University Research Council

June 6, 2003

Meeting Summary


POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS

Elizabeth Baranger, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies, discussed the ambiguous employment status of postdoctoral fellows at the University.  A standardized “postdoctoral fellow” employment category does not exist, so fellows are categorized haphazardly, with benefits varying by classification.  This problem is not unique to the University of Pittsburgh.  The American Association of Universities (AAU) addressed this issue in a recent report.

The Provost appointed a committee to address this issue.  The committee adopted the definitional guidelines included in the AAU report and subsequently recommended that the University adhere to a three-category classification.  Postdoctoral fellows will be classified as Postdoctoral Associates, Postdoctoral Scholars, or Research Associates.  A standardized benefit package will be associated with each classification.  The new guidelines will enter effect September 1, 2003.

REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF RESEARCH

Mike Crouch, Director of the Office of Research, discussed several issues:

  • The Department of Homeland Security appointed Dr. Charles McCreary as Director of its Science and Research Directorate.  The Department will develop a research program similar to DARPA at the Department of Defense. 
  • The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases is funding increased research on biodefense.  The Institute allocated $2.5 to $3.7 billion in the past fiscal year for biodefense research.
  • The academic community is adjusting to the provisions of the Patriot Act.  The Office of Research must review restrictions in grants that arise due to the Act.  Issues related to academic freedom and graduate student support often arise.
  • The Office of Research will hold the next lecture in its Continuing Education Series on June 24, from 11:30 to 3:00, in 211 Lawrence Hall.  The topic will be the lifecycle of cost and budget audits. 
  • The Office of Research will hold an instructional seminar for research administrators in the social sciences and the humanities.  Social science and humanities administrators often are unaware of pertinent regulations because these disciplines do not rely heavily on external funding.

SMALL GRANTS PROGRAM

The award process of the Central Research and Development Fund, i.e., the Small Grants Program, is complete.  The scientific merit of the proposed project and the potential for future, external funding were important criteria.  The Council distributed eight awards to the health sciences, nine awards to the sciences and engineering, and 14 awards to the humanities and the social sciences.

INSTITUTE ON HOMELAND SECURITY

Representatives from Pennsylvania’s research universities – the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and Pennsylvania State University – met on April 28 to discuss homeland security.  The four schools are cooperating on research on issues related to national preparedness.  These schools comprise the Keystone Homeland Security University Research Consortium, or the Keystone Alliance.

SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS

Copyright Policy

The revised draft policy is being reviewed.

Department of Energy

There were no new announcements.

Proposal Workshop

A grant-writing workshop that addressed issues related to multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary grants was held on April 30.  Representatives from the University’s faculty, the NSF, and the NIH spoke.  Approximately 65 people from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University attended.  The Council hopes to sponsor another workshop in the fall.

Research Expertise

There were no new announcements.

Social Science Funding

There were no new announcements.

MISCELLANEOUS

Several other issues were addressed:

  • Science 2003 will be held at Alumni Hall from September 24 through September 26.  The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering will sponsor spotlight sessions on organic chemistry and sustainability.  The School of Medicine will sponsor three additional spotlight sessions.
  • The Technology Commercialization Alliance will sponsor an eight week educational program that will address issues related to technology commercialization, business innovation, market research, etc.  The program will focus upon academic entrepreneurs and will begin October 6, 2003.
  • This year’s new faculty orientation will include both teaching and research components.  George Klinzing, Vice Provost for Research, will discuss research at the University.  He will focus on the relationship between tenure and research and on the regulation of human subject research.
  • The Council on Academic Computing and the Provost’s Office sponsored the High Performance Computing Initiative.  This Initiative encourages researchers at the University to use facilities at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.  The Council awarded one grant.
  • The Council on Academic Computing plans to sponsor a seminar at which officials from IBM will interact with members of the University’s faculty.  The theme of the meeting will be the future of the internet.  The Council hopes to hold the event in the fall.