UI council votes to retain faculty research track


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The University of Iowa Faculty Council passed the continuation of the research-track position Tuesday, despite concerns about details of the policy.

“We unanimously agreed it be retained,” said Associate Professor Erika Lawrence, the vice president of the Faculty Council.

The policy created opportunities for a non-tenure track faculty who dedicate most of their time to research.

The policy allows the schools to hire faculty solely for the purpose of research. Those faculty members are paid through “soft money,” or grants and federal aid.

The council implemented the policy in June 2008 for a five-year trial period. The trial period underwent its five-year review Tuesday, after which council members voted to retain the policy.

Three colleges have adopted the track: the Carver College of Medicine, the College of Public Health, and the College of Pharmacy.

“I have to apply for three or four grants, and I’m sick and tired of it, but you have to do that,” said council member Francois Abboud, a UI professor of internal medicine.

Some members said the policy could make the university attractive for highly qualified researchers.
The review committee found that 23 of 24 respondents in a web survey were in favor of implementing the program permanently. Half of these respondents also said they would like to see changes made to the current policy. Faculty Council members decided to move forward despite those concerns.

“This is a track that may be relevant and useful in some colleges but not in others, and the existence of the track allows for flexibility,” Lawrence said.

UI economics Professor John Solow said the research positions for the medical school differ greatly from research in the business school, and this should warrant more conversation from the Faculty Council.

“I am struck very much how this is a College of Medicine policy issue that is affecting the university as a whole,” he said. “That part of it I’d like to have a whole lot more conversation about.”

The council expressed additional concerns about the future of the policy. The policy currently holds potential for tenure-track positions for teaching and service, but not all council members were ready to make a decision before more discussion.

Despite disagreements on details of the policy, the council will continue to discuss the policy and its language in the fall.

“[There are] a lot of things we’ll need to iron out,” Abboud said.

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