Jim Siedow Stepping Down as Vice Provost for Research

After 12 years of growth, returning to plant physiology

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Duke's research activity doubled during Jim Siedow's tenure as Vice Provost for Research

After 12 years as Duke's vice provost for research, James N. Siedow has announced he will not seek reappointment after his term expires on June 30, 2014.

A plant biochemist who studies oxidative stress, Siedow became vice provost for research when the amount of research and development expenditures for the university (including the medical center) was $375 million per year. In fiscal 2012, the latest data available, Duke performed just over $1 billion worth of research (about double the amount of funding in 2001 dollars) and had risen in the ranks to become the fifth-largest research university in the country. Most of this activity was on the medical center side, but on the campus side alone, research expenditures grew 73 percent over the same period.

"I hit the tail end of the doubling (of NIH research support)," said Siedow, whose role involved the management of research administration during the growth and advocating for continued federal investment. "I came in at a time when the federal funding spigot looked wide open and ready to run. We've done really well, especially the recent growth in Engineering."

During his tenure, Siedow said he "tried to create an atmosphere of service to the researchers. We've focused on how we can do things, not why we can't do things."

Increasingly, the Office of Research Support under the vice provost has been called upon to manage a mounting pile of complex federal compliance issues. "That stuff has taken up a growing percentage of my time," Siedow said. Congress has pushed the funding agencies to provide more accountability, and the agencies have responded by writing more rules, he said.

Siedow had been a program director at NSF before joining the provost's office and has served on advisory panels to NSF, NIH and the Department of Commerce during his tenure. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an inaugural fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists, where he also served as president.

Siedow has spoken and testified regularly with policy leaders in Washington and become a go-to source for national reporters working on science policy stories. And, in recent years, he has made several trips to China to teach about responsible conduct of research and conflicts of interest.

"Jim has been outstanding in a job that requires both administrative skill and insight into how research and research funding will develop over time," said Provost Peter Lange. "The growth in research funding has been superb. Less apparent, but no less noteworthy, has been the growth of multidisciplinary scholarship, the sharply increased numbers of larger multi-investigator grants, and the broadening and deepening of the university's research portfolio. Jim's quiet and effective leadership has been crucial to the faculty's outstanding research and grant efforts."

Siedow, who was raised in Texas, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969 and completed his Ph.D. in plant biochemistry from Indiana University in 1972. Siedow did postdoctoral research at the University of Michigan and Rice University.

He joined Duke's botany department as an assistant professor in 1976 and was promoted to full professor in 1987. He chaired the academic council from 1994 to 1996 and was the dean of faculty development in Arts and Sciences from 1997-1999.  

Siedow, 66, will return to the biology department, where he hopes to be "a moosehead with a brain," and get back up to speed on plant respiration. He also will stay on as an associate editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, handling about 300 manuscripts a year. "It'll be nice to do that in the daytime," he quipped.

Provost Lange has named the following people to a search committee to identify Siedow's successor: John Harer, Mathematics - Chair; Dan Kiehart, Dean of the Natural Sciences; Jungsang Kim, Pratt School of Engineering; Meta Kuehn, Biochemistry; Subhrendu Pattanayak, Sanford School of Public Policy; Kenneth Spenner, Sociology; Michael Therien, Chemistry; Eric Toone, Vice Provost and Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative; Hans Van Miegroet, Art, Art History & Visual Studies; Jennifer West, Pratt School of Engineering.