FAYETTEVILLE -- Faculty across the University of Arkansas System will be rewarded in the tenure process for taking their academic work to market, system trustees decided Friday.
The resolution directs chancellors and other system leaders to work with faculty to insert language into tenure policies giving faculty credit for obtaining patents for their work. The credit would be an additional criteria for tenure consideration, both before obtaining tenure and for continued tenure evaluation. Tenure considerations typically include published research, involvement with other organizations and teaching performance.
The decision aligns with a trend among research universities toward adopting such changes to tenure policies.
Several universities have adopted similar policies. At one, Texas A&M University, the number of patents obtained by faculty rose, UA System President Donald Bobbitt told trustees in September when he first told them he would start a committee to study the idea.
The idea, which Bobbitt referred to as "commercialization" of research or other scholarly activities, is seen as a potential economic boon for universities' bottom lines if sufficient revenue is generated and for their communities' economies, though many patented technologies don't generate profit. His letter to trustees proposing the resolution noted the National Science Foundation's support of the commercialization tenure credit across the country.
"The resolution acknowledges the role of the modern university to foster innovation and entrepreneurship and the changing nature of faculty work that is extending beyond traditional academic outputs," Bobbitt wrote.
Some campuses may already have tenure policies that include consideration of patents and products.
For example, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock already has a tenure policy considering patents as a part of "Scholarship of Integration." That refers to any work produced to tackle some sort of problem, perhaps economic or social.
On Friday, trustees also approved a new innovation institute at the University of Arkansas.
The Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research was announced earlier this year as a part of a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Charitable Support Foundation. The institute will "expand the score of discoveries made by University of Arkansas researchers and increase the velocity in which discoveries are transferred to the marketplace where they can improve or save lives."
Trustees approved the unit's creation, organization chart and a revised project proposal for its construction.
The building will be between 125,000 and 130,000 square feet and host 30 faculty researchers and 180 other researchers, according to a letter to trustees from Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. The estimated construction cost is $114 million, and the building will be on the corner of Duncan Avenue and Dickson Street.
A grant will pay $50 million of the construction, and the university will match the grant with $20 million in unrestricted money and $30 million from bonds. Two additional grants, of $9 million and $30 million, will pay for equipment and other costs.
Also on Friday, trustees approved a contract to license a project from two University of Arkansas researchers.
The Hughes and Liang Diversity Intelligence Scale was developed by Claretha Hughes, professor of human resource and workforce development, and Xinya Liang, assistant professor of educational statistics and research methods.
The university will receive 10% of royalties from the company with the license, Diversity Intelligence, and 25% of the income from a sub-license. Liang and Hughes will be entitled to receive a share of the revenue the university receives.
The scale will help workplaces "efficiently and effectively integrate protected class employees in the workplace" and it will "assess leaders' Diversity Intelligence knowledge, training and education," Bobbitt wrote in his letter to trustees encouraging the license's approval.