Quest for research position makes headway

Jessica Voorhees

WKU faculty are one step closer to finding new research and administrative structures.

The Faculty Research Committee’s summary report to the Faculty Senate laid out the steps to rebuild research on campus, including a plan to develop the financial basis for research plans. 

Kevin Williams, chair of the faculty committee, said the Senate and Provost Gordon Emslie commissioned the report, which consisted of proposed initiatives to improve the program. 

“I was pleased to see agreement between different colleges on things that worked well and things that did not work so well,” he said. “There was a good consensus among faculty across colleges.”

Williams said most initiatives involved internal funding in order to provide more flexibility to support research broadly across colleges. 

According to the Summary Report, the committee recommended having smaller amounts of funding awarded at the university level, and for faculty research to be made competitively available monthly in a program similar to Faculty Scholarship Awards, which are small, turn-around grants. 

Kristina Arnold, liaison to the Research Council Working Group, said these provide money more quickly for faculty members with unique projects. 

Arnold said the faculty responded positively to the Research and Creative Activities Program (RCAP) as well. 

She said the committee created two initiatives in response to faculty’s approval of RCAP. They were to create two funding cycles for RCAP and increase the current funding for faculty. 

She said the committee recommended a “hybrid system” for funding that involves RCAP and the Faculty Scholarship Awards. 

The Faculty Research Committee additionally recommended the development and promotion of research at the grassroots level, increasing financial support from all the colleges and departments, and optimizing the infrastructure of the program.

The research department underwent restructuring after the university eliminated the vice president of research position held by Gordon Baylis in January. 

Emslie commissioned the WKU Research Council Working Group, comprised of the assistant and associate deans of Research for each college, after the removal of the vice president position to create a report on the restructuring.

In response, the Senate Executive Committee formed an ad-hoc Faculty Research Committee to provide faculty members a voice in the future of research at WKU. 

Arnold said she would like faculty to continue to have a voice in research at WKU, and she recommended a reinstatement of the Faculty Scholarship Council to act as the liaison. 

She said faculty hopes the university will increase funding for research overall, because it will lay the foundation for stronger gains in research. 

“The main thing is faculty need funding for research, but it’s not the dollars we’re worried about,” she said. “If you want us to be able to increase research, the university needs to fund more to get more external grants. You have to invest money to see a return.”

Williams said more funding will help students as well as faculty.

“We want to be able to give our students opportunities, and to make sure WKU is known for research,” he said. 

Williams said the University Senate will discuss the ideas included in the report this week and next week before they make a decision about where to go moving forward.