Our New Resource Allocation Model – Incentivizing Collaboration (Part 1)

By Latha Ramchand, Provost

Jan. 6, 2020

Eighteen months – the length of time between convening the committee and the final presentation of the new Resource Allocation Model (RAM). Despite the length of time involved, and as we noted at our town hall presentation in May 2018, the model is not perfect, and is a work in process. Today, about seven months after the presentation, and about twenty five since the committee started its work – the model has been shared in different formats, to multiple audiences. We made some changes, but clearly there is more to do. Thanks to your input, we have and will continue to reflect on the implications of the model, think about consequences (short and long term), and we continue to make changes. When you shared your concerns about the reserves, we made changes – startup funds were excluded as you suggested, from the calculation of reserves. When you shared concerns about the model’s impact on graduate education, we heard your concerns and have since made changes to the model – we are not done, at least not yet. There are several questions that await answers and some more urgent than others.

In my mind, the elephant in the room is collaboration. Even as the model elevates transparency and allows us to understand the sources which result in revenue and the uses which result in costs, it does not organically incentivize collaboration. Arguably, the model is simple and, for that reason, elegant. It facilitates sharing of revenues and costs, based on formulaic applications that rely on the teaching credit hours generated and on shared credit allocations based on researchers’ participation, hence contribution from grants. This is not the same as incentivizing collaboration. Disruptive changes in higher education have nudged us all to challenge established norms. In many cases, we have seen innovations and solutions to problems are the result of thinking outside the box, learning from others who think very differently from the way we do, and from breaking down silos of knowledge.

How do we incentivize collaboration? How do we nudge the STEM scientist who studies the human biome to work with the social scientist who studies how research on the human biome can improve health outcomes for rural communities? How do we allow the clinician who treats neurological disorders in humans to work with the psychologist who studies the way our brains react to stressors – or for that matter how our brains respond to addictive stimuli? How do we grow a learning environment where our students study the genetics of aging alongside content on fiscally responsible retirement plans that can be critical to happiness and general well-being as we age?

Joint teaching is not new and neither is collaborative research. Mizzou’s new RAM does not create rewards for joint work, teaching or research. And as some of you have shared, (and rightly so) the new model could encourage the creation of ‘college-specific general education’ courses intended solely to increase revenues to the college.

So the question is – how do we stretch the current model so collaboration is not happenstance, but is the result of intentional efforts that can transform the quality of our research and the learning that results?

Your turn – I look forward to hearing from you.