2021 SIPS Strategic Plan

The SIPS community has initiated development of a new strategic plan. In line with the recommendations of the recent external program review, the plan will have a SIPS-wide focus. The purpose of this planning process is to define where we want SIPS to be in the next 5-10 years. This is the time to think outside the box and be aspirational. All feedback is anonymous. For reference, The 2015 strategic plan developed concurrent with the creation of SIPS can be viewed here.

As a follow-up to the diversity audit and climate survey in 2017 and the town hall this summer, this survey includes an opportunity to suggest future steps for increasing diversity and inclusion in SIPS. Another climate survey is planned for 2020. Information on diversity within SIPS can be viewed here.


November 2020: Survey sent to SIPS faculty, graduate students, post-docs, and technical & administrative staff

Survey Responses

Responses have been condensed and duplications removed for more efficient review of the breadth of responses

Faculty & Senior Academics


  • Reputation, productivity, visibility, world class research
  • Good global vision of world problems
  • largest community in the US that dedicates to plant science
  • Globally relevant, Internationally recognized
  • expertise in plant and soil science, knowledge and tools to address global food security and climate change challenges
  • top center for plant and soil science, collaboration, and support for interdisciplinary efforts
  • International reputation, leader in agricultural research


  • Depth and breadth of expertise
  • Excellent academic and field combination
  • we span the whole innovation pipeline
  • cutting edge research in many areas of Plant Science to continued support of farmers through extension
  • diverse set of faculty , foster transdisciplinary approaches
  • Interdisciplinary research and Extension
  • strong extension system, balance between basic and applied plant science

Interpersonal connections

  • Potential for coordination, multidisciplinary collaboration
  • genuine collaboration
  • tradition of collaboration and interdisciplinary work
  • innovative research ideas, developing multidisciplinary collaboration
  • It's people, their enthusiasm and their knowledge base
  • sense of connection, supportive culture
  • Good representation of women

Connections with other units

  • SIPS alone is uniquely and centrally aligned with CALS missions
  • CIDA
  • Close association with ARS and Boyce Thompson


  • Outstanding undergraduates and graduate students
  • coherent curriculum for the students, more integration
  • commitment to each other and especially to the students
  • In teaching, remarkably diverse course offerings and quality, strong programs
  • Implementing best practices in our affiliated graduate fields, D&I council
  • Teaching, Mentoring graduate students
  • integrated, DGS interactions
  • Schmittau-Novak Small Grant’s Program
  • seminar programs

School structure

  • stronger identity and collective culture as SIPS
  • administrative team, leadership that values and promotes diversity in all forms, communication
  • more interaction between the sections than there was before
  • Leadership, Centralized administration, School-wide communications and activities
  • administrative structure is not overbearing, 
  • Greater admin crossover, work across sections, SIPS Director that appreciates the full spectrum


  • diversity and breadth of research and expertise
  • important scientific and societal problems
  • The global perspective
  • shared commitment to science, leadership
  • discovery at a high level
  • motivated by problem solving
  • Commonality of the Land Grant Mission
  • Strategic planning


  • cooperation that exists between (most) sections
  • interdisciplinary connections, collegiality
  • support
  • optimistic attitude and high aspirations
  • strong leadership, teaching
  • Good seminars. SIPS events
  • Communication, newsletter, increased sense that graduate students belong to SIPS
  • I know so many more people outside my section
  • People, community
  • People feel free to speak their mind
  • friendliness
  • Family values
  • feeling of community, especially at Cornell AgriTech
  • Strong, respectful, diverse
  • Don’t feel a sense of community

Research emphases

  • More non-omics basic science
  • Independent soils department
  • Maintain expertise, greater support for applied science
  • More focus on NY state, Northeast/East coast, Diversifying from Grand challenges to Locally or Community challenges
  • Need to be innovative leaders in plant science; lead rather than play catch up
  • Focus on emerging or rapidly expanding areas
  • Clear focal areas ('themes') to drive cross-cutting collaborations
  • Engagement with the private sector
  • Product testing, more industry support


  • Greater commitment and action on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at all levels
  • grow UG major/ broader training for UGs
  • better grad student support
  • Education for broader careers, center on plants and society
  • SIPS-wide externally-funded REU, integration of grad fields, platforms that would facilitate cross-section collaborative projects
  • Co-recruitment across units, Seed grants, Cross-cutting themes
  • interdisciplinary approach to the PhD
  • professional development offerings, cluster people with similar teaching, research and extension interests
  • new faculty positions are also developed that have SIPS-wide in interest and can serve multiple units.
  • database to help connect faculty with common interests
  • dedicated committee or council on interdisciplinary research
  • Reconsideration of the present tenure system

School Structure

  • integration not silos, coordinate more across sections
  • More interaction between sections, collaboration
  • Disband the sections centralization of academic management. Policy differences remain between sections that should not exist, incentivize a more collegial and SIPS-centric culture
  • Research centers rather than sections
  • More clarity about mission and scope of sections vs SIPS
  • programmatic "Centers" could also provide clear targets for fundraising and recruitment
  • more centralization – both sections and grad fields
  • Director to take a stronger leadership role
  • Associate Dean as its head
  • Financially and academically integrate remote Cornell research laboratories, greater equity for remote  increase support for sections that have lost great numbers of faculty
  • SIPS should have a standing board of directors
  • structure too complex. Lack of clarity over staff
  • prefer pre-SIPS structure


  • general concern about facilities (39 mentions)
  • Big Data SIPS-centered facility - proposed
  • bioinformatics and large-scale data analysis, analytical facilities - proposed
  • Orchard Store closing – a real loss for engagement


  • Better Ithaca-Geneva coordination
  • Alumni engagement, more philanthropy
  • Increase international collaboration
  • More integration with Global Development
  • More engagement with growers, and look to them for direction
  • Communication with the social sciences
  • Stronger connections with BTI, USDA, and outside units
  • More joint seminars, mixed purpose oriented committees, more connection with other CU depts and Biology
  • Enhance public recognition, Improved communication and visibility
  • better job of anticipating and adjusting to change, better communication to society


  • Building more collegiality
  • more open communications
  • value teaching more
  • culture of respect for differences (fundamental vs applied), college-level investment in research teams
  • more cooperative and fluid academic and research environment,  section chairs who prioritize the school over section

Challenges (what)

  • Current challenges still relevant (26 mentions)
  • Food - security/sustainable production (58 mentions)
  • Environment (45 mentions)
  • Climate (38 mentions)
  • Foundational Knowledge (21 mentions)
  • Human Health/Well-being (31 mentions)
  • Biodiversity and evolution
  • International challenges
  • urban agriculture
  • land grant mission
  • local crops/applied research for New York agriculture
  • Food loss and food waste
  • Resource use

Tools, science (how)

  • synthetic biology, systems biology
  • big data
  • digital agriculture
  • translation of foundational discovery
  • microbiome research

Tools, connections (how)

  • Increase diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • public science advocacy
  • scicomm/ag sci comm
  • interdisciplinary approaches like the CIDA model
  • collaboration across scales and CU units
  • integration across spatial and temporal scales
  • UG REU
  • Encourage entrepreneurship / entrepreneurship training

Process questions

  • Why focus areas?
  • iterative process to ID focus areas with measurable outcomes
  • increase emphasis on reporting progress
  • Develop section priorities
  • Rethink agriculture/extension more generally