Faculty at a major research university like Penn must have the tools that allow them to achieve their fullest potential in the pursuit of new knowledge. Two core forms of SAS-based research support – research funding and leaves – are discussed below, while two other key types – facilities and information technology – are relevant to several domains of the School and therefore are addressed in the final section of this plan. The University Libraries will remain an essential partner to the School in providing critical research resources and services. SAS and Penn must also continue to offer high-quality support in research administration, and we are committed to enhancing our regional support services within departments and centers.
Research Funds: Access to financial resources is fundamental to the ability to carry out research, whether to run a laboratory, travel to a distant archive, or share findings at a conference. In recent years SAS has expanded the variety and amount of research funding for faculty, through start-up packages, funds awarded on promotion, and the Research Opportunity Grant and Conference Fund programs. We will explore ways to increase further the SAS-based funds available to allow faculty to continue their pace of discovery and for Arts and Sciences to remain competitive in recruitment and retention. These efforts will include raising the award amounts granted through existing programs, securing gifts to create more endowed chairs (which come with research funds), developing a formal framework for offering matching funds for monies received outside of SAS, establishing a Dean’s Innovation Fund, and creating incentives for interdisciplinary and collaborative group research projects. The School will also continue to promote the pooling of individual faculty funds to support group projects or collective departmental research needs. While some major federal funding sources are on the decline, SAS faculty remain competitive in achieving government grants. The School as a whole will continue to pursue a strategy of diversifying its portfolio of sponsored funds to safeguard against anticipated future federal cuts. There remains a wide range of external sources of support from government, foundation, and industry sources, and it is incumbent upon SAS to help monitor and communicate them to faculty and to expand related resources such as grant-writing workshops.
Research Time: With the many responsibilities that standing faculty must undertake, it is important for them to have extended periods of protected time in which to focus purely on research. In addition to the University’s sabbatical program, teaching relief awarded for administrative service, and time away achieved through external fellowships, the School has established a program of one-semester Dean’s Leaves for faculty who do not have access to further time off between sabbatical leaves. Even with all of these alternatives, SAS recognizes that its leave practices vary among the School’s faculty and are not competitive with those of some peer universities, and that it must take further steps to address this situation.