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Research Time—Principles and Expectations

The Biology Department has a well-established tradition of close integration of its instructional with its basic research activities. The quality and character of the former is supported in all respects by the latter. As a consequence, the department has attempted both through hiring and support of its faculty to foster the maintenance of ambitious and sustained research programs. It is our experience that a research program can produce substantive results only when it is a continuing effort without significant intervals of inactivity. A key element toward the objective of sustained research involvement has been the expectation that faculty members formally commit to spending 25% of their working time on research-related activities during the academic year. Although it is recognized that independent project and thesis student supervision will compose a significant proportion of this time, its designation as "research time" requires that 25% salary support will come from sources other than the instructional budget. Thus, it is assumed that any project grant application by a faculty member will contain a budget item for 25% support of the academic-year salary, when permitted by the target agency. Summer salary can be requested as well, but should not be taken in lieu of academic-year support.

The primary goal of the research-time program is to ensure through facilitation of faculty research the continued infusion of leading-edge information and state-of-the-art methodology into the curriculum. Additional advantages to our program from our adherence to this goal have accrued in the forms of new technology and equipment, as well as favorable national recognition for the College.

The Department is committed to sustaining this research time through pursuing support from federal and private foundations. Regular faculty members who are not receiving such support from extramural sources may apply to the Department's Research Fund, which will, to the extent possible, support their research-time needs (up to 25% of the academic-year salary). These funds will come from the income of a special endowment, dedicated to the Biology Department, that will draw neither from the College's operating budget nor from general faculty development funds. Application from those seeking support will be reviewed each year by the Department Chair in consultation with the President and the Dean of the Faculty. The principal criteria for research-time support will be evidence of an active and continuing research program by the faculty member, and of appropriate efforts toward acquisition of extramural support, especially from agencies that are known to provide salary support. Research-time funding is not available for sabbaticals or other periods of leave from regular departmental duties. On any occasion when funds are inadequate to meet the application demand, priority will be given to those faculty members most recently hired and to those for whom the funding is likely to have the greatest immediate programmatic impact."

A 1976 self study states: "The growth of the Biology Department has been guided by three principles. The first of these has been to provide as broad a coverage of the discipline as staffing limits will allow. The second emphasis has been on the development of a curriculum that challenges, enriches, and sharpens the perception of our students. And, the third principle has been to attract and support a faculty committed to the mutually reinforcing goals of excellence in teaching and creativity and productivity in research."

This third principle has governed the appointment of new faculty members for many years. The wording of the advertisements placed to invite applications is quite clear in this regard. A recent ad states "Released time from teaching to obtain research funding is available. We seek an individual committed to teaching and research in the undergraduate environment. Reed College is a selective, liberal arts institution with a strong, traditional commitment to scholarship."

This commitment to high quality research on the part of the faculty has been a part of the ethos of the department for so many years that it is seen by outsiders as a distinguishing feature of the program in Biology. There have been times, for example, when there has been preferential acceptance of Reed graduates by medical schools and graduate schools (see below) based primarily on the reputation of the college and its graduates and the recommendations of the faculty with less emphasis on simple numerical measures like grade point average. Another benefit of this reputation was evident in a 1981 ranking of small college departments in which Reed Biology was ranked #1 as a result of a poll of university Biology Department chairs.

This perception has, no doubt, been a factor in the success of the department in obtaining extramural funding for faculty and student research. Whenever undergraduate research programs have been announced by, for example, the National Science Foundation, support has been obtained. The department has had Undergraduate Research Participation grants (URPP, NSF); individuals and groups of students have had support from Student Originated Studies programs (SOS, NSF), and more recently three grants totaling 2.7 million dollars from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have included significant amounts of money for the support of student research.

There have also been three "outreach" programs in the history of the college. The first was funded by The National Institutes of Health (in the early 1980s) and was directed at bringing selected minority students into a research laboratory at the college with the expectation that the experience would encourage such students who might not have seen college as a possibility to consider college application. The second was funded by the Murdock Trust in the early 1990s and was directed toward high school science teachers. Teachers are selected, paid a stipend, and work in the research program of a Reed biology faculty member. It was expected that this experience would generate an interest and enthusiasm in the scientific process that would translate into improved quality of teaching science at the High School level. The first HHMI grant was also directed at local High Schools and brought both teachers and students onto the campus for two weeks during the summer. The current program funded through the second Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant aims to bring the science of biology into the elementary and middle-school classroom. The program utilizes Reed College science students as mentors and introduces exercises and experiments illustrating the scientific method through hands-on activities.

There have also been programs aimed at providing modern equipment for biology laboratories and the department has been successful in obtaining such grants. The most recent of these provides nearly a half million dollars for the purchase of equipment for the General Biology laboratories (this grant was shared with the Chemistry Department.) and a Science Initiative Matching grant from the Kresge Foundation which has provided over one million dollars for a few large pieces of equipment, as well as equipment maintenance and replacement for all of the Science Departments.

Individual faculty research grants from NIH and NSF have almost always included funds to support student participants in ongoing research by providing summer and academic year research assistantships. In addition, several faculty research grants have included funds for post-doctoral fellows which have enriched the research environment to the benefit of students and faculty. In the 1960's, the Department was awarded two five-year Sloan Foundation grants that allowed us to join undergraduate education in Biology and postdoctoral training, a unique effort at the time. The purpose was to show postdoctoral fellows that one can maintain a satisfactory level of research output, albiet somewhat constrained, in a small college. It was hoped that this program would encourage more young scientists with research interests to choose to work in small colleges. The funds were adequate to fund three postdoctoral fellows each year. They sometimes taught new courses, but more frequently, they participated in teaching standard Departmental courses and in performing research with their Faculty member sponsor. After the first five years had elapsed, the Sloan Foundation asked the Department to resubmit for the same program for another five years of support.

Funds from private sources have provided modest support for two or three students each summer to engage in field work either at a local nature reserve or virtually any place in the world. A recent partial compilation of grants from several sources, governmental and private, gives a total direct cost figure of $1,729,016 for the years 1975-1992. When the total for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grants are added from 1991-present, the total figure more than doubles.

The current Reed faculty, along with the most recently retired members, have generated over 400 refereed papers. In addition, one member of the current faculty has written a very successful genetics textbook that has been through several editions and has been translated into several languages. Several members have contributed chapters to monographs, edited monographs, and have been involved in editing specialty journals. Almost all have at one time or another been asked to critique manuscripts submitted for publication. Several faculty members have served on peer review panels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Oregon Affiliate of the American Heart Association, and the Oregon Medical Research Foundation. This involvement in the scientific community at large has some enriching consequences. The contact with scientists outside the college helps to impose a more objective standard than might be the case with only "in house" evaluations; discussions with other professionals aids in the generation of ideas and can serve as a sounding board for one's current ideas; it can also contribute to the learning of new techniques and procedures as a research program is being developed.

The Faculty
The Curriculum
The Research Paradigm
Research Time—Principles and Expectations (1997)
Student Research: The Senior Thesis
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