Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Research and Scholarly Activity - let's start the conversation

David Wright's blog post should stimulate a good discussion on the strategic theme of Research and Scholarly Activity. Thank you, David.

Click "Read more" to see the entire post, then please add your comments to the discussion. New to blogging? See How to post a comment.

Over to you, David. --Scott

Research and Scholarly Activity - from David N. Wright, English Instructor and Acting Coordinator of Research and Scholarly Activity

How can Douglas best strengthen research and scholarly inquiry capacity given that external funding is needed to support these activities? Comment about the range of scholarly activity, including applied and pure research and the scholarship of teaching and learning, that should characterize Douglas College.

Perhaps the most pressing need is a clear definition of what "research and scholarly activity" means at the college.

I do not mean a discussion about the terminology we use to identify the activity of accumulating and disseminating data, but rather a discussion of relative value.

Some would argue that as an English instructor who thinks about literature and then writes about it, my research activities require little in the way of material support. However, the chemical biologist who conducts lab experiments with expensive equipment and chemicals or models that need to be purchased certainly requires financial assistance.

Both I and the chemical biologist do research in order to stay current in our field and contribute to the conversations in our disciplines. Both of us bring the skills and conversations of our research into the classroom. In other words, both research methodologies have value, but the relative costs appear to be very different: I'm free and the chemical biologist costs a fortune. On top of this are the not incidental costs of time, effort, engagement, and dissemination that apply to both.

Increasingly, research and scholarly activity at the college will be evaluated by outside agencies and the question that lingers as a result, and it is a difficult one, is what kind(s) of research and scholarly activity does the college want to "value" and why? Or, does the college take the position that all research is equal with support spread as widely - and thinly - as possible? In either case, discussions need to be had about the allocation of funding and college priorities in this regard, as contentious as they will no doubt be.

Perhaps as an avenue for examining the meaning of research and scholarly activity, the college should (re)address its philosophy toward the application and dissemination of research and scholarly activity.

The college's institutional literature clearly prioritizes teaching and students. However, the avenues for encouraging student engagement with research activities still need attention. At the same time, faculty should not feel constrained by research and scholarly activity paradigms that confine its dissemination and application to the classroom alone.

Is research and scholarly activity at the college the prerogative of faculty, functioning through a top-down model where projects are initiated by faculty with students coming on board later as assistants? Or, is research and scholarly activity featured prominently as a part of our curriculum development, prioritizing student initiatives, involvement, and skill sets?

Clearly, there are many different kinds of research and scholarly activity underway at the college, all of which are exciting, richly rewarding, and innovative in their way, but there is still work to be done shaping a coherent and comprehensive institutional philosophy toward research and scholarly activity.

In a competitive climate where budget pressures and scarce resources push us to clearly outline our value to potential students, a lucid college philosophy on research and scholarly activity is essential to "ignite" interest in what the college has to offer.

With the welcome news of NSERC accreditation - with SSHRC hopefully soon to follow - comes an opportunity to re-examine the college's framework for research and scholarly activity.

As it stands, the college relies on a very centralized system in which the research and scholarly coordinator bears the brunt of organizing and encouraging funding pathways.

Individual faculties need to take a more active role in defining the projects and professional expectations that encompass research and scholarly activity within their respective disciplines. Without "grassroots" interest and initiatives, the college runs the risk of creating an Emerald City of research and scholarly activity where the coordinator sits pulling the wires.

Perhaps the college should examine the roles faculty committees for research and scholarly activity could play in providing arenas for dissemination, evaluation, and initiatives. Ultimately, faculties know best what conversations need to be had about research and scholarly activity in their respective disciplines.

The college needs to facilitate research and scholarly activity by listening intently to these conversations and then offer support where needed, provide access to interdisciplinary networks where required, and most importantly act as a repository for the diverse values about - and applications for - research and scholarly activity.


Now what do you think? Let's hear your comments on the theme of Research and Scholarly Activity.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, David. You raise some good points. And as much as I dislike the notion of more committees springing up, I think your comments about the potential role of faculty committees are a good idea.