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Minutes for October 2001

October 8, 2001

Attendees: Peter Alfonso, Elizbeth Aversa, Gayle Baker (Co-Vice Chair), Denise Barlow, Doug Birdwell (Chair), Bill Blass (Co-Vice Chair), Hamparsum Bozdogan, Billie J. Collier, Anthony Condo, Narendra Dahotre, Denny Dukes, Pat Fisher, Arlene Garrison, Jens Gregor, Maureen Groer, Joanne Hall, Ray Hamilton, Marion Hansen, Majid Keyhani, Verna Howard, Lee Magid, Lillian Mashburn, T. Dwayne McCay, Faye Muly, Jesse Poore, Ian Rockett, Pamela Small, C. A. Speer, Dwight Teeter, Dixie Thompson, Suzonn Thompson, Bruce Tonn, Gretchen Whitney

  • Introductory Remarks:
    • Chair Doug Birdwell commented on the goals and objectives that came out of last month’s Faculty Senate retreat. Five of the sixteen action items are associated with Research Council:
      • professional leave policy
      • contingent faculty
      • undergraduate student recruitment, retention and freshman seminar
      • research infrastructure
      • high performance computing
    • The minutes of the September meeting were approved as read.
    • Peter Alfonso had a number of announcements:
      • The Office of Research will have the first of its research seminars for deans, directors and department heads on October 17, 2001. The subject will be F&A Cost Sharing. Council members are invited.
      • The 5% reallocation of funds across campus will also include the Office of Research (about $157K).
      • The Office of Research will be hiring a new staff member in grants and contracts and there will be a search for an Assistant Vice President for Research
      • Alfonso circulated the minutes from a 1944 meeting of Research Council and noted that we are facing some of the same issues discussed back then.
  • F & A Recoveries (Denise Barlow, Director, Office of Finance; Ray Hamilton, Executive Director of Budget & Finance; Verna Howard, Office of the Treasurer; Suzann Thompson, Office of Finance): Denise Barlow described the F&A process at the Knoxville campus. The current F&A rate, negotiated with the federal government, is 45%. At the end of the fiscal year, 25% of the amount is given back to the college/unit and 75% is kept centrally. Colleges/units may petition to carry over 30% of this into the next fiscal year. Several questions were answered by the financial representatives:
    • Why was the carryover rate set at 30%? Tradition.
    • What do we do with F&A? This covers physical plant, utilities, human resources, administrative offices, research funds, such as SARIF, etc.
    • Can one tell how much is spent on research at the departmental level? Special accounts can be set up to show this.
    • What is the timing of how the federal government pays F&A costs to UT? The University bills the government on a monthly basis.

    The F&A rate of 45% was recently renegotiated (every 3 years) with the help of a consultant. A handout with the rate breakdown was distributed at the meeting. More questions were asked:

    • How competitive is our rate? Some institutions have lower rates, while others have higher rates. Our rate was recently increased from 43% to 45%.
    • How do we compare with other institutions in the southeast? The rates of those institutions are from the mid-40’s to the low 50’s.
    • More federal contracts are requiring that faculty time be free during an academic year. Will this affect F&A? Yes, this could reduce our rate.
    • Why not credit a college or unit on a monthly basis, rather than at the end of the fiscal year? Because, historically, the University collected during one year and distributed during the following year.
    • What about the tendency of F&A funds to “disappear” at the end of the year? There is a sense that one must “spend or lose” the funds. This is an issue that should be taken up with deans/directors.
    • What guarantees are there for a PI to get any of the college/unit F&A funds? There is no guarantee. McCay stated that the disposition of the funds is at the discretion of the deans and directors.

    C. A. Speer objected to the questions/discussion about F&A and colleges/units. Bill Blass answered that it was important that we have this discussion because there is not enough communication between faculty and administrators. Alfonso stated that the issues are complicated. With the state funding being as it is, the deans need other sources of funds. Ideally, the funds should go back into research.

  • Updates:
    • Federal Relations (Lillian Mashburn, Executive Director, Federal Relations for Research): Mashburn stated that with the surplus gone, priorities are changing and academic earmarking will decrease. There is increased concern about the impact on graduate education and research with increased scrutiny of visas for students and post-docs. DOE is the first agency that will have to show a return on investments in research projects.
    • ORNL (Lee Magid, ORNL/SNS Liaison for Science & Technology): UT/Battelle is in the second year of their management contract. Major areas of research are: spallation/neutron science (SNS), energy efficiency and renewable energy, scientific computing, materials science, and biological sciences. Magid spoke of three joint institutes between ORNL and UT: JINS (Neutron Sciences), JIBS (Biological Sciences), and JICS (Computational Sciences). UT faculty seeking research interactions with ORNL should contact her.
    • JICS (Jesse Poore, Director of Science Alliance and Acting Co-Director of JICS): Poore shares the directorship of JICS with Tom Zachariah of ORNL. The purpose of JICS is to support the needs of research requiring extensive computation. He and Zachariah have put forth a proposal, a Computational Science Initiative (CSI), to define the activities of JICS and have shared the proposal with several faculty. Birdwell asked Poore to send a copy to the proposal to Bill Blass.
    • Search for Asst. Vice President for Research (Marion Hansen, Search Committee member): A campus-wide search will begin for this half-time (12 months) position, formerly held by Ken Walker. The position will be involved in contract & grant administration and research compliance activities.

Meeting adjourned at 5:23 p.m.