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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.76
Liaison Trina Innes
Submission Date Oct. 10, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

University of Alberta
ER-19: Interdisciplinary Research in Tenure and Promotion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Naomi Krogman
Academic Director of the Office of Sustainability
Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution's treatment of interdisciplinary research meet the criteria for this credit?:

A brief description or a copy of the institution’s policy regarding interdisciplinary research:

The University has a strategic statement that recognizes interdisciplinary research, but operationally each faculty has its own policies on tenure and promotion. As such, the strategic statements are provided here followed by an overview faculty policies in order to best represent the University of Alberta's recognition of interdisciplinary research in tenure and promotion decisions.

The Academic Plan for the University of Alberta, Dare to Deliver 2011-2015 promotes interdisciplinary research across the institution. One of the metrics in place for recognizing progress is being made is: "further development of collaborative and interdisciplinary research programs" ( page 8).

In addition the academic chapter of the Comprehensive Institutional Plan (CIP) states “The University of Alberta is uniquely positioned to offer innovative and in some cases interdisciplinary programming through interfaculty connections, Campus Alberta collaborations, and with national and international consortia”.

There are a number of strategies in place to promote interdisciplinary research:
- Access Strategy 18.3. Increase interdisciplinary collaborative program development. Create and implement a policy framework for the development of interdisciplinary programs. Develop interdisciplinary collaborative programs.

Specific examples from faculties include:
- Reorganization of interdisciplinary programs and Office of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Faculty of Arts
- Increased collaboration across departments, development of cross-disciplinary core graduate courses in the Faculty of Arts
- Develop Interdisciplinary graduate studentships in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
- Develop theme-based (e.g., Sustainability, Northern Studies, International Studies) and skill-specific (e.g., Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) certificates that enable students to pursue multiple interests and interdisciplinary learning
- ACCESS GOAL 21: To increase interdisciplinary collaborative program and initiative development in order to offer students innovative and relevant educational opportunities

Support interdisciplinary collaborations that define new areas of investigation and creativity and represent innovation in cultural and social approaches. Examples here include fine arts and nanoscience; the art and design of healthcare equipment; narrative and visual design for computer gaming; intersection of computing science, history, and literature and the intersection of anthropology, science, and Aboriginal studies; postcolonial studies.

There are also examples of infrastructure that supports interdisciplinary research ( e.g. Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Kule Institute for Advanced Study).

However, faculty tenure and promotion decisions are determined at the Faculty level. As such, while the Academic Plan indicates that interdisciplinarity is a matter of importance it may not be clearly considered at the Faculty level in tenure and promotion decisions. As such, rather than rely on the Academic Plan we delved further into University of Alberta tenure and promotion decision processes.

The STARS technical manual indicates that to count for this credit the institution must give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, or multidisciplinary research in faculty tenure and promotion decisions. The rationale is that equal weight should be given to such research as single discipline research. We interpreted the criteria as a matter of having tenure and promotion policies that explicitly mention interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, or transdisciplinary research or recognize that unique disciplinary interests of faculty on a case by case basis (which would therefore include interdisciplinary work), as being equal to research within a single discipline.

Campus St. Jean, Faculty of Extension, Nursing, Native Studies, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Physical Education, Augustana Campus, St. Joseph's College were all considered Faculty/Departments because they are organized differently than a traditional faculty for in regard to tenure and promotion. St. Stephen's College was not included because they are an affiliate and they indicated it would not be appropriate to include them in the STARS assessment. For purposes of this credit the faculty/departments were included as faculties.

To better understand tenure and promotion decisions on an operational level we collected information for this credit by asking assistant deans of each faculty at the University of Alberta to provide a copy of their tenure and promotion requirements. We read the documents looking for mention of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, or multidisciplinary research in alignment with the criteria stated above. We calculated a percentage of faculties that do recognize interdisciplinary research. We considered considered the credits for ER-19 earned if more than 50% of faculties recognized interdisciplinary work in tenure and promotion decisions.

According to our criteria outlined above the University of Alberta has 18 faculties. Of these 11 were determined to consider interdisciplinarity in their tenure and promtion decisions, three did not, and four did not respond to our information request. As per the calculation described in the above criteria (11/18*100%= 61%) greater than 50% of the faculties consider interdisicplinarity in their tenure and promotion decisions. Therefore on average the University of Alberta does consider interidisciplinary work as equal to traditional disciplinary work in tenure and promotion decisions at an operational level, on average. As such, we considered the University of Alberta as meeting the necessary criteria to claim all points for ER-19.

The website URL where information about the treatment of interdisciplinary research is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.