Faculty discuss graduate research funding
By MAUREEN SMITHE
Assistant News Editor
Because Notre Dame rejected a proposal to join the Big 10 last February, the Faculty Senate Forum on Academic Life established a series of panel discussions to address the issue of research funding at Notre Dame. The series, which began five years ago to discuss matters of public concern, "provides a flexible format for discussion," according to theology professor and Faculty Senate chair Jean Porter.
The discussions evolved in response to Notre Dame's small sum of external research funds. Two years ago, Notre Dame's outside grants totaled $30.2 million. In comparison, peer institutions such as Princeton, Northwestern and Cornell drew in grants totaling $57 million to $189 million. As a result, several faculty members formed various committees which outlined several key recommendations, appealing to the University's administration.
"The report was generated by an excellent committee ... heavily interested in University attitudes towards research," said Frank Castellino, dean of the College of Science.
Anthony Hyder, vice president of the Graduate School, blames Notre Dame's faculty for low external grants. Last year 62 percent of external grants were generated by just 40 faculty members.
"Six percent of faculty were responsible for almost two-thirds of the awards dollars the University received. The key to generating more external funds lies in making more faculty responsible for generating part of the support for their scholarship," he said.
The panel presented recommendations for program improvement and stressed the need for increased research funds.
"We have a goal in which programs will exist for the good of the University. We are more program driven than fund driven," Castellino said.
Castellino outlined three steps that should yield increased research funding. First, his committee suggested that "the overall attitude [of the University] must evolve," he said. "We essentially operate as a nine-month undergraduate driven university — we should operate as a 12-month graduate driven university."
To improve the overall research climate on campus, Castellino said that attractive fellowships are needed to attract graduate students.
"We must provide to these students competitive salaries … and increased funding," he said. In addition, his committee suggested changes such as affordable family medical insurance and affordable day care for graduate students' children.
Secondly, Castellino said that changes to University infrastructure would increase research funds. "We must make Notre Dame as attractive as possible for recruitment," he said. For example, commitment to capitalization of new faculty and better and more sufficient office spaces are needed.
"To increase research funding we need to hire the best and the brightest — and not overload them," he said. "We must institute programs ... that are necessary for research and scholarship."
Hyder's committee made a similar recommendation.
"The University should provide the infrastructure funds, but the faculty should seek the funding," Hyder said.
Finally, Castellino suggested the establishment of institutes and centers on campus that will heavily rely on research faculty. "Centers and institutes are the way to significantly increase research funding," he said.
Julia Douthwaite, associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters, discussed the need for institute implementation as well — a suggestion that she considers to be a new and ongoing initiative at Notre Dame that will foster grantship. Douthwaite noted that in Arts and Letters an institute has already been established.
"The Institute for Scholarship in Liberal Arts offers internal grants and helps faculty locate external grants," she said.
In the past eight years, the College of Arts and Letters has seen a significant increase in external awards. In 1992, the college received $1,191,336 in awards for the entire year. However, in the first months of the 1999 academic year, the college has already generated $1,700,288. Douthwaite is "very pleased" with the trend.
Douthwaite's committee outlined the importance for both internal and external grants within the Institute.
"This year, ISLA has raised the ante. This institute now requires all faculty that acquire internal support to apply for external grants," she said.
Her committee also suggested new programs that will unite different colleges, including course development awards for first year student classes and learning communities for upperclassmen students. Douthwaite said that two different courses from two different colleges can come together for the benefit of both the professors and the students.
Continuing her support of interdisciplinary converging, Douthwaite said that "the administration should create an environment in which faculty members meet others from different colleges." Already implemented, regular faculty teas host informal gatherings with speakers from different colleges. "[The tea] gets people together for interdisciplinary talk," she said.
Gerald Iafrate, assistant dean of the College of Engineering, discussed similar tactics. "It would be great if we had a single building for research so our faculty could mix and discuss research over lunch," Iafrate said.
His committee suggested more collective thinking as a means to increasing research funding, including social space for all faculty. Citing historic space constraints and seperations on campus, Iafrate said that "you have to face the reality that whatever centers we form will be distributed — they would be virtual centers for the short term."
The task force is aware that "funding is a very risky process," said Iafrate. "If it doesn't crystallize, you've still gotten the benefit of faculty working together, and you go form there."
However, the impetus for change lies in the administration of the University. Castellini said that change will be expensive, but well worth the cost.
"How can one teach at the frontier, if one is not familiar with it?" he said.
All News Stories for Tuesday, November 16, 1999