SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING SCIENCE MEMORANDUM

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					                 SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING SCIENCE
                         MEMORANDUM
 To: John Waterhouse, Chair                       From: Mehrdad Saif, Professor & Director
     Phase II Task Force on Academic Re-                School of Engineering Science
     structure

 Subject: Response to Working Group Re-           Date: July 23, 2007
          port


    The reports from various Working Groups regarding the University Academic Structure
were made available to the University Community on July 13th along with an invitation to
provide the Task Force with any feedback on the reports by July 23rd. This short timeline
did not provide the School of Engineering Science with sufficient time to reflect on the reports
or hold an internal discussion surrounding the findings and recommendations of the Working
Groups. Obviously, the report of the Working Group I, (WG-I), which was assigned the task
of examining Engineering and Computing Science’s proposals is of particular interest to the
two schools. However, we are keenly interested in the findings of other Working Groups
as well. In the upcoming weeks and months, we plan to carefully examine these reports;
be engaged in the ensuing discussions; and make presentations or submissions to the Task
Force on this important restructuring exercise. At this point, I wish to state some brief
comments/observations in response to the WG-I report. Finally, due to the tight timeline,
and prior commitments, a response from the director of the School of Computing will not
be forthcoming at this stage. However, I have discussed the report of the WG-I with the
director of that school, as well as a few other colleagues in Computing, and they share many
of the sentiments I am about to express in this brief submission.

    At the outset, we wish to thank the members of the WG-I for the time and effort they ded-
icated to this time consuming, yet very important exercise. They had to read many pages of
reports; meet with a number of interested groups; and prepare their recommendation–all in a
relatively short span of time. They are to be commended for their dedication and hard work.

   The Working Group has made many observations/statements in their report with which
we are in agreement. However, there are a few areas where we disagree with the Report’s
findings:

  1. The Report states (p. 8): “Will the realignment help with interdisciplinary and col-
     laborative initiatives between CS and ENSC? We do not see a strong case for cohesion
     between these units and worry that the driving force for the submissions is the greater
     lack of cohesion experienced with other units currently in FAS. The units need to ar-
     ticulate more clearly joint visioning for a new faculty.
     We do not agree with most of the above statement. True, that so far as ENSC is
     concerned, there is a lack of cohesion between the interests and activities of our school,
     and those of School of Communications, REM, and SIAT. However, it is not true that
this is the driving force for suggesting a faculty structure involving ENSC and CMPT.
We believed that in our submissions to the Task Force as well as our meetings with the
Working Group, the rationale for our proposal and the areas of overlap and cohesion
between the units was adequately addressed. However, based on the above statement,
perhaps the merits of the proposed structure were so clear to us that we assumed it
as obvious to others as well and thus did not discuss it in enough details. We shall
strive to address this issue in greater depth in the upcoming weeks and months. The
following are some of the clear and important reasons that support our case:

(a) Engineering Science program offerings at the Burnaby Campus are for the most
    part in areas that are typically covered in electrical and computer engineering
    programs elsewhere. It is a common knowledge that in certain areas, electrical
    engineering and computer science have a great deal in common. In fact, there is
    such a strong and natural link between these disciplines that many top ranked
    universities (e.g. MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, Northwestern, etc.) have
    these units in a single large department typically named Department of Electrical
    Engineering and Computer Science within their College of Engineering.
(b) Computer engineering is not the only theme that brings School of Computing
    and Engineering Science together. There are many other common research and
    teaching interests between the two units, such as in:
       • Software Engineering/Embedded Systems
       • Computer Architecture
       • Computer Networks
       • Image Processing/Computer Vision/Multimedia Applications
       • Audio Processing/Speech Recognition
       • Pattern Recognition/Machine Learning
       • Information theory/Complexity theory
       • Computational Biology/Bioinformatics/Modeling and Dynamics of Biological
         Systems
       • Medical Imaging
       • AI/Expert System/Intelligent Systems/Robotics
       • Numerical Modeling/Simulation
     Both Schools have faculty members, and research activities in the above areas.
     The two Schools have a long track record of cooperation in teaching as well as re-
     search. Over the years, individual faculty members have collaborated in research;
     research funding application; and co-supervision of graduate and undergraduate
     students.
 (c) As a result of the above, the two schools share similar visions; objectives; priorities;
     culture; pace of change; research excellence indicators; computing infrastructure
     and computing support needs; challenges and approach to recruiting, teaching,
     and scholarly research.
   (d) Again because of our overlapping interests, CMPT and ENSC enjoy a good rela-
       tionship in the area of co-op. It is not uncommon that a CMPT student is placed
       in an ENSC job posting or an ENSC student in a CMPT position. Our activities
       in this area certainly could be streamlined resulting in higher efficiencies and even
       a stronger relationship.
    (e) Given a right environment and a great leadership, there are a number of other
        areas, where ENSC and CMPT could effectively and efficiently cooperate because
        of the strong cohesion between the activities of the two units.

2. The Report states (p.8): “Will the realignment help in recruiting graduate students?Likely
   realignment will not substantially impact graduate recruitment.”
   Contrary to the above, we believe that the proposed realignment will help us in many
   areas including graduate/undergraduate recruiting:

   (a) As was mentioned in our submission, engineering at 36 other Canadian universities
       is showcased in a faculty of its own (some, e.g. UVic and Concordia, include the
       Computer Science departments). In the eyes of anyone who is passionate about
       engineering and technology, i.e., potential graduate students; potential undergrad-
       uate students and their parents; potential new faculty applicants; granting agen-
       cies; industry; alumni and philanthropic donors; and other external constituents
       a faculty devoted to engineering and technology is an indicator of a university’s
       commitment to these areas. We believe that having engineering and computing
       as two departments with four other units which are typically found in faculties of
       arts, science, or health, negatively impact our ability to excel in all of the above
       areas, including graduate student recruitment.
   (b) We believe that as a result of the make up of the FAS, there has been a lack
       of directions on several fronts at the faculty level. Research, granstmanship,
       graduate student supervision and support are important examples. Due to its
       make up, and thus the differences in the values and culture of various units, FAS
       lacks a faculty wide vision or strategy on important matters such as graduate
       student recruitment. On the other hand, where and when there is a FAS supported
       initiative or activity, it is often not very high on the priority list of ENSC, or
       CMPT. We argue that a focused faculty with a coherent vision will not only
       bring the units in the new faculty closer, but also will allow its leadership to focus
       the intellectual direction of the faculty and create an environment that attracts,
       inspires, and rewards talented faculty, and students. In such a faculty, resources at
       the faculty level could be put to much better and efficient use. Graduate student
       recruiting strategies which would include incentives for faculty to be more active
       in research and supervision of graduate students is one such example.

3. The Working Group makes quite a correct observations/conclusions regarding the
   TechOne (p. 7). However, the discussion on this issue ends up with the statement:
   “The Working Group recommends that restructuring specifically take into account the
   impact on TechOne.” Regarding this statement, it is perhaps important to consider
   the location/fate of TechOne program, however, this program ought not influence in
   any negative way the creation of the proposed new faculty, i.e., we should be careful
   not to put the cart before the horse.
4. On page 6, the Report states: “The meeting with the members of ENSC also demon-
   strated the school did not have a clear-cut overall vision for addressing the problem of
   visibility. It seems that SFU’s school is somewhat small on the Canadian scene and it
   is not clear that simply a change in administrative structure will remedy that fact or
   improve their competitiveness.”
   We admit that engineering at SFU is small compared to those at UBC, U of T, Wa-
   terloo, Concordia, Ecole Polytechnique, etc. However, there are a number of programs
   around the country that are similar or smaller in size than SFU’s and enjoy a bet-
   ter visibility and recognition because they are housed in a more appropriate faculty.
   Perhaps the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering is the closest case to our
   situation at SFU. Faculty of Engineering at UVic is composed of three departments:
   a) Computer Science; b) Electrical and Computer Engineering; and c) Mechanical En-
   gineering. There is a great deal of similarities between the teaching, research, and
   the history of that faculty at UVic and our activities in CMPT and ENSC at SFU.
   However, we believe that they are better structured and as a result have fared better
   (internally as externally) over the years. Engineering Science does have a range of
   options/plans for addressing the visibility issue some of which require a longer time
   horizon. However, we do believe that the current FAS structure is the single most
   important issue that needs to be addressed before all else.

   As to the issue of the size, I would again draw attention to the following statistics
   which was presented in our submission to the task force. Based on a 2005-06 data, the
   following table lists the relative size of the engineering or applied science faculties at a
   few other universities

          University      Name of the Faculty     # of faculty    % of total univ. size
           Victoria          Engineering               79                10.4%
             UBC            Applied Science           210               10.05%
           Calgary           Engineering              182                 9%
           Carleton          Engineering              126                15.6%
            Ottawa           Engineering              102                 10%
         Simon Fraser       ENSC+CMPT                 100               11.48%


   Even by the 05/06 numbers, the relative size of the proposed faculty (CMPT+ENSC)
   is comparable with many other universities in Canada. It should also be noted that
   the numbers for SFU should improve considering the fact that the expansion of ENSC
   in Mechatronic Systems Engineering is currently under way.
5. On the same page (p. 6), the report states: “What confused the working group was the
   assumption by both CS and ENSC that the creation of a new faculty would necessarily
  increase their faculty complements. Our understanding is that this is not a correct
  assumption. This issue should be cleared up with the units in question before any
  changes are made to current structures.”
  It is not clear to us (at least in engineering), where the Committee got the impression
  that we expected an automatic increase in the faculty complements upon restructuring.
  Having been through both expansion and budget cuts in recent years, both ENSC and
  CMPT understand the realities of the university budgets, and are well aware of what
  is involved for growth. We believe however, that our disciplines are and will remain
  to be in strong demand. We also believe that engineering and information technology
  will be somewhere on top of the priority list of governments and funding agencies in
  the foreseeable future. This is evidenced by the fact that more and more federal as
  well as provincial funding for research and higher education are earmarked for spe-
  cific high priority areas such as health, engineering and technology with business and
  entrepreneurship related programs (DTO, new funding for graduate FTEs, B.C Inno-
  vation Council Scholarships, MITAC and NSERC’s new initiatives are few examples).
  That being the case, we expect that the newly proposed faculty will push with new
  vigor for enrollment and program growth in engineering and information technology
  areas through more aggressive recruitment strategies, and offering new or joint degree
  programs. That would translate into corresponding increase in resources, faculty, and
  staff.

6. As a final note, School of Engineering Science wishes to make it perfectly clear that
   it considers options D and E on page 9 of the Report to be totally unacceptable
   alternatives. Also, an overwhelming majority of the School considers the status quo
   (option F) to be unacceptable.