It’s panel season here at NSF…

Which means the lobby and elevators are jammed first thing in the morning. But it also means that community members are coming together to perform the lynchpin function in the merit review process–in my opinion this peer review has been critical to the empirical success of the NSF since it’s founding in the early 1950’s.

Which brings me to the point of this blogpost: I think that where appropriate from the standpoint of expertise, more deans, provosts and even university presidents should participate in NSF panels. I think this would help them hone the qualities of “scientific taste” that they need for recruitment, retention and even promotion and tenure processes. I know, that during my sixteen year tenure in a decanal position at George Mason, serving on many NSF panels helped me a great deal in building out a high-performing faculty team at my academic unit. Of course, there will be conflicts of interest for proposals from one’s home institution and administrators would have to recuse themselves from those discussions and decisions.

External versus Internal

One of the tricky issues in running an institute is the balance between the external (fundraising, friendraising, global issues are examples) and the internal demands of the job (chairing meetings, mentoring, conflict resolution and budget just to name a few). Neither can be neglected. The trick is to balance the two to keep an institute on an even keel.

Here at Krasnow, we have a culture of a “light management touch” which suits that external-internal balancing act well. The main role of administration at this Institute is to facilitate science, not to control it. If facilitation comes from external fundraising, so be it. It that catalyst function comes from internal cheerleading, then that’s fine too.

Administrators chained to desks in Akron

I hope loyal readers know I find this Dean’s actions reprehensible. He fired a department chair for working from home.

Money quote:

Howard M. Ducharme Jr. was the chairman of the philosophy department at Akron for the last 11 years. He said he had never heard of an attendance policy for department chairmen until Ronald F. Levant, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university, called him at home one day last month at 4:30 p.m. and asked him why he wasn’t at his desk.

Mr. Ducharme—who said that particular day began with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast meeting—told the dean he was working from home. He met with the dean a day later and was told, he said, that “being on leave is a military concept, and when one is away from their duty station without permission, they are AWOL.”

AWOL? I think that’s a bit much.

I do see the need to be able to contact chairs by cell phone or email when the need is urgent.