††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† September 22, 2006

 

 

SENATE RESEARCH OFFICERS COMMITTEE:

 

2005-2006 ACADEMIC YEAR FINAL REPORT

 

Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research: Our biggest accomplishment this past year was our role in shaping the new Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research. The committee recommended a number of changes to the proposed draft policy, which we discussed at length with other concerned senators. Detailed discussions were also held with Vice President for Research Operations Debbie Stiles and Senior Associate Dean Bob Lewy from the Medical Center on 27 October 2005. Many of our recommendations were incorporated by the administration into the draft policy, but two were not. These were the definition of a witness in cases of research misconduct and salary safeguards for any witnesses involved. To fill these gaps, we co-sponsored amendments with the student caucus, which were resoundingly passed by the University Senate on 3 February 2006 as part of the new policy (http://www.columbia.edu/research/index.html).

 

Postdoc issues: Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Scholars, and Fellows comprise 564 of the 1599 full-time Research Officers at Columbia (about 35% of our constituency). These Research Officers are a highly transient population at Columbia and until recently there was no formal mechanism for monitoring their working conditions. Last year an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs was established, and we spoke to the director, Beth Israel, on 25 May 2006. We had been preparing a survey of the postdoc community, but deferred when we learned the new office was doing the same thing.We look forward to learning in detail about the findings of the survey in a meeting with Ms. Israel this fall.

 

Staff Associate survey: We have recently completed a questionnaire survey of Staff and Senior Staff Associates, with a response rate a little below 20 percent. Our latest numbers indicate that full-time Research Officers in these two ranks constitute 393 (about 25 percent) of our 1599-member constituency. We expect during the coming year to initiate discussions with appropriate administrators about issues raised in the survey.

Salary increase guidelines: The previous University policy was that the average salary increase for research officers should not exceed the average increase for faculty in the same department or school. We believe that coupling raises of faculty and researchers together is inappropriate. Faculty salaries typically come from central funds, which are constrained. Salaries for research officers come from external grants which have cost-of- living increases written into the budgets. Over the last several years, faculty in some departments and schools have not received raises, so researchers in these same departments have also not received raises. This policy is wrong because funds allocated in grant budgets for researchersí raises are not being used for that purpose. The policy also does not save the University money, and even reduces the amount of fringe monies collected. During the past year the committee has pressed this point with Senior Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg. Recently a new set of salary guidelines, decoupling the raises of researchers from faculty raises, has been instituted for Columbia campuses outside of the Medical Center. During the coming academic year we will be in contact with the appropriate administrators at the Medical Center about instituting a similar policy change there.

 

Gender equity salary study: In April 1996, following a joint proposal by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Faculty Affairs Committee, the Senate voted to establish a Committee on Promotional Policy and Salary Equity. The mandate of this committee is to conduct an ongoing review of the Universityís system of promotion and salary assessment for officers of instruction, research, libraries, and administration. The committee members are appointed by the President in consultation with the Senate, and include officers from all of the above categories. The committee reports its recommendations to the Executive Committee of the Senate as the need arises. It was initially proposed that one group of officers would be studied each year, and each group would be revisited every 4 years. Since that time studies have focused mainly on officers of instruction, both on Morningside and the Medical Center. During the past academic year the our committee has pushed for a gender equity salary study for our constituency. The CSW unanimously voted to collaborate with us on this project.Over the summer, members of our committee met several times with Lucy Drotning, Associate Provost, Office of Planning and Institutional Research, and research analyst Jose Uribe. They are now assembling and analyzing salary data for all categories of full-time, salaried, non-clinical research officers. We look forward to studying and reporting on the results later this year. The Research Officers Committee is grateful to Lucy Drotning and the provostís office for their support of this study.

 

Daniel Savin

Senior Research Scientist, Astrophysics Lab, and

Chair, Senate Research Officers Committee