Report of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Structure of the MIT Neuroscience Program

November 02, 2006

 

Message to the MIT Faculty

Dear colleagues,

The ad hoc committee appointed in July to review neuroscience programs at MIT has now issued its report. [The ad hoc committee is currently receiving comments on the report that it issued on November 2, 2006 and pending its consideration of the comments it receives, the Committee has asked that the report be taken off the website temporarily.] I am immensely grateful to the members of the committee—Professors Mildred Dresselhaus, Jacqueline N. Hewitt (chair), Marc A. Kastner, and Michael F. Rubner—for agreeing to serve MIT in this critical role and for their hard work on a sensitive and complex set of issues; we are in their debt.

The report emphasizes that good communications, coordination and cooperation have been essential to the success of MIT’s long-standing system of academic departments working alongside research centers. The committee reports that in neuroscience, competition and a fundamental lack of communication, coordination, and cooperation have led to a breakdown of our synergistic system. The recent controversy over the recruitment of a junior faculty member was one manifestation of this breakdown. The ad hoc committee has established that sound recruitment practices were not followed in this case. While the committee found no evidence that gender bias was a motivating factor, it did conclude that several individuals acted inappropriately. The overall breakdown in the process was very regrettable, and steps must be taken to prevent a recurrence.

In order to do this, we must establish a shared vision for research and education in neuroscience at MIT and move vigorously forward to recruit and hire outstanding neuroscience faculty in an appropriate manner.  To this end, I am establishing an Advisory Council on Neuroscience, reporting to the Provost and chaired by Associate Provost Lorna Gibson.  The Council’s members will come from the departments of Biology and of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) and from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research (MIBR) and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory (PILM).  The Dean of Science will also be a member of the Council.

The charge to the Council includes the following:

 

a.  First and foremost, the Council will oversee and coordinate faculty hiring and recruitment in neuroscience. The Council will promote cooperation and resolve disputes that may arise among the units.

b.  Working with the directors, department heads and faculty of Biology, BCS, MIBR, and PILM, the Council will develop a coherent program for neuroscience at MIT, focusing on how each of the principal units can build its own strengths while also contributing to our larger success in neuroscience education and research. The Council will also consider how to encourage collaborative work across the Institute as neuroscience activities emerge in other departments and schools.

c.  The Council will make recommendations to the Provost regarding the use of centrally allocated resources including faculty positions, start-up packages, and shared space.

 

The Council will meet regularly and report periodically to the Provost on progress in relation to its charge. It will operate for a period of three years, after which time its role and the continued need for the Council will be reassessed.

Neuroscience at MIT has made important advances in a relatively short period of time, attracting outstanding faculty and students and generating impressive discoveries. It is not surprising that such rapid expansion and intense activity, spread across different academic and research units, have given rise to tensions among the units. We owe it to our faculty and students, and to the research sponsors and generous donors who have put their faith in us, to address the issues identified by the ad hoc committee so that this important and exciting endeavor can fulfill its great promise.

The events in question have understandably raised strong emotions. As we move forward, I hope that I can count on your full cooperation to advance neuroscience at MIT and to make the Institute an even stronger community of teachers and scholars.

L. Rafael Reif