June 11, 1996
I am very pleased to be here today but I am even more pleased that all of you are here.
As representatives of many of the Nation's most outstanding universities, you have come as advocates, adherents, and more importantly as advisors on the successful practice of integrating research and education at your universities.
In 1995, MIT President Charles Vest said in a speech he delivered at Cornell, "The most valuable and farsighted concept to emerge from the original [Vannevar] Bush vision was that by supporting research in the universities, the government would also be investing in the education of the next generation--a beautiful and efficient concept. In short, every dollar spent would be doing double duty. This integration of teaching and research is at the heart of America's unique system of research universities." More precisely, this is also the oldest process by which knowledge has been both discovered and passed on since the dawn of civilization, of course, not always at universities. Many of the Nation's outstanding four-year colleges offer their students valuable research experience embedded in the high quality undergraduate education that they provide. A large percentage of these students go on to earn graduate degrees at universities. But, the research paradigm has much more to offer enhanced learning at all levels.
In general, research is about discovery! We know that the best way to learn is to "discover" knowledge. In our personal lives, we sometimes learn best by the error of our ways--a process of discovery often accompanied by a component of regret.
More humorously, I am reminded of the comment that Bertrand Russell made about Aristotle. He said, "Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to open her mouth." Now, I don't endorse the gender discrimination of this quote from another era-- but it does say something about inquiry--at least with Aristotle.
Perhaps one of the purest examples of integrated learning and teaching is the cracker-jack first grade teacher questioning his or her class. The process is one of query where the teacher can get the children to create their own knowledge by guiding their inquires and reinforcing their discoveries. And in most of these situations, the instructor also increases his or her knowledge in unorthodox and unpredictable ways. I have seen the success of this approach in personal visits to classrooms all across the country. It works!
We are surrounded by examples of a concept that is difficult to define--a little like the expression, "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" [Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity.] The National Science Foundation hopes to learn more about the unique and varied expressions of integrated research and education in a university setting from you, the practitioners--who know it when you see it.
Although we know there are many good and true examples, this is not to suggest that all is well and balanced everywhere in "River City." There are visible signs at some of our universities that give the strong impression that the elegant seesaw of research and education is out of balance. With the rapid increase in federal academic research support in the 60s, research activities became more than just an extension of a university's educational mission. They appeared to take on a life and mission of their own and to assume a separate and more prominent place than teaching, at least undergraduate teaching in an institution's portfolio. We need to look no further than the application of criteria for promotion and tenure evaluation to see the point.
There is no question that the form and fabric of federal government support contributed to this separation--real or perceived. Except for a few programs, most of the NSF portfolio appears to divide rather clearly into research and graduate study, on the one hand, and K-12, undergraduate and public education and human resources activities on the other. This masks the reality that education and human research development should pervade all we do. So, we need to have a look at this. I want to make clear that the National Science Foundation is committed to the principle of the integration of research and education at all levels of education, with particular attention to persons from underrepresented groups or communities, especially in our institutions of higher learning. This principle serves as one of the four core strategies in the NSF Strategic Plan. Nonetheless, the Foundation should not unilaterally describe or define this principle for those that are tasked with its implementation.
In fact, the reverse must be the prevailing case. You, the practitioners, have not only thought a good deal about the issues, you have made some progress. So, we are asking you to define and describe your successful activities at integrating research and education so that they may serve as examples and models for other institutions. As well, they will provide NSF with a directory of the panoply of activities that are achieving, as we speak, the very goals intended.
Through the application and award process for this Recognition Award, we are inviting you in our premier research universities to teach us the diverse and rich nature of activity that qualifies for the rubric "integrating research and education." We know that there have been many effective and instructive efforts that have moved institutions toward the interdependence of research, teaching, and public service. NSF wants to be in the forefront of recognizing, rewarding, and helping to replicate these achievements throughout the research university structure.
Our intent is to award up to ten universities among the applicants $500,000 to enhance their already successful efforts, and to document and disseminate information on their institution's unique approach and outcome. Those institutions that apply and are not chosen for the monetary award are, nevertheless, contributors and mentors also. All the applications will provide valuable information and perspective for us throughout NSF. We intend to distribute and discuss your diverse examples among agency staff as a mechanism for expanding our own understanding.
Let me not, however, leave the impression that our work at NSF will be only to reinforce the success stories of integrating research and education. In some cases, the task will instead resemble reinvigoration. There are those more radical who would use the word reinvent. In a larger sense, the goal is the same. The last several decades have validated the contribution of this unique American concept of higher education. Our collective task will be to perpetuate and enhance its continuance.
Thus far, the NSF has developed several programs that encourage and reward individuals who direct their careers with a commitment toward integrating research and education. Many of you may be familiar with them. For example, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is designed specifically to support junior faculty in these efforts.
In creating the Recognition Award initiative, our goal was to move NSF's efforts in integrating research and education up to the institutional level. We believe it is important to both recognize and capitalize on the leadership role that whole institutions, as well as individuals, can play in influencing directions and trends in higher education.
The experience and information from the Recognition Awards' process will provide the context for the next level of NSF programs to promote further the integration of research and education. I am exhilarated about the creation of this new partnership between our research universities and the Foundation. We have much to share. The universities, the federal government, and the nation as a whole are responding to new demands, both internal and external. Important among them is a workforce educated "to learn how to learn," and to adapt to rapid local, national and global shifts. Out of those changes will also come new opportunities. I look forward to sharing the challenge as well as the benefits together.