Biology Department Statement on Scholarship

What forms of scholarship define the work of those in your department at their best?

At its best, scholarship by the faculty in biology at Luther College should provide mentoring to undergraduates in the process of science, as well as provide a testing of the faculty member’s ideas at the level of one’s peers in the discipline.  Scholarship includes a host of activities relating to the process of developing new knowledge in the life sciences.  This includes formulating hypotheses, collecting new data, analyzing data, reviewing scientific literature, preparing presentations for scientific meetings, writing manuscripts for publication in scientific and educational journals, writing proposals to obtain funding, reviewing manuscripts and proposals, and serving on editorial boards.  In addition, scholarship in biology at Luther might include the communication of biological concepts to a general audience (e.g. essays, educational materials, formal lectures).

What forms of peer review – including those beyond the Luther campus – are appropriate for that work?

Submission of manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals and grant proposals to funding agencies are two standard forms of external peer review for biology faculty.  Less formal external peer review takes place through presentations at scientific meetings.

How can you encourage and enable your colleagues to see that such work bears fruit in their teaching?

The nature or subject of one’s scholarship should reflect the interests of the individual faculty member.  One’s scholarship should be motivated by a curiosity about fundamental relationships in the living world.  Direct correlation with courses taught is beneficial and encouraged, but this is not an essential component of strong scholarship.  An active scholar inherently contributes to the strength of the biology program, to the quality of the educational opportunities for students, and to the development of the faculty member as a scientist, teacher and mentor.

What depth and range of achievement in scholarship at the third year, tenure review, and application for promotion to full professor should distinguish the work of Luther faculty?

In the third year review, evaluation of the faculty member’s level of scholarship needs to occur in the context of the “starting point” at which the faculty’s research and teaching began at Luther.  The rate at which an individual faculty member can be expected to develop a research program may reflect several factors:  1) prior teaching experience may impact on the amount of time required for course development; 2) previous research experience may provide expertise and direction for research; 3) the extent to which external funding is required for the research; and 4) the extent to which the faculty member has to change his or her research to involve undergraduate students.

By the time of tenure, the faculty member should have an active research program at Luther College.  Involvement of undergraduates is essential, and student presentations are expected.  The research should be generating publishable results; the faculty member is expected to have presented at scientific meetings and to have published the results in peer-reviewed journals.  Expectations for research should be evaluated in the context of the degree of student involvement, the types of publications and presentations, efforts to secure external funding, and the nature of the research itself.

For promotion to full professor, the faculty member must be maintaining an active research program as described for tenure.  Sabbatical leaves are one way for faculty to strengthen their research program, develop their expertise, or initiate new areas of inquiry.  Senior faculty should be supporting a culture that emphasizes scholarship as a key component of science education at Luther College.

What distinctive forms of scholarship can thrive at a liberal arts college of the church?

The most distinctive aspect of scholarship that should thrive at Luther College is research that emphasizes mentoring undergraduate students.

(Spring 2012)