Minutes, March 16, 2016 (Approved)

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 1:00 PM in Library Classroom 306. The eleven attendees were:

1. Kara Andrade (GLC)
2. Alan Isaac (CAS)
3. Stefan Kramer (Library)
4. Carl LeVan (SIS)
5. Michael Manson (Dir, UG Research and Integrity)
6. Joseph Mortati (KSB)
7. Lindsay Murphy (CTRL)
8. Chris Simpson (SOC)
9. Lyn Stallings (Vice Provost, UG Studies)
10. Sonja Walti (SPA)
11. Chenyang Xiao (CAS)

Co-chair Joseph Mortati brought the meeting to order and the following business was conducted:

1. A motion to approve the draft minutes of the previous meeting was made and approved.

2. The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to Lyn Stallings, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, and Michael Manson, Director, Undergraduate Research and Integrity, who were seeking CIS inputs on an issue related to undergraduate research opportunities. (As an FYI, Lyn also has a faculty/staff undergraduate research committee exploring these options and advising her along with convening some student focus groups.)

The problem-to-be-solved is that AU currently lacks a robust process of identifying and disseminating undergraduate research opportunities (such as publications, conferences, and mentorship) and then “match-making” them with students who could serve as research assistants. A corollary issue is that other faculty are often not aware of these opportunities. The current process is mostly ad hoc whereby most of the matches between research opportunities and students are the results of professor and students who happen to know each other.

A potential part of the solution is to adopt a platform where faculty post research assistantships, summer research experiences, and other research opportunities, and students search and apply, as well as a clearinghouse for research opportunities elsewhere (these could be in the student’s hometown over the summer, undergraduate research journals, opportunities within the consortium, etc.).

A very good example of such a solution is Boston University’s Research Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (http://www.bu.edu/urop/), which Michael Manson demonstrated. (The appendix of these minutes includes the various options under consideration.)

Given that introduction, Lyn and Michael ask the committee members for thoughts. X main issues were identified.

Issue 1 – How are research opportunities identified? FARS is a possible source but because data entry is inconsistent in both content and format, it’s problematic to use it as many opportunities can be missed. Joseph Mortati (KSB) suggested that perhaps research funding data (less likely to be inconsistent) could be used as a starting point. A related question is, until we know the opportunities size, how can any kind of cost-benefit analysis be done?

Issue 2 – Chris Simpson (SOC) raised several, related issues, the first of which is, how do the people, processes, and systems overcome existing obstacles to students participating? That is, lack of interest or time or pay have historically been problematic. Likewise, how do we measure the potential student population interested and available for such opportunities? Knowing this could be used to determine how much money should be invested in any system solution. Lyn mentioned the population is at least 200 students + honors students.

Issue 3 – How hard is it for faculty to post opportunities and search for matches? What is the incentive for faculty to use any system?

Carl LeVan (SIS) raised two, related concerns that self-selection and timing (if I post a research opportunity, am I first or last in the sequence and would this create competition?) raise issues of fairness.

Chris Simpson (SOC) questioned the need for such a system given free and ubiquitous social media platforms frequently used by UG students. Chenyang Xiao (CAS) questioned the wisdom of soliciting the Committee’s inputs because it runs the risk of coming down to opinions or individual experiences.

Stefan Kramer (Library) added that AU doesn’t have the ability to systematically and effectively share faculty research with other faculty.

Alan Isaac (CAS) asked why opportunity sharing isn’t being done via Career Web (http://www.american.edu/careercenter/AU-Careerweb.cfm). Michael replied that this is an option in addition to the platforms listed at the end of these minutes. This could be done via another link.

Lyn and Michael closed by thanking the Committee for our inputs and promising a follow-up on whatever decisions are made.

There being no other business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 1:00 PM in the Library Conference Room (BLIB 143, the conference immediately to the right of the main entrance to the Bender Library).


There are four platforms being considered:

Research Connection – https://researchconnection.com/

Scholar Bridge – http://www.scholarbridge.com/

Student Opportunity Center – https://www.studentopportunitycenter.com/

AU Career Web – https://american-csm.symplicity.com/students/

Posted in Minutes.

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