In today’s Academic Minute, Paul Hearty, associate professor of environmental studies at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, looks back in time in order to make conclusions about the future of our environment. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Faculty members in the sciences spend too long on burdensome administrative work, at the expense of their other, more meaningful duties, argues a report out today from the National Science Board. The report, called "Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research," is based on the work of the board's Task Force on Administrative Burdens, which asked professors to identify through roundtable discussions and requests for information which federal and internal university procedures and requirements were the biggest drains on their time. Financial management, the grant proposal process, progress reports, institutional review boards, and layers of oversight related to working with animals all were common responses.
The paper acknowledges that some oversight is necessary, but says that regulations -- once set -- are not easily changed or lifted, and that "[principal investigators] at many institutions suggested that a culture of overregulation has emerged around federal research, which further increases their administrative workload." The paper argues that such problems have been cited for years -- including two Federal Demonstration Partnership surveys that found principal investigators spend 42 percent of their time on administrative tasks -- but that failure to address them has resulted in "wasted" federal research dollars. “Escalating compliance requirements and inconsistent audit practices directly impact scientists and the time they have to perform research and train students and staff,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, board vice chairman and a member of the Task Force.
The report offers numerous suggestions for decreasing the administrative burdens of research, such as not requiring as much information in initial proposal merit reviews, and instead requiring more details only once the project is being considered for funding. Progress reports also could be "streamlined" to focus only on performance outcomes, it says. Federal agencies also should work together to streamline grant management processes and paperwork, for example. The task force also recommends that universities review their IRB processes and staff organization "with the goal of achieving rapid approval of high-quality protocols that protect research subjects."
Adjunct professors at Howard University and the Maryland Institute College of Art are the latest Washington-area non-tenure-track instructors to vote to form unions affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, they announced Wednesday. Those adjuncts join others at George Washington University, American University, Georgetown University and Montgomery College who have formed chapters affiliated with SEIU Local 500. Adjuncts in eight other cities are organizing with SEIU, and unions already have been voted in at Tufts and Lesley Universities in Boston.
At Maryland Institute, adjuncts voted 163 to 75 in favor of a union. In a statement, adjunct instructor Katherine Kavanaugh said: "We were always clear that this process was not about a quick fix for salaries. There are many issues that are critical for educating some of the best art students in the country and we are hopeful that, as a union, we can begin to make those changes with the support of the administration." A spokeswoman for the college said it looked forward to working with the union and was "confident that our adjuncts will continue to join us in making their highest priority the academic and campus experiences of our students.” At Howard, a smaller unit, adjuncts voted 46 to 5 in favor. A spokeswoman for that university said it has an "enduring commitment to excellence in teaching, research and clinical service delivery," and a "long tradition of fairness, and will continue to negotiate in good faith with all represented employees to meet our mission." Both votes still must be verified by the National Labor Relations Board.
In today’s Academic Minute, Lee Newman, associate professor at the State University of New York's College of Environment Science and Forestry, discusses phytoremediation as a potential clean-up method. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Cedarville University has fired J.D. Winteregg, an adjunct professor of French, over an online video used in his Republican primary challenge to John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Winteregg, who has Tea Party backing, has an ad that is a parody of a Cialis commercial about treating erectile dysfunction. In the Winteregg ad, Boehner's name is mocked and he is said to have "electicle dysfunction." In a statement confirming that Winteregg was no longer teaching, Cedarville said that the university "does not engage in partisan politics and holds a high regard for displaying Christian values in the community."