Faculty Meeting

Faculty/Staff Memorial

Office of Research Faculty Support Services – Art Sanderson, V.P. for Research

Research Management and Strategy

Space Planning

Linkage to Technology Commercialization

Research Development

Faculty Development Support Services

            Mentoring Faculty

Tuition Cost Share

Exploratory Research Seed Program

Research Development Coordination Committee

Proposal Development

Research Outreach and Marketing

Performance Plan: Key Actions

Awards

Distribution of Research Awards

Distribution of Seed Funding

National Trends and Issues

Security Related Research at Rensselaer

Q&A

Survey on Faculty Club – Working Group on Quality of Life

Adjournment

 

Approval of Minutes from the 3/3 Faculty Senate Meeting and

3/17 General Faculty Meeting

The Minutes from 3/3 were approved: 8 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions.  The Minutes from 3/17 were approved with minor changes: 9 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions.

 

Faculty/Staff Memorial

President Geisler announced that the first annual combined Faculty/Staff Memorial will be held on April 7 from 11:00am to 1:00pm in the Chapel and Cultural Center. 

 

Office of Research Faculty Support Services – Art Sanderson

President Geisler welcomed Art Sanderson from the Office of Research Faculty Support Services.  Art Sanderson, V.P. for Research, said his presentation would focus on the supporting infrastructure and procedures within the office, as outlined in the Office of Research Performance Plan. 

 

The main goal of the Office of Research is to support faculty in developing research proposals.  Currently, there are three professional level people and 3 staff members who comprise the office.  It is a small group that works closely with 400 faculty members in research activities and brings in $75 million in awards.  The activities include: research management and strategy, research development and research outreach and marketing.

 

Research Management and Strategy

The Office of Research works with each school to review and refine strategic plans.  This includes working with the faculty and schools on various types of federal and state research initiatives.  Some proposals will earmark agencies such as Homeland Security and Defense Systems.

 

Partnerships have been an important component of research development since Rensselaer does not have all capabilities needed to conduct certain types of research.  The Office of Research tries to develop and promote partnerships.  Wolf von Maltzahn in the Research Office has been active in a regional consortium with a biotech company called Bioconnex.  This is a focal point for our region.  Another example is the Sloan Foundation Consortium which deals with the lighting industry and includes the Lally School, the School of Humanities and Social Science (Economics Department), and the School of Architecture (Lighting Research Center).

 

Space Planning

Space planning is currently an important issue.  Even after the occupancy of the Biotech Building, there is still pressure on space.  There are many activities and renovations happening in all areas but space is still a critical factor in building research and adding faculty.

 

Linkage to Technology Commercialization

The Office of Research has a liaison function.  The administrative side, Contracts and Grants reports to the Office of Finance.  The Office of Research tries to stay involved primarily to help address faculty access and to insure cooperation between offices in developing proposals.

 

Research Development

Much of what the Research office is doing in research development is providing services to the faculty, including resources, mentoring and colloquia.  The mentorship of faculty is critical. The Office tries to provide a link between faculty and state agencies to inform faculty about opportunities and it also works with faculty to acquire the skills needed to write more competitive proposals. 

 

Members of the Office of Research have traveled to Washington with faculty.  There are travel funds available for faculty to set up meetings with agencies in all areas of research. The office also brings experienced Program Directors from agencies to the Rensselaer campus.  Related to this is administrative support for proposal development and providing logistics support in developing a proposal.  The office has tried to provide some writing, editorial and graphic assistance.  For initiatives like the Nanotech Center, the Office of Research played an important role.

 

Faculty Development Support Services

Some specific examples of support areas include cost sharing on proposals.  Over the last four years there is no proposal where cost sharing has been a requirement of the sponsoring agency that has not been able to be provided.  Individual schools are asked to contribute to the cost sharing.  The basic mechanism is that when a proposal is being written that has a requirement of cost sharing, the faculty member should contact the Office of Research first to allow them to review it along with the budget.  The Office of Research will organize support in such a way as to provide a commitment of cost sharing.  This is necessary to ensure the Schools are involved in the research.

 

Mentoring Faculty

Each fall, the Office of Research provides a workshop for all new faculty at Rensselaer.  The workshop covers all the procedures in developing a proposal and all the contacts on campus they may need to write a proposal.  The Office tries to meet individually with all new faculty members so they know them and understand what their research areas are.  This interaction ensures that any new opportunity that comes in can be linked immediately.  The Office is available to read summaries and provide critiques and feedback.  Art added that it is painful to watch a young faculty member do a proposal before they know what the agency is looking for.  Art’s office tries to focus on the newer faculty in that regard. 

 

Tuition Cost Share

The tuition cost share program is a uniform 35% cost share on all graduate tuition on fully overheaded contracts.  This is a cost share or waiver of tuition.  If the grant is not fully overheaded tuition support is prorated according to overhead.  This policy tries to keep tuition levels competitive with other universities.

 

Exploratory Research Seed Program

This is a program Rensselaer initiated as a seed investment toward attracting new externally funded research.  It is geared toward faculty who already have a target for where their funded research will come from.  The Program tries to look at new and interesting areas and crosses all schools and disciplines.  Provost Peterson has managed another program, the Faculty Revitalization Program, which is to help faculty who may have been out of research for a few years.  This program is complementary to the Research Office programs. 

 

Research Development Coordination Committee

The Research Development Coordination Committee works with the Office of Development, Media and Government Relations to ensure we know what is happening in research.  The Office of Research meets with this group monthly and discusses new awards, activities and research and new opportunities.  One of the outcomes of this is that on the website, there will be announcements of achievements in the research arena.  This is also an important source of visibility for the schools, potential students, and colleagues.

 

Proposal Development

The support of proposal preparation includes writing, graphics and agency review.  Other support features are an agency liaison, weekly bulletin and updates on research opportunities.   The weekly bulletin of research opportunities has been extended to H&SS and an edition for the Lally School is currently being worked on.  A monthly research newsletter announces seed funding details and web page information. 

 

Research Outreach and Marketing

A coherent and effective web presence is critical because all students and faculty candidates view Rensselaer through the web and it is imperative to have our “best face forward.” 

 

Performance Plan: Key Actions

There are a number of cross-cutting themes in policy and impact, such as linking agencies with Rensselaer, as was done with the Nanotechnology Center.  There are many opportunities for these types of linkages.  The entire media area continues to grow as does Environmental Science and Technology, Cognitive Science and Learning, and Entrepreneurship and Management. 

 

Awards

During the 2003 calendar year, $75 million was brought in.  The growth over the last five years has been a significant achievement and was what the Office of Research intended to do.  President Jackson and the Board look at indirect cost revenue which is the money that is expendable by the Institute to support research infrastructure, and it also continues to rise.  The perspective in terms of agencies is that NSF continues to be the largest source of funding.  The number of NIH grants is 10 times what it was 4 years ago.  This is a significant step in the credibility of Biotech and Science.

 

Distribution of Research Awards

Engineering and Science have the largest fraction of externally funded research.  There are also contributions from Architecture (including the Lighting Research Center), H&SS and, Management.  Within the School of Engineering, ECSE contributes the greatest share, followed by Materials and MANE. Within the School of Science, there is a more even distribution of research awards.

 

Distribution of Seed Funding

If you look at seed funding by school, Engineering and Science have a larger share, but there is significant support in H&SS and Hartford.  Many grants involve joint cooperation between two or more schools, for example H&SS and Science   About 20% of these projects are in schools other than Science and Engineering.

 

National Trends and Issues

Approximately 50% of federal research awards at Rensselaer are from NSF, but the NSF budget is only about 3% of research funds available nationally.  If only basic research is considered, the NSF budget is about 12%.  NIH is by far the fastest growing segment of federal research growth.  If federal research by discipline is reviewed, the Life Sciences have outpaced all the other areas, even Engineering, which has been constant over the last several years. 

 

Security Related Research at Rensselaer

One area of security research is decision technology and risk analysis, which are related activities.  A second area involves sensors and detection.  The Office of Research is working with groups of faculty in both of these areas. 

 

A third area is Environmental Research, and the ability to monitor and observe major environmental projects.  The Office of Research is involved in a number of discussions and they are looking at Science and Technology and the Interdisciplinary Sciences as well as education and outreach.  Rensselaer has an EPA grant which encompasses education and outreach components.  The grant involves developing web pages for students in middle school which includes environmental profiles and variables.

 

 Art Sanderson's entire presentation is available here

 

Q&A

Jim Stodder, Hartford Senator, stated that about 10% of research dollars are from the State but that he has never heard about money that is available.  He questioned whether there is or could be a liaison between the Hartford campus and Connecticut industries.  Art responded that he is working on that and he wanted to note that there has been a concerted effort in this endeavor.

 

Jun Abrajano, Secretary of the Senate, stated that a common question faculty members asked was where they can get information on university policies on proposal matching and other available resources.  He was pleased that Art provided useful information that he had never heard about before.  Jun asked if these policies are written in a way that faculty members can read it and decide what is appropriate to ask, and where can this information be accessed.  Art Sanderson responded that some of it is written and accessible.  He added that the web page is being revised to make it clearer.  It will include details of some of the policies. 

 

Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate asked if there are any instances of discretionary cost-sharing.  Art stated that in terms of competition for a center, some additional cost-sharing has been added, but it is an exception.  Provost Peterson added that there are some proposals in his office where cost-sharing was not required, but they do provide it if it will enhance the prospect of getting funding. 

 

Cheryl also asked whether Art was aware that there are some people who do not develop programs because they do not think they will be competitive.    Art stated that he would be happy to speak to any faculty when they have an idea and are not sure where to take it.  They may not always be able to solve the problem, but they can provide guidance or a different perspective.

 

Cheryl asked additionally whether Art thought it was an issue of lack of competitiveness so the faculty member may not even try.  Art stated that he is aware that there are competitive programs and that sometimes they take several tries to be successful.  When he meets with faculty who are concerned about that, they discuss strategy rather than just the idea.  It is important to strategize in order to make an idea fit or partner with someone else in which there may be an opportunity.  Ideally, if one were to look more broadly at what is needed, it would be infrastructure from departments and schools.  If a faculty member is feeling lost in a department, they may be reluctant to come to the Office of Research, but there should be someone within their school who has experience with the process and can provide local support.

 

Cheryl Geisler asked Art if there are things he would recommend that faculty look for or advocate for that he thinks would have a big impact on faculty’s interest in research.  Art stated that the issue of breadth of research is critical and that Rensselaer needs to do more interdisciplinary research.  As Rensselaer recruits students at higher and higher levels, the depth and breadth of research must be at higher levels and more ways need to be found to support that. 

 

Jun asked if Art could approximate how seed funding has been allocated in the last 3 years. Art replied that 20% has been allocated outside of the science-related fields. Provost Peterson stated that the research and seed funding is to leverage funds where research growth has been.  When you leverage funds, a large portion goes to specific areas, but if the three-year seed money is summarized, it covers broad disciplinary areas

 

Art Sanderson added that seed grants are all published in the newsletter and that he would enjoy seeing requests for funding from a wider audience.  He stated that they have never funded a grant in the School of Management and there are very few submissions, but he does not see a reason why there could not be an innovative seed project in entrepreneurship.

 

Survey on Faculty Club – Working Group on Quality of Life

Debbie Kaminski made a presentation from the working group on Quality of Life issues.  This group was initially formed during the fall retreat to identify issues of interest to the faculty on quality of life on campus.  One of the issues identified is the faculty/staff dining room.  Her working group developed a survey pertaining to the faculty/staff dining room and the possibility of a new Faculty Club.

 

She went through the proposed survey which had various possibilities for a Faculty Club including ideas on the menu type, location, cost, and amenities including meeting rooms and overnight accommodations.  Another question on the survey pertained to where this club would be located.  The survey asks faculty where they eat on campus to try to determine who the competition is of the faculty/staff dining room.  If off-campus, how far would faculty be willing to drive to go out to lunch and would there be a need to serve dinner or have it be an evening café.  She asked the faculty to consider what type of atmosphere the club would have and would it be feasible to entertain visitors, colleagues and students. 

 

The issue of cost is part of the proposed survey in order determine interest in the club.  It also asks how often a faculty member thinks they would dine at a faculty club.  The last area of the survey is for comments.  She explained that the survey is in draft form and is asking for input. 

 

Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large, stated that one of the things to think about is the financial aspect, and suggested that the degree of alumni and administration financial support be assessed.  He also asked whether the club would be renovated from something already on campus or would it be something different.

 

Debbie Kaminski responded that President Jackson asked the Quality of Life Working Group to “think outside the box.”  She stated that the administration had asked for feedback, but there was no commitment made by the President.

 

Provost Peterson stated that he believes the issue is trying to determine what it is that the faculty actually wants.  He added that significant resources have been put into the faculty/staff dining room and a lot of space has been given to it, but it is not being well utilized.  He stated that many universities have these clubs with annual membership fees and he asked the faculty to consider whether they would be willing to give an annual membership fee for the club. 

 

Jeff Durgee, Senator, suggested a hotel and conference center idea.  There are clubs which have a focus on business meetings.  Since RPI owns land along the Hudson, it could be a boost for Troy to do something downtown.

 

Provost Peterson cautioned that if considering something overlooking the Hudson, he would suspect there would be a membership fee.  There are some clubs that are casual like the Rensselaer Union and others that provide a sit-down meal with a membership fee. 

 

Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate, asked Provost Peterson if he had any idea of how many overnight guests RPI has.  He responded that they are often approached about a high-end hotel and asking for a commitment regarding how many guests Rensselaer hosts and for how many nights.  He stated that he believes those numbers are available.

 

Jun Abrajano, Secretary of the Senate, interjected that he would suggest a place where faculty would visit often to gather together.  Debbie Kaminski replied that if that is all the faculty needs, why is the faculty/staff dining room under utilized.    

 

Joel Plawsky stated that he believes some of the underutilization is due to class scheduling.  Since so many classes are in the 12-2 time slot, it does not give faculty the opportunity to visit the Faculty/Staff dining hall.  Pat Search added that there are many concession stands where faculty can get food to go.

 

Cheryl Geisler stated that at Carnegie Mellon, they have contracted with outside and international vendors.  There are many international types of foods provided on these drive up carts.  The food at Rensselaer is pale in comparison to the diversity of the faculty population.

 

Adjournment

At 3:43 meeting adjourned to working groups.

 

 

Note: The recording device malfunctioned therefore there is no audio tape of this meeting.