Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Research and Scholarly Activity - Jan 25 discussion group summary

Bob Cowin facilitated our first face-to-face discussion on the theme of Research and Scholarly Activity yesterday at David Lam and provides this summary. Please feel free to comment.

If you missed this event, there will be another opportunity to discuss Research and Scholarly Activity on Wednesday, February 3, 4:15-6pm, at New West. RSVP online. --Scott

Research and Scholarly Activity discussion group summary - from Bob Cowin, Director of Institutional Research

I thought this was a constructive and enjoyable step in helping the College determine what direction to take in this controversial area. People had information and views to contribute to the discussion, but they also came to listen, to learn and to question.

I was struck by the attempt to find a place for the full range of faculty interests - one size doesn't fit all - while taking practical considerations into account. Whatever happens, it would seem that the College would be well advised to put more effort into acknowledging, valuing and making visible all the work that is already occurring.

Accountability for research and scholarly activity was touched on at several points. More seems to be needed, but once again, it need not take the same form for everybody. Comments along these lines led to the question of whether the current structure for research and scholarly activity is too centralized.

There's interest in learning what's happening in other Faculties, in interdisciplinary work, and in engaging students. Practical considerations, however, such as timetabling and the rhythms of the semester make these challenging to achieve. And of course, there's the ever present challenge of finding time to actually do the work.

An overarching theme seemed to be the "enabling" rather than "compelling," of voluntary inclusion. Some faculty feel they need to do formal research, and model it to their students, for their own disciplinary interests or because it is expected of their degree program. Other faculty want to focus on teaching, having explicitly chosen to work in a college rather than a university to avoid the pressures of disciplinary research. We need to find ways of supporting the range of faculty needs and interests, all within the realities of Douglas' mission and mandate.

Values, perceptions and even misperceptions have been important elements of the conversation over the past few years. Eligibility for national council grants isn't going to make the situation any easier - the College may only be able to sustain a few grants at a time (assuming we win some), so who will decide which proposals even get submitted? "Why, and for whom, do we do research?" is a tough question when it involves setting priorities and allocating resources among competing proposals.

The foregoing are some personal and immediate reactions to the session. I'll type up my notes over the next few days so that there's a more objective summary available. In the meantime, I hope that a few others who attended the session will add their thoughts and observations to this thread.

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What do you think? We welcome your comments on this discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Michael Picard, PhD. PhilosopherJanuary 27, 2010 at 11:21 PM

    I attended this session and found it exciting and informative. As a new faculty member, I am delighted to see and be part of a new direction taking shape. It is important to me to know that research is valued here, and also that a wide variety of kinds of research/scholarly activity be acknowledged and respected. Teaching should never be relegated to second-rate status, as it is (despite appearances) in many universities. Nor should dedicated teachers be compelled to engage in the creation of new knowledge to retain respect or their jobs. Yet room and recognition for research in all its forms are needed and, if granted, would unleash a creative potential often trapped under a heavy teaching load. It will be necessary to find innovative ways of encouraging, rewarding, disseminating and celebrating the diversity of forms of scholarly work taking place at Douglas. A term of Ed Leave and an occasional course release are insufficient to sustain longer term projects. But effective yet non-oppressive forms of accountability are also needed to ensure quality, in whatever form it takes, is the constant aim. We have a chance in the upcoming round of bargaining to institute innovative changes that meet all these goals. Let's seize the moment.

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