Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 Academic Year

Year End Report

The University of Iowa Research Council

According to the University Operations Manual, the Research Council shall (among other things):

  1. Advise in the formulation, review and application of policy and guidelines for University research and its funding both from within and without the University;
  2. Advise on questions concerning the compliance of research with University policies;
  3. Advise in developing methods for informing University members about research opportunities and for stimulating, evaluating and rewarding good research;

Main topics addressed by the Research Council during the 2007-2008 Academic year include:

1. Consideration of a faculty research track

At our September 2007 meeting, a discussion of a proposed new Research Faculty Track was lead by Professor Mike O’Hara and Associate Provost Susan Johnson. The Research Council discussed existing draft documents of the proposed Research Track.  We decided to propose changes to the exiting drafts and at our October meeting we had a lengthy discussion of our proposed revisions to the exiting drafts for a research track policy.  We reviewed further revisions at our November meeting and once these revisions were approved by the members of the Research Council, we forwarded to Faculty Senate President Victoria Sharp on November 14, 2007 our approved language for the UI Operations Manual for a Research Track.  Within a short time, we were notified of changes to our approved language made the Faculty Senate Compensation and Policy Committee. The Research Council agreed at our December meeting to write a memo to Lynn C. Richman, Chairperson, Faculty Senate Compensation and Policy Committee, Victoria Sharp, President, Faculty Senate and Meredith Hay, Vice President for Research outlining the significant differences between the language of the version of the Research Track policy that Faculty Senate Policy & Compensation Committee proposed to forward to the Faculty Senate Council for further deliberation and the language of the version approved by the Research Council.  We also requested that compromise wording be adopted before consideration by the Faculty Senate.  This memo was sent on January 22, 2008.

2. Grant Writing Incentives

The Research Council discussed how to improve incentives for grant writing and submission.  We agreed on the importance of recognition for grant writing, including support for those who submit proposals that may not be successful. The Research Council would particularly like to see more substantial rewards for successful grant writers, including some of the indirect costs funds associated with the grant being returned to PIs. In this context, we discussed, but never gathered systematic data on, what other universities do in using indirect costs or salary savings when salaries are covered by grants.

President Sally Mason, who visited the Research Council at the September 2007 meeting, supported the idea of using indirect costs as incentives for faculty as is done at other institutions.  President Mason felt that some indirect costs could be returned as it sends a positive message to faculty. The exact methodology for how this could occur requires further study.

At our October 2007 meeting, Professor Michael Flatté introduced a document entitled “Research Council Draft Proposal on Incentive Funding for Successful Grant Proposals.” At our November meeting Terry Johnson, University Controller, spoke about the allocation of F&A (indirect) costs from grants. In light of Terry Johnson’s presentation, the Research Council again discussed the idea of drafting a policy recommendation with regard to returning a portion of the F&A to individual investigators. 

At our March 2008 meeting we had a visit from CLAS Associate Dean Joe Kearney, who was asked to discuss with the Research Council research support and grant-writing incentives within CLAS.  In particular: how can faculty be given credit for writing grants and what resources would be of the most help in terms of grant writing for faculty?  As a follow-up to the discussion with Joe Kearney, Associate Director Ann Ricketts provided information on existing grant support that is available through some of the colleges and various departments.  Noteworthy were the offices and programs of grant-writing assistance offered by the Colleges of Nursing, Public Health, Education, and Pharmacy. Troubling was the lack a developed grant-writing support program within CLAS. The various kinds of assistance that were discussed included faculty mentoring and assistance with internal grant reviews, administrative assistance, editorial assistance, assistance with budgets and bio sketches, assistance with routing, and increasing the ease that one can apply for cost sharing and increasing the pool of money available for equipment and non-equipment cost-sharing. We discussed the variability across colleges and within departments of services, needs, cultures supportive of grant-writing, and of what constitutes an incentive.  In this context, we acknowledged the importance of the role played by the Associate Dean for Research within a college, and that all colleges need appropriate incentive programs.

The Research Council discussed a draft position paper on how the UI could provide enhanced support/incentives for faculty writing grant proposals.

3. Funds for graduate students

The Research Council expressed concern over inadequate resources being available to departments for funding graduate students.  Without adequate funding for graduate students, departments are neither able to recruit nor retain top-flight students and are therefore unable to maintain minimally sized graduate education programs. 

At our November 2007 meeting, we visited with Dean John Keller about funding in the Graduate College.  During a follow-up discussion of Graduate College Dean Keller’s presentation to the Research Council, a decision was made to write a memo to Dean Keller about his presentation.  A letter to Dean Keller was approved at the February 18 meeting.  The letter was sent to John Keller, Dean of the Graduate College on February 21, 2008. The letter acknowledged that both the Graduate College and the Research Council would like to see an increase in overall funding for graduate students. The letter indicated that the Research Council would like to see more attention directed toward research. Thus, we expressed the hope that even as the Graduate College continues to make allocations directly to students, the College would also give consideration to the maintenance and development of core graduate research programs.  Particularly troubling are the reports that the change from block allocations to a more individual student approach has affected some programs more than others, and maintaining research excellence in light of this differential dependence is of great concern to the Research Council.  The Research Council advises on the importance of maintaining a balance between sustaining lower-ranked graduate programs while still allowing for support of and building on the strength of leading programs.

At the suggestion of Vice President for Research Jordan Cohen, the Research Council and the Graduate College held a joint meeting on May 13, 2008.  The purpose of this meeting was to increase the communication between the Graduate College and the Office of the Vice President for Research.  Dean Keller gave a presentation about the current funding and distribution for the Graduate College.  Vice President Cohen gave a presentation about the sources of funding for the Vice President’s Office and how these funds are distributed. A discussion followed about how better communication between the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Graduate College would help make certain that the scarce funding that is available would be put to the best use possible.

4. Ethical Conduct of Research

The Research Council decided to support the implementation of a training/certification program for faculty and graduate students on responsible/ethical conduct of research.  At our October 2007 meeting, we started to tackle in detail the idea of mandatory Research Misconduct and Ethics Training. At a minimum it was felt that the ethics and misconduct information should be part of the various manuals on campus including the Graduate Student Manual as well as departmental manuals.  At our February 2008 meeting, a decision was made to create a Task Force to work with the Office of the Vice President for Research to implement online training modules on “Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarly Ethics” as a required component of graduate education and post-graduate training at the University of Iowa.  The motion was expanded to include work with the Office of the Vice President for Research to develop complementary training modules for faculty, staff and undergraduate students. 

Charlotte Talman became Chair of an appointed Task Force/Subcommittee and reported back to the Research Council at their May 2008 meeting. Upon review of the existing programs, the Task Force recommended the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) on-line program for implementation at the University of Iowa. The UNH program would be used as a “template” for development of our own on-line training, which would be customized with content that reflects University of Iowa policies from our Operations Manuel.  The Task Force also encouraged the development of follow-up discussion sections which would allow for deeper understanding of the issues involved and for coverage of more discipline-specific concerns.

See Progress Report – Task Force on Responsible Conduct of Research for an outline of the  advantages of the UNH program

The Task Force will continue to work with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Graduate College to move to the implementation stage. Coordination is encouraged with Faculty Senate and the Staff Council. The Research Council advises that for the implementation stage, the Task Force be expanded to include representatives appointed by the Graduate College, the Graduate Student Senate and the Staff Council.

Major items to be addressed by the Research Council during 2008-2009:

1) Need to revitalize the research enterprise:

2) Need to think more broadly about a UI incentive program for encouraging faculty to engage in research and increase research productivity.  Incentives will likely need to be College-specific given differences in the research enterprise across disciplines

  • Need for more internal funding opportunities for faculty members, including funding for travel
  • Major research initiatives and bringing broader faculty involvement into deciding what those initiatives should be
  • Need for more research funding for undergraduates

3)  Need to revise the publication policy of UI, particularly in relation to clinical drug trials (see Section 27.2 of University of Iowa Operations Manual). In general, the Operations Manuel needs a critical review and possible updating regarding policies associated with the research enterprise. Many policies have not been reviewed for over ten-years, and decision-making regarding the implementation of these policies relies heavily on precedent; yet the research enterprise itself is continually evolving and changing.

4)  Need to meet more regularly and early in the academic year with representatives of the Faculty Senate, Graduate College and Shared Governance Council.

5)  Need to follow-up on the recommendation from the Research Council to the VP for Research and the Faculty Senate (made during the 2006-2007 academic year) on change in the membership of the Research Council

Please see the website of the Research Council for links to the various letters, memos, and reports referenced herein.

Research Council Members   2007-2008

Vicki Hesli (chair)
Phil Cummins
Jeffrey Denburg
Matt Dickson
Ji Fan
Michael Flatte
Ed Folsom
Vicki Grassian
Stephanie Hynes
Anita Jung
Bob Kirby
Boyd Knosp
Johna Leddy
George Malanson
Linda Snetselaar
Ramaswamy Subramanian
Michael Wichman
Jordan Cohen, Administrative Officer
Cheryl Reardon, Administrative Liaison