Report of the Research Task
January 2016

Contributors: Tracy Camp, Tzahi Cath,
Bruce Honeyman, Lisa Kinzel, Ryan
Richards, Paul Sava, John Spear, John

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Committee ...................................................................... 2

Charge to the Committee ................................................................................ 2

Executive Summary ........................................................................................ 3

Initiatives ......................................................................................................... 5
a. Graduate Students (Ryan Richards) ........................................................ 5
b. Work Load (Tracy Camp) ........................................................................ 7
c. Faculty Mentoring (Tracy Camp) ........................................................... 8
d. Reduction of Administrative Burden on Faculty (John Speer) ........... 9
e. Interdisciplinary Research (Paul Sava) ................................................. 11
f. Grand Challenge Institutes (Tzahi Cath & Paul Sava) ...................... 15



I. Introduction to the Committee

The Research Task Force (TF) was established by the Senior Vice President of Research and
Technology Transfer in May 2015 to examine the monetary investment the institution pro-
vides to the research enterprise. Each Dean appointed representatives from their College to
ensure adequate representation throughout the academic disciplines. Tracy Camp and Tzahi
Cath from College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), Paul Sava and Hossein
Kazemi (Hossein removed himself from the committee) from the College of Earth Re-
sources Science and Engineering (CERSE), and Ryan Richards and John Speer from the
College of Applied Science and Engineering (CASE). The TF was facilitated by Bruce Hon-
eyman and John Spear, Associate Vice Presidents of Research, and Lisa Kinzel, Director of
Research Development, and met weekly through the summer and fall semesters with a de-
liverable of a written report of initiatives and recommendations to the Vice President of Re-
search and Technology Transfer.

Throughout the summer the TF’s charge evolved into not only addressing the monetary in-
vestment in research but also addressing research initiatives that were important to the facul-
ty campus wide. The committee had two opportunities to seek input from faculty. The first
instance was during the summer when each committee member was tasked with asking fac-
ulty in their colleges for input. Specifically, several faculty were asked “what do you need to
grow your research enterprise (where you can define growth however you want)?” The sec-
ond instance was at the Faculty Conference in August 2015 where the Task Force made a
presentation during a break out session. All feedback was collated and extensively discussed
among the committee members and was the basis for the initiatives that the committee inevi-
tably chose to explore.

In December 2015 the TF presented their initiatives and recommendations to the President
and his Executive Team, where he requested this group to continue their efforts in working
through implementing some of these initiatives. In January 2016, the TF presented their
findings to the Board of Trustees. The TF is meeting with the President in February 2016 for
his direction on moving forward.

This report includes a detailed account of the initiatives along with recommendations on im-

II. Charge to the committee

The Strategic Plan for Colorado School of Mines states: “Mines will be the premier institu-
tion, based on the impact of its graduates and research programs, in engineering and science
relating to the earth, energy, and the environment.” Fulfilling that aspiration will require
significant growth in our research funding and a growing emphasis on high-impact research
that addresses national and global grand challenges. To help Mines achieve that research
goal, the Task Force was asked to address the following question

What are the specific qualities defining a ‘premier institution’ in re-
search, and how can Mines more effectively utilize its resources
(capital and human) to achieve the ‘premier’ status?
To evaluate this question the Task Force needed to: (1) assess the ways in which leading ac-
ademic institutions utilize their resources; and (2) help provide faculty perspectives for
guidance to the Office of the VPRTT on paths for moving forward. The goal is not simply to
emulate other leading institutions but to define and foster our niche and uniqueness in the
academic world to create the premier institution envisioned.

III. Executive Summary

The research agenda here at Mines has real strengths and is productive, but has challenges
that need to be addressed if we want to elevate this institution to the next level of recognition
as a leading research university.

After several opportunities to hear the faculty’s thoughts on enhancing research at Mines, a
handful of concerns rose to the top as priorities. It is apparent that we must enable faculty to
get back to their core strengths in performing research and not be mired down in administra-
tive details. The community must work to increase and improve our graduate student popu-
lation and determine a way to recruit and retain these students. Faculty morale must be ad-
dressed with regard to equalizing the workload in departments and consistently mentoring
our faculty to help ensure that they succeed. Our research infrastructure needs to be rea-
ligned to allow Mines to address big global challenges more effectively and efficiently.

This report is a written analysis of the five initiatives that the TF has chosen to pursue with
insightful recommendations on how to move forward. While these initiatives were explored
separately, there was much discussion amongst the TF as a whole. Each member weighed in
on each initiative and is completely supportive of that initiative and the recommendations.
The TF recognizes that implementing any of these initiatives will require support of the ad-
ministration at all levels.

Although additional detail can be found in the individual sections, a summary of each initia-
tive follows.

Graduate Student Initiative
Graduate Students and research go hand-in-hand. If Mines is going to succeed as a re-
search university we need to improve the quality of our graduate students. The following
lists the outcome of discussions with administrators and students on how to fulfill this
1. Assess graduate program ranking systems and how to maximize Mines standing.
2. Formalize, highlight, and advertise the Mines–NREL collaboration. Develop jointly
funded graduate opportunities with NREL.

3. Work to improve campus life for graduate students. Assess the current housing situa-
tion with Mines Park (or other on-campus housing) and consider prioritizing first
year graduate students and visiting scholars or reserving space for their presence.
4. Evaluate all graduate student funding. How can we fund prestigious fellowships and
more competitive stipends? Determine if graduate studies are being funded at a level
proportional to their numbers on campus (i.e., are we putting enough resources into
graduate students; and has graduate student life grown as undergraduate student life
5. Increase recruiting efforts and funding for on-campus visits. Coordinate open houses.
(A pilot program for some departments is in place by the Grad School for fall 2016

Work Load Initiative
Mines spends significant funds each year on research through 40% faculty “release”
time. Is Mines being strategic with these expenditures? Also, unfair workload hurts fac-
ulty morale on campus and needs to be addressed. The following list outlines areas to
address in order to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty.
1. Mines administration should develop a new faculty workload model for Mines T/TT
faculty. See A6 for the ASU model.
2. Mines should adopt a culture where teaching is valued. For example, Mines currently
has a way for faculty to “buy out of teaching” (via research funds); we recommend
that Mines provide a way for faculty to “buy out of research” (via increased teaching
3. All Mines T/TT faculty members should be required to create a Google Scholar pro-
file. We recommend Google Scholar because this site is the easiest to maintain (i.e.,
the site updates automatically once the profile is created). In addition, all Mines re-
search active faculty should have their own websites to further outreach the broader
community and be a portal for recruiting graduate students.

Faculty Mentoring Initiative
Individual and quality mentoring are key for faculty success. Discussions with faculty
have determined that our mentoring is not consistent, and is nonexistent in some depart-
ments. Recommendations to improve faculty mentoring on campus are:
1. Mines should continue (and perhaps expand) the new faculty mentoring that occurs
in August each year, such that research mentoring is a key aspect of this event.
2. Mines should host at least two mentoring events each semester where all faculty are
invited to attend.
3. Mines should adopt university-wide guidelines that specify what departments should
be doing for individual faculty mentoring.

Faculty Administrative Burden Initiative
At the time of the initial TF discussions on faculty administrative burden, the two issues
of greatest concern were the time to negotiate and finalize industry contracts and the lack
of a simplified accounting system (“checkbook” accounting) for research projects. Dur-
ing the Task Force’s study period, a new hire was made in ORA to help address the con-
tract negotiation issues. Because this change is recent, the additional resource hired may

alleviate the problems that exist. Additionally, the TF was told by ORA that their office
was acquiring software to enable a “checkbook” like software for faculty to view and
manage their research accounts. Although we are unaware of when this product will be
live, we cannot make additional recommendations until we establish if this product im-
proves the faculty accounting duties.

Interdisciplinary Research
One of the most significant impediments to the development of a dynamic interdiscipli-
nary culture at Mines is the fact that most faculty are simply unaware of the research
conducted by fellow faculty/researchers outside their home units. To make it easier for
faculty to identify and/or engage in collaborative research, the TF recommends:
1. Mines proceeds with annual or bi-annual faculty conferences dedicated exclusively
to research communication, with particular focus on interdisciplinary science.
2. Mines significantly expands discretionary funding available to the VPRTT, Deans,
and possibly DHDDs to stimulate interdisciplinary research across divisions under
their supervision.
3. Mines proceeds with a detailed study of the mechanisms needed to set-up interdisci-
plinary research units on the model of the MIT MediaLab, but with focus on specific
CSM strengths.

Grand Challenge Institutes
An important external driver for this initiative is that many of the significant problems
facing society (e.g., climate change, renewable energy, food production, access to safe
water, aging infrastructure and national security) can only be addressed by integrated
teams consisting of experts in different fields, rather than by isolated disciplinary teams.
The TF, with support from Mines faculty, believes that restructuring our centers and es-
tablishing research institutes that are intrinsically interdisciplinary and mission-oriented
will distinctly position Mines to successfully address these global challenges. These stra-
tegically important institutes will function more efficiently in space and resource-
utilization, will facilitate interdisciplinary science and education, and most importantly
will more efficiently utilize the scientific and engineering talent available at Mines.

IV. Initiatives

a. Graduate Students
Within the research enterprise, the people who are directly doing the research are highly
influential on the quality of the research performed and the outcomes. Everyday re-
searchers working on projects are making hypotheses, designing experiments, making
observations, interpreting data, and making decisions that determine the research direc-
tion. Graduate students comprise the vast majority of researchers on campus and have a
dramatic influence on the research success or lack thereof. Further, high quality graduate
students are able to elevate all those around them while poor graduate students can
sometimes bring down others. If we assume (as rough estimations) that each graduate

student costs somewhere between $50k (for Mines supported) and $80k (for external
grants with overhead and fringe) per year, and that it will take most 5 years to finish, we
are looking at a minimum investment of $250k per graduate student.

Initial communications with faculty and breakout sessions almost unanimously put grad-
uate student quality as a high priority for improving research. From the breakout ses-
sions, a prioritization of suggestions to improve graduate students was discussed as well
as development of new ideas. Suggestions from the breakout sessions included: graduate
research fellowships, increased stipends, more recruiting efforts, graduate student hous-
ing, faster processing of applications, and on-campus childcare, to name a few. To assess
and prioritize these for the university, Dr. Richards met with Jahi Simbai and processed
data from past surveys of students that did not accept the Mines offer and put together
(with Kay Schneider) surveys for current students as well as those in departments deal-
ing with graduate student admissions. It should be noted here that there was also a plan
to run panels with each of the groups to further prioritize areas of improvement; these
panels are anticipated to be coordinated with the interim Dean of Graduate Studies (Tina
Voelker). From the data that we were able to process, the most important factors for re-
cruiting are web presence, fellowship/assistantship, quality/ranking of program, stipend
amount, and interaction with faculty. A number of these ideas were discussed with the
Mines Foundation and it was indicated that there could be some appetite amongst the
donor community for supporting graduate students; a prioritized list should be compiled
for the administration to consider and potentially develop concepts for marketing to do-

In summary, the Research Task Force recommends:
Organizational/System Issues:
1. Assess graduate program ranking systems and how to maximize Mines standing.
2. Formalize, highlight, and advertise the Mines/NREL collaboration.
3. Assess the current housing situation with Mines Park (or other on campus housing)
and consider prioritizing first year graduate students and visiting scholars or reserv-
ing space for their presence.
4. Assess if graduate studies are being funded at a level proportional to their numbers
on campus (i.e., are we putting enough resources into graduate students; and have
graduate student numbers grown as undergraduate student numbers have grown).
5. Coordinate recruiting open-house visits. A pilot program for some departments is in
place by the Grad School for Fall 2016 admissions.

Resource Issues (will cost money):
1. Increase funding for on-campus visits.
2. Offer prestigious fellowships/more competitive stipends.
3. Increase recruiting efforts.
4. Develop jointly funded graduate opportunities with NREL.
5. Work to improve campus life for graduate students.


b. Work Load
In order to grow our research enterprise, the TF felt it was important to understand our
current “human capital”, from both a workload perspective and a research impact per-
spective. The Research Task Force understands that Mines spends ~$7.5 million/year on
research through 40% faculty release time from teaching associated with our 40/40/20
research/teaching/service model. In addition, Mines spends a significant amount on ad-
juncts (~$1 million) and TAs (~$2.4 million) each year in order to assist with the teach-
ing enterprise. These funds represent a substantial investment by the university. Is Mines
being strategic with these expenditures?

To help answer this question, the Research Task Force gathered data on:
• Research “load” (assessed by research expenditures),
• Research “impact” (assessed by citations/h-index), and
• Teaching “load” (assessed by student credit hours).

The Research Task Force understands that these metrics do not precisely assess faculty
load/impact, but they do provide some insights.

Each faculty member was given an ID based on research expenditures from the 2014-15
AY, sorted from most expenditures to least expenditures. Appendix A1 shows these ex-
penditures for each faculty rank at Mines. For Full Professors and Associate Professors,
we also provide the average research expenditures for the faculty in the top 50% of re-
search expenditures and the average research expenditures for the faculty in the bottom
50% of research expenditures. For Assistant Professors we only provide the average re-
search expenditures for all Assistant Professors, which we note is almost 5x higher than
the bottom half of the Associate Professors and 3x higher than the bottom half of the
Full Professors.

As shown, our campus is quite diverse in terms of how much research funding is spent
each year. We also note that not all disciplines at Mines are the same, e.g., some disci-
plines have expensive equipment that needs to be purchased for research tasks while
other disciplines have very few funding sources. However, from a workload standpoint,
one could argue that those faculty members with higher expenditures have a higher load
than those faculty members with lower expenditures (due to proposal writing, tracking
finances, etc.).

Of course, faculty with low research expenditures can have significant research impact.
We, therefore, collected data on citations/h-index from three sources, Google Scholar,
Research Gate, and Web of Science. These data are plotted in Appendix A2-A4 by fac-
ulty research ID1. The data in the figures make one point quite clear. For both Full Pro-
fessors and Associate Professors, faculty members with higher average research ex-

1 Faculty IDs with a negative citation/h-index indicate that we were unable to locate data
for that faculty member, e.g., faculty member does not have a Google Scholar profile.

penditures consistently have higher average citation rates and higher average h-index
values (true for all data sources). We also note that sometimes the difference in these av-
erages is quite significant. In short, using our definition for load and impact, the Re-
search Task Force concludes that faculty with higher research expenditures (on average),
have higher workload and higher research impact (on average) than faculty with lower
research expenditures.

From a fairness point of view, one might then expect that those faculty members with
lower research expenditures and lower research impact carry more of the teaching load
on campus. Appendix A5 illustrate this is not the case for Full and Associate Professors
(teaching load data gathered from the 2014-15 AY). Furthermore, Appendix A5 illus-
trates that Assistant Professors have (on average) the same teaching load as Associate
Professors with lower research expenditures and a larger teaching load than Full Profes-
sors with lower research expenditures.

Unfair workload hurts faculty morale on campus and needs to be addressed. The Mines
current faculty handbook only provides guidance for T/TT faculty workload as 40/40/20
for research/teaching/service percentages. The data provided shows that Mines faculty
are not the same; thus, we believe our current 40/40/20 workload guideline should be

In summary, the Research Task Force recommends:
1. Mines administration develop a new faculty workload model for Mines T/TT facul-
ty. Included for consideration is an example model from ASU (A6) provided by the
2. Mines adopt a culture where teaching is valued. For example, Mines currently has a
way for faculty to “buy out of teaching” (via research funds); we recommend that
Mines provide a way for faculty to “buy out of research” (via increased teaching
3. All Mines T/TT faculty members be required to create a Google Scholar profile to
track Mines impact in research. We recommend Google Scholar because this site is
the easiest to maintain (i.e., the site updates automatically once the profile is creat-
ed). In addition, all Mines research active faculty should have their own websites to
further outreach the broader community and be a portal for recruiting graduate stu-

c. Faculty Mentoring
Mines faculty understand the importance of faculty mentoring. As mentioned earlier in
this report, the Research Task Force asked Mines faculty “what do you need to grow
your research enterprise (where you can define growth however you want)?” Many re-
sponses from this question fell into the “need research mentoring” category.

Research has shown that quality mentoring is key for faculty success. Therefore, Mines
has provided new faculty mentoring for years and, more recently, hosted a few group
mentoring events where all faculty were invited. One example of a group event in Fall

2015 was a session on “Getting Funded”. This session began with a presentation on
“How to Write Compelling Proposals” and ended with several round tables led by facul-
ty who are experts/well-funded from NSF, NIH, DoD, DoE, and Industry. Approximate-
ly 40 Mines faculty attended this event, and ratings from the post-event survey were
quite high. The Research Task Force recommends that Mines host at least two events
such as this one each semester.

Individual mentoring is also key for faculty success. To understand the landscape of
formal mentoring programs at Mines, the Research Task Force asked a tenured faculty
member (mainly a Full Professor) in each department to describe the mentoring program
that exists in the department. We then classified each mentoring program into one of
three categories:
1. Good Program: the department has a formal mentoring program that appears to be
working well.
2. OK Program: the department has a formal mentoring program that appears to be
working well, but the program could be improved (e.g., the department has a formal
program for the Assistant Professors, but nothing for the Associate Professors).
3. No Program: the department has no formal mentoring program (e.g.,“junior faculty
can talk to any of the senior faculty for advice”).

The results from this analysis follow:
1. Good Program: 2 departments at Mines.
2. OK Program: 6 departments at Mines.
3. No Program: 6 departments at Mines (where 2 departments are in the process of cre-
ating a formal program).

In our discussions with faculty, many faculty stated that the value/success of mentoring
within the department depends on the current department head. That is, if the department
head thinks mentoring is valuable, then there is a focus on mentoring within the depart-
ment. This fact indicates a need for a university-wide program that is not dependent on
the current department head’s view on the subject of mentoring.

In summary, the Research Task Force recommends that
1. Mines continues (and perhaps expands) the new faculty mentoring that occurs in Au-
gust each year, such that research mentoring is a key aspect of this event.
2. Mines hosts at least two mentoring events each semester where all faculty are invited
to attend.
3. Mines adopt university-wide guidelines that help specify what departments should be
doing for individual faculty mentoring.

d. Reduction of Administrative Burden on the Faculty
In general, research active academic faculty feel very busy due to the constant demands
related to teaching, scholarship, and service; this perspective was embedded in the pre-
vious comments related to workload. As the Research Task Force engaged faculty across

campus, a number of topics were identified by faculty as meaningful issues for multiple
faculty. While the following paragraphs provide commentary on several subjects, we
note that the two issues of greatest concern were industry contract negotiations and sim-
plified (“checkbook” accounting) for research projects.

Campus dialogue related to “decentralization” of some functions of the Office of Re-
search Administration (ORA), e.g., pre-award issues related to proposal development
and budgeting, were not a critical concern of the faculty. This seems to be an indication
of improvements in some of ORA’s processes as such concerns were substantial a few
years ago. The institution may benefit from improved processes related to development
of large proposals (for example, utilization of proposal writers), but this topic was not
thoroughly discussed by the Research Task Force.

Issues related to industry contract negotiations were discussed, as the Research Task
Force is aware of substantial concerns in this area, including first-hand experiences of
Task Force members. In essence, negotiations with companies can become bogged down
for lengthy periods of time after the decision is made by these companies to sponsor re-
search at Mines. Research funding has been lost over the inability to negotiate accepta-
ble terms, leading to considerable frustration on the part of sponsors and researchers. Re-
sponses by Mines administration have sometimes been untimely during the negotiations,
straining the sponsor/Mines relationship, and PIs have sometimes requested special as-
sistance from senior administration to help “save” their negotiations. The Task Force’s
perspective is that timely responses should be a minimum expectation, and some proce-
dures to better deal with common challenges (intellectual property, state regulations)
may be helpful. These topics were discussed with representatives from ORA, Finance
and Administration, and Technology Transfer. Damage to sponsor relationships may be
unavoidable in some instances due to intractable differences between the parties, but
hopefully we can avoid situations where contracts are lost due to lack of a timely re-
sponse in contract negotiation. During the Task Force’s study period, a new hire was
made in ORA to help address these issues and reduce the backlog of negotiations. Be-
cause this change is recent, it is difficult to propose additional action pending further ex-
perience. However, some clear commitments related to maximum turnaround time be-
tween communications and management oversight/communication related to the backlog
would be appreciated by faculty to track performance in this area. There may be some
broader opportunities to streamline negotiations by offering, for example, an option for
industrial sponsors to purchase IP rights at a standard rate, but the Task Force did not
discuss such opportunities in depth.

The issue of “checkbook” accounting relates to the use of the Banner system for detailed
tracking of budgets and expenditures for individual research project accounts, Founda-
tion accounts, and professional and research development accounts. The faculty percep-
tion is that this system is more suited to operation by accounting professionals, whereas
occasional use by faculty is challenged by non-intuitive characteristics of Banner opera-
tion, difficulties in drilling down to investigate transaction details, and a general lack of

understanding for how many funds are actually available to spend in a given account at a
given time. This concern has been in place for many years, and Guggenheim staff mem-
bers are typically helpful in assisting faculty and support staff in their accounting efforts.
Nonetheless, faculty are comfortable managing their personal finances with available
systems that present fewer challenges, and intuitive systems for project accounting
would be greatly appreciated if available. This discussion also touched on the number of
various software products in use on campus. These products have improved and auto-
mated administrative processes, but are sometimes perceived as transferring new respon-
sibilities to faculty. A faculty member may be called upon to work with a half dozen dif-
ferent software programs and/or websites to carry out various administrative tasks,
which adds confusion. Thus, adoption of software systems that involve faculty users
should be tailored for simplicity of occasional users, in addition to the functions needed
by expert users who use the systems more frequently.

Other Issues
The Task Force discussed the innumerable compliance requirements related to federal
and state government rules that impact many aspects of research and student interac-
tions, as well as industrial sponsor requirements and Mines policies and regulations.
These requirements are perceived as an additional “burden” on faculty, although the
Task Force did not identify “low hanging fruit” that could be harvested through simple
changes. The President’s commitment to work with faculty to try to identify and modify
“silly rules” is appreciated by faculty.

The discussion of faculty workload presented earlier in this report addresses the balance
of teaching and research. Service represents the “third leg” of the workload triangle,
which must be recognized in some way when analyzing workloads. Research active fac-
ulty (and others) are often engaged in external professional service in addition to institu-
tional and departmental committees, and quantification of such effort is difficult. How-
ever, the Research Task Force did not explore this issue extensively or identify specific

e. Interdisciplinary Research
One of the most important attributes of a vibrant and ambitious research and education
program is the ability to cross formal boundaries between disciplines and to form inter-
disciplinary teams addressing major societal challenges. Based on feedback from the
faculty, as well as on our own careful analysis, the Research Task Force found that we
can take significant steps in the direction of increasing cross-campus collaboration, with
emphasis on interdisciplinary research and education. Some of those steps concern the
campus culture, while others refer to short-term and medium-term administrative ac-
tions. Some of the proposed changes are low-cost, while others require significant and
sustained investment over the medium and long term. While many possible strategies
could be employed to address this problem, we focus on three that have the potential for
the highest return and biggest impact.


Campus-wide research communication
One of the most significant impediments to the development of a dynamic interdiscipli-
nary culture at Mines is the fact that most faculty are simply unaware of the research
conducted by fellow faculty/researchers outside their home units. This is certainly true
within colleges, but it is even more true among colleges. It is difficult for anyone to
identify and/or engage in collaborative research without at least knowing what others are
doing elsewhere within our own home institution. This situation is not by design, but
simply an unfortunate byproduct of our own time shortage resulting from existing time

Our recommendation is to begin to address this problem by creating systematic opportu-
nities for crosstalk between faculty/researchers/students of all units on campus. Specifi-
cally, we propose to institute research communication days (RDs) with presentations of
existing and/or new research from different units to the entire campus. We can structure
these Research Talks on the model of TED2 talks (e.g., 20 min long presentations on dif-
ferent subjects extracted from our existing scientific portfolio). We could perhaps organ-
ize such Research Talks every 3 months, to allow for a regular and broad survey of our
existing research portfolio. Some of these events could focus on a specific College,
while others could mix speakers from all colleges.

Such activities are likely to succeed if:
• we keep them short (one half day with a limited number of technical talks),
• we do not overlap them with any other seminar or workshop on campus,
• we do not schedule any classes during this time to allow full participation,
• we give high profile to such events (e.g., use the label President’s Talks),
• we record the presentations for later web distribution, and
• we follow the event with a short reception for further interaction.

We hope that these activities will increase our mutual understanding of the current cam-
pus research, and will also help identify opportunities for collaboration on existing
and/or new projects. This recommendation is primarily focused on a cultural change and
will take time to bear fruit, but increased transparency can only benefit our campus as a

Implementation: campus research days in the administration of the VPR office; college
research days in the administration of the Deans offices.

Interdisciplinary research seed funding
More systematic technical communication can increase awareness and stimulate various
researchers to work together. However, many ideas are unlikely to take off simply due to
the unavailability of time and, perhaps, necessary seed funding. Most new and risky ide-

2 TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design,

as benefit from immediate seed funding to explore them in greater depth, or to acquire
basic equipment, before any formal proposal is formulated, filed, or approved many
months later. A small and well-timed push can stimulate an unlikely project and make
the difference between an actionable or an abandoned idea.

It is highly unlikely that any one person knows precisely where such seed funding ought
to be directed. It is far more likely that this becomes a successful effort if we decentral-
ize the decision to different levels of the administration. Department Heads/Division Di-
rectors, Deans, and the VPR are likely to have different perspectives of the campus and
to identify interdisciplinary activities at different scales. For example, the DHDDs could
focus on interdisciplinary research within their units, Deans could seek interdisciplinary
opportunities among the departments in their portfolio, and the VPR could stimulate
such opportunities among colleges at the scale of the entire campus. This decentralized
multi-scale approach is likely to cover the widest spectrum of opportunities; further-
more, some activities could be supported at multiple administrative levels.

This program is likely to succeed if:
• significant research funding is available at all levels of responsibility,
• funds are directed specifically for interdisciplinary activities, and
• seed funding availability is transparent and administered openly.

The net result is that DHDDs, Deans, and VPR function like Venture Capitalists, who
have both the means and the responsibility to turn relatively modest funding into engines
for research growth.

We propose to support this program with funds obtained in equal measure from research
grants (e.g., IDC return), and from other institutional funds that currently get distributed
indiscriminately among all campus researchers, regardless of their research effective-
ness. We are perfectly aware that IDC return is a touchy subject and might raise concern
among the faculty. However, we think that this proposed program could be embraced
broadly by the campus researchers:
• if this program is transparently administered and all funds are directed strictly toward
publicly announced interdisciplinary research,
• if funding is available to all campus researchers in all units, and
• if the available funding comes with a 1-to-1 match between institutional sources and
IDC return.

Using these mechanisms, all research-active faculty would recognize that they could get
access to a larger funding pool than would otherwise be returned to them from the IDC.

Implementation: funds budgeted annually using a fair and transparent system; execu-
tion responsibilities rest at the department’s level with accountability along the usual re-
porting lines.

Standalone interdisciplinary units
Research awareness through open Research Days and research acceleration/initiation
through discretionary seed funding can make a big impact in the development of an in-
terdisciplinary research culture on campus. However, these mechanisms are limited in
scope, in that they concern research ideas that already exist and have a champion among
the faculty. These actions are not transformative in nature, but rather focus on higher ef-
ficiency of launching one-off interdisciplinary research efforts.

We propose to pursue the next step by developing a small number of interdisciplinary
research and education units, designed on the model of the MediaLab at MIT and other
such units at different notable schools. Such research/educational units have demonstrat-
ed to be highly effective at stimulating interdisciplinary research and can serve as trans-
formative catalysts both within their home institution and for the society at large.

Without being exhaustive, here are some of the key attributes of the proposed interdisci-
plinary units:
1. One core attribute of such research/educational entities is that they are interdiscipli-
nary by design, i.e., group together scientists with completely different backgrounds
who are simply motivated by the pursuit of problems with huge societal impact (e.g.,
the state of the Earth from the perspective of climate change, energy use/production,
sustainable food production, access to clean water) Such problems fit the core of the
research and educational portfolio at Mines, but can be addressed in novel and crea-
tive ways only through efforts of unlikely combinations of scientists with different

2. A second core attribute of such units is that they function outside the col-
lege/department structure, since they are not meant to replace any of the existing
research. Instead, their goal is to stimulate the emergence of new research at the in-
tersection of multiple scientific fields, in a space that lacks any kind of disciplinary
walls, either among the faculty or the students. Because of this, such units function
best both as research programs, but more importantly as academic programs focused
on educating the next generation of scientists who are open-minded and ready to ad-
dress big societal problems.

3. A third core attribute is that such interdisciplinary research units often function in
connection with business incubators or research parks. This association has multi-
ple mutual benefits, by quickly taking research ideas to the marketplace, by support-
ing a large group of scientists who can function as Research Faculty in the School,
by providing hands-on experience and internships to students, by generating research
funding, and by developing a strong intellectual property portfolio.

We see many other benefits to this interdisciplinary research structure and we propose
that this model be further investigated and refined in the near future for implementation
in the medium term. Aside from great science supported by existing and new Mines fac-
ulty, such entities need good infrastructure and facilities designed specifically to stimu-

late interaction, collaboration, and serendipity. We recognize that this initiative requires
significant investment from the school; however, we also recognize that this initiative
can raise the profile of Mines to a new level and be transformative of our research and
educational portfolio in the long term.

We emphasize that the proposed interdisciplinary research unit is not equivalent to a
Center, even a large one. Centers usually bring together people of similar specialty, per-
haps even from the same discipline. Just because many researchers with similar back-
grounds are grouped administratively together does not mean that they address the same
problem from multiple perspectives, and even less that they engage in novel interdisci-
plinary research. What we propose involves much deeper integration outside the conven-
tional disciplinary organizational charts. Moreover, in contrast with the setup common
for a conventional Center, student members of an independent interdisciplinary unit de-
velop in an educational environment that exposes them to different viewpoints of a given
problem and encourages them to explore novel approaches outside their core expertise.
This arrangement seeks to integrate diverse disciplines and skills, thus leading to non-
conventional solutions to complex problems.

An indirect benefit of the proposed interdisciplinary units is that they can function as fo-
cal points for energetic fundraising through the Mines Foundation. Such high-profile in-
terdisciplinary units can stimulate the energy of unlikely donors who would want to as-
sociate themselves with an ambitious and far-reaching initiative addressing major socie-
tal challenges. We envision that this could lead to a virtuous circle where fundraising for
distinguished faculty chairs, talented graduate students, and high-profile visitors from
the industry/government/academia leads to consequential research, which in turn raises
the profile of the institution, thus stimulating additional and increased fundraising.

Implementation: VPR forms a study group to generate within 3-6 months a full pro-
posal for consideration by the Mines faculty and administration.

In summary, the Research Task Force recommends that:
1. Mines proceeds with annual or bi-annual faculty conferences dedicated exclusively
to research communication, with particular focus on interdisciplinary science.
2. Mines significantly expands discretionary funding available to the VPRTT, Deans,
and possibly DHDDs to stimulate interdisciplinary research across departments un-
der their supervision.
3. Mines proceeds with a detailed study of the mechanisms needed to set-up interdisci-
plinary research units on the model of the MIT MediaLab, but with focus on specific
CSM strengths.

f. Grand Challenge Research Institutes
Despite significant growth of our research enterprise over the past decade, a review con-
ducted by the Research Task Force leads to the conclusion that we have room to grow
further in terms of quality, quantity, and especially the impact of our research. Many
steps can be taken toward these goals, some of which can bear fruit in the near term

without big changes to the existing institutional structure, while others require a longer-
term view and substantial commitment from our institution. In this section we refer pri-
marily to steps in the latter category, which in our opinion can put us on a significant
growth trajectory and can also change some of the makeup of the faculty and student
body. Our primary focus is on the interdisciplinary character of our research and on the
efficient use of our research infrastructure.

The Task Force, with support from Mines faculty, believes that research at Mines can be
enhanced through restructuring of research centers on campus and through establishment
of research institutes that are intrinsically interdisciplinary and mission-oriented. We en-
vision such organizations as complementary to the existing research infrastructure and
primarily based on the scientific expertise currently available on campus. The main goal
of reorganizing research centers on campus is to establish new research bodies that are
more efficient in space and allocation and utilization of resources, and ambitious in pur-
suing solutions to major research challenges. An institute, or large center, will overcome
the institutional barriers that hamper or discourage a higher-level cooperation on strate-
gic research.

The main driver for this initiative is the realization that many of the significant problems
facing society in the near and longer terms can only be addressed by integrated teams
consisting of experts in different fields, rather than by isolated disciplinary teams. Our
current research structure appears to encourage disciplinary research through our separa-
tion into many concentric organizational circles that distance researchers from one an-
other. This is certainly effective in many instances, as evidenced by our research growth
in many fields, but it is not the ideal structure for integrated research aimed at addressing
major challenges that societies are facing today (e.g., climate change, renewable energy,
food production, access to safe water, aging infrastructure and national security). Such
challenges require that we rethink how we structure our activities and how we better ex-
ploit the scientific and engineering talent available at Mines.

This kind of transformation/transition is not new and not specific to Mines. Other large
and successful academic institutions came to the same conclusion over time and pro-
ceeded to form new, transformational, and translational research structures that begins
with a ‘blank sheet’ and are not hampered by historic institutional mechanisms. In all
cases, the goal is to bring people together and share resources more efficiently, but most
importantly to facilitate interdisciplinary science and education. Examples of institutes
that went through these changes include:
• the MediaLab at MIT (
• the at Stanford (
• the iLab at Harvard (
• the Energy Institute at CSU (

These organizations, and others like them, are very well regarded in the scientific com-
munity due to the caliber of their research, the quality of their faculty and students, and
the volume and impact of their research. A great example of a purposefully designed in-

terdisciplinary organization is the MIT MediaLab3, whose main characteristics can func-
tion as a model for a similar type facility at Mines:

1. The MediaLab was designed several decades ago to address a major challenge
posed by the development of computer infrastructure and new ways of hu-
man/technology interaction. Many of the techniques developed at the MediaLab are
in common use today and have removed seemingly unmovable barriers.
2. The MediaLab focuses on applications of technology to problems with a signifi-
cant social component. This is essential in order to gain public recognition and sup-
port from the community at large, as well as from local and university administra-
3. The MediaLab effectively functions outside the departmental structure of its
home institution. Although the Lab is formally part of an existing MIT college, it has
its own nimble administration designed to support high-risk research activities and to
minimize bureaucratic burden. The MediaLab even has its own admissions policies
focused on recruiting the most talented graduate students who can straddle disci-
plines and pursue interdisciplinary goals. The Energy Institute at CSU (PowerHouse)
has a similar structure.
4. The MediaLab is not only a research organization, but also functions as a distinct
degree-granting academic program. This is essential in channeling the attention
and energy of the participants in the program, both faculty and students, to the core
challenges addressed by the Lab. Moreover, this system facilitates education inno-
vation through creative blending of teaching and research activities using modern
hands-on tools.
5. The MediaLab builds upon the scientific strengths of its home institutions, by
taking full advantage of the MIT knowledge base in Computer Science, Robotics,
and Engineering. However, the faculty of the MediaLab come from different disci-
plines (computer science, engineering, biology, physics, neuroscience) to facilitate
research that is not discipline-specific, but mission oriented toward high-impact soci-
etal challenges.
6. The MediaLab brings together its entire associated faculty in a single research
facility, which is designed to encourage spontaneous collaboration through shared
lab spaces and support, serendipity through open research space, and transparent
cross-pollination through lab-wide workshops, courses, and seminars. The critical
mass obtained by concentrating large numbers of faculty and students from diverse
disciplines encourages research at a scale that cannot be attained by any individual
research group.

3 Actively promoting a unique, anti-disciplinary culture, the MIT Media Lab goes beyond known boundaries and disciplines,
encouraging the most unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. It creates disruptive technol-
ogies that happen at the edges, pioneering such areas as wearable computing, tangible interfaces, and affective computing.
Today, faculty members, research staff, and students at the Lab work in 24 research groups on more than 350 projects that
range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to a stackable, electric car for sustainable cities, to advanced
imaging technologies that can “see around a corner.” The Lab is committed to looking beyond the obvious to ask the questions
not yet asked–questions whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, express themselves, work, and play.

7. The MediaLab is supported to a large degree by institutional grants, rather than
grants for a specific researcher. This naturally encourages integrated research, but al-
so facilitates partnerships with major industrial sponsors who seek bold scientific
breakthroughs, rather than timid incremental improvements of existing technology.
8. The MediaLab strongly encourages entrepreneurship and functions as an incuba-
tor for startup companies. This benefits the lab by complementing its faculty with
talented research faculty involved in the associated startups, by expanding the fund-
ing base for the lab, and by involving students during their studies in real-world ap-
plications of their academic research. The MediaLab is also aggressive in acquiring
and defending IP rights and in supporting startup activities.
9. Based on its existing and developing reputation, the MediaLab attracts ambitious
and creative faculty and students, thus creating a virtuous cycle linking high-
caliber research with massive financial support with best human talent available.
10. The MediaLab structure recognizes that scientific and engineering advances go
hand-in-hand, and thus its researchers pay equal attention to both fundamental re-
search, and practical applications.

We recommend that Mines embrace a similar model adapted for our strengths and tar-
geted toward accomplishing the main objectives stated in our strategic plan. We could
form one or more research organizations (a.k.a., institute, or lab, or observatory):
• Focused on the study of the Earth system (e.g., water, climate, energy, food)
• Building upon our institutional strengths (e.g., earth sciences, engineering)
• Using interdisciplinary teams (e.g., geoscience + space + robotics + computing)
• Located in a high-profile/central campus facility
• With a flat administrative structure, outside the colleges, and reporting to the VP
• With graduate/undergraduate degrees without specific disciplinary labeling
• Connected with a research incubator located on or close to the campus.

A Mines structure of this kind could in time become a top-tier research organization that
would elevate the overall Mines research profile, attract talented faculty and students,
increase the available research funding, and most importantly raise the impact of our re-
search to a new level. Such an organization could also serve as a model for new mecha-
nisms for research administration that over time would permeate the entire organization
and lead to a more nimble and decentralized organization overall.

Such an organization would not only have strategic importance for our institution by at-
tracting research funding and channeling efforts toward grand challenges, but would also
function as a focal point for vigorous fundraising by the Mines Foundation to increase
support for:
• High-profile endowed chairs in strategic disciplines
• Competitive graduate and undergraduate research fellowships
• New and modern research facilities
• Highly skilled research and lab staff
Teaching innovation and professional development

• High-impact, short-term visitors from the industry and academia, and
Public communication of science and community outreach.

This new type of research organization will require steady and long-term commitment
from our institution, and also investment of financial and human capital; but the payoff
can be significant. For example, the research budget of the MIT MediaLab with about 30
faculty and 250 graduate students, and 80+ members was about $50M in 2014-2015,
which is comparable with the overall research budget of a much larger organization like

An example: A Mines Water-Energy Institute

While plans to establish new materials/energy institutes on campus are underway (A7),
Mines has a special strength in water and energy (and their synergy) research. Research
conducted on campus in these areas is performed through the following research centers:
• Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes (CESEP),
• Advanced Water Technology Center (AQWATEC),
• Center for Environmental Risk Assessment (CERA),
• Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center (IGWMC),
• NSF Engineering Research Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infra-
structure (ReNUWIt), and
• ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable Water-Energy Education, Science, and
Technology (WE2ST).

Almost all of these centers are unique in their infrastructure and the research conducted,
and most of them are already nationally and internationally recognized. However, mini-
mal collaboration exists between these centers and the synergy and opportunities that
can be achieved from their cooperative operation are lost. Furthermore, the Humanitari-
an Engineering Program at Mines, which is a very unique program nationwide, is not in-
tegrated into the general water research on campus, and neither are others on campus
that do research on the political, social, and scientific aspects of water, energy, food, and

Therefore, it appears that Mines has already achieved the critical mass of research, facili-
ties, talent, and resources for establishing a water institute (or water-energy institute),
which will facilitate acceleration of research in very unique and important fields with
significant impacts on society. A new water-energy institute will also benefit from local
and established collaborations with federal agencies such as NREL, USGS, Bureau of
Reclamation, NIST, and NCAR, and with many high-tech industries in the Denver metro

There are, however, other water institutes across the country and we should understand
what could make a Mines water institute unique. A few examples of other water insti-
tutes across the country include:

• The Water Institute at UNC: Water Institute,
• University of Florida Water Institute
• CSU Water Institute
• Johns Hopkins Water Institute
• Purdue University Calumet Water Institute (PWI)
• University of Illinois Safe Global Water Institute
• California Institute for Water Resources

The directors of the water-related centers at Mines have started the discussion and are
planning to introduce a proposed program for transforming into a water or water-energy
institute at the beginning of 2016. As we move forward, special attention must be paid to
the investments needed for it to succeed. These investments in infrastructure and reor-
ganizations should be thoroughly explored and discussed among researchers, department
heads/division directors, deans of colleges, and campus administrators to ensure best
outcomes. This can be done through establishment of a special task force in charge of es-
tablishing each institute.

Some of the topics that require specific attention include:
• Requirement for a centralized physical infrastructure for an institute:
○ Labs and offices (faculty, staff, postdocs, students);
○ Both science, engineering, and policy components of research.
Incubators as part of the infrastructure (startup companies):
 Self-supported enterprise (other institutes are able to cover both operating and
capital expenditure through renting out space to startup companies).
 Potential for UG and graduate experience as interns with the startup companies
occupying the incubator space.
 Institutional barriers must be overcome to allow faculty, staff, and students to be
an integrated part of the incubator enterprise.
• Legal barriers to SBIRs and startups on campus?
• While combining existing research centers into an institute, it is important to main-
tain the legacy of existing entities/centers. Furthermore, special centers such as
ERCs (ReNUWIT) and donated centers (WE2ST) are unique entities and their inte-
gration into an institute is not obvious or simple.
Institutional support is needed, at least in the short term, in order to facilitate suc-
cessful startup of an institute. These include attractive IDC return, technical staff
support (technicians, lab managers), and administrative support to assist with fi-
nance, research management, proposals, and contracts.

Other issues to consider while planning the transition into an institute-derived research
• Who will oversee the operation of the institute(s)? VPRTT? Deans?
• What will be the relationships with colleges and departments?
• What management structures worked best for other institutes?
• What will be the funding mechanisms for an institute?
• How infrastructure will be managed, maintained, allocated, and efficiently utilized?


A1: Research Expenditures



A2: Full Research Impact



A3: Associate Research Impact




A4: Assistant Research Impact



A5: Credit Hours



A6: Table 1

Criteria (external resource generation* and
Base Instructional Load Target Per Year** be-
Ph.D. student mentoring)
fore Buy-Out or Adjustment for Leadership
All Faculty (tenured, tenure-track, teaching)
<$25K and 1 or fewer externally funded Ph.D. stu-
720 SCH
$25K - $100K and 1 - 3 externally funded Ph.D.
540 SCH
$100K - $200K and 2 - 4 externally funded Ph.D.
360 SCH
$200K - $400K and 4 or more externally funded
270 SCH
Ph.D. students
>$400K and 4 or more externally funded Ph.D.
180 SCH
Tenure-Track Faculty
0 – 2 Years
180 SCH (or two courses)
2 – 5 Years
270 SCH (or three courses)
* - funding can be from external grants, gifts, royalties, etc.
** - exclusive of graduate research, dissertation, thesis, and independent study hours
• For reference, one 3-credit hour class with 30 students = 90 SCH
• Courses taught with fewer than 18 SCH (on average 6 students) are not to be counted towards
instructional load.
• Buy-out cost may be unit specific, but cannot be less than 15% AY salary per course buy-out.
All buy-out to be approved at the discretion of the department chair and dean. Faculty may not
independently contract substitute instructors for their courses.
• Faculty should be teaching at least one course per year, unless there is a compelling reason for a
waiver from this requirement (i.e., strategic major proposal development or other special as-
Adjustment for Leadership Contribution:
• Unit leader annual instructional load expectation is negotiated with their dean’s office, after con-
sideration of other expectations.
• Directors of recognized centers with >$5M in cumulative annual expenditures, and associate de-
partment chairs with significant responsibilities (especially leading to accreditation review)
should be treated as if they have 50% appointments, so the instructional load target in the table
above should be divided by 2.
• Directors of recognized centers with $2M - $5M in annual expenditures will be granted the
equivalent of a one-course buy-out.


A 7: Document 1

Materials Science Energy Institute
Similar to the potential water institute at Mines, a new Materials Science Energy Institute is
coming into existence. As described below by Craig Taylor, establishing the infrastructure and
collaborative relationships with NREL are underway.

Executive summary: Materials science at Mines is a core research strength of the campus and
has garnered recognition at an international level. The Materials Science Energy Institute will
leverage faculty expertise, joint facilities, campus financial support, and administrative support
to strategically target large, multidisciplinary, research opportunities creating a sustainable fund-
ing model. To accomplish this, the Institute will drive strategic decisions such as the acquisition
and support of the central infrastructure required to be competitive at the next level. In the pro-
cess it will become one of the crown jewels of the campus.

Recent Progress: Major progress since the proposal submitted last semester (Fall 2015) in-
cludes (1) the development of a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on joint Mines/NREL
appointments by Nancy Haegel (NREL), Mike Kaufman, and Craig Taylor and (2) initial de-
scription of the research “pillars” for a joint materials research institute between Mines and
NREL (Nancy Haegel, Mowafak Al-Jassim, and Bill Tumas (NREL), John Poate, Mike Kauf-
man, Brian Gorman, and Craig Taylor). To date five major pillars have been identified:

1. Joint Mines/NREL multiscale characterization facility
2. Automated processing of materials and fabrication of devices ("roll to roll"), especially
materials by design (batteries, membranes, PV, thermoelectric, etc.)
3. Energy storage (chemical, thermal, electro-thermal)
4. Membranes and catalysis, especially earth abundant elements
5. Energy analysis and policy

Planning for the first pillar is the furthest along. An LDRD has been awarded at NREL to initi-
ate a new funding structure for interactions with industry, namely industrial use of joint
Mines/NREL facilities. The first project involves research of interest to CoorsTek. The Mines
leadership has agreed to participate by providing the student/postdoc support for this project.
The next steps involve appropriate Mines faculty and NREL scientists meeting to identify the
best ways to mitigate the barriers and inefficiencies we now face in collaborative facility use.
And, critically important, a focused joint workshop to identify key players on both sides and see
what the broader effort might look like will occur sometime during the spring semester of 2016.
Similar meetings to flesh out the other four pillars are also in the planning stage.

Much needs to be done in the spring semester of 2016 for several reasons. First, the renewal ap-
plication for (IRG’s) must be identified before the end of the semester. The office of the VPRTT
is heading up this effort. Second, the current REMRSEC Director will be in transitional retire-
ment sometime in the summer, and the institution will need to determine how to proceed going
forward with regard to the future of the administrative and technical personnel and the central
facilities developed under the REMRSEC NSF grant with strong Mines support.

Other progress includes: (1) launching of a joint NREL/Mines distinguished Lectureship in Ma-
terials series this April 2016, (2) developing plans to increase the number of joint appointments
both ways, (3) developing plans to create joint fellowships to recruit the best and the brightest
grad students and postdocs, and (4) developing plans to make it easier for NREL staff to teach
courses at Mines.

Document Outline