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Workshop on Funding Strategies for Scientists Who Combine Research and Teaching: Integration of Research and Education

Wellesley College
Wellesley, Massachusetts
September 13, 1996

Organizers:
Mary M. Allen and George M. Langford, Members BIO Advisory Committee

The Workshop at Wellesley was attended by faculty and administrators from 12 New England universities and colleges including Bates, Williams, Wellesley, Mt. Holyoke, Trinity, Colby, Dartmouth, Harvard, Smith, Yale, and Middlebury (see attached list of participants).

The purpose of the workshop was to provide feedback to the NSF on ways to enhance the integration of research and teaching in the Biological Sciences. The discussion focused on the role of faculty at liberal arts institutions who have historically combined research and teaching.

The following set of questions was used to facilitate the dialogue but not to limit the range of issues considered by the group.

  1. How can undergraduate and graduate education be better integrated with research? What does this integration mean? How can support for research at colleges and universities be leveraged to improve undergraduate and graduate education? How can a balance between research and teaching be achieved?
  2. How can diminishing funds at the private, state and federal levels be leveraged to keep the biological sciences enterprise in the United States outstanding? What will be the major needs of the colleges and universities over the next 10 years?
  3. How can faculty best be supported to maintain their scientific productivity while becoming better educators? How might the merit review system incorporate teaching accomplishments in the evaluation process of research proposals?
  4. What are the best ways to utilize faculty resources in a time of limited research funding? Some possibilities might be consortium/cooperative grants; longer term awards; grants that require non-federal matches.
  5. What emphasis should be placed on mechanisms to improve US-international cooperation? What should these mechanisms be?

The Workshop began with an opening session that included an introduction to the goals of the workshop by Dr. Mary Allen and background information by Dr. Thomas Brady on the activities at the NSF and in Washington. These presentations were followed by discussions of representative models of how scientists integrate research and education. Then the attendees were divided into four breakout groups. Each group was asked to consider the questions listed on the Workshop handout and to generate a list of recommendations to be communicated to the NSF in the report from the workshop.

The attendees reassembled, the recommendations of each breakout group were discussed and a final list of recommendations was prepared. A lively and informed discussion occurred among the participants. All participants were impressed with the level of agreement on the issues that face the faculty at the institutions represented at the workshop. There was near unanimity on several of the important issues.

Comments

  1. The faculty at liberal arts colleges and universities like the ones represented at this workshop currently do an excellent job integrating education and research. Therefore, they are models for the nation on how to successfully integrate research and education. Several innovative programs, including the one-on-one mentoring or internship/apprenticeship programs, are ongoing at these institutions and are very successful at training students to perform original research. These students are the primary candidates for the best graduate programs in the country and therefore represent our future scientists.

  2. The workshop attendees were unanimous in the opinion that the role of faculty as trainers of the next generation of scientists is under-appreciated and uncompensated. This valuable service is neither used as a primary criterion for obtaining an NSF grant/faculty promotion nor counted as percent effort on research activities/teaching load, and NSF grants do not compensate faculty for the time spent on this research-related activity. The faculty participants felt very strongly that they wish to continue training undergraduates in the research laboratory but the system must change to support this activity in the same way that research is supported.

Recommendations

  1. Research and Training Application
    We recommend that the NSF modify the proposal application to include two components; a research component plus a training component. These components should be written as two co-equal parts and each should be scored to arrive at an overall rating of the proposal. In other words, the proposal should combine the elements of an NSF research proposal and a training proposal. As part of the training component, the PI should describe in detail the program for training undergraduate and pre-doctoral students in the lab, the number of students to be trained and related activities/special programs in which the trainees may be engaged. In addition, the PI should request a stipend or percent of salary to compensate for his/her time devoted to both the research and the training activities. The PI should also provide information on the number of student contact hours per week.

  2. Measures of Productivity
    Productivity of scientists who integrate research and education is an issue that needs serious attention. Productivity should reflect training activities and should be computed as a factor that is adjusted for the size of the professional research personnel/staff in the lab and the number of trainees in the lab. For example, the number of publications during the period of an award should be divided by the number of Ph.D. level scientists in the lab and multiplied by the number of trainees in the lab. The NSF application should request information needed to determine this index of productivity. The number of contact hours for the PI should be listed also as an index of classroom teaching and faculty should not be penalized for carrying a standard teaching load as specified by his/her institution. In other words, scientists should be expected to teach students in the classroom as well as perform research and sponsor trainees in the research lab. Reviewers should be informed to consider teaching as an asset rather than a liability for research scientists.

  3. Research Mentors Program
    We recommend the initiation of a Research Mentors Program, building on the success that small liberal arts colleges have in preparing students for Ph.D.-level research. These grants, for up to three years, should be restricted to no more than $100,000 dollars. The funds would be available to researchers who significantly involved undergraduates in research. Funds would be available for student supplies or summer stipends and for training postdoctoral fellows how to teach. It should be a requirement that the host institution charge overhead at the training grant rate, reflecting the instruction of undergraduates.

  4. Science Literacy Across the Curriculum
    Science literacy across the curriculum in an important objective, however, the BIO Directorate should not redirect its research dollars for activities more appropriately done by EHR and DUE.

  5. Service-Based Learning
    Service based-learning projects provide a unique opportunity for training groups of undergraduates in the methodologies of research. However, the funding for these activities should be obtained from local businesses, municipal and state agencies or through EHR and DUE but not through the research Directorate.

  6. Research and Training Models
    NSF models that work well currently include the REU program. REU site block grants provide an intensive research training opportunity for students. We recommend that NSF provide a percentage of salary to faculty. These funds may reduce the number of students trained at each site.

  7. Faculty Support
    We recommend that the NSF think creatively about these and other ways to support faculty who train students in research laboratories.

 

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