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October 29, 2015

New senate research committee defining its role

The University Senate’s new research committee is continuing to define its scope, its mission and its interactions with other University committees — including counterparts in the Senate as well as the University Research Council and the provost’s policy review committee.

The committee, instituted in May as part of a Senate standing committee reorganization (see April 30 University Times), began meeting in August and is setting a course under co-chairs Penny Morel and Patrick Smolinski.

The research committee plans to review an updated draft mission statement at its November meeting.

At the committee’s Oct. 23 meeting, Michael Spring, immediate past president and Senate executive committee liaison to the research committee, noted that the current mission statement calls for the committee to focus on matters related to research University-wide — both funded and non-funded — but leaves the committee great flexibility to decide which issues to focus on.

Spring urged the committee to ensure that it has an early opportunity to review proposed policies that would affect faculty, citing a pair of recent administrative “debacles” that raised widespread faculty ire: A proposal to require faculty to sign intellectual property rights assignment agreements (see Sept. 11, 2014, University Times) and travel policy changes that would have required faculty to register their itineraries when traveling abroad on University business (see May 14 University Times).

Difficulties could have been avoided had a Senate committee been able to provide the faculty perspective on potentially problematic aspects before the policies were presented to the faculty at large, Spring said.

“I don’t think there’s any animosity, but I think there’s sometimes a lack of strong faculty focus, and that’s what this committee provides,” Spring said.

George Huber, interim vice provost for research conduct and compliance and a chancellor’s liaison to the committee, confirmed the value of the research committee’s input: “I think the provost looks to this committee as a key focus group representing faculty.”

Huber said he hoped that the research committee would be involved in reviewing the University’s planned response to a federal proposal to streamline Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes nationwide. Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking are due Dec. 7. (See Sept. 17 University Times.)

The work of the provost’s policy review committee is another area of interest to faculty. Headed by Mark Redfern, vice provost for research, the committee is reviewing intellectual property/patents, copyright and conflict of interest (COI) policies through a trio of subcommittees.

Spring said the University Senate is especially interested in reviewing any proposed changes to the University’s COI policies “while they’re still in malleable form.”

The subcommittee chairs will be invited to an upcoming research committee meeting to discuss their work.


The research committee’s next meeting is set for 1 p.m. Nov. 20 in 156 Cathedral of Learning.

— Kimberly K. Barlow   

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 5

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