Proposed Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences

 Workload Standard

General Comments

            The mandate of the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences is to promote and enhance learning and scholarship in the biomedical and molecular sciences. All faculty members appointed to the Department are expected to contribute to this mandate through effective participation in:

  • teaching,
  • original scholarly inquiry that merits publication,
  • operation of the Department, Faculties and University, and professional and community organizations that promote and enhance the biomedical and molecular sciences.

            Throughout an academic career it is anticipated that an individual’s workload (as defined in the collective agreement) may change to reflect the changing needs of the department and the university, as well as changes in that individual’s career goals and opportunities. Therefore, this document provides a flexible workload standard that can accommodate change while meeting the Department’s teaching, research and service needs. Details of the teaching and service responsibilities of individual Departmental members will be made available to the entire membership yearly, as outlined in the collective agreement.  In addition, except as described below under "Other Considerations" and during the initial transition from the five previously existing departments to the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences (see below), workload expectations are the same for all members of the Department.

Transition to the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences

The Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences contributes to a broad variety of programs critical to the educational mission of Queen’s University.  Therefore, it is essential that a transition period occur following formation of this new Department where teaching workloads of individual members remain relatively stable to ensure that in the short term the delivery of these programs is not compromised.  To achieve this objective, stability in individual workloads should be maintained over the first year of operation of the new department. It is anticipated that gradual changes will be implemented in the following two years to reflect evolution of both curriculum and workloads in a manner that continues to be fair and equitable amongst all faculty members. In view of the potential complexity of the transition to the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, this workload document will be revisited (in  July of 2014) as permitted by the terms of the collective agreement. 


            The Department provides courses for undergraduate students in both Life Sciences & Biochemistry degree programs in the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well as other programs in the Faculties of Health Sciences and Engineering and Applied Science, in addition to research training for graduate students in accredited programs in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences.  There is wide diversity in the teaching and learning methods used in these courses and programmes.  Actual contact hours between faculty members and students do not necessarily reflect the amount of effort or the degree of responsibilities e.g. supervision, curricular development, marking, and counselling.  In addition, it is recognized that there is an immeasurable amount of teaching that cannot be assigned, including day-to-day interactions with students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists, during which a broad range of topics and problems are discussed.  It must be acknowledged that our discipline requires regular and frequent contact with research students, and that this may differ substantially from other disciplines in which intervals between student-supervisor discussions may be measured in weeks or months.  This unstructured, academically-important and challenging teaching approach is indispensable, and while neither measurable nor assignable, it is recognized as an important part of a Faculty Members workload

            To meet the various needs of the Department it is expected that members will normally spend about 30% of their time in the process of teaching and learning.  However, faculty members at earlier stages in their career (normally until the renewal of their initial appointment as outlined in the collective agreement), will have reduced teaching responsibilities in order to develop their research programmes.  A commitment to the research training of undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows normally represents an important and essential component of a member’s educational workload, although the extent of student supervision will depend upon the ability to financially support research and research training.


            It is recognized that research and scholarly activity are major priorities for the Academic Staff and for the University. However, research and scholarly activity are, by their very nature, not readily “assignable” duties. The quality of faculty which the university is able to attract depends, to a great extent, on the University’s ability to provide an environment conducive to the successful pursuit of research and the maintenance of external research grants. The best graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and sabbaticants will only be attracted to a university department renowned for its research activity, quality of facilities, graduate courses and supervision available. Therefore, by the nature of experimental research, the greater part (50%) of a Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Faculty member’s workload is devoted to research.


            Faculty members are expected to contribute approximately 20% of their time to service duties with a priority directed toward fulfilling departmental responsibilities. Service responsibilities will normally increase as a Faculty member progresses through the ranks. Such service includes:

  • Departmental: Departmental committees, course and programme coordination, etc.
  • Faculty: Service on committees of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Arts and Science, and of the School of Graduate Studies, block coordinators in the medical curriculum, etc.
  • University: Senate, senate committees and various university committees, etc.
  • External: editorial boards, grant agency review panels, scientific society executives, etc.

Other Considerations

There are several factors that must be taken into consideration in determining the “normal” workload expected of a given member of the Department including:

(a)    External salary support.  A member who receives a substantial proportion of salary from an external agency may carry a reduced load in the areas of teaching and service.  This will take into account the expectations of the supporting agency. In the event that a staff member in the Department secures an award or placement that releases some (or all) of her/his time from teaching and administration, the award must not result in increased workload for colleagues in the department.

(b)    Substantial administrative responsibilities. In the event that a faculty member assumes the position of Head or a senior administrative position outside of DBMS (e.g., Dean, Vice-Dean, Associate Dean, Provost, Associate Provost) that releases some (or all) of his or her time from teaching and administration within DBMS, assumption of this position must not increase the workload of colleagues in the department.

(c)    Initial appointment.  Unless specifically hired for a teaching function, members will carry reduced teaching load in their first few years (as outlined in the collective agreement), in order to establish their research programs. 

(d)    External grant support.  It is recognized that in todays research funding climate, even a very good or sometimes excellent grant proposal may not be funded.  Members without external grants or contracts will, in the short term, be given the option of spending their time available for research in writing grant proposals or for taking on non-research activities to benefit colleagues in the Department primarily, but other departments in the Faculty and in the University as well. A member lacking an extramurally funded research program for an extended period of time would be expected to assume increased teaching and/or service responsibilities.    

(e)    Career paths.  Department members may choose at some time in their careers to alter the relative emphasis placed on teaching and laboratory-based research.  These individuals may negotiate with the Department Head to alter their teaching activities for the Department’s benefit.  Nevertheless, some form of scholarship activity such as enhanced course development, writing textbooks, etc., is expected.

(f)     Course size.  It is recognized that teaching or administering a course of 400 students requires more time than a class of 20 students.  The Head should take this into account in assigning teaching and service responsibilities.

(g)    Teaching topic.  All members are expected to be able to teach within their area of specific expertise. In advanced courses, to the extent possible, members will be assigned teaching in their area of specialization.  It must be recognized, however, that the Departmental membership does not have expertise that covers all areas of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and, so, it may be necessary for some members to teach within their discipline but outside their area of specialization.  The Department Head should take into account the extra preparation time required for this, particularly the first one or two times these lectures are presented.

(h)    Graduate student supervision.  All members are expected to contribute to the graduate programmes by supervising M.Sc. and/or Ph.D. students and to serve on advisory and examining committees.  However, the number of students supervised is largely a function of the faculty member’s ability to meet the departmental guaranteed support level for each student.  Graduate student supervision takes a significant amount of time, especially at the outset; this has been addressed above under non-assignable teaching.

(i)     Sabbaticals.  Sabbatical and administrative leaves are important for career development, and are encouraged.  In the event that funds from salary savings are not forthcoming or if there is no qualified  adjunct faculty member available to cover the teaching and service duties of a sabbaticant, it may be necessary for other members of the Department to cover these responsibilities (as outlined in the collective agreement).  It is expected that members who take on these additional duties will benefit in a reciprocal manner when their own leaves come under consideration.

(j)     Relief of departmental duties.  It is recognized that relief of departmental duties for an individual for any purpose comes at a cost; this cost is the added burden placed on colleagues.  Accordingly, an individual contemplating a substantial shift in academic and total responsibilities must consult with the Department Head and obtain approval from the Dean (as outlined in the collective agreement). 

(k)    Seniority.  When a teaching overload is temporarily necessary, if possible these overloads should fall on the more senior members of the Department who have established their research programmes and received tenure.

(l)     Type of appointment. Adjunct appointees have a more limited range of academic responsibilities compared to regular appointees and these responsibilities are described in their letter of appointment.

DRAFT May 2011