Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity
September 18, 2018
Helia Hosseinpour, Janet Hughes (chair), Spencer Katz, Daniel Larson, Siela Maximova (vice-chair), Ira Ropson, Logan Rutten, Neil Sharkey, Gregory Shearer, Fariborz Tavangarian, Harl Tolbert (replaces Ron Huss), Regina Vasilatos-Younken, Michael Verderame, James Warren, Candice Yekel. Note: There were difficulties with the phone connection that made it impossible for members to attend remotely. Michael Andreae tried multiple times but could never successfully connect.
Arthur Berg, Kenneth Davis (not listed on roster until after this meeting), Raghu Garud, John Hanold, Kathleen Hodgdon (sent note saying ill), Charles Kupfer, Joshua Lambert, Kevin Luhman, James Tybout, Christopher Zorn
Pallavi Eswara, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the meeting held on April 24, 2018 were approved.
1) Chair Hughes welcomed the committee, made introductions, and distributed copies of the agenda, the New Members Document, and the Senate Committee Priority Form 2018-2019.
2) Remarks by Dr. Neil Sharkey, Penn State Vice President for Research
- The university expenditure for research is up by 7% up and has reached the amount of 927 Million USD. The investment in research expenditure and infrastructure has increased. Defense funding has increased and also the funding from NIH and NSF. The appropriation from DC continues and NIH funding is up 2 billion USD.
- Huck Life Sciences Institutes is searching and it is about to hire a new director. Dr. Peter Hudson, the current director will step down at Jan. 2019. (Note: On September 20, 2018, Dr. Andrew Read was named as the new Huck director).
- Health related: The Provost has made a substantial commitment to fight opioid crises. Ten to 12 new faculty in social and natural science will be hired to focus on the problem.
- Shashank Priya was appointed as a new associate VP for Research and Director for Strategic Initiatives
3) Remarks by Dr. Regina Vasilatos-Younken, Penn State Vice Provost for Graduate Education & Dean of the Graduate School
- Sarah Ades has been appointed as a new Associate Dean of the Graduate School.
- The Graduate School is organizing and hosting a series of professional development workshops to provide support to the colleges in addition to their own efforts. Graduate program leadership, staff, and Graduate Council members are invited to attend the workshops featuring the many support services available for graduate programs at Penn State and provide information on graduate education processes, policies, etc. Additional workshops are devoted to assisting students in crisis, and to student conduct.
- The Graduate School is increasing efforts to offer more professional development opportunities and information about careers outside the academy, in order to prepare students for different career pathways, including industry jobs. Dr. Daniel Larson noted that the majority of STEM graduates find careers outside the academy, but this is also an issue in the Humanities.
- Mentoring is an additional area of focus for the Graduate School in collaboration with the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, Dr. Kathy Bieschke. Mentoring workshops have been added to new faculty orientation.
- Regarding mentoring and funding for PhD education, Dr. Vasilatos-Younken suggested referring to a recently published Graduate STEM education report that includes information on the model of graduate education for PhD education in STEM, support for outcomes outside of the academy, and the need for career counseling. Following the meeting the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine on Graduate STEM education for the 21st century was uploaded to the SCoRSCA library. ACTION ITEM: SCoRSCA will peruse the NAS report, especially the sections on funding models for graduate students.
- During the new fundraising campaign for 1st time there is an opportunity to match funds for gifts for graduate education. fellowships and scholarships. The program has had great subscription and has reached 100% utilization of all available matching funds. This led to a discussion of the model of corporate funding, proposing a possibility to raise “challenge funds” though at a lower ratio of match to better leverage possible challenge funds.
- Neil Sharkey noted that the office of industrial partnerships is merging with the development office, which will integrate research partnerships and philanthropy. There will also be a new person in his office in charge of facilitating new international research opportunities.
The Committee reviewed the holdover items from Senate Committee Priority Form 2017-2018 that remain priorities for 2018-2019:
- Items A1 and A2 were holdovers from 2017-2018 and were discussed as old business (see below).
- Item A3 is a holdover from 2017-2018 and is still being completed.
Item A1: Discussion of Proposed Revisions to HR68 Postdoctoral Appointments: Presentation by Pallavi Eswara, Director of Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
At the April 24, 2018 meeting, Pallavi Eswara, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, presented a revised policy HR68 Postdoctoral Appointments, covering the reasons for the revisions, the process to come to this point, and the additions, clarifications and other changes that were proposed. At that time, there were some suggestions for improvement. Ms. Eswara returned for the September 18, 2018 meeting to present the further revised policy:
- New policy regarding paid leave
- Requirement for minimum funding for 1 year
- Expectations of Performance
- Grievance Procedure
- Limit of postdoctoral appointments up to 5 years
- Requirement for 90 days advance novice for termination of the appointment and clarification that there is an expectation to perform at the same level.
- The international application compliance
- Clarification of Holiday policy
The committee made recommendation for text modifications to clarify the rules including approval for exceptions to the policy (especially the extension after 5 year appointments) and the grievance procedures. Following the meeting the recommended changes were reviewed by Dr. Neil Sharkey and the Office of General Counsel was consulted regarding the recommended changes to the grievance procedures. The revised HR68 policy sent back to SCoRSCA did NOT include all the changes discussed during the September 18 meeting of SCoRSCA due to feedback from others and time constraints (see summary below for explanations).
Summary of feedback and recommended changes of the HR68:
- Language to strengthen individual development plans (IDP) use for postdoctoral trainees was added.
- Recognizing that College of Medicine postdocs have a different holiday schedule, the section on Holidays changed to reflect the variability in holidays/shutdown period after consultation between the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Office of the Associate Dean for Research, College of Medicine.
- Five year limit remains; currently, the policy states that recent graduates can be appointed as postdoctoral scholars/fellows. As the process of appointment and hiring have become centralized, there have been questions on clarifying how many years would be considered as recent. Given NIH criteria for independence awards for postdocs, the revised policy will use a five-year limit from the time of Ph.D. graduation to be considered for postdoc scholar/fellow as these are trainee positions. Anyone more senior with research or industry or relevant experience can be considered for other positions such as Assistant Research Professor (previously known as Research Associate) or other fixed term positions.
- Changes proposed to the grievance procedure were not included because the Office of General Counsel recommended that the section of Grievance procedures and appeals should not be changed without discussion with the Provost’s office. For this round of revisions, Dr. Sharkey recommends that HR 68 revision proceed without any changes to the grievance procedure. The grievance procedure as stated now is designed to fit within AC76 framework, and AC76 applies to postdocs as well as faculty, at least in certain circumstances. AC76 allows an aggrieved faculty member to file a petition with the Faculty Rights & Responsibilities committee, which may make a recommendation for remedial action to the Provost’s office. Switching the appeal decision from the Provost to the Vice President of Research, as was suggested, is a major shift.
SCoRSCA voted by email on the revised HR68 policy, which was then submitted to Senate Council on September 21, 2018.
Item A2: Discussion of Report on Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Programs (IDGPs). Presentation by Dr. Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School
- At the April 24, 2018 meeting, Dr. Verderame presented a draft report on Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Programs (IDGPs). At that time, SCoRSCA thought the report would have more impact as an advisory/consultative report rather than as an informational report. However, that would require more work and the primary authors for this report (George Moldovan & Jong Yun), were about to cycle off Senate. For the September meeting, Dr. Verderame again provided an overview of the final informational report.
- The main conclusions of the report are:
- Funding is a challenge and hinders expansion of the programs and student recruitment;
- IGDPs appear disadvantaged compared to the department programs with regards to funding, resulting in faculty reluctance to accept IGDP students.
- The issue of financial support for these programs was discussed. Programs may receive support from a variety of sources including the Graduate School, the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences, and colleges whose faculty participate. A number of faculty who participate in IGDPs report disincentives in their departments, such as barriers to using departmental resources (e.g., assistantships) for IGDP students, even though IDGP students are included in the metrics for their advisors’ departments. This is inconsistent within and across colleges; some departments are highly supportive and others less so. One suggestion raised was a change in how teaching assistantships are funded to centrally reallocate a small portion of resources from college instructional budgets to the IGDPs. This reallocated support would carry the requirement that IGDP students supported on these assistantships teach appropriate undergraduate courses in the colleges from which the instructional resources have been derived, in order to assure the colleges responsible for such courses have the instructional support needed.
- The committee needs to discuss this further before deciding whether to support such a change to the budget model. A new financial system is being implemented over the next 1-2 years and other budget model changes may evolve as a consequence, making such support moot.
- Some members of SCoRSCA expressed an opinion that the current report only provides partial information and does not explain why some IGDP programs are more successful. Investigating the disparity and extrapolating successful programs’ practices to smaller programs would require more work.
- ACTION ITEM: SCoRSCA Graduate Council representatives will present the report to the Graduate Council for discussion and report the feedback to SCoRSCA. After considering the feedback, SCoRSCA may submit the informational report to the Faculty Senate and await further instructions.
1) Senate Committee Priority Form 2018-2019 Item A4. Explore scope of, & reasons for, faculty burnout at College of Medicine
Summary of committee’s discussion: According to Dr. Ira Ropson, under the direction of the deans of the College of Medicine (COM), a survey was conducted to look into the COM faculty burnout. The survey questions addressed the issue specifically and the data collected are mainly for research purposes. Dr. Ropson explained that faculty burnout is a self-reported issue and it is mainly due to the clinicians not being given enough protected time to do research and because clinical time has been expanded. Dr. Ropson also mentioned that the survey initially was created at the clinician’s level, but it was expanded to research faculty. The members of the SCoRSCA committee inquired if they can have an access to the results of the survey. Shortly after the meeting Ira Ropson was given permission to share the COM burnout survey results with the committee and the results were uploaded the file to the SCoRSCA library. ACTION ITEM: group will read over COM survey results to see if there is anything we want to go forward on.
Dr. Vasilatos-Younken suggested that SCoRSCA should understand how COM intends to use the survey data before SCoRSCA makes decisions to take further action. Dr. Ropson will try to delve further to give us those answers. Dr. Sharkey noted that the issue has not been reported at his level.
2) Senate Committee Priority Form 2018-2019 Item A5. Explore climate & workplace issues in graduate programs
Dr. Vasilatos-Younken commented that Graduate Council has conducted multiple exit surveys and had to change the questions in a few occasions to improve the data quality. The Graduate Council is willing to share with SCoRSCA a preliminary data analysis of survey results from 4 years. The survey included a large cohort with more than 1000 respondents surveyed over 14 semesters. The Graduate Council representatives were invited to present the results during the October SCoRSCA meeting. Dr. Sharkey also noted the university is planning global climate survey that should be considered when planning the next steps for SCoRSCA regarding this issue. As a follow up, Dr. Vasilatos-Younken has requested that Dr. Sarah Ades and Dr. Bill Clark present the Graduate Exit Survey results to the Graduate Council on October 17, and then report any feedback to SCoRSCA at the October 23 meeting. ACTION ITEM: Janet Hughes will allot 25 minutes on the October 23, 2018 agenda for the presentation and will upload their slides to the agenda.
3) Requests for Additions to Committee Membership:
- The Faculty Senate Committee on Committees and Rules (CC&R) is reviewing a request from the previous year to add Dr. Alan Rieck, Associate VP and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, as an ex-officio senator.
- SCoRSCA confirmed its desire to add Dr. Rieck as a member. There are some problems with the current Standing Rules wording that do not allow for changes in membership due to personnel transitions without legislative changes. ACTION ITEM:. Janet Hughes will work with Dr. Keith Shapiro, CC&R Chair, and Dr. Dawn Blasko, Faculty Senate Executive Director, to establish wording to convey the expertise needed without restricting the person filling that role to a certain rank, title or office name. She will then submit the legislative report to CC&R to change the Standing Rules to add Dr. Rieck.
- ACTION ITEM: Janet Hughes will invite Dr. Rieck to the October meeting and will allot time October 23, 2018 agenda to allow Dr. Ropson, who is in charge of the Medical Student Research, to discuss undergraduate research opportunities and how his program and the initiatives from Dr. Rieck’s office could be coordinated. This works to fulfill Senate Committee Priority Form 2018-2019 Item B2 (Fostering UG research). It may also lead to a presentation on the Faculty Senate floor on undergraduate research, as mentioned in Senate Committee Priority Form 2018-2019 Item B1 (Organize a presentation, for the Senate floor, on undergraduates’ opportunities for research).
- There was a new request to add a representative from the Office of the Vice President for the Commonwealth Campuses (OVPCC) to Senate standing committees.
- SCoRSCA agreed to explore the OVPCC addition further. ACTION ITEM: Janet Hughes will investigate adding a representative from OVPCC as a resource person so that person cannot vote even if he/she belongs to Faculty Senate (to preserve majority voting by elected faculty senators as required by the Senate Bylaws Article IV, Section 1c).
4) Sustainability Institute:
- Senate Chair Michael Berube asked SCoRSCA to work with the Sustainability Institute on a “transdisciplinary initiative”.
- SCoRSCA agreed to investigate this further. ACTION ITEM: Janet Hughes will contact Dr. Paul Shrivastava to discuss what they would want from SCoRSCA
The meeting was adjourned at 10:35am.
Minutes prepared by Siela Maximova and Janet Hughes
April 24, 2018
Attending: Liana Glew, John Hanold, Janet Hughes, Daniel Larson (vice-chair), Siela Maximova, Gavin Robertson, Neil Sharkey, Kayley Swope, Michael Verderame, James Warren, Candice Yekel; Pallavi Eswara, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
- Daniel Larson, Vice-Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:35 am.
- The Committee approved the minutes of the meeting held on March 13, 2018.
- Comments by the Vice-Chair
Larson conveyed that Andrew Schultz would not be able to attend this meeting.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
Neil Sharkey, Vice President for Research, made a few remarks about the “Fraternities and Sororities: What Next” national conference in Chicago in which academic leaders from 31 universities discussed issues in fraternity and sorority systems. President Eric Barron is co-leading the conference.
He also mentioned the press release about the adoption of a tobacco-free policy for all campuses.
On the research front, things are going well but expansion is not running at as torrid pace as earlier in the year; we are still up 5-6% over last year, with research expenditures running above last year.
This week the National Science Foundation (NSF) review committee is visiting to do the 4th-year review of the Center for Nanoscale Science, which is a MRSEC (Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) funded by the NSF ($17million), focused on new materials for electronics, and involving 3 colleges, and 8 departments. Penn State is highly ranked in Materials Sciences, and this MRSEC is only 1 of 2 awarded in this country.
Number of groups involved with industry-university research centers have visited lately, including one focused on membrane technology and more to come. The College of Engineering sponsored some presentations to call for people interested in pursuing more of these large prestigious awards and centers. Six groups will make applications.
Dr. Sharkey then discussed Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Labs (AB2) joint efforts between the infectious disease folks and ARL; maximum security infectious disease work; less like typical academic research, more contract work with DTRA (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) and National Defense looking at education, investigation, and assessment in a number of different international locations; huge potential; infectious disease research is a strength for Penn State. The labs like to call themselves “academic integrators”. They have big multi-million dollar contracts with federal agencies, particularly aligned with Defense, and they are looking for university expertise. Our network of other universities, coupled with our own expertise, provides that; lots of optimism that this will lead to substantial work for Penn State that will make a difference; complicated process with very different environment from typical academic awards that we get from NIH, but has potential.
Last week we held second venture and intellectual property conference (Penn State Invent). 620 registrants, 80 different venture companies; very successful; gave out a number of awards; the quality of the presentations this year was wonderful, with opportunities for discussing best practices. Penn State Invent is going well with 17 innovation centers across the Commonwealth Campus locations, and 4 in the pipeline. These centers have active collaborations with either local community officials or local businesses; centers are preferentially located within the communities (not on the campuses) so they are not just resources for our students and faculty, but are actual resources for those communities; the political capital from local buy-in is substantial; lots of enthusiasm. The sites are competitive; we issue calls for locations and those that did not make the cut in prior years were given feedback so they could apply the next year. Eventually hope to have them in all communities where a campus is located, and will boost rejuvenation in some of those communities. Thriving at all levels from first year undergraduates to senior faculty. All want to learn how to be successful entrepreneurs, or how to translate their research into marketable products.
We have many partnerships with existing firms, and many new multi-national firms are approaching Penn State for partnerships, such as Imerys, a mining product company. Philosophically these kinds of partnerships are important to Research I universities to do the research and science but then move our ideas to the marketplace and to demonstrate the value of a land grant university to the economy and community. This has taken a long time to get momentum but now is working well.
- Remarks by Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School
Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School, gave a summary of the year’s end activities and provided the summary below:
Report from The Graduate School
- The Graduate School saw a significant increase in NSF Fellowships for 2018
- 20 students offered with Penn State designated as their “current institution” and are expected to attend TGS in the fall (2017- 15 offers, 2016- 14 offers; 2015- 13 offers)
- 12 awardees with PSU baccalaureate’s on the list of offer (these are either those who received their undergraduate degree at PSU and applied as a graduate student elsewhere— or undergraduate applicants who won the award and have designated their graduate institution as elsewhere than PSU)
- Each year Nobel Laureates gather in Lindau Germany to meet with young scientists from around the world. We have two graduate students chosen to attend this year:
- Robert Nwokonko (Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine)
- Lauren Randolph (Bioengineering, IGDP)
- TGS helps cover expenses not covered by Lindau
- Thanks to Michelle Hutnick and Neil Sharkey for their support with these nominations
- The Graduate Council’s Graduate Student and Faculty Issues Committee crafted detailed mentoring recommendations that were subsequently approved by Graduate Council and are currently being promulgated by the colleges to all graduate programs.
- On March 24, the annual Graduate School Alumni Association Spring Reception and Recognition Dinner was held
- Both alumni of significant achievement as well as outstanding research doctoral students were recognized (the latter with the Alumni Association Dissertation Awards)
- The Graduate Exhibition (March 23-25) was a success again this year.
- Of particular note: we received very positive feedback from a record number of participants (~170) who praised the event for helping them hone their skills in communicating to the public, networking, etc.
- Tomorrow (04/25/18) will be the Graduate Student Awards Luncheon at the NLI under the auspices of the Office of the President
- A range of awards will be presented including:
- The Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award
- The Professional Master’s Excellence Award
- Distinguished Doctoral Scholar Medals to winners of The Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award
- A range of awards will be presented including:
- TGS’s Placement Portal for doctoral placements is reaching the point where we have enough data to begin reporting
- Officially launched in SU 2016; currently contains 5 semesters of doctoral graduates (1,351 records)
- 94.6% of records have been completed with the graduate’s first position after graduation
- The system includes a detailed taxonomy of placements
- Pilot reporting has begun (using Tableau) that has great potential
- Ultimate goal: putting our placement data in the public domain.
There was a question about the vote for unionization of the Graduate students. The results were not available at that time. (NOTE: During the Faculty Senate plenary session, the results of the vote were announced, indicating that unionization would not go forward).
- Discussion of proposed revisions to RA03 Eligibility to Serve as PI, John Hanold
These changes, attached to the agenda, comprise a reconciliation of two existing policies. Federal regulations required a policy on serving as the Principle Investigator for funded research. Researchers with certain titles required prior approval before becoming eligible. However, with the recent changes to AC21 Definition of Academic Ranks, some of the titles in the table in RA03 were obsolete and needed to be changed. This proposal simply makes the necessary changes and has already been endorsed by relevant parties.
There are still some issues because the College of Medicine did not adopt all the new titles outlined in AC21, so a note about that issue is included in the proposal.
There was some discussion about whether the modest number of voting members present at the meeting was sufficient for a vote. The Committee decided a vote should go forward rather than table this item for later meeting. The Committee endorsed the changes so that the revisions can be forwarded to Senate Council for consideration.
There was some discussion about some non-tenure faculty lamenting the loss of dual titles under AC21. Some non-tenure faculty wear many hats, yet the new titles only acknowledge certain aspects of their positions. (NOTE: this issue was mentioned in the Faculty Senate plenary session and Kathy Bieschke, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, assured the Senate that dual titles are still possible even with the change of policy AC21 and the retirement of policy AC24 Professional Dual Titles for Research Rank Faculty).
- Discussion of draft report on Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Programs (IDGPs), Michael Verderame
The Graduate School (TGS) wanted to understand the issues facing the Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Programs (IDGPs). A survey went to IDGP heads and all but one replied (survey questions and results were attached to the agenda). Section 5, which includes suggestions for growth, highlighted a few concerns, with the biggest being the lack of funding; policies that discriminate against IGDP students was another issue
The university has a reputation for doing interdisciplinary work better than most, and these inter-college programs are the leading way to provide interdisciplinary research education, but some of these IDGPs are struggling for funding. The Graduate School (TGS) gives modest support for program heads who lead these efforts and who need time buyouts from other obligations to their departments. TGC also provides a few assistantships for graduate students to teach programs but that is insufficient for robust programs. The programs must cobble together funding due to lack of institutional support that would really allow these programs to flourish as desired.
What would be next steps for this report? Should it be only informational? Should it be fleshed out more? Should there be an investigation on whether we should come up with a better way to funds these programs?
We should be proud of the interdisciplinary research done at Penn State; we have not just reduced the barriers but increased the support and encouragement for doing interdisciplinary work. The institutes take funding that might have gone to departments but in return they offer more opportunities for the faculty, and the heads of the institutes are co-collaborators in the pursuit of excellence. So that system is excellent, and the Deans have bought into the institutes and are guiding them collaboratively instead of competing against the institutes, as happens at other universities. How then to evolve graduate education in the same vein? The IDGPs supported by the Huck Institutes are better funded than the others, but still feel pinched at times. The IDGPs not affiliated with Huck, like BIOE, are struggling even more.
Trying to find funding will be difficult, but it is disappointing that our IDGPs are not keeping up with our ability to do interdisciplinary work. Is there some place these kinds of programs would fit into the University strategic plan so that funding might come to them? But getting hard funding would mean taking away funding from some other area; funds are not endless, so it is always a balancing act. Development has been working to get funding for graduate education, and managed to get some matching funds for graduate assistantships, although those are almost depleted at this time. Can some aspect of the capital campaign channel funds towards IDGPs?
These programs have lived with the financial realities for a while and do not expect immediate resolution but having a plan going forward to bring them to a point of appropriate funding within a decade or so would reassure the program heads, who work really hard to coordinate these programs, that the university values the IGDPs.
There may need to be assessments in the future to look at ALL small enrollment graduate programs (not just IGDPs). It may be necessary to eliminate very small non-viable or boutique programs to be able to strategically support accelerating programs. TGS brought on Bill Clark as Associate Dean for Program Review last October but he has been sidelined by other issues until recently and is now beginning to ramp up the process of doing regular graduate program review, looking at all kinds of indicators, such as program size. In the next few years we may see recommendations coming out about these issues. The challenge will be that most graduate program funding is college based so even if program reviews free up money, colleges would need incentives to give funds to intercollegiate programs; need to show that if these programs are growing, the colleges will benefit.
Not all colleges and departments will welcome sharing funds. Some departments currently will not allow junior faculty to use start-up funds to support a student who is not in a departmentally based graduate program. Other departments have no such restrictions.
Do we know why the smaller IDGPs are so small? Is it the departmental environment not supporting it, or the leadership of the program? The first few years of the Plant Biology program the faculty were writing grants to support the program, to receive training grants. Are there no sources for grants for the smaller programs, or are they not pursuing such grants? Do they need time or support for writing grants?
The problem is the funding for first year students. Training grants would force potentially unprepared first year graduate students straight into the lab. Need baseline funds in a program to provide assistantships for the first and second year graduate students. It is not efficient to put unprepared students onto a regular research grant since they cannot be expected to produce like a more seasoned graduate student could. It is difficult to grow programs just on external funds, but program heads should pursue training grants for supplemental funding.
Instead of just sending it forward as an informational report as is, this report would have more impact with some tweaks. We need to add a recommendation that an investigative report to demonstrate the value of these programs should be done, to look into the successful programs to see how to improve the struggling programs, and to recommend that the question of funding be addressed by the appropriate group with these things in mind. These tweaks will require that we defer this report to the next meeting. Michael Verderame, Siela Maximova, George Moldovan, and Jong Yun will develop some context for the report and write some recommendations for next steps that can be presented to committee in the next meeting. If the committee approves the revised report to be submitted to Faculty Senate Council, it could also be presented to the college deans and other interested parties.
- Discussion of Proposed Revisions to HR68 Postdoctoral Appointments, Pallavi Eswara, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
Pallavi Eswara presented revisions to the policy regarding Postdoctural Appointments (PowerPoint slides and proposed revisions attached to agenda). Since the Office of Postdoctural Affairs was created in 2007, they have often received questions on leave, both paid and unpaid, and about ending appointments prematurely due to performance issues. A task force looked into the clarifying and standardizing procedures regarding postdoctoral appointments. After balancing postdocs desires with faculty resources, and benchmarking with BTAA, they revised HR68 with clarifications and new sections. The clarifications include duration of leave, unpaid leave, responsibility for clearing appointment and grievance procedures. The new sections include appointment length and structure, international appointments, holidays, paid leave and leaves of absence (unpaid), expectations of performance during postdoc training, and termination.
The clarifications clearly specify 4 weeks paid leave, but allow the faculty to determine how leave can be parsed out. Unpaid leave is on a case by case basis, and will include evaluation of whether the postdoc is eligible for FMLA, which would run concurrently with the paid leave and unpaid leave. A postdoc seeking unpaid leave should contact the Absence Management Office, which will work with central HR, the faculty member and the postdoc office to evaluate the need for unpaid leave.
Unpaid leaves often occur when family or health issues arise. If a postdoc on a J1 visa has to return to his/her home country, he/she may have to renew the visa, lengthening the leave which must then turn into unpaid leave. It can also lead to termination because of grant constraints. In many cases, the faculty are aware of these kinds of issues with international postdocs, so many of these situations do not come to the postdoc office and are resolved between the postdoc and faculty without intervention. There is no single rule for all situations.
Other clarifications are noted in the PowerPoint slides.
The new sections include a reduction in the maximum duration of appointment at Penn State from 6 years to 5 years (for new appointments after this revised policy is confirmed) to conform to NIH rules, and giving 90-day notice of the appointment end date, except in cases of performance issues. International appointments should match the duration and dates with visa.
Holidays are something the postdoc office has been asked about frequently. In most cases postdocs are not expected to work on official university holidays, but if research requires a postdoc to perform duties on holidays, the postdoc should be given compensatory time at the supervising faculty’s discretion. College of Medicine (Hershey) does not have the winter break, so they have other rules, but Hershey has its own office for postdocs.
New sections on paid leave clarify how and when paid leave can be taken, whether it can roll-over, what happens to untaken paid leave at time of separation, etc. Language mentioned the New Parent Accommodation guidelines (6 weeks paid guidelines widely applied at University Park, but variable at the campuses; this is not a policy because the concept of New Parent Accommodation is being reviewed at the University level for all). There were questions whether a postdoc could take the 4-week paid leave, plus the 6 weeks New Parent Accommodation sequentially, potentially being gone for 10 weeks straight. The supervising faculty can dictate how the 4 weeks paid leave is spent, and could prevent it from being used adjacent to the New Parent Accommodation.
Unpaid leaves of absence, usually for illness, are negotiated with the postdoc office and the Absence Management Office. While faculty want to accommodate such leaves, at times it may adversely affect a grant if a space were held open for the postdoc’s return but no research data necessary for the continuation of the grant was gathered. In those cases, termination may be appropriate, but this is a case by case situation.
Expectations of performance are now clearly spelled out, with recommendations for annual evaluations, individual development plans (IDPs not mandatory but required by NIH and other granting agencies; however, there is no monitoring the IDPs are written and/or followed), plans for improvement (PFI), if needed, and termination procedures, including voluntary resignations with 30-day notice. Note, failure to obtain desired results in research, despite the postdoc’s best efforts, does NOT indicate a performance issue.
The policy will be disseminated widely. However, there needs to have some wording added about the College of Medicine’s lack of winter break, and perhaps stronger recommendations for IDPs, so this policy vote will be deferred until the September 2018 meeting, at which time Ms. Eswara will be invited to return and present the revised policy.
- Discussion of possible topics for consideration by SCoRSCA in AY 2018-19
The follow-up revised report on the Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Programs (IDGPs) will need to be presented, discussed, and voted on at the September meeting before it can be sent to Senate Council, and potentially to College Deans.
The revised HR68 Postdoctural Appointments policy will need to be presented, discussed, and voted on at the September meeting before it can be send to Senate Council.
The Evaluating Collaboration Between University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses in Research and Grad Education survey went out on Monday April 23. Since Andrew Schulz, who was leading this effort, is cycling off Senate, who will collect the data and get it analyzed? Dan Larson will talk to Andy about this. Also, Siela Maximova had been working with Andy on this survey so she will consult with him on next steps.
At the College of Medicine, there seems to be an issue of faculty burnout. What is causing this; is it just research faculty, is this an issue elsewhere? COM’s Dean sent out a survey; can we get those results?
- Other business for the good of the order
Vice-Chair Dan Larson thanked the committee members for a productive year.
Meeting adjourned at 10:35am.
March 13, 2018
Attending: Raghu Garud , Liana Glew, John Hanold, Janet Hughes, Todd Lajeunesse, Daniel Larson (vice-chair), Kevin Luhman, Rogerio Neves, Alan Rieck, Kayley Swope, Michael Verderame, James Warren, Candice Yekel; guests Clinton Schmidt, Director, Conflict of Interest Program, Debra Thurley, Office of the Vice-Office of the Vice President for Research at Penn State
- Daniel Larson, Vice-Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:35 am.
- The Committee approved the minutes of the meeting held on January 23, 2018.
- Comments by the Vice-Chair
Larson conveyed that Andrew Schultz would not be able to attend this meeting. He asked the table for introductions because there were no name plates available.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
Neil Sharkey was not present and there were no remarks forwarded.
- Remarks by Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School
Verderame started by giving background to an issue that was brought to the Graduate School’s attention last Fall. Many Graduate Students complete the requirements for their degrees months ahead of the next commencement at which their degrees would be officially conferred. International graduate students who wish to remain in the U.S. for jobs need proof of degree completion in support of H1-B Visa applications. They are given Letters of Certification and use the dates of those letters in their applications. However, if they did not obtain a job by Commencement, they often apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), and use the Commencement date on those applications. Both types of applications go to the Department of Homeland Security, creating a situation in which Penn State has certified two different completion dates. In fact, Federal Regulations stipulate that, regardless of whether a graduate student is still enrolled for the rest of the semester, for the purposes of his/her visa, the date of requirements completion is the date upon which he/she must update his/her visa status.
Therefore, the Graduate School revised the process so that when an International Student requests a Letter of Certification, in addition to giving the student that letter, the Graduate School will copy the student’s Graduate Program Head, to raise awareness that the request was made, and the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA), so that they can update the student’s I-20 to the date of degree requirements completion. This starts the clock on the student’s options (there is a 60-day grace period after the F-1 visa expiration for the student to prepare to return home, start Optional Practical Training, or obtain a H1-B visa).
The Graduate School shared this new approach with the Graduate Program Heads and their staff on February 13, 2018 and followed up with a 3-page document from DISSA that describes ways to strategize the timing of requests and applications to fulfill federal regulations but minimize risk to visa status. For example, it might be wise to apply for OPT and start that before applying for a H1-B visa so that if the latter is delayed or not granted, the OPT is ready as the backup to prevent gaps. Masume Assaf, the Director of DISSA, will visit a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Graduate Education (ACGE; comprised of Associate Deans for Graduate Education), and the Graduate Council to share the procedures and answer questions.
The second report that Verderame shared was a project from the Graduate Council regarding recommended practices in graduate education (see http://gradschool.psu.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty/recommended-practices/). There are three areas of recommended practices.: 1) climate; 2) academic issues; and 3) career development. The approaches for each area will differ between faculty, students, department representatives and Graduate School representatives. While many of the practices are obvious, explicitly stating things to think about when going through graduate education may be useful.
- Discussion of draft informational report on Course Buyout Polices, Daniel Larson & Janet Hughes
Informational report found wide variety among course buyout policies between locations, Colleges and departments, but most were calculated as a percentage of salary. While differential buyout policies may have some impact on research, more likely, disparate teaching workloads are the true barrier to research. Campus faculty tend to have higher teaching workloads than University Park faculty, and certain departments have much higher teaching workloads than others. This should be investigated further.
Dan Larson made a few comments: reasonable course buyout policies are necessary for research institutions to support research. It would probably not work to have a central policy, but it is confusing to have differences between departments within a College. So it might be useful to suggest a College-wide policy or guidance, with departments having the final decision because these policies mostly impact the departments. Most rejections are due to lack of suitable replacement instructors.
Janet Hughes raised a question about the reasons for some units to require higher-level courses to be bought out before lower level, foundational courses, especially since the higher level courses would be more specialized and therefore more difficult to find a suitable replacement instructor. It was speculated that higher level courses may have more flexibility in scheduling, or perhaps because finding instructors who can teach foundational courses in an engaging way is difficult.
There was robust discussion about the inherent fairness of using a percentage of salary in the buyout calculations. Using a percentage of salary as the buyout is generally fair, especially for young faculty who have lower salaries and less resources, because this allows them to keep more of their grants for equipment and other research needs. More established faculty would pay more, but one expects they would already have equipment and other resources in place. There was a suggestion perhaps there should be a “cap” on the total amount of the buyout, since the average salary of full professors in some disciplines can be substantial, and therefore the percentage would comprise a large sum that the grants may not be able to accommodate. Research is important for promotion so established faculty also need to continue active research programs. In business there are lots of clinical professors, who are paid for teaching, and perhaps those salaries should be used as a benchmark.
It was also noted that faculty in some disciplines typically lack external funding. It is unclear whether there are separate buyout policies for faculty using sources other than external grants (e.g. giving back some weeks of their own salaries).
The draft will be revised to include the discussions and concerns raised and submitted to Faculty Senate Council.
- Discussion of proposed policy regarding survey distribution to the University community, Alan Rieck
University Survey Coordinating Committee formed to investigate current large survey climate – are people getting too many surveys, are they sometimes poorly written, is response rate low, are there redundant surveys because people cannot find results from previous surveys, etc.? Will try to 1) review and describe the landscape of surveying across the University; 2) develop and maintain a University-wide calendar of large scale surveys; 3) recommend policy to guide large scale survey implementation; 4) recommend best practices; and 5) develop a structure and governance document for a committee to ensure surveys are well crafted, comply with regulations, and are intelligently scheduled. 4 sub-committees will tackle these and also will define what is a large-scale survey, what is included under this purview, what is excluded (or at least not included in initial considerations). Work is to be finished by June 2018. See http://pennstatesurvey.psu.edu. There will be websites where resources such as best practices, benchmarking of policies, and results (or at least instructions on how to find results) would be gathered.
There were remarks on frustrations with lack of communication or transparency about survey results, the abundance of surveys from almost all daily activities like buying products or visiting a locale which causes people to deleting any survey instantly, and the hope that there will be a way to be able to manage the survey climate so that important surveys can stand out and not be deleted reflexively.
- Discussion of Proposed Changes to AC 80 (Consulting Policy), Candice Yekel, Clinton Schmidt (Director, Conflict of Interest Program) & Debra Thurley (Office of the Vice-Office of the Vice President for Research at Penn State)
Yekel started by noting that the group had just come from a meeting of the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, where they approved the newest version of the AC-80 document. About 3 years ago they were charged to look at the policy to streamline, update it and provide oversight to ensure consistent compliance. Over the past few years there have been presentations, discussions and negotiations between the group and Faculty Senate, especially the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, to work on wording, discuss points of disagreement and come to a consensus. If the Senate Committee on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity concurs, the latest version will be presented at the April Faculty Senate meeting.
Schmidt began with an overview of the purpose of AC-80. It is a private consulting practice policy relating to outside business activities that use faculty expertise (e.g. starting a new company, conducting outside consulting, acting as an expert witness). This does not include teaching at another institution because that is covered under another policy AD-77 (conflict of commitment). The Conflict of Interest Program administers COINS, which involve financial interests, and would also take on oversight of this policy. The existing policy was very restrictive, and requires prior approval for any outside activities, but this was not consistently enforced. So they sought to loosen the policy and simplify it to ensure consistent compliance. There were three main inclusions Faculty Affairs desired: 1) an explicit appeals process; 2) a reasonableness standard for prior approval; and 3) something about summer teaching (this policy only covers activities occurring during the appointment period, i.e. 36-weeks of academic year, but AD-77, which covers outside teaching, includes the entire year so to be consistent, this policy requires summer teaching to be reported). There were still some disagreements about the hours limit. The policy states 40 hours per month (360 hours per year for a 36-week contract), with approval required to go beyond that. Faculty Affairs wanted it to be averaged over the year but that could allow faculty to take mini-sabbaticals without prior approval by taking the 360 hours consecutively, effectively devoting a few weeks to uninterrupted outside business activities. Viewed in that light, Faculty Affairs agreed to let the hours limit stand as stated. Faculty Affairs also wanted some wording about Intellectual Property included, but that would be more appropriate in an Intellectual Property policy.
There were many concerns about the hours limits. Q- Where do faculty on 12-month contracts, such as Penn State Health or the University Libraries, fall? A- There is a 480 hour limit per year for 12 month contracts.
Q – most consulting is done on weekends, does this count? A – Yes, even consulting done on weekends is included in this policy because it is during the appointment contract.
Q – if faculty on 36-week contracts have supplemental summer salary administered by Penn State, do they follow the 360 hour limit or the 480 hour limit? A – They would fall under the 48-week limits.
Q – what about faculty on 9-month contracts who spread their paycheques over 12 months? A – they are treated as 9-month faculty.
Q – what if a faculty member with a 36-week contract became an executive during the summer? A – that would not be covered under this policy, but that would be reported under another policy.
There were questions about how faculty at Penn State Health fit under this policy.
Q – there is a disconnect between how College of Medicine faculty view themselves, and how certain policies treat them. Since their paycheques come from Penn State Health, they have to use a different email, and are denied access to resources they used to use for teaching, like Lynda.com. So they are treated as employees of Penn State Health, not as faculty of Penn State for some things. However, in other cases, they must abide by policies for Penn State faculty. It is confusing for the faculty, they no longer know where they fit much of the time. So as far as this policy is concerned, are they Penn State faculty? A – yes, probably. Penn State Health is a company somewhat apart from Penn State but from a legal standpoint, this is murky. The appeal process should help if problems arise.
There was also concern how this policy would work for faculty in the Smeal College of Business where consulting, especially paid consulting, is encouraged and venerated.
Q – most of the time consulting is not spread out but coalesced into 5 or more days in one week, especially since they often must leave campus to connect with colleagues and industry so does that exceed the 1 day/week limit? A – benchmarking with other institutions showed the 4 days/month or 1 day/week limit was common, but we adopted a more flexible 40 hours per month, so consulting in small batches should not require prior approval. Also, faculty can always ask their department heads for exceptions. If a planned session turns into something much longer, simply report it after the fact (de minimus).
There was another question about whether some kinds of consulting fall under the policy.
Q –does it fall under this policy when a faculty is consulted as an expert for a pharmaceutical company, who then launches a new enterprise, which comes to the University and brings money and generates publications? The consulting leads to investments in research at Penn State by the company, and publications by the faculty, so is it truly outside consulting? And are prior approvals for acting as an expert consultant to several companies on a regular basis needed for each company or just as an aggregate? A – It would depend on whether the consulting is spread out; a week at a time per company should not be a problem. Of course this kinds of activity would still be reported in COINS.
There were some other concerns about who does the prior approvals and what guidelines are available to make such decisions.
Q – what guidelines should department heads or other administrators follow in granting exceptions? A – in general, building your reputation via consulting is an advantage to the University too, so if other details are fine, then an exception should be approved. If the departments heads are confused about what should be approved, they can consult with the COINS office for guidance. So approvals for exceptions could vary among departments and between faculty. The overriding principle is whether the consulting conflicts or materially interferes with the faculty member’s appointment, and whether the outside business activity is detrimental to the University.
Approved to take the report out of committee and have it presented to the full Faculty Senate in April 2018.
- Discussion of revised survey on Fostering Greater Collaboration in Research and Grad Ed between UP and the CCs, Daniel Larson
We have discussed this survey previously and so we are just getting further comment before the survey is finalized. One formatting issue might be that there was not a clear delineation between the first set of questions on research collaborations and the questions on graduate education collaborations such that questions 9-11 seemed redundant at first. Another potential problem is that this appears to take a static snapshot. It is not obvious where this goes from here; there is no plan for action, no clear way forward. The survey is trying to elucidate the problems that have been anecdotally reported as impediments to intercampus collaborations. These questions might not tease out the answers because the limited choices might not fit a particular situation; there may be other impediments not listed here. Faculty at campuses tend to have much higher teaching loads (which is one of the impediments listed in questions 2 and 10), and less resources (there is mention of lack of funding but it does not mention resources like IT support). Would adding “other” option with room for narrative help or hinder? Open-ended questions make answers harder to use by making it more difficult to extract the information. There is an option for additional comments at the end of the survey.
Faculty at campuses need ways to find out about research being done at UP and other campuses. PURE might help, especially if set up RSS feed to automatically extract new information about research of interest. Faculty can also search for abstracts of any funded requests from 2012 forward via the MyResearch portal. How do researchers find out about these resources/databases, etc.? Often learn about research through word of mouth via Penn State meetings.
Meeting adjourned at 10:15am.
January 23, 2018
Attending: Raghu Garud , Hanold, Kathleen Hodgon, Janet Hughes, Daniel Larson (vice-chair), Kevin Luhman, Siela Maximova, Geoge Moldovan, Rogerio Neves, Andy Schulz, Neil Sharkey, Kayley Swope, Michael Verderame.
- Andrew Schulz, Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:30 am.
- The Committee unanimously approved the minutes of the meeting held on December 5, 2017.
- Comments by the Chair
Schulz mentioned an issue with terms of appointment for fixed-term faculty. President Barron didn’t agree with language proposed by the Senate that said after the first promotion, fixed-term faculty should be considered for appointment to a 3-year term and after the second promotion should be considered for appointment to a 5-year term. This matter will be taken up at the Senate plenary meeting.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
- Neil Sharkey reported that despite challenging times for research funding, the Penn State research portfolio continues to grow and is up 15% over last year at this point in the fiscal year. Clearly we are going in the right direction despite flat funding in Washington. The increase includes a 9% increase in industry-funded research.
- Invent Penn State continues to grow. There are now 17 LaunchBoxes (entrepreneurial centers) across the state, and soon there will be one at every campus. Another significant event was the receipt of a $1 million gift to the Happy Valley LaunchBox (now the LaunchBox “powered by PNC Bank”). The University matched the gift, so there is a $2 million endowment supporting the Happy Valley Launchbox. The LaunchBoxes are also generating and supporting lots of activity. For example, there have been over 150 undergraduates working with companies in the LaunchBox. Most of the startups are student-driven, some with some faculty involvement. Most of the motivation for the startups is the desire to solve problems.
- Sharkey commented on the uncertainty in Washington due to the lack of agreement on a budget to fund the Federal Government. After a momentary pause, the government is back in business, but only for 3 weeks. The federal funding situation and the issues of support for research and development have demanded a lot of attention from Penn State and other major universities. At Penn State, we will also soon be working on budgets and appropriations from the state.
- The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is making funds available through seed grants to fund pilot projects that support the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. The seed grant process has gone through one round and a number of proposals were funded at the $250K level. Proposals for round 2 are due next Wednesday, January 31. The number of people submitting ideas has grown a lot. The plan is now that proposals will be accepted for two review cycles per year. They may be submitted by any current Penn State faculty member, staff member, or student. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the initiative promotes one or more of the Strategic Plan’s Thematic Priorities.
- Remarks by Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School
- Vederame began by talking about best practices for advising and mentoring across the board (not just graduate students). The information and recommendations are being developed. Andy Schulz will be sharing a draft with the committee.
- The research integrity program is getting a fresh look. The current requirement is a couple of classes plus 5 hours developed by the departments. There’s a lot of variation in how the departments handle it. At the medical school, there was a reconsideration after they found the program had a negative effect rather than improving ethical decision-making. The proposal now is to create a program that offers courses in superdisciplinary areas, e.g., medical and life sciences. This would improve the student’s experience and the value of the program and take some of the burden off of the departments. The new program is planning to launch in 2018-19 with life sciences programs administered by the Huck Institutes; it will subsequently broaden to all the life sciences and then extend to other areas.
- Update on “Fostering Collaboration Between UP and Commonwealth Campuses Around Research and Graduate Education,” Andy SchulzSchulz talked about the project to promote intercampus collaboration. With the help of the Survey Research Center, a survey has been developed and refined, and there is now have a good instrument to use. One issue in the survey is to avoid too many open-ended questions; if there are many responses, it makes it very difficult to go through and extract the information. Schulz is interested in what possible impediments to intercampus collaboration we should list, so people taking the survey can rank in order of their significance. One suggestion is that evaluations at the campuses focused only on teaching are a detriment to encouraging research. Another issue is support for initiating research. Also, finding the time to do research is really important. Distance is not the only problem. External funding pressures are also a major issue; to be competitive, there’s pressure to get the best research going, and in most cases the best collaborators are not at the campuses but at other universities and laboratories around the world. Considerable discussion ensued around this point. How do we best engage colleagues across the university? Neil Sharkey mentioned that the new PURE system, which tracks research activity, will involve everyone in the university. One thought was that if we had more resources, maybe we could have more colleagues from the campuses come to UP and spend time in the summer. That sounds good, but the current program which does this is not greatly used.
- Report by John Hanold, Director of the Office of Sponsored ProgramsFollowing up on a previous discussion in this committee, John Hanold talked about a checklist for researchers departing PSU. He’s running it by researchers and going to all of the offices that have some responsibility (e.g. facilities). Hanold is hopeful that we can keep the checklist to less than 3 pages. One area that needs better definition is the data belonging to the institution. A copy of the data needs to stay at Penn State, but except in cases of non-disclosure agreements and perhaps some human-subjects data, a copy of the data can go with the individual. The general rule for most research is that the university owns the data. When faculty take data with them, they need to be aware of what the contractual obligations are. On the other hand, the data need to go where the data will be used. Most of the record retention requirements are established by the federal government, but that doesn’t restrict the use of the data. Of course, the university can’t go against a contract that says we have to secure the data. We need to at least have guidelines for handling these situations.
- Update and discussion on “Barriers to Growth and Sustainability of Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs,” George MoldovanMoldovan noted that there are 11 such programs, housed in different homes. There is a document on Board Effect regarding these issues that contains a summary of a survey of the heads of the 11 different programs. These are generally interdisciplinary programs. The numbers of students range from 4 to 36; most are in the range of 10-15. Most programs want to have more students, but the major impediment is funding. Five programs use funds from external grants to fund the students. Funding beyond year one is generally a major issue; programs often look for department funds, training grants, etc. Another issue is faculty; a number of programs feel that they don’t have enough faculty who are interested in interdisciplinary programs. Also, the program heads said that there are some practices in place that put the students in the IGDPs at a disadvantage, e.g. funding from departments, counting students as part of the faculty member’s effort, etc. As a counterpoint to programs struggling for support, Kathleen Hodgon pointed out that ARL has a strong record of supporting the Acoustics program with prime space and other resources.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 am.
back to top
December 5, 2017
Present: David Atwill, Raghu Garud, John Hanold, Kathleen Hodgdon, Janet Hughes, Dan Larson (vice-chair), Kevin Luhman, Siela Maximova, George Moldovan, Gavin Robertson, Andrew Schulz (chair), Neil Sharkey, Kayley Swope, James Warren, Michael Verderame, Candice Yekel.
- Andrew Schulz, Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:30 am.
- The Committee unanimously approved the minutes of the meeting held on October 17, 2017.
- Remarks by the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Michael Verderame:
- Fighting the proposal in Congress to tax tuition remission as income has been consuming a lot of time and effort. The proposed change would have a major damaging impact on graduate students and graduate programs. The Dean’s Office has been working with students, the government affairs office and the university leadership. Penn State representatives have been in Washington with representatives of virtually all of the other research-intensive universities. Faculty and students are strongly encouraged to contact their representatives, early and often.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
- Following up on the remarks by Associate Dean Verderame, Sharkey mentioned that the Senate version of the bill is less problematic for graduate students since the tax on tuition remission was not in the bill and tax deductions for interest payments are not affected. Members of the House have been inundated with comments from faculty and graduate students, and that’s very good. There is still a continuing resolution on the budget and other issues for Congress to handle. Many of the things in the tax bill do not bring in many dollars, but it appears that the House is not very happy with higher education.
- There are some new personnel in the Office of the Vice President for Research:
- Shashank Priya, previously the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech is joining Penn State as Associate Vice President for Research and director of strategic initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Priya was program officer at the NSF for a year and has good connections in Washington. Priya received his Ph.D. in materials engineering from Penn State in 2003. He is bringing numerous grant awards with him and will split his time between his research and the Associate Vice President job.
- Harl Tolbert, now at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, will succeed Ron Huss as Director of the Office of Technology Management and will be here in February. For the first time in several years, there will be a full staff in the Office of the Vice President for Research.
- The Applied Biological & Biosecurity Research Laboratory (ABBRL) is a joint global health security initiative between the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences (Huck) and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL). The mission of the ABBRL is to enable Penn State to take a leadership role in protecting global health through the development of a strong network of international partners that undertake critically important research, assess risks, investigate threats, inform policy, and work to build global capabilities to mitigate the global threat of infectious disease emergence. We anticipate funding from DITTRA. Penn State will be the academic integrator for this initiative, with quite a bit of the effort farmed out to other institutions. It is likely that there will be a lot of non-tenure-line faculty involved, but the initiative will also provide opportunities for tenure-line faculty. The scale of the effort is possibly $50 million/year, but the majority of the effort would not be here. A lot of the work will be off-campus in Africa and India. ARL’s partnership in the effort, with their defense-related work experience and expertise, is a great asset.
- Sharkey mentioned that Penn State doesn’t have a good mechanism for tracking visitors, particularly international visitors, and knowing where they are and where they are going. There is also no mechanism at present for handling intellectual property related to visitors. These issues need to be addressed.
- Sharkey talked about PURE, the Penn State Research Database. Workshops describing the use of the database are being offered. It is important that people from every unit attend one of the workshops. Presently, there are about 5 or 6,000 profiles, and the number is expected to increase.
- Remarks by Assistant Vice President and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Alan Rieck
- The annual Undergraduate Exhibition communicates and celebrates the participation of undergraduate students from across the University in scholarly inquiry, research and creative endeavors. Rieck Convened an advisory committee to advise on format and places and times that make it accessible. This year’s Exhibition will be on April 18, and there will be posters, performances and oral presentations. Last year there were 239 participants. Everyone is accepted if they have faculty endorsement. Rieck is hoping to increase the numbers of student presentations in the humanities, social sciences and fine arts. In the future, there are plans to extend the Exhibition beyond a day to about a week.
- The number of Erickson discovery grants went from 60 last year to 84 this year. Applications from Campuses went up 66% due to online applications. There are plans to move the program from only summer support to supporting research during the academic year. Student engagement grants are also supporting more undergraduate research.
- Remarks by the Chair, Andy Schulz:
- Schulz passed out a draft survey on collaboration between the Commonwealth Campuses and University Park in graduate education and research. We will look to get some advice from the Survey Research Center (but they are quite expensive). Kathleen Hodgdon has experience with surveys and offered to help, and immediately had suggestions for improving the draft survey. As suggested by Sharkey, Schulz will talk with Susan McHale about getting help from the Survey Research Center. The goal of the survey is to analyze the state of collaboration between the Commonwealth Campuses and University Park and make some suggestions about how to improve it. Sharkey suggested that maybe we should be taking better advantage of the geographical distribution of faculty around the state – maybe more in the social sciences.
- Remarks by the Executive Director of Research Compliance, Debra Thurley:
- Thurley presented information about proposed changes to RP06, Individual Conflict of Interest policy. Suggested changes came from a task force report.
- There should be a policy about gifts and conflicts of interest (e.g., gifts given for support of a faculty member’s research). The question is whether these are genuine gifts or if they are essentially contracts for research. Changes are also being made in RA04 to more carefully define gifts. Sharkey mentioned that one of the main issues is F&A, and by accepting a gift that should be a contract, we are allowing the gift to avoid F&A and providing inappropriate advantage to a company.
- There is also a recommendation to change the definition of significant financial interest. Based on the federal regulations the University chose to exclude any income that the faculty member receives from Penn State intellectual property. The task force suggested that this exclusion be removed. One question about removing the exclusion is why ask someone to disclose what the University already knows about you.
- Candice Yekel asked about the process for approvals of the changes, including the drone policy discussed last week. Yekel suggested that minor changes wouldn’t need full Senate approval. Schulz suggested that we only need to send something forward as an informational item. It’s mostly a formality, but a way of getting connected to the full Senate.
- Kathleen Hodgdon moved and Raghu Garud seconded a motion to approve the changes. The motion passed without dissent.
- Thurley also talked about the use of CATS IRB and animal researchers. Animal research needs three-year renewals that are done through CATS. Beginning January 1, all new animal users will need to go through CATS. People have been using PRAMS, but PRAMS is a homegrown system and not sustainable.
- Thurley presented information about proposed changes to RP06, Individual Conflict of Interest policy. Suggested changes came from a task force report.
- Remarks by Associate Vice President for Research and Director of OSP, John Hanold:
- Hanold talked about a checklist for departing faculty. Schulz distributed a checklist that the College of Medicine uses for departing faculty. A major issue is final reports to funding agencies. So, a major part of the checklist is what grants and contracts exist and what is their status. Also, the checklist includes human subjects and animals. Data and equipment transfers are another issue. Data may have security restrictions. Also, the data belong to Penn State and need to be kept at Penn State. What about graduate students, postdocs, and other researchers who are being left behind? Also, safety issues. There already is a policy that says you need to turn in your parking permit and keys. Could this be part of the same process? Schulz suggested that amending HR102, as Hanold suggests, is a good way to go. There seemed to be a consensus among the committee members that this was the right approach.
- The meeting was adjourned at 10:25.
October 17, 2017
- Dan Larson, the Vice Chair, called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m.
- The Committee unanimously approved the minutes of the meeting held on September 12, 2017.
- Remarks by the Committee Vice Chair, Dan Larson: After welcoming the members and visitors, Larson reviewed the agenda, noting that we had a number of important reports and presentations, and, following those reports and presentations, we would have a discussion of progress on the committee charge items.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
- The University budget is very much on the mind of the university leadership, as evidenced in part by the email from President Barron and university press releases. Sharkey suggested that the Senate members and the university community should connect online, as suggested by President Barron, to send messages to the legislature. Sharkey noted a different feeling and more worry than in other years when the university budget was delayed. There are about 100,000 students at Penn State, with about 53,000 of the students coming from Pennsylvania. The support from the state covers approximately half of the tuition break that in-state students get. The university leadership hopes very much that the situation will soon be resolved but is also forced to think about possible options in the case that the delay continues.
- Sharkey mentioned that Sports Center will be here on Saturday, actually, starting on Thursday, and they will set up behind Old Main. The Penn State – Michigan football game is viewed as one of the top games in the country.
- Sharkey talked with enthusiasm about the great science being carried out by Penn State faculty and students. He talked about Penn State connections to the recent Nobel laureates in Physics (for the development of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and Chemistry (for the development of Cryo-electron microscopy or cryo-EM). Sharkey mentioned the latest LIGO results, and committee member Kevin Luhman provided additional information and perspective. There have been a handful of observations of gravitational waves from colliding black holes, and the event just announced, which is the first event seen in both gravitational and optical radiation, is due to colliding neutron stars. Sharkey also pointed out that we have one cryo-EM apparatus at UP and are getting another at the medical school. Cryo-EM, transmission electron microscopy carried out at cryogenic temperatures, is a revolutionary way to study the structure of biological specimens and biomolecules. Sharkey also talked about the great science and technology developed at the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory (ARL). ARL has been highly successful and accounts for over $240 million of our research expenditures, bumping up against a ceiling for its funding set by the federal government.
- Penn State has established a new interdisciplinary center on security, the Center for Security Research and Education (CSRE). The inaugural director is retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James W. Houck, distinguished scholar in residence at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. The center incorporates 10 Penn State colleges, schools and research units to focus a broad range of academic endeavor on society’s most critical threats.
- Remarks by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School, Regina Vasilatos-Younken:
- Diversity is a high priority for the Graduate School. There are several initiatives underway. One issue is what happens to the TRIO programs, including the McNair Postbaccalaureate Program. The renewal for Penn State was this year, and despite talk of cutting or eliminating TRIO programs, the renewal of the McNair program was approved.
- A STEM open house event was held this last weekend – for underrepresented minority students. The open house event started in the Eberly College of Science and the College of Engineering but is now run by the Graduate School and involves other colleges. The open house is nationally advertised, students apply, and their travel and living expenses while here on campus are covered. Younken commented about students from Puerto Rico and the challenge getting here due to the hurricane and the resulting flight cancellations. The STEM open house program is four or five years old. A number of the students who visit wind up attending Penn State.
- Younken discussed tracking graduate students after they graduate (Michigan does it very well and Penn State is working at it) and seeing that students go on to a wide variety of careers, not just the academic careers that were the mode many years ago. The Graduate School is working on identifying and emphasizing core transferrable skills needed for success in business and other areas. Communication is a key skill – effective communication with a wide variety of audiences. Another skill is information literacy – being able to look at large volumes of information and being able to understand it and convey the essence of the information. A third skill is being able to work in teams. Some graduate education has traditionally been very insular, but that is changing.
- Dean Younken said that she is thrilled that in the development campaign, graduate education is playing a more central role. Efforts are underway to raise funds for fellowships, assistantships, internships, externships, workshops, and more. The Graduate School is working directly with Development
- There are various possible changes to the federal budget being discussed by Congress and the administration. We are getting information right now that the 2018 federal budget may cut the NSF graduate fellowship program in half. This would be catastrophic. The NSF graduate fellowship program includes all the STEM fields, including social and behavioral sciences. Several national academic organizations are working on the issue. The NSF graduate fellowship program makes three-year awards that provide living expenses plus about $12K for “educational expenses” such as tuition and fees. The awards are portable; undergraduates who are awarded the fellowships can take them wherever they go.
- Presentation and discussion regarding Policy SY45 on the use of drones with guests Debra Thurley, Executive Director of Research Compliance, and Michael Yukish, ARL and an Unmanned Air Systems Operations (UAS Ops) Manager.
- Michael Yukish presented a summary of the issues and principles involved in unmanned air systems operation. The rules apply to all of the Penn State locations. For example, drones cannot fly over people who are not participating in the project. If there are drones flying at an event where permission wasn’t obtained, call the University Police. Penn State will provide additional training for people who need to fly at a Penn State location. Near airports, such as at the UP campus, a waiver is needed to fly. Operating an unmanned air system is a privilege, not a right. The University provides insurance for research and education use, but not for student groups.
- Candice Yekel, Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Research Protections, led off the discussion, saying that she needs a response to say if we’re ‘good to go’ and take it to Presidents Council, or if it needs more consideration by the Faculty Senate. The report was presented to University Research Council and received approval. Should it be presented to Senate Council?
- A motion was made to present the report to Senate Council as an informational report regarding a change in an existing policy to comply with federal and Penn State regulations. The motion passed unanimously.
- Greg Madden, Senior Advisor for Research Computing and Cyberinfrastructure in the Office of the Vice President for Research, gave a presentation on research computing.
- The Research Computing and Cyberinfrastructure (RCCI) organization was created three years ago after research faculty made the case that research computing was underserved at Penn State. At its core, RCCI Governance relies on Communities of Practice made up of stakeholders tied to the University’s research mission. RCCI also has an Advisory Council with on the order of 85 faculty, IT personnel and administrators participating and an Executive Committee The Advisory Council is divided into 13 working groups (e.g., Data Center, high performance computing, Research data lifecycle, software, Researcher onboarding and communications,….). The Executive Committee (EC) includes 5 faculty members drawn from 5 different departments across five colleges. The role of the smaller, more nimble EC is to provide advice to, receive advice from, and serve as a steering body for the Advisory Council. The Executive Committee is the link between the Advisory Council and the senior leadership of the University, reporting to the Vice President for Research.
- Initially, there was very strong faculty participation, but active participation has declined over the three years of the RCCI. More active faculty participation is needed, in part because RCCI and research computing is being reconsidered; Michael Kubit, the Vice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer, would like to make a central IT research organization that puts Penn State at the forefront of research computing. The goal is to end the need for the faculty insurgency and get the right faculty presence in research computing conversations.
- Due to a lack of time, the discussion of progress on Committee charge items had to be deferred to the next meeting.
- The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 a.m.
September 12, 2017
Members present: Andy Schulz (chair), Dan Larson (vice-chair), David Atwill, Raghu Garud, Janet Hughes, George Moldovan, Gavin Robertson, Jim Song, Neil Sharkey (Vice President for Research), Michael Verderame (Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education), Jim Warren, Candice Yekel (Associate Vice President for Research), Jong Yun, Christopher Zorn
- The chair called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m.
- The minutes of the meeting held on April 24, 2017 were unanimously approved, with minor revisions.
- Remarks by the Committee Chair, Andy Schulz
- After a round of introductions, Schulz welcomed the members to this year’s committee, and went through the New Member Orientation Document (included in the meeting book), which was created last year by all committees. Schulz highlighted the membership of the committee, which includes elected senators, administrators with oversight for research, and members of the Graduate Council Committee on Research. Schulz noted the committee name change and the expanded charge to cover not only research, but also scholarship and creative activity, which were approved by the Senate at the April 24, 2017 meeting. Schulz noted that a good collaborative relationship had developed with the Graduate School and the Graduate Council around matters relating to graduate education and research, and expressed his hope that this would continue this year and beyond.
- Schulz led a discussion of the Summary of Committee Charges (included in the meeting book), which was issued to the Committee by Senate leadership following a late summer meeting with Schulz and committee co-chair Dan Larson. Ideas were solicited for possible additional items for the committee to tackle this year. Two ideas mentioned that were not on the original committee charge were “mentoring” and “funding challenges and strategies for interdisciplinary graduate training programs.” With regard to the charge item of “graduate research misconduct,” Schulz noted the ongoing work of a university-wide task force that is addressing undergraduate and graduate academic misconduct, and suggested therefore that the committee defer action on this item.
- Volunteers were then solicited to take the lead on various items that the committee will address this year:
A1. Lab Renovations Costs.
(No lead person from the Committee needed at this time since the University Planning Committee will begin work and we will respond.)
A2. Course Buyout rates and policies across the University.
A3. Best practices for engaging undergraduates in research, scholarship, and creative activity.
WE NEED ANOTHER VOLUNTEER HERE.
A4. Promoting greater participation in research and graduate education between UP and Commonwealth Campuses.
Siela Maximova (who worked on this two years ago as a committee member)
B1. Graduate research misconduct.
(Deferred, pending results from the University Academic Integrity Task Force)
Best practices in student mentoring, particularly in relation to graduate students.
Funding challenges and strategies for interdisciplinary graduate training programs
- Schulz noted that the Committee would not have any reports ready for consideration at the October Senate meeting. Since the “course buyout” report will be a relatively simple data collection exercise, perhaps that will be ready for December.
- Remarks by the Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey
- Research Expenditures were $863 million in 16-17, eclipsing the previous high of $848 million, set a few years ago in the wake of the economic recovery. Sharkey expressed concerns about federal funding, and noted that there are some areas of increased funding such as NIH.
- The private sector, the Commonwealth, and international opportunitie represent areas for potential growth, and the university is making progress in these areas. Examples include the Morgan Advanced Scientific presence at Innovation Park and the 17 entrepreneurial centers across the Commonwealth that are part of Invent Penn State. To capitalize on international opportunities, SIRO is looking to hire a coordinator of such activity.
- Biomedical research is a priority and a growth area, with ongoing discussion regarding the possibility of a Biomedical Institute at University Park. Our NIH funding remains modest relative to peers. Sharkey mentioned that he would be happy to share the proposal for the Biomedical Institute with the Committee.
- The F&A rate will increase again this year; details to follow.
- Work continues to implement recommendations made by the task force that was convened two years ago to examine conflict of interest issues arising from increased entrepreneurial activity on the part of faculty and students.
- A task force, chaired by David Dulabon, has been established to examine issues related to visiting scientists.
- Report by Michael Verderame, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education
- Verderame discussed issues and challenges related to research and academic integrity as they relate to graduate students.
- The executive branch of the federal government has proposed eliminating Trio Programs (educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds), of which the McNair Scholars Program is one. Our program has been funded for at least the next year, but long-term prospects are a cause for concern.
- PSU is well known for interdisciplinary research and has a number of interdisciplinary research programs that train graduate students. Funding of these programs presents an ongoing challenge in a university funding model that tends to be departmentally based. It was noted that graduate education is a part of the current capital campaign for the first time in recent memory, and that research is also a part of the campaign in ways it hasn’t been before.
- The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 a.m.