Departmental Development Plan
Department of Ecological Sciences Faculty of Science, University of Chile
In 2004, the academics of the Department of Ecological Sciences (DCE) prepared a planning document setting as a general objective: "To develop scientific research of excellence in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and to commit to pre and postgraduate teaching in order to train competent professionals in the solution of environmental problems as well as to train scientists of the highest level in the areas of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology." This document also identified the different lines of research that were underway as well as the academics involved in each one of them. In 2012, the Director and the Board of the DCE added the objective of conducting an internal evaluation to maintain or propose new lines of action for the coming years.
During 2013 and 2014, two important milestones were generated that have updated the current situation of the DCE: (i) the preparation of a document in which a DCE diagnosis is made; (ii) a book, written by the DCE's academics, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its foundation in which the investigations that have been carried out and its development perspectives are made known. This book was published in 2014 thanks to the resources granted by the Fondo Juvenal Hernandez Jaque (contest 2013). These two instances, together with the academic background of the DCE colleagues have served as inputs for the proposal of a Departmental Development Plan.
The DCE is an active academic unit in research, its academics are publishing and obtaining funds through competitive projects such as FONDECYT and actively participate in the training of undergraduate and graduate students. The DCE also stands out for the diversity of topics that are being developed within the Ecological and Evolutionary Sciences. This aspect has been considered as a strength of the DCE, having a positive impact on postgraduate programs of the naturalist area, Master and Doctorate, as well as undergraduate programs (Biology, Environmental Biology, Environmental Chemistry, Biotechnology), where the DCE academics collaborate from their different disciplinary perspectives.
Departmental development has occurred mainly through academic´s initiatives and their working groups, which have generated projects and resources for collaborative and research activities as well as funds to incorporate new researchers. The MECE-Sup projects, FONDECYT academic insertion projects, ANILLO projects and ICM projects have allowed to consolidate new research lines, as well as the contract of new researchers. Projects of public interest and technological innovation have also been developed, such as INNOVA-CORFO, FIA, FIP, etc.
In the aforementioned academic initiatives, the role of the DCE has been rather reactive towards the initiatives of academics. The absence of a development plan, where the DCE would have played a more active role in guiding and promoting important decisions, has hindered the anticipation of the DCE in the terms of priority or deficit research lines, a hiring plan, personnel assignments technical and research support and an infrastructure improvement plan.
A 2014-2020 development plan for the DCE is proposed, which contemplates as mission an active and proactive academic work in which criteria are established to consolidate initiatives of common good in terms of infrastructure and facilities (seminar rooms, secretariat, vehicle, nurseries), major equipment for collective use, identification of general scientific problems with complementary views, collaboration staff and a permanent update of retirement plans that allow released funds to be used in future hiring. The mentioned initiatives and especially a consensual contracting plan will optimize the academic relations within the DCE.
There are important changes that have occurred at the Faculty level and they must be consider in this development plan. First, the undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Sciences has grown substantially these years and the DCE professors have had to commit more time to fulfill this academic activity. Secondly, the Faculty of Sciences has created a pedagogical career in Biology and Chemistry and it is very likely that the DCE will be involved in this new initiative, and therefore committing more teaching hours in their specialties and later, participating in the seminars of the future teachers. These new initiatives that will affect the DCE, can be a development opportunity and it is necessary to consider it without losing the objectives of the DCE.
Another aspect that should be considered is the fact that the "environmental problem" has been playing an increasingly important role as a result of the development of environmental institutions and public policies implemented by the State of Chile. In this framework, there are several academics who in practice have been consulted and / or called to form expert commissions in different governmental instances. This fact should not be ignored by the DCE given that as an academic unit of the Universidad de Chile, DCE could be a reference to provide opinions on various topics such as biodiversity management, watershed and coastal ocean management, environmental pollution, ecosystem services, etc. This new dimension of academic work should be promoted by the DCE.
Based on these considerations, the Development Plan (PDD) for the DCE is detailed below.