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C-11 Research Policy Committee

At its first meeting, on September 9, the Research Policy Committee (RPC) discussed topics to be considered during the year:

Novel sources of funding for UT research (including partnering with outside organizations).
Conflicts of interest (e.g., funding bodies select outside reviewers to evaluate them, and sometimes these researchers then apply for grants from the same funding body).
Return of grant overhead (improve faculty awareness of the means available to enhance overhead return).
Complications with human subjects research (e.g., lack of medical backup for invasive procedures that are part of a research protocol).
Sabbatical policy improvements (how to make available to more faculty, simplify the application procedures and find matching funds)

At its meeting on October 7, the committee chose four issues of sufficient interest to be brought to the attention of Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez:

Overhead policy and return of overhead.
How to justify and implement a sabbatical leave policy in a troubled economy.
Current status of graduate student treatment.
Copyright policy and procedures.

On December 5, Dr. Sanchez met with the committee to address those and other issues. The committee brought Dr. Sanchez up to date on committee areas of interest and asked for his comments.

Dr. Sanchez provided an initial overview and discussed the upcoming UT budget and noted that UT has been quite successful in attracting extramural funds. He mentioned that UT has been successful in attracting National Science Foundation (NSF) funds but less so with National Institute of Health (NIH) funds.

John Ivy opened the discussion by mentioning the difficulty in conducting invasive studies with human subjects on campus.

Dr. Sanchez responded. First, he described the Research Coalition consisting of UT Austin, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), and the Central Texas Veterans Administration (VA).

Ben Kuipers mentioned that UT needed a human studies institute.

Dr. Sanchez indicated that for noninvasive work we already have an extensive Health Research Network and acknowledged that we are limited by a lack of a medical school in Austin. Dr. Sanchez then indicated that an Austin organization has been formed to deal with the lack of a medical school. The approach has been to establish a 501(c)(3) with partners consisting of UT Austin, UTMB, Seton Hospitals, St. David’s, and others. The eventual goal will be to create a medical school in Austin.

Mary Wheeler asked about the University's priorities for the immediate future.

Dr. Sanchez responded by stating that 1) information science, 2) nanotechnology, 3) biomedical engineering, and 4) biological sciences are the current priorities. He stated that a fifth priority of energy and the environment is being developed.

There was a brief summary of the issues surrounding indirect cost returns. Here, Dr. Sanchez explained the limits imposed by the legislature and agreed that, ideally, improved knowledge of returns each year would be helpful.

Finally, the issue of a sabbatical policy was brought up. Dr. Sanchez reviewed the current policy and Ben Kuipers presented data suggesting that a true sabbatical policy could be revenue neutral for UT. Ben indicated that currently, UT has 1390 tenured faculty with 40 supported through the Faculty Research Assignments (FRA) ($750K total funding) and 84 via the Deans' Fellowship (DF) program.

Dr. Sanchez mentioned the necessity of insuring that quality teaching was maintained and Rich Wilcox indicated that one way this could be achieved was through partnerships with sister universities and area colleges.

John Ivy reported that the Texas legislature has approved a sabbatical policy for UT but will not support it financially.

Dr. Sanchez indicated that the RPC needs to meet with John Dollard, associate dean of graduate studies, to get additional information.

On January 16, Dr. Dollard and his associate, Debbie Hirsch, attended the committee’s meeting. Ben Kuipers outlined a model commitment to include ongoing research, supervision of graduate students, and teaching four courses (two undergraduate and two graduate). (See the committee’s recommendation, discussed later in this report.)

Dr. Dollard noted that most current use of sabbaticals is by Liberal Arts faculty (who have few other resources) and is for one semester. He also observed that some of UT's best faculty use this option every five years.

It was noted that at most universities, sabbatical money comes from the instructional budget that is part of the departmental budgets. In contrast, at UT the FRA comes from "excellence funds" derived from the interest on the permanent university fund (PUF). UT provides 50% and the department 50%.

Dr. Dollard provided a handout (hard copy) that showed changes in FRA and Summer Research Assignments (SRA) funding over the last several years. He also mentioned that additional monies were placed into each category in fall 2002 (one time only).

Dr. Dollard noted that the Texas legislature monitors what percent of UT undergraduate courses are taught by tenure track faculty. This monitoring provides some limits on the allowed types of replacement faculty for persons on sabbatical. He noted that there is little connection currently between the DF and the FRA. He also mentioned that the goal has been to have approximately 10% of our faculty on DF each semester. It was suggested that the new sabbatical program be packaged as an extension of the current FRA program.

One issue discussed was that the UT central administration (and the legislature) wishes sabbaticals to be merit-based whereas most faculty wish that it be considered an entitlement.

On February 20 and March 27, the committee discussed a proposal for sabbaticals. The result was sent to Dr. Sanchez on May 8, and a copy is included as Appendix 2 in this report.

[This report was condensed and edited by the Secretary of the General Faculty from the minutes of the committee's meetings for the year.]

Mary Wheeler, chair

This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, on August 20, 2003. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.