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College of Arts & Sciences

College of Arts & Sciences State of Research and Scholarship

Executive Summary 2015-16

In May of 2015, Dean Robert Frank commissioned an ad-hoc committee of Group-I faculty to conduct an analysis of the state of research and scholarship across the college. The committee consisted of Steven Evans (professor of psychology), Alycia Stigall (professor of geological sciences), Sergio Ulloa (professor of physics), Shiyong Wu (professor of chemistry and biochemistry), and Brian McCarthy (associate dean and committee chair). The committee met monthly through December.

Digital Measures was used as the primary source for evaluating faculty productivity in research and scholarship. Four areas were identified for detailed analysis and included: (1) a survey of department chairs, (2) a survey of all Group-I faculty, (3) a longitudinal analysis of grant activity, and (4) an examination of peer institution policies and processes supporting research and scholarship. Results of these analyses are summarized in a separate report and available by request from Brian McCarthy (mccarthy@ohio.edu).

In short, faculty and chairs recognize and acknowledge the pressures facing the college surrounding enrollment driven by our change to responsibility center management. However, this has seemingly created a climate whereby research and scholarship are perceived as being devalued. Overall, productivity of the faculty (as evidenced by number of books, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations) has declined slightly, grant funding is flat or declining in most departments, and many faculty report a decrease in time available for research and scholarship (for various reasons, but especially in relation to an increase in service responsibilities).

The committee makes four specific recommendations to the dean that might enhance the climate for research and scholarship and provide increased encouragement. Specific suggestions for achieving these recommendations are listed under each.

Increase Incentives for Research Productivity

  • Re-constitute some form of Research Challenge (RC) funding (i.e., funds provided to PI for the submission of external grants).
  • Consider some form of annual bonus as part of the annual evaluation procedure for top scholars within each department.

Assist Department Chairs and Faculty in Finding Ways to Prioritize Time for Research

  • Ensure equitable service loads, especially for women and minorities.
  • Encourage flexible workload policies and variable TRS proportions (or release time) among faculty to assist in targeted scholarship endeavors.
  • Ensure adequate support within departments for administrative tasks and processes (e.g., Bobcat Buy, Concur).

Provide Training Opportunities for Faculty Interested in Enhancing Their Research Productivity

  • Provide easier access to and information about internal grant funding opportunities (e.g., CAS web-based jump page).
  • Consider implementing a college-wide department-based mentoring program to assist faculty with the pursuit of grants, publishing a book, promotion to full professor, or other challenging scholarly activities.
  • Evaluate the possibility of creating targeted grant proposal and manuscript development groups (i.e., Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences).
  • Partner with ORSP as needed to assist in providing workshop and professional development opportunities for writing and grantsmanship.

Clearly and Consistently Convey the Importance of Research Activity within the College

  • Implementing many of the recommendations above will help to achieve this goal.
  • Make sure that communication coming from the college consistently conveys the importance of research by highlighting research activities, showing genuine interest in successful research, generating press releases about research success. This includes a wide range of communication including newsletters, reviews of the college activities, the dean’s formal and informal presentations, etc.
  • Establish a research priority within the college’s development office.

Topic Summary

Chair Survey

  • 17/19 (89 percent) chairs within the college responded.
  • The vast majority (71 percent) indicated that scholarship is very important within their unit.
  • 76 percent of departments report that scholarship and teaching are considered equally important.
  • All but three report satisfactory support from college and university for research.
  • 65 percent of departments report that A&S support is “adequate” for research funds, start-up funds, professional development, travel, grant support, and student space.
  • Most departments indicated that university support was “inadequate” in providing: (1) sufficient maintenance, (2) maintaining basic infrastructure, (3) providing adequate research space.
  • Greatest challenges include: (1) increasing number of Group-II faculty not doing research, (2) uneven productivity across the department, (3) faculty near retirement not as active, (4) increased support needed for most active scholars, (5) increasing enrollment pressures, (6) declining infrastructure.
  • Most immediate needs: (1) release time for faculty pursuing increased scholarship, (2) change in climate, with less emphasis on enrollment, (3) basic repairs and increased attention to physical facilities, (4) reinstatement (in some form) of previous Research Challenge program to incentivize grant writing again, (5) a better reward structure for those in top two-thirds of scholarship productivity (beyond annual evaluation and discretionary funding).

Faculty Survey

  • 169/298 (57 percent) of eligible Group-I faculty participated in the survey.
  • 87% indicated that they maintained a strong engagement with scholarly activities.
  • The most noted perceived barriers by respondents included: high service responsibilities (63 percent), high teaching responsibilities (60 percent), personal responsibilities (36 percent), limited funding availability (33 percent), and limited compensation for increased scholarly productivity (29 percent).
  • Most faculty (73 percent) reported high confidence in achieving promotion to the next rank; however, there was widespread perception that scholarship was the primary driver (as opposed to teaching) for promotion and tenure (62 percent).
  • In contrast, there was widespread perception that A&S placed greater emphasis on teaching in terms of overall priorities (62 percent), when determining college investments (71 percent), and in determining department budgets (71 percent)—potentially excluding scholarly balance and representation in certain departments.
  • 64 percent of faculty called for re-institution of a small grants program similar to the Research Challenge program of previous years (50:50 match, A&S:Dept).
  • The three reasons most indicated for declining grant submissions (46-47 percent) included: (1) attrition of time due to teaching responsibilities, (2) increased service responsibilities, as well as (3) reduced funding rates at major agencies.
  • Significant gender differences were noted, with women expressing a larger degree of (1) uncertainty about obtaining their next promotion, (2) excessive teaching and service responsibilities, (3) post tenure exhaustion, and (4) inadequate mentoring opportunities.
  • Domain differences were also noted; the natural and social sciences reported greater engagement with scholarship on a weekly basis, grant writing workshops were most requested by faculty in social sciences and humanities.
  • Inadequate funding was seen as the greatest barrier to increased scholarship (39 percent humanities, 73 percent natural science, 74 percent social science).
  • Assistant professors expressed the greatest interest in writing workshops for manuscripts and grants.
  • Full professors report the highest level of satisfaction and weekly engagement with scholarship.

A&S Grant Activity (2009-15)

  • Five departments account for greater than 90 percent of the external funding within A&S; these were the focus of analysis.
  • The overall number of submissions has decreased in every department, except one.
  • The number of faculty submitting grants has either remained stable or slightly declined.
  • The number of awarded grants has declined in 60 percent of departments, while remaining stable in the other 40 percent.
  • The number of faculty involved in grant writing has decreased in every department, with several declines being substantial.
  • Total amount of funding by departments has decreased in three departments, but increased in two.
  • Taken as a whole, across A&S, virtually all metrics of grant writing and acquisition of external funding have steadily declined since 2009.
  • Faculty analysis suggests several factors that may be involved in decreasing grantsmanship: (1) increasing demands upon faculty time (especially administrative duties and service assignments), (2) many major agencies have exhibited a decline in budgets to support grant funding, (3) NSF has switched to a pre-proposal format in several disciplines, lowering the number of chances for submission, (4) A&S no longer providing incentivization for grant writing (Research Challenge), (5) there is an inadequate reward structure for the most active grant writing faculty, (6) current less-active departments provide an opportunity for growth.

Peer Institution Analysis

  • Provide seed funding to: (1) promote early-phase activities or (2) to support activities that do not require large external grants.
  • Provide bridge funding for when a grant has expired, but a new one has been submitted.
  • Technology funding to support new innovations associated with instrumentation or refinement of existing technologies.
  • Shared facilities grants to encourage maintaining equipment, personnel, training, etc.
  • Support for developing interdisciplinary and collaborative partnerships, enable university to grasp new research prominence via strategic investment of targeted sources.
  • Support grant writing workshops, pre-submission proposal review, and scholar/fellow programs.
  • Awards for outstanding faculty and for excellence in research.
  • Encourage cross-program or cross-college faculty hires to promote interdisciplinary scholarship.

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