Saturday, 26 January 2013

Bragging Rights

I have a great job. I get to brag about the Faculty of Science.

The Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta is one of the best in Canada. By some metrics we might be number two, but by all meaningful metrics we are in the top five. Our strong reputation nationally translates into international recognition.  It is a privilege to be part of a team whose reach extends literally around the world.

In December, I participated in the annual review of performance for all the professors in Science. Reading through the annual reports of 293 faculty members was the highlight of my first six months as Dean. I had anecdotal evidence of many exciting research initiatives but to read all the details was eye-opening. The Faculty of Science is delivering outstanding research and teaching. I know. I have the data.

On the research side, some of the interesting points include:

  • Professors averaged roughly five refereed papers per person (no double counting of papers with multiple authors).
  • Over 27% of the journal papers produced are considered to be in the top 10% of the publication venues in that area (as measured by impact factor).
  • We had one researcher with 101 refereed journal papers. Okay, so that number is a bit misleading since he is a member of a consortium and all members get their name on the papers. Still 101 entries on your CV for one year is impressive!
  • Science researchers brought in over $260,000 of research funding per person; roughly $50,000 per person more than our counterparts at the University of British Columbia.
  • Our faculty won numerous international, national, and provincial awards. For example, we had two new Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Don Page (black holes) and John England (Arctic) were deservingly recognized. As another example, Phil Currie’s work on paleontology landed him the prestigious Explorer’s Club Medal.

Our faculty members also teach (we are, after all, a research AND teaching institution). One of the questions asked of students is to rate the excellence of teaching in a course on a scale of 1.0 (poor) to 5.0 (outstanding). The average rating over all instructors in the Faculty of Science was 4.5. 4.5??? That number is unbelievably high, especially when you consider that there are always some outliers. The scary thing is that over the last five years this number has been slowly going up. It’s hard to believe that it could go much higher!

The above is a snippet of data that demonstrates how strong the Faculty of Science is. I am delighted to be working with colleagues who are recognized around the world for their leading-edge research. My job is to steer us in a direction that allows us to be even better than we are today. I am confident that we are on the move.

I have a right to brag. I am the Dean of an outstanding team of professors, research associates, research assistants, graduate students, undergraduate students, instructors, and support staff that are making their mark on the world. Thank you for your commitment to excellence.

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