The University and Its Environment--February 20, 1995


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifies the 3600 degree-granting, accredited institutions of higher education in the United States into eleven categories, the highest of which is Research University I. The University of Iowa is one of 88 American universities so designated. The Carnegie Foundation definition of Research University I includes those institutions that "offer a full range of baccalaureate programs, are committed to graduate education through the doctorate, and give high priority to research. They award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year. In addition, they receive annually $40-million or more in federal support." Along with Research Universities II and Doctoral Universities I and II, universities of this size and scope are usually considered "national universities," with missions and responsibilities to the country and many specialized disciplines and professions.
The University of Iowa is also a member of a select subset of premier research universities, the American Association of Universities, consisting of fifty-six American and two Canadian universities, about half public institutions and half private. The AAU emphasizes leading graduate and professional programs as well as national leadership in research programs.
Although most attention is focused on the disciplines that draw financial support through grants and contracts from the federal government, industry, and private foundations, national universities also foster research, scholarship, and creative endeavors across the array of sciences, humanities, arts, and professions. Leading universities are a reservoir of talented individuals working on the leading edge of new thought and expression, integrating their creative efforts with the education of new scholars, artists, scientists, engineers, and professional practitioners as well as making the results of their work available to all citizens. Undergraduate education in the context of a research university offers opportunities not available at other institutions of higher education, but support of faculty research and scholarship is critical to that special setting.
This section describes the factors that affect the research and scholarship mission of The University of Iowa and how that scholarship affects the teaching mission of the University. It examines funding available to support research and scholarship, with a particular emphasis on sources external to the University, the facilities available on campus, and the need for continuous faculty and staff development.

Contribution to Instruction

A research university provides a distinctive undergraduate educational experience--one that differs substantially from that obtained at a smaller college or a university that focuses largely on its instructional mission. Because The University of Iowa is a major research institution, it offers a distinctive type of education that cannot be found at other Iowa colleges and universities. The breadth of cultural experiences and the scope of intellectual activities are certainly unrivaled in the state. In its public communications, the UI should place increased emphasis on the special opportunities and experiences it offers its students.
Undergraduate courses are taught by research scholars and professionals who are at the top levels in their fields and whose work is often on the cutting edge of research and new developments. Faculty recruitment procedures are designed to ensure that University of Iowa professors are enthusiastic, active, productive teachers whose commitment to scholarship informs and enriches the undergraduate curriculum from introductory General Education Requirements to advanced courses in discipline majors. Active research and scholarship leads to the enhancement of knowledge and the renewal of ideas and attitudes; this principle--the continuous quest for knowledge and learning--forms the basis for teaching at the University. Students can quickly become involved in contemporary issues, leading-edge research, fundamental scholarship, creative art and performance, and community service.
The special characteristic of research universities like The University of Iowa is the chance to work individually with the scholars, scientists, artists, engineers, performers, and leaders who are building our present and future world. In their teaching roles, professors can bring the insight of active participants in scientific discoveries, artistic creativity, definitive scholarship, and social change. Student-faculty collaboration is probably most evident in graduate, professional, and pre-professional programs, but undergraduate programs like the Honors Program and Undergraduate Scholar Assistantship program also provide intense educational experiences for selected students. Almost all students can find opportunities for individual instruction, practicum experience, or cooperative education in their majors or other areas of special interest. Whether working in a studio, library, laboratory, social service agency, or backstage at a performance, students can participate in the activities that define the daily life of an active artist, scholar, scientist, care provider, or performer.
The presence of an energetic and vital program of faculty research and scholarship contributes to comprehensive strength in undergraduate instruction. University researchers in many disciplines apply for and receive awards from national sources to facilitate student development. Recent examples include the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (awarded to principal investigators in nine departments), the National Endowment for the Humanities' Younger Scholars Program, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education grant, and the Department of Education's Minority Opportunity Research Experience Program. Internally, the University Central Research Support Facilities program enhances undergraduate learning experiences and nearly every department employs undergraduate research assistants. The variety of possible educational experiences is vast, but more can be done to encourage present and prospective students to participate in the range of opportunities available here.
With respect to graduate and professional education, the support is even larger and more direct. During the Fall Semester, 1992, 941 graduate students, 32 percent of the total number of funded graduate assistants, were supported by external awards (research grants, contracts, fellowships, or traineeships). In other words, the scholarly efforts of the faculty produce almost one-third of the financial support for the education of advanced students at the University.

Contribution to Economic Development

The first and most important contribution of The University of Iowa to the economic development of the state, region, and country is the production of a well-educated citizenry with excellent skills in a variety of technical, scientific, artistic, humanistic, and social domains. Because education is its primary mission, the University must focus first on the academic benefits of the use of its limited resources, with the assurance that economic benefits will be produced by its graduates.
Nevertheless, the research and scholarship of faculty, staff, and students of the University also have positive economic consequences for the State of Iowa. Many of those contributions were described in earlier sections and will not be repeated here. However, it is worth noting that the development of the Oakdale Research Park, where commercial firms are attracted by the University's research strengths, is beginning to pay dividends for economic growth in the region. A number of leading edge technological and educational enterprises have flourished and grown.
It should also be noted that the success of these economic enterprises aids both the University and the state by providing employment opportunities for current and graduating students and for spouses of UI faculty and staff. They also add to the diversity of the community and state by drawing personnel from all over the country. Collaboration between employees of innovative companies and university scholars will benefit both educational and commercial activities.

Library Resources

Critical to any major university is the availability of research-level library resources and a highly qualified library staff to provide the intellectual organization and access to the remarkably broad range of materials required for contemporary scholarship and teaching. Unfortunately, over the past two decades The University of Iowa Libraries have declined somewhat in national rankings in holdings (monographs and serial titles) and dramatically so in staff. (The Law Library is administered separately under the College of Law and continues to rank among the top ten public university law libraries.) Funding problems for university libraries, nationally and at Iowa, are exacerbated by many years of double-digit increases in prices of library materials, particularly for journals in the sciences, medicine, and technology.
The University Libraries play a crucial role in collecting, organizing, preserving, and disseminating the accrued knowledge produced by scholars in the vast array of academic disciplines and, therefore, are integrally linked to the academic enterprise of teaching, scholarship, and learning. Academic libraries are undergoing a period of transition, driven by technological and economic forces, that will continue well into the next century. The central challenge to libraries is to operate in two quite different environments in parallel; they must continue to provide the rapidly growing print collections while allocating resources to meet the need for access to electronic information. In this resource-dependent context, there is a direct correspondence between the level of funding and the quality of library collections and service.
An increasing amount of information is available in electronic format and information technology will evolve to permit multiple formats for delivery of information resources. In the evolution toward an electronic library (or the "virtual information environment"), consortial arrangements among peer institutional libraries will become increasingly important. It is possible that in this future environment of greater resource sharing, costs may come under better control. Until that time, however, keeping up with technological advances while maintaining collections in traditional formats will continue to challenge the financial resources of the University.
The University Libraries are involved in state and regional efforts such as building CIC consortia arrangements for developing collections and greater sharing of materials. As librarians, scholars, technology specialists, and publishers work toward potential solutions within the emerging electronic information environment, university libraries will continue to grapple with a ferocious price squeeze along with increasing demands for diverse information resources and services, impacting virtually every scholarly and instructional domain. In the next five years, the University must intensify its efforts to protect this vital resource.

Faculty and Staff Development

Every profession has recognized the value of continuing education and professional development. Professionals in higher education are expected to keep current with emerging trends and new knowledge relevant to their areas of expertise. Indeed, professors and senior staff members are often charged with leading classes and workshops for continuing education credit for practitioners in their fields. It is ironic, therefore, that the University provides scant programmatic support for the efforts of its faculty and staff to improve their own professional skills. The absence of a strong, effective, and well-funded program of professional development is one of the most serious deficiencies in the University's support for -- and implementation of -- its educational mission.
The University maintains and promotes a limited number of internal training programs: courses are offered through the Weeg Computing Center for computer skills, through the Center for Conferences and Institutes for administrative and grant-writing skills, and through the Staff Development Office and other offices for information on current issues and concerns like affirmative action, sexual harassment, awareness of disabilities, and interpersonal relationships. But continuing education efforts seem quite scattered and poorly focused. Systematic efforts to identify specific needs for particular groups of faculty and staff could increase morale, productivity, and competitiveness for attracting external support. Encouragement to acquire and enhance new skills should be a part of the University environment.
Supervisory development and training is particularly underfunded and understaffed, and this deficiency affects both faculty and staff. Many skilled professionals are promoted to supervisory positions because of their professional expertise, not because of their supervisory or administrative skills. Whether directing a laboratory or chairing a department, new and current supervisors lack training in University policies, human relations and management skills, and performance evaluation techniques. The University now has a mandatory performance appraisal system in place, but more training and monitoring of this important program is necessary.
With respect to teaching and learning skills, the proposed Center for Teaching could be a source for developing and refining teaching skills both for beginning Teaching Assistants and for master teachers planning collaborative projects. Improvements in technological support for classroom instruction must be implemented with training in software packages and financial support for new materials. Time must be provided for developing courses that take advantage of new technologies. One of the surest ways to enhance the quality of the learning environment is to provide opportunities for continuing education in teaching skills and techniques.
Not all needs for professional and scholarly development, however, can be met with enhanced on-campus programs. Cutting edge scholarship requires consultation and interaction with other scholars and researchers. While modern communication technology, such as e-mail and fax, has improved the speed and scope of discussions among the "invisible college" of scholars with common interests, there is no substitute for professional meetings and face-to-face exchanges with professional colleagues from other institutions. One of the most frequent complaints about the scholarly enterprise at Iowa and the difficulty of professional development is the low level of travel support for faculty and staff. Adequate travel funds and greater efforts to support professional development will be widely supported by faculty and staff.
Especially critical to faculty development is maintenance of the Developmental Assignment Program. Recent tightening of guidelines and eligibility requirements have been viewed with apprehension by faculty as a possible portent of discontinuation of the program. Although few would contest the need for strict accountability and all would support merit as the basis for awarding Developmental Assignments, continuation of the Program is viewed as the cornerstone of the University's commitment to faculty development. In order to compete for the best faculty, maintain the vitality of current professors, and promote the highest quality education, the opportunity to grow in one's discipline, profession, or creative endeavor must be maintained and encouraged.

Federal Trends

This section reviews the success of University faculty at acquiring federal funds for their scholarship and identifies federal trends which necessitate careful monitoring in the future.

Funding for research

Total federal funding for research at The University of Iowa has increased by 93 percent during the past ten years (1984-94). Over a longer period, beginning with 1974, funding from federal grants and contracts has grown by 260 percent. Five-year growth rates show that the greatest growth occurred during the 1980's:


Year . . . . . . . . . .Amount . . . . . . . . . .Over 5 Years
1974 . . . . . . . . . $34,874,047 . . . . . . . . . .-
1979 . . . . . . . . . .44,310,737 . . . . . . . . . .27.1%
1984 . . . . . . . . . .65,214,237 . . . . . . . . . .47.2%
1989 . . . . . . . . .107,814,435 . . . . . . . . . .65.3%
1994 . . . . . . . . .125,885,323 . . . . . . . . . .16.8%
This growth has occurred despite increasingly intense competition for funds at the national level in recent years and shifting priorities among areas attracting federal support.
Continued growth of federally supported University-based research will depend upon the recruitment, retention and support of the most highly qualified faculty and staff in an increasingly competitive national academic environment. Success in attracting support from particular federal programs will be associated with the critical mass of faculty and staff in selected areas receiving priority federal funding. Although universities cannot predict research priorities in the distant future, these priorities often coincide with the development of new knowledge in fields that coincide with recognized national needs. Institutional strengths in the biomedical sciences and selected areas of engineering will position the University well to take advantage of expected funding trends over the next five years.
Overall, federal funding for research in the United States will continue to be relatively flat with increases only at the rate of inflation over the next decade. Moreover, funding for the National Institutes of Health, the major source of federal research support for universities nationwide, including The University of Iowa, will come under increasing pressure. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an agency funding successful programs at UI, has already been cut back. On the positive side, the National Science Foundation, also a significant source of federal support for University programs, is projected to increase over the next several years.
The research environment nationwide has changed following the economic growth of the 1980's and the end of the Cold War. Industry research and development budgets have been cut as businesses have downsized and restructured. National laboratories and federally funded research and development centers, under close agency and Congressional scrutiny, have searched for ways to redefine their missions, reallocate their resources, and revitalize their infrastructure to address newly defined national needs. Major research universities, while attempting to maintain broadly based strengths in the basic and biomedical sciences and engineering, have at the same time developed and highlighted university-industry collaboration in the context of national economic competitiveness.

Research funding issues

Against this background, Congress and federal agencies will continue to debate several issues that constrain federal support for university-based research:
1. The proper balance between "big science" such as the space station or large multidisciplinary centers as against "small science" such as individual investigator-initiated research projects. The trend in Congress is to set limits on large projects and to ask for industry or international participation to achieve some of the results.
2. The proper balance between federal support for scientific infrastructure, including facilities, equipment, and training new personnel, and the development of new research programs within this infrastructure. Although Congress has taken some steps to begin to renew the scientific infrastructure, the trend is still to limit these expenditures in favor of support for the development of new programs.
3. Direct appropriations for university-based research versus competitive peer-reviewed research. The trend toward direct appropriations, particularly to support scientific infrastructure in the absence of federal programs, has declined markedly over the past two years. The Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges have opposed direct appropriations, particularly from the five agencies or departments that are the major supporters of university-based activities: NIH, NSF, NASA, DOD, and the Department of Education.
4. Research targeted at specifically defined goals established by the federal government versus research designed to increase the nation's general capacity to produce new knowledge. This issue has sometimes been misunderstood as a competition between "basic" and "applied" research or between vaguely defined terms such as "strategic" versus "nonstrategic" research. Current policy discussions continue to emphasize targeted priorities including AIDS and industry-related research while the actual budgets still reflect a mix of goals and objectives.
5. Research integrity and conflict of interest. Celebrated cases of scientific fraud and abuse brought attention to the way research is conducted on university campuses and produced new regulations, offices of research integrity, and increased awareness of accountability in virtually every federal agency. Universities must now conduct research according to explicitly stated guidelines consistent with those of the federal government. Accountability for research integrity will be a very visible public issue in the coming years.
6. Federal agencies and the Congress have increased scrutiny of the overall costs of university-based research projects. Both branches of the government have questioned the basis for indirect cost rates with an eye to reducing or otherwise regulating them. The federal Office of Management and Budget has revised circulars used to account for university-based research. The NIH has instituted a system whereby peer reviewers use the cost of individual projects as one criterion to prioritize competing projects. There will be an increased emphasis on limiting or reducing costs over the next several years.
One implication of these issues is the University will face markedly increased competition for federal funds in the coming years. The University's strengths in NIH- and NSF-related research interests remain intact, but efforts must be focused on building upon our demonstrated capacities in promising new areas related to agency priorities. In a more highly competitive environment, the University must also strive to provide the resources that will permit investigators to compete successfully with other universities and grant applicants.

Federal Rules and Regulation

Reliance on external sources for research funding requires universities to comply with the accountability demands of the funding organizations. As was true in the past five years, the time and expense that institutions devote to federal reporting and other requirements will continue to increase over the next five years. Expenses associated with meeting these requirements are not inconsiderable and must be factored into the administrative costs of the University. Other federal and state agencies also have regulatory requirements which must be met. Inspections and inquiries for safety, animal protection, waste management, and a host of other environmental concerns impact the University at least as much as any other public or private institution or business. Steep cost increases associated with complying with such rules and regulations divert funds from other University uses.
The demands on the time and energy of faculty and staff to meet these regulatory requirements are extensive. The University maintains four Human Subject Review committees that insure the protection of volunteers in research projects; in additional several other committees fill a similar role at the departmental level. Another university committee is charged with the responsibility to review and protect animal subjects. Recent concern about ethical behavior in the conduct and reporting of research has imposed new requirements on the University; additional faculty and staff time will be needed to meet these obligations.


Several general conclusions are suggested by this section: (1) research and scholarship conducted at The University of Iowa enhances the quality of instructional programs and expands opportunities for students, (2) the economic consequences of research and scholarship benefit both the University and the state, (3) at least for the immediate future, library resources will be under great financial pressure, (4) there is a need for enhanced support for professional development for both faculty and staff, (5) the University and its faculty are well-positioned to compete for federal research funding, and (6) federal reporting and other requirements will increase the administrative load on the University.