Monday, August 4, 2014
Many of us are in the process of (perhaps frantically) wrapping up our summer scholarly activity and re-focusing our primary professional attention on teaching. As always, I am using the annual conference sponsored by the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) to help me make this transition. Yesterday, I attended a discussion session led by law school associate deans and faculty who focus on faculty development--scholarship and teaching. It was an incredibly interesting and wide-ranging discussion.
Part of the conversation centered around summer research stipends, a topic that has been in the national news a bit over the past few years. Various participants in the discussion session addressed, each from his or her individual institution's vantage point, the reasons for/purposes of summer research stipends (which not every school represented at the session currently has) and how summer stipends actually work or should/could optimally work. I was surprised by the variations in approaches and ideas from school to school. While the individual models are too numerous to capture here, I summarize below the fold some of the top-level points made and thoughts shared during the discussion.
Why Law Schools Provide or Should Provide Summer Research Stipends
- To supplement inadequate (below-market) salary
- To incentivize publication of any kind
- To motivate publication in "top tier" (whatever that means) academic journals
- To encourage publication in excess of one law review article per year (or in excess of another assumed minimum required amount of scholarship production for nine-month faculty)
- To enhance the visibility or reputation of the law school in relevant communities--ranging from scholarly communities to the public at-large
How Law Schools Award or Should Award Summer Research Stipends
- Award a specific amount to successful applicants or award differing amounts (typically tiered) for successful applicants
- Base grants on the [relative] quality of the proposal, level of past productivity, or both
- Pay in a lump sum or make multiple payments across the summer months based on an accepted abstract or research proposal, pay in tiers (e.g., at proposal acceptance, publication acceptance, and publication), or pay only on publication acceptance
- Make awards on the same basis for all or treat, e.g., pre-tenure scholars differently from post-tenure scholars
- Provide funding for all work included in the law school's definition of "scholarship" (which varies from school to school) or only for certain types of work
These funding purposes and methods were raised and discussed in various ways. Some schools have enough financial wherewithal to be able to fund all individuals with worthy projects; others have to make difficult choices.
What, if anything, is a compelling reason for awarding summer research stipends to law faculty? What types of work should be funded? How? If your law school grants stipends for summer research, what is the process? Have summer research stipends served their purpose(s) well at your institution? I would be interested in knowing . . . .