Minutes - Oct 17, 2008

Date of Meeting: 

Friday, October 17, 2008

8:30-10:00 a.m.

In attendance from the Research Council

Jordan Cohen, Michael Flatte, Simon Holoubek, Cheryl Reardon, Stephanie Hynes, Erin Irish, Anita Jung, Robert Kirby, Ann Ricketts, Paul Romitti, Jay Semel, Thomas Sharpe, Linda Snetselaar, and Michael Wichman.

Postdoc​toral Task Force Report

Associate Dean Gardinier gave an update on postdoctoral scholars at Iowa and the recommendations of the Postdoctoral Scholars Advisory Committee, particularly its recommendation to establish a UI Postdoctoral Scholars Office.   Currently, there are 314 postdoctoral scholars and postdoctoral fellows on campus, about 88% of whom are appointed in the College of Medicine.  The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), which has been active since 2003, recommends that all campuses that appoint postdocs start a postdoc office, standardize postdoc appointments and benefits, and provide services and career development (i.e., orientation and handbook, annual reviews / individual development plans, complementary professional development programs).   Nine CIC institutions currently support Postdoctoral Offices.  The Postdoctoral Scholars Advisory Committee recommended that such an office be established at Iowa with the mission to:

  • provide a professional and comprehensive administrative home that will effectively promote and serve the community of postdoctoral scholars at the University of Iowa
  • offer our PDs a rich and well-rounded training experience that matches or exceeds that found across our peer institutions
  • effectively assist and synergize with the faculty members’ individual abilities to train their PDs to meet the challenges for new investigators in today’s challenging research environment
  • enhance the University’s and Colleges’ standings as desirable destinations for postdoctoral training.

The Postdoctoral Office would assist with​ recruitment (e.g., promoting the University and community environment);

partner in mentoring; provide educational and professional programming (e.g., orientation, handbook, annual reviews, professional development series, grievance management); and promote networking opportunities.   It was recommended that the Office be staffed by a P&S Director (i.e., program associate) and a graduate assistant.  The Graduate College will commit stipend/benefit support for the graduate assistant (~25%).    The Advisory Committee recommended that in years 1-3, the remaining costs (~75%) be split between the Office of the Provost (OP), the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), and the participating Colleges (equitably based on their PD population).  After year 3, those remaining costs (~75%) would be split 35% (OP, OVPR, Colleges) and 65% (Postdocs/Faculty/Departments).  The Graduate College would continue to cover the stipend of the graduate assistant (~25%).

Discussion followed.  There was some concern about assessing the postdocs a fee for this service.  Associate Dean Gardinier gave examples of how costs were handled at other institutions.  For example, the University of California at Berkeley puts all the costs on the scholars, and other s place all the cost on the University.  However, shared cost was most common.  The Advisory Committee estimated that each postdoc would be assessed about $100-125 per year.  Postdoctoral members of the Postdoc Advisory Committee felt that if the Office was organized well, postdocs would be willing to pay for the additional services.  The National Postdoc Association surveyed postdocs across the country and found out that most felt their portion of the cost toward a Postdoc Office was worth it.  Graduate students attending this meeting also expressed a favorable opinion of a small fee for the services that the office would provide postdocs.

How Colleges would be assessed

Another concern was how Colleges would be assessed, and it was recommended that it should be split on a cost sharing basis relative to the population of postdocs in each College.

Associate Dean Gardinier explained that the Office itself wouldn’t be involved in annual reviews of the postdocs, but would create a culture that fosters the implementation of these reviews.  She felt that the individual development plans were even more important for the future success of the postdoc.   The office would initiate the review process linked with the development plans, and then it would be the responsibility of postdoc and mentor to complete and file the records in the Department.  Also, with the newly instituted research track at Iowa, a Research Council member noted that the Postdoc Office could be very useful to the internal growth of the research enterprise.  It will be a good place for networking, and for recruiting postdocs and then later recruiting some of them into research faculty positions.  Establishing a Postdoc Office will show that the University is committed to train scholars to make them more successful.   There was general endorsement from both Councils to move ahead.

Update on the status of the plan for instruction programs

Update on the status of the plan for instruction programs related to Scholarly Integrity (aka Responsible Conduct of Research)

Associate Dean Gardinier updated the Councils on the activities of the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Task Force.  Currently, students may register for a Responsible Conduct in Research course (650:270) that offers a bare minimum approach to RCR appropriate to students in the “bench science” disciplines.  Although it does fulfill the core curriculum required by NIH, NIH wants to see more offered.    As recommended by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the task force proposes replacing the term “responsible conduct of research” with the broader concept of “scholarly integrity.”  Task force members also propose shifting from the negative emphasis on compliance to a more positive approach of personal and professional responsibility.  The goal is to initiate and sustain an ongoing dialogue about scholarly integrity among all graduate students across all graduate programs.  The approach to achieve this goal would employ an orientation for all new graduate students followed by continuing education during the student’s graduate training.   The task force hopes to offer a pilot study next fall to offer an interactive, workshop orientation to a cohort of new graduate students.   The preliminary proposed Iowa model for this 4-hour orientation would be:

Introduction to the Principles of Scholarly Integrity

  1. Overview
    • What is a scholar? What is the community of scholars?
    • Introduce the core tenets with definitions
    • Introduce a case study from each of the 3 broad discipline groups
  2. Student/Mentor Responsibilities for Pursuit of Scholarly Work
    • Ownership
    • Authorship and peer review (process, confidentiality)
    • Plagiarism, falsification, fabrication
  3. Student/Mentor Relationship – Promoting an Intellectual Dialogue
    • Communication and the transition from undergrad to grad learning
    • Collaboration
    • Grievance management
  4. Student Responsibilities: Institution, Community of Scholars, and Society
    • Human/animal subjects
    • Conflict of interest
    • Fiscal responsibilities
    • Intellectual property

The task force recommends that all graduate students complete the orientation by the end of their first semester on campus.  At future meetings, the task force will discuss what additional contact hours might be required for continuing education for master’s students and doctoral students.  Associate Dean Gardinier feels that having this kind of dialogue is a cultural change on campus and would require the active support of the President, the Provost, and the VP for Research in order for it to be embraced by the departments and programs across campus.   

Discussion followed.  One Council member felt that some professional master’s degree students (MCS, MBA) may not find this training useful.  It was also pointed out that for some certificate students (i.e., certificate in Emerging Infectious Diseases), this training would be very appropriate.  There was concern about the costs of the training and some sort of web course that introduced the fundamental principles associated with scholarly integrity was recommended to minimize the cost.  If the web course was completed prior to the orientation, it might also minimize the number of contact hours needed.  Others in the group pointed out that reliance on web modules promotes “compliance” to complete the required task but does not promote real learning and conversion of the concepts into practice.  For the continuing education portion, it was suggested that the task force identify what already is offered in individual departments, keeping what already exists, or consolidating some if possible.  In response to a question about offering this training to research scientists or medical students, Dean Keller stated that the Graduate College only has administrative oversight over graduate students, so it is tailoring the training to that cohort.   Expanding this effort could be discussed at a later time with the VP for Research Office.   He felt we have an institutional responsibility to provide this training and that the University of Iowa is behind in this effort compared to other institutions.  There is a level of urgency to get a meaningful conversation in place between students and their mentors.  This is a very important issue for the campus to be aware of, especially with the number of conflict of interest cases on the rise.   Both the Graduate Council and the Research Council were in general support of the task force’s proposal.  Dean Keller and VP for Research Cohen will bring it to the Collegiate Deans group once it is finalized.

Due to the length of the discussion on these two agenda items, the remaining items (block grant status, bridge funding for graduate students, cost sharing on grants for graduate students, roundtable) were postponed to the next joint meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 10:10 a.m.