Monday, December 21, 2009

Vision in vacuum

Recently, I visited a department, which had a vision paper and in a slide, they put their vision, "To be one in top five departments in the world." I smiled and thought it must have been their innate modesty that restricted them to be just among the top five and not the best in the world. IISc and many of its departments have simply overcome this problem by not having vision documents at all.

Vision without carefully designed policies, tasks and formulated action plans are simply that - visions and, these visions are no different from visions obtained by taking LSD. To quote from my colleague and friend, Jayant Haritsa (from Abi's blog; Read Jayant's post, it is frank and enlightening, as would be any conversation with him), "..stemming the perceived rot first requires introspection about the internal mechanisms of our institutions."


Anonymous said...

Very nice description of what the state of current research is.

About administrative issues, the US universities have a really good system of "welcoming" new faculty. They have a half-day to a daylong "orientation" session for all new faculty. Presentations are made by people from administrative staff that is extremely relevant to the prevailing procedures in the university.

For example, an IIX can have a single day orientation for all new faculty that deals with presentations by senior faculty or administrative staff on the following topics:

1) Settling down: Campus accommodation, pay and benefits overview, Campus facilities: Gymkhana, Health Centre, Library, etc.

2) Kickstarting your teaching: Student admission procedures, grading system, course styles offered by current faculty, resources available for teaching, teaching awards.

3) Kickstarting your research: Selecting PhD students, Grant writing, introduction to funding agencies, buying equipment, travel and reimbursement procedure, fellowships available to new faculty and procedures.

4) Projects and Consulting: Rules, regulations, procedures etc.

5) Operational Overview of the Institute: Directors' office, Various Deans, Senate, Payroll and Finance, Support Staff, Guidelines in dealing with non-teaching staff.

6) Cultural issues: Many local culture specific issues that faculty coming back from abroad after a long time(or foreign faculty) may not know.

All it takes is a group of interested faculty/staff to put this together and this can sustain itself from year to year based on voluntary work.

Prof. Madras, is there a possibility of conducting new faculty orientation in IISc?


Giri@iisc said...

The problem is the numbers. Currently, faculty are recruited every quarter and they join whenever they want. Every quarter, only 3 to 4 faculty are offered. So, it is difficult to hold orientation programs for such small numbers.

However, I am willing to write on all the above issues one by one on this blog, if readers are interested.



Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Madras,

That would be wonderful. You may also put the compiled information as Orientation Guide on IISc website (ideally IISc HR department should do this). You are doing a great service.


Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Madras,

That would be great! I wish there were professors like you at the IIT I will be joining.


Anonymous said...

It would be most useful even for faculty who have joined IISc recently. Please do start writing.

Anonymous said...

At least such events can be done twice a year. Understandably settling down must be over for some by then but point number 3)Kickstarting your research and 4) Projects and consulting rules, regulations and procedure will still be relevant. Because in just a few months it is not expected that faculty will start something substantial. Assuming project rules, regulations and procedures will be more or less same for all other IIXs, a website link (and associated read files)of such orientation event will also help the new faculties those are joining other IIXs.