Research institutions discuss departmental cooperation

A group representing 10 of the countryâÄôs major research universities met at the University of Minnesota this weekend to discuss the economyâÄôs affect on interdisciplinary research. It marked the first time that the members of the Consortium on Fostering Interdisciplinary Inquiry, founded by University Graduate School Dean Gail Dubrow, came together. The consortium members conducted surveys within their own departments over the past year to identify barriers they faced to expanding and encouraging cooperation between college departments. The University faculty tenure code was revised last June to make âÄúwillingness to cooperateâÄù with other departments an ideal attribute for faculty on the tenure track. University President Bob Bruininks spoke on Saturday morning and said money was a big issue for all consortium members. He said higher education was in a âÄúperiod of new realities,âÄù and that institutions were going to have to fight to get more research funding for interdisciplinary work. Findings in the areas of administration, technology, diversity, finance and capital planning were presented, followed by an open discussion among the attendees. During the capital planning session, University Associate Vice President for Planning Robert Kvavik said survey results showed there was big competition for limited resources, resulting from an increase in demand across the country for new interdisciplinary buildings. Kvavik said the Science Teaching and Student Services building, the future replacement for the Science Classroom Building, was a big step for the University in creating buildings that serve the interests of multiple departments. Kvavik also referenced a recently opened building at the University of Wisconsin for interdisciplinary work that he said was a model example. The University has been trying new ways lately to expand interdisciplinary research through infrastructure. Dubrow recently created the Office of Interdisciplinary Initiatives within the Graduate School, while Vice President for Research Timothy Mulcahy now has an office for collaborative research. In her opening remarks on Saturday, Dubrow said she hoped the questions generated at the conference would begin to make interdisciplinary policies and practices more âÄúnormalizedâÄù among consortium members. The findings from the studies were only initially discussed at the conference, and will be officially released by the University at a later date. Other universities at the conference included University of California-Berkeley, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.