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University of Oregon


History of the Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences
Mission Statement
Structure of the Institute
Responsibilities of the Director

History of the Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences

One of the founders of ICDS Dr. Tom Givon

The Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences (ICDS) was founded in the mid-1980s when two groups of scholars were pushing the University to set up their own institutes. Eugene had several major scholars–across several disciplines–doing leading work in the rapidly developing neurosciences and Eugene also had a strong tradition in the similarly rapidly developing decision sciences, again across several disciplines. Provost Richard Hill saw an opportunity for a creative merging of the two scholarly groups, and proposed a single institute that–he hoped–would engage in productive discourse with each other. Once proposed, the intellectual gains to be had were obvious to all, and ICDS was set up with considerable enthusiasm on all sides.


Over the years, of course, interests among ICDS members have changed, as one should expect, and in the late 1990s ICDS replaced the earlier tripartite structure (cognitive neuroscience, decision science, and education and cognition) redesigning itself around “focus groups” that were expected to come and go, as research interests within ICDS changed. In fact, that has proved a very fertile structure, with the fluid consequences being on display on this website.

Today, ICDS provides an intellectual home to a range of scholars from various UO campus units, including Anthropology, Psychology, Economics, Biology, and Political Science and, additionally, from local research institutes and the community. Intellectual interests center on cognitive neuroscience, decision sciences, and evolutionary studies.

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Mission Statement

The Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences is dedicated to exploring the workings of the mind and brain and how they affect human behavior and social interaction. Our goals are to advance the empirical study and theoretical understanding of cognition, culture and communication from an interdisciplinary perspective. In pursuing those goals, the Institute will promote the integration of diverse methods and theories from the social, human and life sciences.

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Structure of the Institute

1. The Institute is administered by a Director who is appointed every three years by the Vice President for Research. Candidates for Director are collected by the Executive Committee and announced to the membership with a brief statement of the candidate’s platform. The membership votes on the candidates. The Executive Committee collects the votes and forwards the result to the VP for Research with their recommendation to aid in the VP’s selection of a Director. Similar to recommendations for Chairs of Departments, the votes are treated as confidential and are not announced.

2. The Institute is governed by the Director in consultation with an executive committee of four people. Each Executive Committee member serves for two years, with yearly elections for alternating pairs. The Director and the executive committee are responsible for all membership decisions. The Executive Committee is elected by vote of the membership.

3. The Institute hosts focus groups. A focus group is a set of two or more people, open to faculty and graduate students, organized around a particular research interest within the scope of the Institute’s mission statement. Activities of focus groups may include organizing periodic discussions, symposia, seminars, and occasional conferences, and the sponsoring of outside visitors to the Institute.

4. The Institute hosts research groups. A research group is a set of two or more people, open to faculty and graduate students, organized around a collaborative, interdisciplinary project. Activities of a research group may include meetings, discussions, and applying for internal and/or external funding. Research groups are encouraged to compete for competitive ICDS research funds or seed money.

5. There is no set number of focus groups or research groups. New focus and research groups will be added in response to members’ interests as they develop. Inactive groups may be removed.

6.Voting members can include any faculty (including NTTF) or emeritus members of the University of Oregon.  Undergraduate and graduate students at the University and members of the wider community can be non-voting affiliate members.

Applicants should have interests aligned with ICDS’s mission statement and research activities, and members are expected to be actively involved with Institute focus groups, research groups, or other Institute activities.  Requests for membership must be accompanied by an academic vita, and student applicants must identify a faculty sponsor. Executive Committee members and the Director will vote on applications on a case by case basis under majority rules.  Membership lasts for three years; active members will be invited to renew in the Fall of their third year of membership.

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Responsibilities of the Director

Title of Position: Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences
Reports to: Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
Responsible for: Academic and non-academic staff and faculty in the Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences (ICDS).
Job definition: The Directorship of ICDS is a renewable appointment for 3 years. The Director provides academic and collegial leadership for ICDS. The Director will plan, implement, and co-ordinate the day-to-day running of the administrative staff and ICDS to ensure quality performance. The Director will facilitate and participate in interdisciplinary research programs involving faculty and graduate students associated with ICDS.
Duties and responsibilities: The position includes both research related (70%) and administrative (approximately 30%) duties and responsibilities.

Main research duties and responsibilities:

  • Coordinate and implement research projects related to the mission and goals of ICDS
  • In consultation with the ICDS Executive Committee and the Vice President for Research, develop and implement a strategic research plan for ICDS.
  • Coordinate the development and implementation of new and existing ICDS research programs, including the acquisition of external funding for new and existing ICDS research programs.
  • Encourage and facilitate collaborative research projects with other centers and institutes, departments, other universities and other external research institutions.
  • Promote the research programs of the ICDS within the University of Oregon and in the wider national and international academic community.
  • Promote and support research success of ICDS faculty, staff, and participating graduate students.

Main administrative duties and responsibilities:

  • Administer the Institute in collaboration with the ICDS Executive Committee and consultation with ICDS members.
  • Convene and chair meetings of the Executive Committee and track follow-up action as appropriate.
  • Supervise ICDS administrative and clerical staff
  • Draw up annual ICDS reports including annual statements of income and expenditure as well as projected budgets.
  • Authorize the ICDS’s allocation of funds, resources, facilities, and procurement of equipment.
  • Represent ICDS at official university functions and participate at internal and external meetings as requested by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
  • Perform other duties which may be assigned by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies from time to time.

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