Biology Department Statement on Scholarship

Forms of Scholarship

Scholarly activity is an integral part of Luther College’s education mission and is expected both by the college (handbook section 405.3) and the department. The Biology Department believes that scholarship enhances undergraduate learning opportunities through the direct participation of students in the research process along with the connections established between scholarly activities and the classroom. To this end, the department recognizes the following forms of scholarship, and places no expectations that faculty pursue all three avenues for tenure or promotion.

1) Scholarship that informs the discipline. Research in biology seeks to strengthen and expand the scientific base of a discipline, and as such participation in original research is integral to the development of faculty members as scientists, teachers and mentors. The focus of one’s scholarship should reflect the interests of the individual faculty member, and these projects may or may not involve undergraduate students in the research process. Regardless, the mentoring of undergraduates in research is integral to the mission of the biology department at Luther College, and faculty are expected to engage students in the process of discovery, either as part of their research program or through development of projects in collaboration with the student. While this form of research reflects the highest level of scholarship from a professional standpoint, it should be considered on par with the other forms of scholarship that occurs in a liberal arts setting.

2) Scholarship that strengthens education in biology.  This form of scholarship seeks to enhance learning in the classroom and laboratory. This may occur through the development of teaching resources or research involving novel pedagogies, and extends beyond the normal preparation for assigned teaching duties. A second form of this type of scholarship is the development and implementation of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) in which student groups participate in novel research as part of their coursework. Evidence of these forms of scholarship involves the dissemination of work in peer-reviewed science or educational venues, or posting research findings on scientific databases for use by other researchers (peer utilization). 

3) Scholarship that engages the community. Scholarship in this form seeks to engage the community in discussions about biology. This may include designing outreach programs for area schools, or leading community-based discussions on biological technologies or phenomena and how they impact the environment with respect to public policy, social concerns, and economic impact. It also involves stewardship of Luther-owned land and promoting the institution’s goals of sustainability. While these activities are often designated as service to the college, they are important missions of the biology department and should be considered as scholarship when the activity leads to the outcomes described above (e.g., peer-reviewed publications, presentations at scientific conferences or legislative forums, performances, extramural funding pursuits). 

Peer Review

While scholarly activity in Biology may take several forms, the unifying requirement of scholarship in Biology is the dissemination of work through peer-reviewed mechanisms.  In the liberal arts context, there are multiple forms by which peer review may exist.  The most traditional means is through the submission of a manuscript to peer-reviewed journals and the publication of books or book chapters.  A second peer-review process is through grant applications to external agencies. In the context of a liberal arts institution, submissions of manuscripts and grant applications are valued whether a publication for funding ensures.  A third common means by which research is shared is through presentation of research at scientific or educational meetings. The department notes that presentations at professional meetings (beyond the campus) reflects the integration of scholarship and our educational mission and, to this end, does not specify whether presentations are made by the candidate or their student collaborators.

There are also important scholarly activities that the department supports but do not meet our definition of peer-review. First, faculty are encouraged to contribute to the health of the field through reviewing manuscripts and grants and contributing to the leadership of professional organizations. Second, there is an array of valuable activities that faculty are encouraged to engage in at Luther College, including science communication to broader audiences, intramural activities such as departmental seminars or poster presentations at campus-related events, and the communication of biological concepts to a lay audience (e.g. essays, educational materials, formal lectures and performances). Finally, the incorporation of CURE opportunities in the classroom are defined as undergoing the peer review process only if the results are externally disseminated for review or use.

Scholarly Activities Expected for Tenure and Promotion

The department will evaluate all candidates for tenure and promotion using two criteria, including: 1) a record of including undergraduate students in their research activity; and 2) scholarly activity that has been disseminated to the scientific or educational community through the peer review process. It should be noted that the department holds no prescribed formula for advancement through faculty ranks, and the department will apply these expectations differently at each stage of promotion, as defined below.

At the time of third year review, faculty members will likely display a wide variation in both the development of their scholarship program and the opportunity for undergraduate participation in research. As such, the department will broadly review evidence of research activity when evaluating the individual.

By the time of review for tenure and promotion, a faculty member should have established an active scholarship program that: 1) provides sustained opportunities for undergraduate students to participate; and 2) has contributed to scientific knowledge through the peer-review process, as defined above. The department expects tenure and promotion candidates to articulate how they are fostering the inclusion of undergraduates in their scholarship, summarize how their results have gone through the peer review process, and how this work has contributed to scientific knowledge.

At the time of review for promotion to full professor, the faculty member must have continued to 1) engage in scholarship that regularly includes undergraduate students, and 2) to produce peer-reviewed work that contributes to their scientific or science-education field.

Revised Spring 2018